Buchanan Street Station – the heart of the City Centre. Your stop for shopping and Queen Street rail station.
Like a shining beacon at the core of the subway network, Buchanan Street acts as the central hub for pretty much the entire Glasgow underground system. Together with St Enoch, it provides the city centre with most of its mass transit coverage and also acts as the main stop for a fair chunk of the city’s upper end shopping. If you’re new to Glasgow and want to feel like you’re right in the middle of things, chances are this is where you’ll want to be.
The main entrance to the subway is a fantastic escalator that looks like it is straight out of Logan’s Run. This leads right onto Buchanan Street which is pedestrian paved in its entirety. The escalator is at such a funny angle that most people are unsure whether or not to walk on it. Be aware that the locals can often be found charging down it, marching band style, only to rocket off the bottom. At the top of the escalator and through an alleyway to the right, sits Queen Street station. Queen Street is much smaller than the overarching Victorian sprawl of Central Station, yet it serves no less a purpose. The regular, and very good, service to Edinburgh departs from here. If you are heading to the fair capital, Queen Street is your best option. During festival times, even the 15 minute shuttle service runs late.
Additionally, Queen Street is usually the gateway station to the north of Scotland with trains as far afield as Fort William and Aberdeen. On the other hand, Central Station serves most of the southern routes to England, as well as the west Ayrshire coast. Because of this, many a troubled tourist has been spotted at the main entrance to Central looking confused, usually wondering what all this Queen Street fuss is about. To put is simply, if you are travelling around Scotland by rail, then you may arrive at Central, particularly if you’re coming from England. However, you have to cross the 4 blocks to Queen Street when going further up north. You’re as well just walking the short distance between the two.
Behind Queen Street, lies the Buchanan Street bus depot which acts as the main terminus for bus services in and out of Glasgow. It is by far the busiest bus station in Glasgow and for good reason. It serves both the local and regional areas of Glasgow, as well as a fair selection of further afield destinations. However, it can get a bit seedy late at night, tending to attract drunken no-gooders.
The main attraction of Buchanan Street is undoubtedly Shopping, with a big S. In terms of streets, Glasgow shopping is organised around Sauchiehall Street in the north, Argyle Street in the south and Buchanan Street itself acting as a link between the other two in a visual Zorro of shopping smorgasbord. The subway station itself sits right in the centre of this trio of streets, and all three are but short walking distance away. Between these three, you’ll find everything you could possibly want or need. Furthermore, at the very top of Buchanan Street, is the renowned Buchanan Galleries shopping centre. This is ideal for those who want all the shopping, minus the walking.
Connected to Buchanan Galleries is the Glasgow Concert Hall. This sees regular musical and dramatic performances from around the world and is well worth a visit if you have a spare evening.
Funnily enough, the other entrance to the Buchanan Street subway is actually the busiest. The small, easily missed side entrance is located near the ticket office. If you go charging out of the barriers you will probably never notice it. However, there is plenty to see departing from this side too.
The southern access point leads on to the lower part of Buchanan Street and is the way to go for Princes Square, George Square, Royal Exchange Square and pretty much every other square in Glasgow (alright, except for Blytheswood Square which is Cowcaddens and St Enoch Square obviously). George Square is probably the most prominent in that list, especially in all things council. It also hosts a number of festivals and cultural events throughout the year. It is most easily accessed out the smaller side entrance. Turn left to get there.
Additionally, beyond George Square lies Strathclyde University and various other technical colleges and learning establishments. Many a weary student can be found trudging up the permanently wet stairs of the subway in winter. Perhaps they are heading to yet another lecture in that big old theatre at the top of the Royal College, or a pint in the games room as was the case for me. The lower end of the university campus merges in to the top end of the merchant city, although for most merchant city attractions you are better off at St Enoch.
Now for a wee bit on the subway station itself. The main upstairs concourse of the station is small and elongated. At rush hour it can get a bit cramped if you are going for the barriers and there is a train coming in, so be careful. Ticket machines stand in a row at the southern end, completing the station.
Buchanan Street is one of three stations to have a split platform with a central and side platform, the others being Hillhead and Ibrox. They now have barriers up, but in times gone past many an unwary passenger was somewhat confused about the layout. It’s difficult to describe, with the track running between platforms but only opening on one side. The barrier now lessens the effect.
The central platform leads off to Cowcaddens and the West End, with this single platform being the busiest in the whole subway network. Care must be taken at rush hour, as it can be a bit of a free-for-all with passengers leaving the carriage and working their way along an already busy platform. You may even see a steely eyed marshal on standby.
The side platform is accessed by the left-hand staircase. The trains on this side stop next at St Enoch and then travel onward to the quieter South Side. Admittedly, it feels a bit weird peering through the perspex wall at the backs of the people standing on the central platform. The advertising, both electronic and traditional, does its best to distract a bit from this odd kind of people-watching. Reading all the advertising can be dull, but is certainly one of the more effective ways to pass time on the network.
For subcrawlers, the nearest bar is technically Waxy O’Connors, but the options here are endless. Those of you looking for a more traditional Glaswegian bar to get stabbed in, might want to try the Horseshoe Bar, quite possibly the most famous pub in Glasgow. You also have All Bar One, The Counting House or The Lab if you fancy something a bit more mainstream.
On the whole, Buchanan Street is a compact but efficient station. Pretty much anyone using the network will arrive or depart here at some stage. Its varied access and prime City Centre location, make it arguably the most important station on the network.