The City Chambers is one of the Glasgow’s most prestigious buildings. It sits in a prime location on the eastern edge of George Square, right in the heart of the city.
For over a century, it has served as the headquarters for the municipal government of Glasgow in its various guises including Glasgow Town Council, Glasgow Corporation, and, since 1996, Glasgow City Council.
When you walk up to the front of the City Chambers the first thing that strikes you is its sheer size. It stretches along an entire side of George Square and is one of the largest buildings in the city centre. It is also one of the most elaborate.
It was designed in a Beaux-Arts style, a highly ornate French architectural style that was popular at the time, and covered in sculptures and delicate architectural detail.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to have a look over the outside. Above the entrance, the Jubilee Pediment depicts Queen Victoria surrounded by representations of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales along with the colonies of the British Empire. Above that are statues representing Truth, Riches and Honour. At the very top, Truth is known by some as Glasgow’s Statue of Liberty because it bears more than a passing resemblance to the famous lady.
The building was designed from the outset to act as a purpose-built structure for the Town Council. It was also to showcase the city’s civic pride and demonstrate Glasgow’s growing wealth and influence on the world stage.
It was designed by the Paisley-born architect William Young. Two competitions were held to design the new building and it was Young’s design that won the second of these. Young was already an established architect and no stranger to elaborate works. He had already successfully completed commissions for Peebles Parish Church, Haseley Manor and the large Tudor-style mansion at Holmewood Hall.
It was opened in August 1888 by Queen Victoria as part of a huge public ceremony.
The Beaux-Arts style influences the interior too with its ideas of “noble spaces” - grand spaces which then lead on to smaller, more functional areas.
The grand entrance leads into the Loggia, an impressive entrance hall which has a mosaic of the city’s coat of arms inlaid on the floor and an abstract hanging tapestry representing Glasgow’s past and present.
The entire interior is decorated in a stunning Venetian style. Everywhere you look there is decorative plaster, marble, granite and mosaic.
There are two main staircases which take you up to different sides of the building.
In any other building, the Council Chamber staircase would have pride of place. It is beautifully decorated with alabaster panelling and breccia marble. However, the Banqueting Hall staircase outshines it with multi-coloured purple breccia, black Irish and striking red Numidian marbles, highly decorated alabaster and high vaulted spaces.
The two most impressive rooms in the Chambers are the Banqueting Hall and the Council Chamber.
The Banqueting Hall is a vast space. It is 16 metres high, 14 metres wide and 27 metres long. It is the main room used by the city to host important civic functions and large events.
The hall has an early Renaissance style with leaded stained glass windows, decorated pilasters and panels featuring reclining figures. At the top, there are murals by several famous “Glasgow Boys” artists depicting Glasgow’s past, present and future. These are lit by huge electroliers, electric chandeliers, which are winched down annually for cleaning.
The huge Templetons’ carpet beneath your feet is designed to match the decoration on the ceiling. It’s laid in sections that allow it to be rotated regularly and even lifted to reveal a wooden dancefloor underneath.
The Council Chamber is a complete contrast to the light airy Banqueting Hall. It has dark mahogany panelling and solid, weighty furniture with heavy leather padding. That was quite deliberate on the part of the designers. They created a space “of sombre and solid aspect, befitting the deliberations of a Town Council”.
The seating is arranged in a horseshoe facing the Lord Provost’s chair. There are fireplaces at either end and a small public gallery overlooking the whole room.
There are two public tours every weekday at 10:30am and 2:30pm. You can’t prebook your tickets for a tour. You can get a ticket from the reception desk 30 minutes before the tour starts and they are issued on a first-come-first-served basis. The tour size might be limited at busy times.
For larger parties and groups a separate additional tour to the public tours can be arranged. The group leader should contact the Duty Manager in advance to arrange a suitable date and time.
The guided tours last for approximately 45 minutes and are free of charge.
City Chambers Duty Manager Phone: +44 (0)141 287 4018
Free access to the ground floor and reception during office hours. The rest of the building is by guided tour only at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm Monday to Friday.
The closest subway is Buchanan Street, which is just around the corner, and Queen Street Station is on the opposite corner of George Square. From Central Station, it's just a 10-minute walk up the hill.
There are lots of bus services that stop nearby including 6, 6A, 18, 41, 100, 240, 255, 263, 267, 338, 359 and George Square is a stop for the Glasgow City Tour bus. It is also a short walk down the hill on North Hanover Street from Buchanan Street Bus Station.