The Merchant City at night
|OS grid reference|
|• Edinburgh||47 miles (76 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
The Merchant City is the area close to George Square and Glasgow City Chambers, and reaching Glasgow Cross, some parts dating from the medieval period, in the centre of Glasgow, Scotland. It contains offices, flats, retail shops, restaurants, and bars. It is also home to the former Royal Exchange at Queen Street, GoMA, the Gallery of Modern Art, City Halls & Old Fruitmarket, Merchant Square, and the Scottish Youth Theatre. It hosts many annual festivals.
The medieval Glasgow Cross continues at the junction of High Street, Trongate and Saltmarket. The town's tron, weighing scales, was placed next to the steeple of the town house in the 1550s. The Tron Steeple, as it became known, still stands at Glasgow Cross, one of the few remaining pre-Victorian buildings in Glasgow.
The area now known as 'Merchant City' was developed from the 1750s onwards. It also includes St Andrew's Square, adjacent to Glasgow Green. Residences and warehouses of the wealthy merchant "tobacco lords" (who prospered in shipping and, amongst other things, tobacco, sugar and tea through indentured and slave workers) were built in the area. The district west of the congested High Street became the ancient burgh's first planned New Town, with wide, straight streets, vistas, churches and squares, marking the start of aspirational residential movements westwards that would continue over two centuries, including, from 1800, the second New Town, being Blythswood upon Blythswood Hill, just west of the new Buchanan Street, rising to Blythswood Square.
As Glasgow expanded in the 19th century to become the second city of the United Kingdom and the British Empire, the area became a centre of major warehouses, shipping companies, offices, distilleries and clothing manufacturers; while the markets continued in fruit, vegetables, cheese and fish.
After plans to construct the M8/M74 motorway ring road around the city centre were published in the 1960s much of the area fell into decline, with some of the buildings compulsorily purchased by the city council to allow for their demolition ahead pf the new road. The central food markets moved to modern premises further east of the city centre. At the same time the vast number of wholesale and manufacturing warehouses declined, largely because of the national ending of Retail Price Maintenance, and the continuing movement to out of town industrial estates. However the High Street motorway road was never built and in the 1980s the decision was taken by the city council and the Scottish Development Agency to revitalise the area and its historic buildings with public and private investment in its improvements and new uses.
The name 'Merchant City' was first coined by historian and writer Charles Oakley in the 1960s, ahead of this regeneration.
The Merchant City has been promoted and built up in recent years as a residential, shopping and leisure area, mirroring Covent Garden in the West End of London. To this end many new bars and restaurants have been established. This has been complemented with the building of prestigious new housing developments, often by restoring Victorian buildings. A recent example being the GPO Building development in George Square.
Another important element of the area's transformation is high-end shopping, anchored by the Italian Centre, home to, amongst others, Versace Collections (the UK's first Versace store) and Emporio Armani. The Italian Centre was designed by Page\Park Architects who are fond of including art in their architecture. Here the art is integral to the façades, but also features in the courtyard including a sculpture, 'Thinking of Bella' (1994) by Shona Kinloch. Recent shopping developments include Bang and Olufsen, Bose, Escada, Ralph Lauren, Mulberry and underwear and lingerie Agent Provocateur stores. The annual Merchant City Festival takes place in September attracting tens of thousands to the area with its multi-arts programme.
In 2006 Merchant City was winner of The Great Neighbourhood Award from The Academy of Urbanism.
Merchant is famous for their annual festivals. Merchant city festivals have a lot of different entertainments, including street arts, dance, live music, markets, fashion and design, comedy, family events, tours, heritage walks, talks, visual art, film, and children - families activities every year.
Merchant City Festival 2017 was held on 22–30 July 2017.
There were two great family events as Carnival Procession and Provand’s Lordship free Family Fun Zone. Among the highlights of the festival are carnival procession from Glasgow Cathedral , massed samba bands, a UNESCO music stage, the return of SURGE, the festival within a festival, a Street band “Encontro” and a celebration of street food.
During the festival, the city hosted Hip Replacement, a family Dance-along screening of Moana and Indiana Jones, and the hugely popular live sing-a-long Massaoke.