Street smart: Buchanan Street, Glasgow

PERFORMANCE artists, buskers, street preachers and roving vendors enliven the scene along Buchanan Street, Glasgow's main shopping thoroughfare. Early-Victorian architecture pleases the eye at every turn and creates a sense of living history. Rows and rows of boutique shops bring us back to present day. During the icy Yuletide season, rugged-up shoppers ramble along to admire the carolling and festive window displays.

ARGYLL ARCADE

PEOPLE-WATCHING is part of the prize at this Victorian-era arcade in the heart of Buchanan Street. With more diamond and jewellery specialists than you can poke a second mortgage at, it's the place to see loved-up Scottish couples doing victory laps as they search for their very own symbol of eternity. As one of Europe's oldest covered shopping arcades and Scotland's first indoor shopping mall, history and early-Victorian architecture abounds. The arcade concierges still wear top hats, which is a nice touch. Linking Buchanan Street with Argyle Street, the arcade is also a good place to escape the harsh winter chill for a bit.

30 Buchanan Street; argyll-arcade.com.

THE WILLOW TEA ROOMS

CUPPA, anyone? Going strong for more than 100 years, the Glasgow Willow Tea Rooms retains the same olde-worlde ambience as it ever has. The rooms have been re-created in faithful homage to the original style of designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Birthdays are celebrated here, baby showers as well, though it's most popular with shoppers who duck in from Buchanan Street. Try the afternoon tea, served all day: tasty sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and Scottish buttered shortbread for about £12 ($20).

97 Buchanan Street; +44 0141 204 5242; willowtearooms.co.uk.

CAPRESE RISTORANTE

WHY would a classic Italian restaurant become one of Glasgow's favourites? If you lived on haggis and butties, you'd understand. Caprese Ristorante may look simple and unassuming but don't be fooled — the food is sensational. From unadorned Parma ham and melon to the more adventurous Tournedos Rossini, everything is prepared fresh and with love. Bookings are essential and not just at the weekend. A sweet blog (capreserestaurantglasgow.wordpress.com) keeps diners up to speed with specials and the stories behind the produce.

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217 Buchanan Street; +44 0141 332 3070.

ST GEORGES-TRON CHU

MOST people know it simply as The Tron. The quaint St George's-Tron Church has sat at the end of Buchanan Street in Nelson Mandela Place for more than 200 years. A Church of Scotland parish church, it was opened in 1808 and is now part of the city's fabric. As well as regular Sunday services, a Wednesday lunchtime service caters to shoppers and office workers. At other times, the pews may provide a quiet respite from the go-go-go activity of the street, particularly during the mad rush of Christmas shopping along the strip.

Buchanan Street; +44 0141 332 2795; thetron.org.

DONALD DEWAR STATUE

IF YOU need a meeting place on Buchanan Street, the Donald Dewar Statue is as good as any. Mounted on a 1.8-metre-high base, this landmark is hard to miss. Created in honour of Scottish politician Donald Dewar, it is inscribed with the words: "There shall be a Scottish Parliament." After Dewar's death in 2000, Kenny Mackay designed the statue, which was unveiled by then-prime minister Tony Blair. In his bronze form, Dewar has suffered many indignities — his glasses have been smashed by vandals and rude words painted on his base — but he remains stoic.

In front of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

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