Liverpool has been in my blood for a long long time. I mean not actually in my blood, I don’t have any relatives or ancestors from the area, but it has certainly been a location of huge importance for my family for as long as I remember. A lot of my family are huge Liverpool FC fans, and in recent years have spent many a weekend in the city for the football – but as the lone member of the family that didn’t support the football club, I never travelled there.
In fact, like so many places in the UK, I had barely been in the city, let alone really seen it. A train ride, a corporate hotel and then back again for work. Before my most recent visit I could tell you nothing about the city except for the fact that it was set on the River Mersey and The Beatles were big there.
So, a weekend in Liverpool was on the cards then. I was nervous – would I like it? Would it hold the same fascination for me as many of my family without the football ties? I headed across the country after my night in Chester, and left my heart, soul and stomach in this incredible city. Here’s what I got up to!
Like many cities in the UK, Liverpool is best done on foot, and whilst it is bigger than Chester (and therefore a bit harder to navigate), we didn’t use any other transport methods whilst we are there. That said, it is a major city, with huge train connections and so it is easy to reach the outer limits of Liverpool by train, and get around by bus if mobility is an issue.
We arrived by train via Chester, and travelled back home directly to Euston on Virgin Trains. It’s a comfortable and relatively quick journey between London and Liverpool but like so many locations on the Virgin Trains West Coast line, it is best to book as far in advance as possible, as tickets can be pricey.
Of course you can arrive by car too, but we found many city centre hotels did not include parking, and parking was expensive unless you were staying further out on the docks. If you’re staying elsewhere and just want to visit Liverpool for the day, the Liverpool One shopping centre has parking options, and you can also hire bikes for the day through their city cycle scheme. For more information on Liverpool Transport, the Visit Liverpool travel pages provide comprehensive guidance.
Where To Stay
There are no end of options to suit every budget in Liverpool, but here is the thing. We found Saturday nights in Liverpool to be expensive. As a popular hen and stag party location, and one of the top weekend break destinations in the North West, accommodation was definitely at the top end of our usual spend in the UK. So, we switched things up a bit and decided to stay on a Sunday night instead. This meant we had a bigger selection of some of the best hotels in Liverpool at a third of the price.
We decided to stay at The Aloft after hearing lots of good things about the hotel (notably from my blogger friend Sophie Cliff) which placed us right in the heart of the city centre and within 10 minutes walk from the docks and all the major attractions. We didn’t have to walk far for all the bars and restaurants on Castle Street, we were round the corner from the Cavern Club and the staff were amongst the most helpful and friendly we have come across in the UK. We also made use of its brilliant cocktail bar (and stopped in for a quick coffee on our way home), and had we been so inclined, I would have been more than happy to book in for dinner at their restaurant too.
We paid £79 for a one night stay excluding breakfast via Booking.com, but rates can be as low as £69. If you fancy something different, my parents have stayed at both The Pullman and Hard Days Night, and my lovely blogger friend Rhianna spent a weekend at The Titanic (read her epic review here!)Looking for gorgeous architecture and a beautiful dockside? A weekend in Liverpool awaits you.Click To Tweet
What To Do
Like any city in the UK, there is plenty to see, do and eat but unlike most cities Liverpool does this with a style, and a skyline that I think leaves it completely unrivalled. In fact, I think the skyline view from The Mersey rivals even that of New York City, but more on that later.
Whilst there are a handful of free and paid for walking tours (especially for those that want to know more about Beatle-mania), and our favourite walking tour company Sandemans offers a highly regarded free tour, the timings didn’t work out this time so we decided to explore on our own.
The Liverpool Docks
Quite frankly I believe the Liverpool Docks to be one of the most outstanding areas of beauty in the UK. Sure, it isn’t a nature park but the incredible architecture, views across the the River Mersey, excellent museums and galleries rivalling the capital and a cheeky visit from The Beatles (yes, you’ll find a statue dedicated to them here) gives it a status beyond the North West. This area has undergone a huge regeneration in recent years, from its decline as a working dock, and the Pier Head and Albert Dock area specifically is one I’d recommend you spend some time in.
Things to look out for on your visit include:
- The Three Graces of Liverpool – Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building which define one of the most beautiful skylines in Europe.
- The Beatles Statue – celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the band’s last gig played in Liverpool.
- The Tate Liverpool – home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the north.
- The Museum of Liverpool – see below for more details.
- Memorial to the Engine Room Heroes of the Titanic – a beautiful monument located on Pier Head
- The “Peace & Harmony” Monument – commissioned by the Global Peace Initiative on John Lennon’s 70th Birthday.
Even if you decide not to visit any of these things on the waterfront, on a bright day, just looking out over The Mersey across to The Wirral is a beautiful sight. Completely unrecognisable now from its time as Britain’s most important international trading location, it’s still completely iconic to stand in the area so integral to our prosperity and ingenuity.
A “Ferry Cross The Mersey”
If you go to Liverpool and get a ferry across The Mersey and they don’t play “Ferry Cross The Mersey” whilst on board, did you really go to Liverpool?
No, you did not.
And so I found myself on a sunny but blustery Monday morning queuing up for a Mersey Ferries river explorer cruise, a 50 minute trip that takes in the best views of Liverpool Waterside, whilst also taking you on a whistle stop tour of the history of the area. You can hop off at both Seacombe and Woodside ferry terminals (on the other side of the river) and explore the Spaceport and U-boat Story attractions and jump back on to get to Liverpool when you are finished.
The views of Pier Head and the Three Graces are unrivalled from the boat, and on this occasion we were lucky enough to travel on the Dazzle Ferry. The famous Mersey Ferry “Snowdrop” has recently undergone an incredible makeover by Sir Peter Blake as part of the First World War commemorations. The “dazzle” design is in honour of the patterns that were first used on vessels in WWI, a fact that I never knew even though I studied this period of history.
Cost: £10 per adult, or £9 in advance online.
This area of Liverpool is fast becoming one of “the” places to hang out. Known as the Creative Quarter of the city, the area is full of creative spaces, food and drink locations and street art – a real mesh of up and coming talent in all areas.
You’ll find the Baltic Market, an indoor food location full of street food vendors and a bar, indoor crazy golf and my favourite addition of all – an amazing Liver Bird wings mural by artist Paul Curtis. Located on Jamaica Street, this is an excellent spot for a selfie or two with the famous symbol of Liverpool! But quick – who knows how long it will be there?
Museum of Liverpool
As mentioned above, the Museum of Liverpool is located at Pier Head on the waterfront in a thoroughly modern glass building. Inside is an amazing mix of both the history of the city, cultural phenomenon such as music, tv and football and a huge amount about transport in the city. Shipping yes, but also rail.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I have an unhealthy obsession with rail history (especially the tube in London). I found out whilst at the Museum of Liverpool that Liverpool was one home to an overhead railway along the docks – the first overhead railway in the UK, based largely on New York’s High Line.. Opening in 1853, but sadly shutting down in the 1950’s due to disrepair the railway had an amazing history and a number of world firsts attached to its name. It was the first electric elevated railway, the first to use automatic signalling and was home to one of the first passenger escalators at a station.
The Museum of London is in a beautiful building, and its well worth exploring for an afternoon to get under the skin of the city’s history.
Liverpool Cathedrals + Hope Street
Hope Street is an incredible road in Liverpool which stretches from the Roman Catholic Cathedral to the Anglican Cathedral and beyond. Nicknamed “the best street in the UK” it plays host to a number of iconic cityscapes and buildings including the Royal Philharmonic, beautiful rows of Georgian buildings and the haunting St James Mount and Gardens.
One of my favourite things about Hope Street is the “A Case History” installation by John King, a set of suitcases arranged in different piles in the middle of the street. The suitcases are labelled with Hope Street’s most famous names and organisations.
However the cathedrals are the most breathtaking thing about Hope Street. The Anglican Cathedral stands proud at one end, overlooking the street and offering a great vantage point from which to take in the area. Free to enter, you can buy a Tower Experience Ticket 10 am to 5 pm in the cathedral shop but I honestly think one of the most wonderful things here (despite the impressive building and beautiful gothic architecture) is the Tracey Emin installation. In recent years, the cathedral has built up an impressive body of work from eminent 20th and 21st century artists including the fluorescent light pieces by Emin (pictured below) which was truly moving given the surroundings.
The more modern, Roman Catholic cathedral is at the other end of Hope Street, and you can find out all about its impressive centuries old construction history at the Museum of Liverpool. Known as the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, it’s the largest Catholic cathedral in England and a real symbol of modern architecture. Take a peek inside, and see how the light reacts to the building!
Cost: Both cathedrals are free to enter
The Bombed Out Church
Another church, of a different kind this time. The Church of St Luke’s on Bold Street was destroyed in the Liverpool Blitz of 1941 and now stands as a monument to the part Liverpool played in both World Wars. At a glance rom the outside you may not notice that the interior and the roof has completely gone, as part of the the tower and the walls are still present.
Inside, it is a moving and beautiful location with chairs and flowers placed inside for visitors. When we visited there were volunteers tending to the flower beds, and an exhibition of pictures of the church after the war. It’s now run as an arts and community venue, and for a small donation of £1 you can explore inside. It was a really wonderful space to visit, and to soak up a part of Liverpool’s wartime history.
Cost: £1 suggested donation
It’s not a visit to Liverpool unless you soak up a little bit of cultural history, and there is nothing more cultural in this neck of the woods than The Beatles! The Cavern Quarter refers to the area where you’ll find the Cavern Club, a cellar music venue famous for launching the career of The Beatles and many other of Liverpool’s famous musicians.
In this area you’ll find many clubs and bars, with live music blaring, buskers on the streets and the opportunity to soak up some of the swinging sixties vibe. There’s a John Lenon tribute statue, wall murals and the recently added Cilla Black statue (unveiled in 2017).
Where to Eat + Drink
I’m writing a full guide to eating and drinking in Liverpool, but for now here is a list of the fantastic places we found. The food and drink scene in Liverpool is simply incredible, and I’m keen to return just for another foodie trip!
- Moose Coffee – an insane brunch location with an America/Canadian flair. Think pancakes, think waffles and think eggs. And then think some more.
- Castle Street Townhouse – an intimate bar and restaurant that offers all day dining with flair and good service. A great gin list and an inventive menu await you!
- Salt House Tapas – Located in the heart of Liverpool One, this is a light and airy tapas bar with sangria to die for and innovative small plates – ideal for lunch!
- Ex-Directory – An underground bar accessed through an unassuming red telephone box. Need I say more? OK, the cocktails are incredible!
- NY Liverpool – Part of the Aloft Hotel and located in the iconic former Royal Insurance building, this New York inspired location serves some incredible cocktails (and gins!)
- 92 Degrees Coffee – Liverpool’s first micro roastery and coffee shop, this is in an excellent location for a pit stop whilst exploring Hope Street.
Can you tell that I fell hard for Liverpool? There is something about this city – its history, its residents and its heart that truly got to me. I shed a little happy tear whilst looking out on The Mersey and the iconic skyline from the ferry as the wind whipped at my face and I shielded my eyes from the low sun.
Honestly I don’t want to overhype a place but, if you are travelling all the way to New York just for the skyline from Brooklyn, consider saving some pennies and go to Liverpool instead. It’s one of those places that will grab you by the shoulders and assault all your senses – and then slowly relax you as you sink into one of its cosy bars with a well earned Liverpool Gin.