A Destination Guide to Liverpool

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Liverpool, England, renowned for its rich cultural heritage, maritime history, arts and unrivalled mix of music, is a thriving and vibrant cosmopolitan city. With recent awards for the UK's friendliest city and Britain's, best nightlife destination, the accolades just keep coming for this coastal hotspot. Moreover, Liverpool's wide variety of world-class museums, Georgian buildings, exciting attractions and spectacular waterfront has travelers visiting in record numbers.

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Liverpool is located just 178-miles northwest of London and is easily accessible by train (two-and-half-hours from London) or hop a regional flight to the city's popular John Lennon Airport. The city is also easily walkable with the cultural center and waterfront located in relatively close proximity. However, you may wish to divide the areas in two for the attractions you plan to visit and save yourself a good deal of walking time.

Historical Waterfront

Start your exploration of Liverpool at the historical waterfront. You'll find the Pier Head venues, Mersey Ferry for river cruises, Museum of Liverpool and famous Albert Dock. The Albert Dock, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a series of dock buildings and warehouses laid out in a large rectangle that covers several city blocks. Made completely from cast iron brick and stone, the dock originally opened in 1846; it was revolutionary for its docking system that allowed ships to load and unload directly to and from the warehouses. Today, Albert Dock houses the Tate Liverpool, the Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum, numerous shops and restaurants, as well as the award-wining Beatles Story.

There are several excellent museums located on the waterfront, such as the Museum of Liverpool. The eye-catching, ultra modern museum opened in 2001 and it's the world's first national museum devoted to the history of a regional city. Exhibition galleries include four main themes of port, creative, sporting history, people and global significance. Perhaps the most interesting of the museum's displays is the artifacts and history section with a Roman skeleton found in 1864. In addition, the museum provides an intriguing look into the culture, history and lives of the regional people of Liverpool. Once you visit the museum and friendly city, you'll recognize why Liverpool's clever and true motto reads, "Liverpool is Gobby Swagger, proud and cheeky and antiauthoritarian!"

If you enjoy modern art, the Tate Liverpool, located in Albert Dock, is a small two-floor museum, but worth the visit. The rotating exhibits feature a national collection of modern and contemporary art in the North of England.

Liverpool's maritime history is part of the city's identity and a relaxing way to experience it is to take a cruise. The Mersey Ferries River Explorer, located at Pier Head provides a narrated 50-minute ride. As you cruise across the Mersey, you'll learn about the city's fascinating history, while taking in the spectacular sites (make sure to bring your camera). If you wish to disembark at the Seacombe Ferry Terminal, you can visit Spaceport; a family fun spaced-themed attraction with the Wallace & Gromit In Space exhibition. Or, stop off at the Woodside Ferry Terminal to see the German World War II, U-boat Story. This U-534 U-boat is one of only four left in the world.

And the Beatles

The Beatles museum takes you on a journey through a fascinating exhibition following the lives and times of the Fab 4, with an audio guide narrated by John Lennon's sister, Julia. She recounts John and Paul's first meeting amidst cool displays of their early photos and instruments. The tour continues to the band's early days in Hamburg and then goes back in time to experience an authentic recreation of the famous Cavern Club. The Cavern Club in Mathew Street is where the Beatles became famous and were first seen by Brian Epstein. This is the most impressive area in the Beatles Story with its underground pub atmosphere of brick walls plastered with handbills; it's a total '60s immersion.

From the frenetic heights of Beatlemania to recording with George Martin at Abbey Road Studios, you'll find amazing recreations of the band's lives. Moreover, you'll experience the Sargent Pepper years and Yellow Submarine displays, as well as personal items, photos, interviews and stage costumes as well. Ultimately, the tour details the band's break-up and solo careers, as the definitive exhibition brings the Beatles Story to life.

After the Beatle's Story, climb aboard the Magical Mystery Tour bus (a few blocks from the Beatles Story). For Beatle's enthusiasts, this essential two-hour tour introduces you to the Beatles, their lives, homes, schools, birthplaces and a host of exciting landmarks. Fully guided, the bright blue and yellow Magical Mystery bus takes you to Penny Lane and the actual sites that inspired the song. This iconic area is so popular, the street's signs are stolen as fast as the city puts them up. You'll also visit Strawberry Field, where John Lennon used to play as a boy, even thought it was private property. When Lennon was told to leave, he said, "You can't hang me, it's nothing to get hung about."

At the conclusion of the guided tour, the Magical Mystery bus drops you off at the famous and rebuilt Cavern Club where you can relax, sip a pint and listen to local musicians perform.

Liverpool's Cultural Center

Liverpool's stunning architecture is another reason to visit the city's cultural center. St. George's Hall, located on St. George's Place, is one of the finest examples of Greco-Roman style Architecture in the world. It was designed by architects Harvey Lonsdale Elmes and Charles Robert Cockerell and was completed in 1855. This massive and multi-purpose building had courtrooms; if you were tried and convicted, you were marched unceremoniously to the bowels of St. Georges and thrown into a rather grim prison cell.

Of course, there was the cultural side of St. George's Hall with the splendid and lavish Great Hall and the magnificent circular Concert Room. Restored in 2006 to its former glory, the Concert Room features imposing, guilt accented columns surrounded by roman statues and a great, domed ceiling. It is also where Charles Dickens once gave readings. And, Arthur Conan Doyle gave the first reading of Hound of the Baskervilles in this opulent room as well. Make sure to take the guided tour of St. Georges Hall, as you will see parts of the building unavailable on self-guided tours.

The gothic design and enormous size of the Liverpool Cathedral is astonishing. It is the largest cathedral in Britain and the fifth largest in the world. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the construction started just after the turn of the century and was completed in 1978; it took 74-years to build the Anglican cathedral from locally quarried sandstone.

Moreover, there are dozens of interesting facts and stories about the cathedral but one in particular relates to a member of the Beatles. In 1910, the first portion, the Lady Chapel came into full use and regular choral services in the cathedral, sung by a Choir of boys and gentlemen, began. However, if you can believe it, Sir Paul McCartney failed his audition for the choir in the 1950s; he was told he didn't have the voice for it. Of course, he returned years later to the cathedral to collaborate with the choir several times, most notably in performances of the Liverpool Oratorio.

The Liverpool Cathedral is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., if you wish to visit. After your cathedral tour, consider a Twilight Tower tour. From the tower, you'll see a breath-taking 360 degree sunset view of Liverpool in the evenings. You will have to take two lifts and climb 108 stairs, but gazing at the city's vistas and seeing the huge cathedral bells is worth the effort. The tower is also open during day light hours but make sure to check the schedule for hours.

If You Go

For excellent accommodations in Liverpool, book a stay at Hotel Indigo. Located a quarter mile from the waterfront on Chapel Street, this boutique hotel is in a perfect location to explore the city. The hotel took its inspiration for design from the city's cotton trading heritage and the rooms reflect the bright hues associated with the textiles. The rooms are small but well appointed and very comfortable. In addition, you'll love the breakfast room with a huge buffet of tasty hot and cold selections.

For more information on Liverpool, go to VisitLiverpool.com

Read more about Travel in England, Scotland, and Wales

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Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site OffbeatTravel.com and is a regular contributor on travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: April 2nd, 2014

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