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Liverpool is famous for so many things, some of which you’ll know about (ever heard of a band called The Beatles?) and others you may not.
Of course, there are the city’s two magnificent cathedrals, the historically significant Albert Dock and even the city’s own Tate art gallery. But did you know that few cities rival Liverpool for its number of listed buildings? It’s that rich architectural heritage that makes this place such a beautiful one.
Add to this the fact that Liverpool has the second-highest number of museums and galleries in the country, beaten only by London, and you can easily see why this is truly a world-class city. Throw in amazing theatres, fantastic nightlife, stunning restaurants, and remembering that you’re just a Mersey Ferry ride away from The Wirral, including Port Sunlight’s Lady Lever Art Gallery, the only real question about a visit to this city is how long you can stay for. Here are the best things to do in Liverpool right now.
1. Shakespeare North Playhouse
What is it? A brand-new theatre and community hub inspired by the only sixteenth-century indoor playhouse in the UK outside of London.
Why go? For its strong programme of plays by Shakespeare as well as contemporary performance, comedy and other live events. Shakespeare North Playhouse represents a massive addition to Liverpool’s cultural scene, made all the more impressive by being outside the city centre.
2. Tate Liverpool
What is it? The northern home of Britain’s famous Tate galleries.
Why go? Formerly a warehouse, Tate Liverpool is now one of the most impressive art galleries in the UK. Take a trip to Albert Dock to see how James Stirling converted the historic building into a modern behemoth that makes an architectural virtue out of the building’s original features. Recent exhibitions include Keith Haring, Lucian Freud and Louise Bourgeois.
3. The Bluecoat
What is it? The oldest building in Liverpool city centre, this Grade I-listed former school is now a centre for contemporary arts with shops and a café.
Why go? Apart from the stunning building itself, the changing exhibitions in the excellent gallery spaces, a constantly inspiring events programme plus a fantastic shop, Bluecoat is the base for other organsations like DaDa (Deaf and Disability Arts) and the Arabic Arts Festival, so there’s always something interesting happening, often the centre’s glorious central courtyard. Plus, the café is one of very few places that do proper, thick wedges of toast dripping with butter.
4. The Beatles Story
What is it? An immersive walk-through journey into Liverpool’s most famous quarter – unmissable for fans and non-fans alike.
Why go? This award-winning homage to the Fab Four isn’t just for fans. Not only will you find out more than you’ll ever need to know about the band, you’ll get a taste of the swinging ’60s too, with recreations of The Casbah, Mathew Street and The Cavern, plus exclusive memorabilia and interactive areas. There’s also the largest selection of official Beatles merchandise in the world, should you fancy splashing out on a memento.
5. Mersey Ferry
What is it? A hop-on-hop-off ride along the Mersey.
Why go? If Gerry And The Pacemakers thought it was worth singing about, it’s probably worth a ride. At the very least you’ll get good views of the city. Choose from a standard hop-on-hop-off cruise or a combination ticket that includes entrance to other Liverpool attractions, including the family-friendly interactive Spaceport attraction and the U-Boat Story, where you get to mooch around a genuine German submarine. In 2018 one of the riverboats was ‘dazzle painted’ by pop artist Sir Peter Blake to commemorate the centenary of the First World War Armistice.
6. Sefton Park
What is it? A little spot of green heaven in the south of Liverpool.
Why go? When city live gets a bit full on, head to Sefton Park and enjoy 250 acres of beautiful green space. Granted Grade 1-listed status (and deserving it), this urban oasis has hidden caves, waterfalls and a Victorian Palm House. Get house plant inspiration in the Botanical Gardens and breathe a little easier on the bus home.
7. Liverpool Philharmonic
What is it? The main venue in the city for classical orchestral performances as well as other types of music, from pop to folk.
Why go? For starters, this is a hugely impressive concert hall, home to Liverpool’s very own orchestra, so if you’re into your classical music, there’s no better venue in the city. You can marvel at the architecture and the acoustics and enjoy the diverse programme, from Gustav Mahler to Martha Wainwright.
8. Radio City Tower
What is it? A bit like Seattle’s Space Needle, this pointy landmark has towered above the city since 1969.
Why go? There are few places with better views of Liverpool than the observation deck of Radio City Tower. Officially known but never referred to as St John’s Beacon, this structure is 138 metres tall and its 360-degree panoramas are incredible. In case you hadn’t figured it out already, Radio City also broadcasts from here.
9. Liverpool Cathedral
What is it? A Gothic behemoth at the heart of the city.
Why go? Liverpool Cathedral is the largest religious building in Britain and the fifth-largest cathedral in the world. Constructed between 1904 and 1978, it’s now open to the public every day of the year. Here you can admire the world’s highest and widest Gothic arches, the UK’s largest organ, and an array of stunning stained-glass windows. The cathedral also plays host to art exhibitions and charity dinners throughout the year, so it’s worth checking the website before your visit.
10. Shopping on Bold Street
What is it? Bold Street is Liverpool’s thriving independent shopping quarter.
Why go? Few places embody the creative spirit of Liverpool like Bold Street. This haven of independent businesses has long been held by locals and tourists alike as one of the city’s coolest areas. At once bougie and innovative, Bold Street is the place to head for one-off vintage pieces, second-hand books, vinyl or quirky homeware by local designers. Don’t forget to stop off at one of the many tempting cafés, bars and restaurants to refuel while you browse.
11. Merseyside Maritime Museum
What is it? A museum dedicated to Liverpool’s rich maritime history, appropriately based at Albert Dock.
Why go? No visit to Liverpool would be complete without a trip to this ode to the city’s sea-trading legacy – especially since it provides fun for all the family. First, there’s a load of model ships and full-sized vessels to examine, as well as eye-catching maritime paintings and posters, films and even a genuine lifejacket worn by a Titanic survivor. You’ll also find the rather harrowing International Slavery Museum on the third floor and the National Border Force Museum in the basement.
12. Port Sunlight
What is it? A picturesque village on The Wirral founded by William Hesketh Lever in 1888 as a place for ‘Sunlight Soap’ factory workers to live.
Why go? Home to the magnificent Lady Lever Art Gallery, the entire village of Port Sunlight is a conservation area, where the original worker’s houses are Grade II-listed, set in some stunning parkland. It’s a perfect excursion for a sunny day, and you’ll need to take the ferry or go through the Mersey Tunnel from Liverpool to get to it.
13. Museum of Liverpool
What is it? Well, you can probably guess. This museum is dedicated to Liverpool itself and is perched on the banks of the glistening Mersey.
Why go? From Liverpool’s unique geography to its rich history and vibrant culture, the Museum of Liverpool will tell you everything you need to know about this fabulous city. Just a short gallop away from RIBA North, the museum documents the importance of Liverpool in relation to the rest of the UK and the vital role the port has played throughout its history. Once inside, you’ll be bombarded with a host of Liverpool-centric things, including archaeological finds, the mythical liver birds, sporting paraphernalia and some (very) iconic tunes.
14. The Cavern Club
What is it? The legendary nightclub that has played host to all manner of illustrious figures from Liverpudlian musical history.
Why go? This underground cellar started life in 1957 as a jazz and skiffle joint, before playing an instrumental role in the birth of the Beatles. Lennon and McCartney played here in the Quarrymen before forming the Fab Four and setting up for almost 300 gigs on its stage. Other major acts followed them, including the Hollies, Rolling Stones and the Kinks, before the venue was bulldozed in the early ’80s. Thanks to investment from Liverpool FC player Tommy Smith, the Cavern Club reopened in 1984 and is once again a vibrant live music venue. Visit now and you’ll either encounter one of the club’s resident acts – including a killer Beatles tribute – or an up-and-coming singer-songwriter.
15. RIBA North
What is it? RIBA’s national architecture centre, based in a gleaming complex on Liverpool’s waterfront.
Why go? This is the spiritual home for outstanding British design: through a series of exhibitions, talks and city tours you can learn about world-beating art, architecture and craftsmanship. The building itself is an angular delight, jutting up from Canning Dock and contrasting beautifully with the ornate, early 20th-century architecture of the nearby ‘Three Graces’ – the Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings. If you’re still not convinced, RIBA also recently won the ‘Best Newcomer to the Visitor Economy’ at the Liverpool City Region Tourism Awards. Impressive stuff.
16. The Baltic Triangle
What is it? Start-ups, street food and stunning arts venues – you’ll find it all in this trendy area.
Why go? Occupying an industrial area that was heavily bombed during the Second World War, the Baltic Triangle’s historic warehouses now overflow with music venues, arts spaces and independent boutiques. Don’t miss the Baltic Market, a street food haven inside the striking Cains Brewery building. Expect things like halloumi fries, prosecco ice lollies and artisan pizzas.
17. Beatles and sightseeing walking tour
What is it? A chance to get the skinny on the city from a local guide.
Why go? Your guide will have a wealth of local knowledge – including plenty of titbits on the Beatles. After all, a tour of Liverpool wouldn’t be complete without dipping into the story of the Fab Four, right? En route, explore the waterfront, learn about the historic docks and find out how the place has changed since John, Paul, George and Ringo made it big. Then you can take in a Beatles film and see loads of locations only accessible by foot, including the site of Brian Epstein’s record shop, NEMS, the Eleanor Rigby and Cilla Black statues, and the Cavern Club – where it all began.
18. The Royal Liver Building Clocktower Tour
What is it? An office block, but not any old office block.
Why go? Built between 1908 and 1911, the Grade I-listed Royal Liver Building (that’s ‘liver’ to rhyme with ‘diver’) is one of the sights that earned Liverpool its Unesco World Heritage status. It was designed by Walter Aubrey Thomas for an insurance company and was one of the first structures in the world to be built using reinforced concrete. Its most notable features are its two clock towers, atop which perch two mythical, cormorant-like liver birds. A tour of the clock tower offers superb views from what is the city’s most famous landmark.
19. British Music Experience
What is it? An exhibition that tells the story of British pop music.
Why go? In this sprawling, vibrant and interactive exhibition, visitors can find out just about everything there is to know about pop music in the UK. Highlights? Genuine outfits worn by stars such as David Bowie, as well as instruments that once belonged to Noel Gallagher and the Sex Pistols. You can also have a go at rock stardom yourself by picking up one of various guitars, drum kits and keyboards, or belting out a tune or two in a vocal booth.
20. Vintage Shopping at 69A
What is it? A treasure trove of vintage items, antiques and bric-à-brac.
Why go? Remember as a kid when you hoped that wardrobes and doorways in garden walls might lead to some magical place? Welcome to 69A, the closest Liverpool has to that. Step inside and you’re transported into an emporium where you might come across a small toy reminding you of your childhood for just a few quid, a first edition you’ll need to take a loan out to buy or some vintage clothing you just have to have. You can get lost in here for hours.
21. The M&S Bank Arena
What is it? A 11,000-capacity arts and sports venue that opened in 2008.
Why go? Those seeking an action-packed outing should check out the M&S Bank Arena, which regularly plays host to massive gigs, live sporting events, comedy shows and family-friendly performances. Sir Paul McCartney has graced the arena’s stage, and so too have Beyoncé and Iron Maiden. They’ve also held the Mobo Awards, Davis Cup and the GB Judo World Cup here, as well as telly favourites ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘The X Factor’. Plenty of strings to its bow, then.
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