‘Come visit Liverpool’ said my mate Tim. ‘There’s so many things to do in Liverpool city’. I conjured up dreamy images of riding The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Bus, sipping coffee with hipster Liverpudlian artists, sailing along the River Mersey; all whilst listening to the locals’ accent (my word, their accent is so good!)
But as I’m clutching onto the handrail of the ferry, whose tinny speakers are blasting out Gerry Marsden’s ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ song, I’m wondering whatever possessed me to venture up here for a weekend in Liverpool. It’s January. I’m freezing my blimin’ knockers off.
Tim warned me I was crazy to take this ride. ‘You won’t catch a *Scouser on that boat today’ he said (the UK’s nickname for people from Liverpool – Scouse is a type of stew and it’s good)! He’s right. There isn’t a single Scouser questioning their life choices on this vessel. Instead…there’s just 60-odd overenthusiastic tourists braving the elements like me. And we’re embracing it! Because after all, we are in the birthplace of The Beatles and Liverpool is brilliant.
If you do so happen to turn up in Liverpool England in January; don’t despair. Just be brave and bring all the warm clothes you have. You’re gonna need them.
If you’re short on time, here are my top attractions. Scroll down or click on the table of contents to read more about each one in the article.
International Slavery Museum
The Cavern Club
Liverpool Churches: Anglican Cathedral, Metropolitan Cathedral and The Bombed Out Church
The Baltic Triangle
Independent Shops: on Bond Street, Renshaw Street and in The Bluecoat
By train: find the best prices here.
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Right on the River Mersey leading to the UK coast, in the Northwest of England! It’s west of Manchester and easily accessible from London on the train, bus or plane!
Let’s just get this question right out the way. Liverpudlians (*awesome people from Liverpool) are some of the nicest British people I’ve ever met. They’re chilled, they’ve got time for you, and very open to having a chat.
Thanks to the overpowering Liverpool weather, my scarf is ferociously flapping and slapping me across the face, but I manage to prise open my frozen hands, and whip out my camera for a couple of shots. As Gerry’s lyrics flow across the murky waters, I take a minute to imagine that I’m on my way to a Beatles gig in the sixties (in warmer weather of course). The river Mersey isn’t exactly the Danube, but it definitely has its charm.
The Daily River Explorer Cruises will show you the best of Liverpool’s waterfront on the river Mersey in under an hour. But if you wish, you can make a whole day out of sailing along the waterfront, by getting off at Seacombe and then Woodside. I started at the Pier Head Ferry Terminal where one half of The Beatles Story is, at Albert Dock (more on this and other Liverpool attractions further down the article).
Opening times: 10am to 4pm weekdays, 10am to 6pm weekends.
Or, check prices for boat and city tour bus together.
Address: Pier Head Ferry Terminal, Georges Parade, Liverpool, L3 1DP. Estimated visit time if just going back and forth: 1 hour.
The Mersey waters have seen a lot of action. Yet not all the activities in Liverpool have been savoury…
Home to a dark history of being a major player in Britain’s slave trade, Liverpool was swimming in money in the second half of the 18th century. Very much the backbone of its prosperity, the results of the Slave Trade can be seen in the city’s landscape today. The intricate and impressive architecture around Liverpool’s docks, along with the city’s street names, is down to the slave trade.
Named as the ‘New York of Europe’, Liverpool was doing well. Veeeeery well. With the slave trade came copious amounts of trading in sugar, tobacco, brandy, tea and most importantly cotton. During the Industrial Revolution, Liverpool was the largest cotton-selling city in the world!
And get this…
During the 18th century, Liverpool’s population grew from 6000 to 80000! Wowsers. And then the Irish popped over (300,000 in 1847 alone) because of the Great Famine. So let’s just say there were a lot of people kicking around. *Culturally, Liverpool’s major port has given birth to an exciting mix of cultures. This city is home to the oldest African community in the UK and the oldest Chinese community in Europe!
Container ships came along in the 1960s and Liverpool couldn’t keep up: things started to go downhill. The population halved. The city was a ghost town. Unemployment was at an all time high and things got kinda rough. Yikes.
In the 1960s youth culture was alive and kicking thanks to the Beatles and Merseybeat sounds! According to the BBC, The Beatles attractions now bring around 90 million British pounds to this city every year. Go Liverpool!
Liverpool’s Albert Dock dating back to 1846 (*the first non-combustible warehouse system in the world because it’s not made of wood!) is the perfect place to start your Liverpool sightseeing weekend. Stepping off the Mersey Ferry, you have just landed into the very heartbeat of Liverpool. This is the epicentre of the historical events, recounted above. It holds some kickass museums, art galleries (the Tate!), cafes and bars, and currently is where almost all the Beatles Tours start.
Depending on your personal tastes and interests, and you’re wondering what to do in Liverpool, I recommend picking a couple of the following attractions for your Liverpool itinerary.
Even if you don’t go in any of these attractions, take the time to walk around Liverpool’s Albert Dock. The atmosphere is buzzing – and there’s some really yummy ice-cream vans kicking around!
Are you really short on time and want a feel for Liverpool? Get your bearings with a free walking tour with Sandemanns. They run free walking tours around the world: I love them and they never fail to disappoint. Just make sure to give the guide a tip!
Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum is understandably tough to visit. The atmosphere has been set up to be low-lit and it feels like the walls are caving in on you at times. I feel all the questions you do want to ask, are answered here: the information is incredibly thorough, clear, honest and upfront. Coming here is not for everyone, but it is right to not forget what happened here back in the 18th century, as well as see the slavery that is still going on today.
The Merseyside Maritime Museum is also attached if it takes your fancy!
These two museums are worthwhile free things to do in Liverpool. Opening times: 10am to 5pm. Entry is free. Address: Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AQ. Estimated visit time: 1.5 hours.
Art lovers rejoice! If you’ve ever been to Tate London; love it or hate it, it’s always an interesting and thought-provoking experience. Liverpool UK has been blessed with its own Tate now: I recommend you go in and have a peek.
Opening times: 10am to 6pm. Entry is free but you’ll have to pay for certain special exhibitions in there. Address: Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4BB. Estimated visit time: 1.5 hours.
The main reason I’m in Liverpool? I’m here on a pilgrimage! I’m on a mission to connect the dots. Rewind just a couple of months ago and I’m wading through overgrown weeds and crumbling graffiti-covered walls at the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India. Now I’m back in the UK, it’s time to see where it all began for the ‘fab four’. I wanna see the best Beatles sites Liverpool has to offer!
Important note for non-Beatles’ fans: There are fun things to do in Liverpool apart from The Beatles!
The award-winning Beatles Story is the perfect place to start your Beatles discovery in Liverpool! As you walk down the steps from Albert Dock into the world of The Beatles, you’ll be given an audio guide to accompany you along this storytelling journey. If audio guides aren’t your thing, just hang it from your neck and look hipster: there is plenty of reading material in the museum to keep you going! But I do recommend giving it a go.
The Beatles Story is cute! They’ve recreated sets to transport your mind and body to the key times and places in Liverpool that The Beatles were at. You can be there whilst they’re recording their hits at Abbey Road studios, swimming along in their Yellow Submarine and drinking coffee at the Casbah Coffee Club. The story takes you right up to their split and then follows The Beatles individually up to where they are now (dead or alive).
Opening times: 9am to 6pm. Entry cost for an adult: Check prices here.
Address: Britannia Vaults, Albert Dock, Liverpool, A3 4AD. Estimated visit time: 2 hours.
If you’re going full throttle with The Beatles on your weekend in Liverpool, then it only makes sense that you jump on The Magical Mystery Tour Bus! It leaves from the Albert Dock, so you’re just in the right spot. You’ll cruise around local Liverpool and get out of the tourist areas a bit: all the way to The Beatles’ childhood homes, through Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields.
Being able to see these famous landmarks that The Beatles wrote about was a real treat. You’ll get all of the juicy details about The Beatles from your guide, as well as a good amount of information about Liverpool too.
The tour finishes at The Cavern Club, and they’ll let you in for free if you show your tour ticket! Even better, they’ll let you in for free the whole day (so if you want to come back in the evening for some Liverpool nightlife, you’re set!).
Tours leave daily at 10am. Guarantee your spot: buy your ticket in advance here.
Tour starting point address: Anchor Courtyard, Atlantic Pavillion, Liverpool, L3 4AS. Estimated visit time: 2 hours (not including the fun you’ll have at the Cavern Club afterwards).
You’ll find musicians playing all day long at The Cavern Club – so whatever time you pop in, there’s guaranteed to be a lively atmosphere going on! Just to warn you though, with Liverpool weekend breaks, come the stag and Liverpool hen do parties. Try and come during the day if you want to avoid this mess!
Address: 10 Mathew Street, Liverpool L2 6RE.
Is anyone as obsessed with the Peaky Blinders TV show as I am?! They have some cracking filming locations from the show right in Liverpool. Click here to learn more.
Two things to look out for on your way through Liverpool (and they’re hard to miss!) is the enormous gothic Anglican Cathedral on one end of Hope Street and the modern Roman Catholic cathedral on the other.
This monumental cathedral is the largest in the UK and the fifth largest in the world. If you want 360˚ views of Liverpool, you can opt for The Tower Experience on their open-air rooftop and soak up the city in its entirety. On a good day, you can even see Blackpool Tower from here!
Opening times: 7 days a week, 08:00 to 18:00. The Tower Experience is open from 10:00 to 17:00 on Friday, 09:00 to 17:00 Saturday and 12:00 to 16:00 Sunday. General entrance is free but a Tower Experience ticket costs an adult £5.50. Estimated visit time: 45 minutes.
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is the largest Catholic cathedral in England. Personally, it looks like an upside-down shuttlecock left over from giants playing badminton to me. It’s wonderfully weird and cutting edge, and worth venturing into.
Opening times: 7 days a week, 07:30 to 18:00. Entrance is free. Address: Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5TQ. Estimated visit time: 30 minutes.
By far though, out of all the churches, the bombed out church is one of my favorite places to visit in Liverpool. It’s beautifully broken and unique – appearing whole on the outside, but carved out from the Blitz on the inside. Mother Nature has taken over. Go and say hello inside.
Opening times: The interior is open from 12:00 to 18:00 Thursday to Sunday. Entrance is a suggested donation of £1. Estimated Visit Time: 15 minutes.
Once the warehouse and workshop district handling trade from Liverpool’s docks, the Baltic Triangle sounds like a weird Russian black hole. In reality, it definitely is somewhere that you can get lost in; art, food and drink wise.
If you’re looking for the hipsters of Liverpool, put this place on your Liverpool landmarks. There’s plenty of cool people hanging out here (including my mate Tim, wahey!). This is the place to be seen and get creative! Wander through this area, and you’ll discover energetic creative spaces, music venues mixed up with coffee shops and cafes and cheeky street art along the way.
For brunch/lunch, I highly recommend Camp and Furnace. It’s ranked second in The Times’ 20 Coolest Restaurants in Britain! Also make sure to go along to the Food Market if you’re here on a Saturday or Sunday. It’s open from 11am.
Bold Street, voted by Lonely Planet as one of the best shopping streets in the country (!) is an absolute treat. This is the street that leads to the bombed out church mentioned above by the way. It’s a great street to eat on if the Baltic Triangle isn’t taking your fancy (just look at all these options!) but it also has some other groovy vintage and independent shops to check out whilst you’re seeking how to fill your tummy.
Running adjacent to Bold Street is Renshaw Street: it has its fair share of cool independent shops too! And then there’s The Bluecoat, which is a wonderful beast of its own, housing a ton of cool shops that you need to check out.
Below is just a couple of suggestions on what to check out, but I recommend just enjoying yourself in these areas and finding your own favourite shops. And if you’re a big fan of Liverpool and supporting the community I recommend getting yourself an Independents Card. It’s just £12 for the whole year and you’ll get discounts in over 100+ independent shops. For every £1 spent locally up to 70p stays local, in comparison to 5p when spent online or in a chain.
At 96 Bold Street, News from Nowhere is a book shop open since 1974. They have an awesome variety of literature and all of their staff are equally paid regardless of age, race or gender wahey!
If you fancy delving into an Aladdin’s cave of antiques, decorative art and vintage fashion, head to 69A (at 75 Renshaw Street).
Located in The Bluecoat (Liverpool’s creative hub of indie shops: School Lane, Liverpool, L1 3BX), Probe Records has been running since the 70s and stocks all the vinyl you need in your life.
Come back to the Baltic Triangle in the evening for independent Liverpool nightlife! Make sure to pop into Cains Brewery to experience the Baltic Market Food Hall and pop across to Ghetto Golf for a cheeky game. Then just get down and drunk in the warehouse party scene at Haus, The Garage, District or The Baltic Social.
Address: The Baltic Triangle is an area in Liverpool with many streets. I recommend heading along Jamaica Street and following your nose from there. Use the handy street sign maps to give you a helping hand! The Food Market is open from 5pm Thursdays and Fridays. Ghetto Golf is open from 12pm on Friday and 11am Saturday and Sunday. Estimated visit time: anything from 30 minutes to the whole evening if you get sucked into those cocktails!
If you went on the Magical Mystery Tour earlier, you’ll have free entrance to the legendary Cavern Club for your Liverpool night out. If you want to explore elsewhere however, for some real quirky drinking holes, I recommend the following:
Be At One Liverpool for its happy hour, Revolucion De Cuba Liverpool for rum and mariachi parties, The Merchant for its leafy green interior and The Smuggler’s Cove for an awesome pirate experience.
A heads up for all Beatles fans: International Beatleweek is from 22nd to the 28th August 2018. This festival has been running for over 30 years now and involves over 70 bands from 20 countries! It involves a lot of Beatles fans and music – including live gigs, guest speakers, chances to buy awesome memorabilia and plenty more.
Liverpool Biennial is the largest contemporary visual art festival in the UK and this year it’s celebrating 20 years of being up and running! If you’re in Liverpool between 14th July and 28th October, you’re in luck. There will definitely be something going on.
As you’ve now discovered things to see in Liverpool and what to do, we need to make sure that you get here OK. Here are my top tips on how to travel to Liverpool and where to stay.
There are many frequent and speedy trains to Liverpool from various cities across the UK. I left from London Euston and easily booked my ticket using Trainline. The earlier you book the cheaper it is going to be for you. I hate buying tickets last minute in the UK as the price dramatically increases.
Save an average of 43% on your train journey: book your ticket in advance here.
If you’re flying, flights to Liverpool are available within the UK and from overseas. Liverpool airport (aptly named John Lennon airport) has every possible transport coming to and from it to get to your weekend breaks in Liverpool city centre. The bus runs 24 hours a day!
You can also get to Liverpool by bus across the country. Check out National Express and Megabus for the best deals.
Coming to Liverpool by car is not the easiest, in the sense that parking is a bit of a nightmare! Not many hotels in Liverpool city centre have parking available. But, if you want to come into Liverpool city centre for the day, the Liverpool One Shopping Centre does have parking.
Liverpool is so easy to get around by foot, that I recommend this the most! Get your steps in and have fun whilst doing it.
Liverpool also has a bike hire city scheme.
If mobility is an issue however, Liverpool has plenty of buses to help you out. The city is also very well-connected by trains to get you to the outskirts if need be.
There’s plenty of Liverpool accommodation to choose from, but let me be straight with you: the best hotels in Liverpool are not cheap on a Saturday night! If you’re travelling on a budget, I recommend staying with a local for a really good price with AirBNB! Join AirBNB and get £28 / $37 in travel credit!
And that’s it! Hopefully you have a plan for Liverpool now and have booked your transport, accommodation and activities in advance so you don’t miss out. Have fun up north in the UK! And don’t forget to pack your warm clothes OK? And one more thing:
You have travel insurance right? If not; check prices here.
A big thank you to The Magical Mystery Tour, The Beatles Story and Mersey Ferries for complimentary tickets to experience their Liverpool tourist attractions and write this guide! Opinions, as always, remain my own and are honest as you’re gonna get.
What are you most looking forward to in Liverpool? Have you been and have a place to recommend? Fire away and comment below!