If you’re visiting London from overseas but,while you’re at it, have half a mind to travel elsewhere in the UK, you might be tempted to give Liverpool a try. Not least when you learn that this major northern metropolis is, outside of the capital, home to the largest number of museums and galleries in all of England. And if you’re wondering just why that’s so then consider the city’s rich cultural heritage – its maritime history, The Beatles and the ‘Merseybeat’ music of the ’60s, the Liverpool FC and Everton football teams and the unique and instantly recognisable ‘Scouser’ personality, identity and accent. In which case, you might conclude – especially if you read on and find out about its touristy highlights– you really can’t afford not to travel north and check out Liverpool’s sundry delights…
The Fab Four factor
Love them, like them a bit, tolerate them or hate them (but, quite frankly, how could you hate them?), The Beatles are simply essential to Liverpool’s post-war culture and history. Spearheading both the ‘Merseybeat’ assault on the UK charts and the ‘British Invasion’ of pop music across the Atlantic in the mid-’60s, they also produced surely some of the most timeless songs ever committed to vinyl, having seeped their way into the world’s collective consciousness. John, Paul, George and Ringo are simply Liverpool’s most famous and popular sons – for that reason, they’re an absolutely essential component of its identity.
Needless to say then, there are lashings of attractions dedicated to – or associated with – The Fab Four. If you so desire, you can immerse yourself in their world and their journey from working-class lads to global rock and pop trailblazers. Not only are there bus tours (passing by their childhood homes, among other things), there’s also the opportunity to visit and catch a modern-day gig at the legendary Cavern Club (where they held court before they hit big outside Liverpool) and, of course, take in the Beatles’ Story Museum. Here, visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided audio tour and check out exhibits such as a pair of John Lennon’s signature round-lensed glasses and George Harrison’s very first guitar. It also contains recreations of both the Cavern Club as it was and the ‘Imagine’ room of John’s Tittenhurst House home;actually, both of these can be hired out – including for weddings!
Docks, parks, Iron Men and squirrels
Beyond The Beatles, Liverpool is brimming with a diverse array of attractions – both indoor (for when the weather’s not so nice) and outdoors (for when it is). Top of the list of Liverpool things to do has to be the terrifically tourist-friendly Albert Dock, which is home to a number of museums and galleries of which the city has become rightly very proud. These include the Tate Liverpool (one of the only Tate galleries outside London) and the self-explanatory but fascinating Mersey Maritime Museum.
Alternatively, when the sun’s shining, a perfect place for families is Sefton Park; a practically paradisiacal haven of greenery, being a 235-acre, Grade 1-listed space of outstanding beauty. And for those who can’t get enough of nature, why not drop in on the delightful Formby Squirrel Reserve that’s full of the cute, furry, nutty tree dwellers? And just around the corner from here you’ll find Crosby Beach, the site of the starkly stunning ‘Iron Men’ sculptures created by one of today’s leading UK artists, Antony Gormley.
Malls, markets, designer stores and independent shops
With its big population and significant cultural influence, Liverpool helps to set clothing trends across the north of England, its stylish shoppers being able to call on a large and healthy variety of retail outlets. They’re spoilt by everything from vast malls to designer emporia and high-street stores to thrift markets. Perhaps the most obvious shopping destination is Liverpool One, a vast retail, entertainment and residential complex at the heart of the city that, maybe more than anywhere else, defines the renovation and rejuvenation the city has enjoyed in recent decades. Nothing short of a mecca for modern-day moneymaking, it comprises not just major brand-name stores and high-street retailers, but also restaurants and serviced apartments. No question, it’s a big attraction for the city for people from miles around and reminiscent of the exciting, essential, modern urbanity of the Canary Wharf and City areas of London, where it could be you’ve been staying at The Montcalm London City at The Brewery hotel.
Elsewhere, the Metquarter arcade is home to a good number of mid-level brands, while Cavern Walks is heaven for those seeking designer clobber with much-loved outlets such as Weaver’s Door, while other marvellous independent establishments are led by design and print place Nook & Cranny, radical community bookshop News from Nowhere, contemporary craft retailer Bluecoat Display Centre and hard-to-find basement booze outfit Whisky Business.There’s even – for fans of Friends, the US sitcom smash of the ’90s and ’00s – a clever, fully functioning coffee shop replica of its Central Perk location. Now, how could you really resist popping in there for an Americano?