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How to spend a day in Liverpool

Liverpool was Britain’s original international city — in the mid-19th century, it was known as ‘the New York of Europe’ for its dynamism and its diversity. Here's how to spend the perfect day in this powerhouse port city. 

By Oliver Smith
Published 3 Dec 2021, 06:07 GMT, Updated 6 Dec 2021, 10:27 GMT
Liverpool’s Pier Head, completed in 1911, with the striking Museum of Liverpool, which opened in 2011, ...

Liverpool’s Pier Head, completed in 1911, with the striking Museum of Liverpool, which opened in 2011, on the left. 

Photograph by Getty Images

8AM

Take a ferry on the Mersey

See Liverpool the way seafarers of old once did: from the water. Mersey Ferries has been eulogised by generations of Scousers, but it remains very much a fleet of working boats. There are 50-minute cruises throughout the day; alternatively, join commuters during the morning or evening rush hour for the 10-minute hop from Pier Head to Woodside. Look out for the Dazzle Ferry, the exuberant livery designed by Sir Peter Blake, the artist behind The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sleeve. 

9AM

Have a bite to eat at the Royal Albert Dock

The former docks where tourists gravitate was a groundbreaking piece of construction when it opened in 1846. What were once mighty redbrick warehouses now house museums, galleries, shops and restaurants. Down the southern end, Rough Hand Made bakery serves croissants, sandwiches and pastries, plus robust coffee, best savoured on one of the benches outside, watching the boats putter by. 

10AM 

Float by the museums

Liverpool has an extraordinary array of museums. Among the best is the Merseyside Maritime Museum, at the Royal Albert Dock, which charts the story of the city’s seafaring past from the 13th century onwards. Inside are exhibitions on the sinking of the Titanic, the loss of the Lusitania during the First World War, plus happier episodes from modern nautical history, as well as a beguiling fleet of model ships. For now, until its planned expansion, the International Slavery Museum is on the third floor. 

12PM 

Get a Beatlemania fix

The Beatles are a Liverpool industry: there are numerous Fab Four-themed attractions. One of the best is The Beatles Story, at the Royal Albert Dock. Here, exhibits combine to give a sense of a day in the life of the band. Get back to the beginning with a replica of the Cavern Club, the local live music venue that hosted the band’s first-ever performance. 

2PM

Explore the Baltic Triangle

The Baltic Triangle warehouse district serves as something of a hipster HQ for the city. Here, the Baltic Market is a much-loved street food setup under dangling fairy lights: stalls offer the likes of Korean dumplings, gourmet steaks and Neapolitan pizza. It’s a 10-minute walk from here to Love Lane Brewing. Housed in a former rubber factory, it serves an eclectic range of beers.  

4PM 

Enjoy heavenly views from Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral is a structure of superlatives: the UK’s biggest religious building, it’s home to the country’s largest pipe organ and with the highest and heaviest ringing peal of bells in the world. And its tower has one of the best views in Liverpool; take two lifts to the top and, on a clear day, all of Merseyside extends before you, from traffic on the Mersey to the faraway silhouette of the Blackpool Tower.

8PM 

Dine at Art School

A sullen Victorian building whose facade bears the title ‘Sheltering Home for Destitute Children’ might not be the place you’d instinctively look to for fine dining. Nonetheless, this is the home of Art School restaurant: one of Liverpool’s brightest culinary stars, with linen-clad tables under a glass atrium. Lancashire-grown produce looms large on the menu, plus seafood from over the border in North Wales. 

10PM 

Go on a pub crawl

The stately streets of the Georgian Quarter are prime territory for a pub crawl. The Grapes is bright and breezy with a good roster of craft ales, while Peter Kavanagh’s has shadowy interiors lined with murals and miscellany. The pub to end all pubs, however, is the staggeringly ornate Philharmonic Dining Rooms, adorned with copper panels and mosaic floors. In the men’s loos, you’ll find palatial urinals made of pink marble.   

Published in the December 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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