Whether you’re into the Beatles or not, there’s much more in a visit Liverpool than you might think. When we went recently, Emma and I found a vibrant city, full of great places to eat and drink alongside tons of culture and history. It’s changed beyond recognition from the down-at-heel city that we first dated in, back in the 1980s.
My last visit to Liverpool was thirty odd years ago, when Emma was at university there (around the time of the Toxteth Riots and huge unemployment on Merseyside). My memory of the place then is a lively but desperately poor city that had certainly seen better times. So I was really interested to spot the differences when we went there recently.
What a transformation! And what a great opportunity to practice my photography skills…
Albert Dock and the Waterfront
Dating back to 1841 the dock was in use until 1972. It fell in to dereliction until it was renovated and reopened in 1988. It’s now a major tourist draw with bars, cafes and restaurants occupying the colonnades on all four sides. Visit the waterfront and riverside too to see the famous Liver building and the modern Museum of Liverpool. We spent an hour walking around here and taking pictures. You could easily spend a day around here if you took in the museums…
International Slavery Museum
The International Slavery Museum is the only national museum in the world dedicated to the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy. Four galleries: Life in West Africa, Enslavement and the Middle Passage, Legacy and Campaign Zone, represent Black history heritage. We found it a bit of a muddle in places but that’s partly due to the vast amount of material and testimony on display and it’s presented in creative and interesting ways. It’s well worth a visit and it’s part of the Albert Dock complex.
The Liverpool Cathedrals
Yes, there are two, one Catholic and one Anglican. The Catholic cathedral (The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King to give it it’s full official name – and affectionately known locally as Paddy’s Wigwam) will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its consecration in 2017. It still looks very modern to me and I really like the stained glass windows which are spectacular and ever changing as the sun moves across the sky.
The Anglican cathedral (or simply Liverpool Cathedral) is much more traditional looking but it was in fact finished after its contemporary Catholic counterpart – its final section being consecrated in 1978! It is also the largest cathedral in the UK and there’s no mistaking that when you get inside, it really is an impressive space.
The two cathedrals are a short walk apart and are connected by the appropriately named ‘Hope St’. Half way between is the marvellous pub called ‘The Philharmonic Dining Rooms’. Pop in here for a pint and admire the exuberant Victorian use of wooden panels, copper, brass and tiling…..the men’s loos included.
Like most major cities, Liverpool has a city-wide bike hire scheme called City-Bike . They are dotted around the city and are easy to find and use. They’re cheap too, just £3 per day. They also come with a lock so you can park them without having to dock them. Take the time to download the app because this will give you a map of docking points and also contains the code for the lock. Very handy!
Eating and Drinking in the city
There are loads of really good places to choose from in the city. Here are a few we tried:
Button Street Smokehouse
My son, Billy works here so I’m a bit biased but we had a great time. The ‘Flat Iron Steak’ was cooked perfectly and was a first for me. It’s got a nice atmosphere and is located just off the main pedestrian area near Matthew Street (and all the touristy Beatles focus). Service is excellent (obviously!) and they serve some super cocktails, I’d recommend the ‘Ginger Sazerac’.
Located on Bold St. this is a real gem. It specialises in ‘small plates’, think ‘large tapas’. Interesting and unusual menu but everything we had was fantastic. A highlight was the home made chutney with the cheese board. I went on about it so much, the waitress gave me some to take home! Gets busy so book ahead, especially at weekends.
Filter and Fox
This was a lucky find. It was just down from where we were staying. A lovely little bar/coffee shop that also serves food. We really liked the atmosphere and staff were really good. It attracts an interesting bunch of all ages. It’s on Duke St. right in the centre.
If you’re looking for a lively and fun-filled weekend away I highly recommend the ‘new-look’ Liverpool.
I’ve always been very fond of the city. It’s not only the place where I spent three great years at university at the start of the 1980s – it’s also where I got my first job as a news reporter on BBC Radio Merseyside in the mid-80s (at the time of Derek Hatton’s Left-Wing Militant Tendency take-over of the city council and the Heysel Stadium tragedy). Then the city was pretty much at rock-bottom. The docks were in huge decline. Unemployment was rife and the city centre was pretty grim. In spite of this, the world-famous Scouse sense of humour (so famously demonstrated by the young John, Paul, George and Ringo back in the day) was ever present. And the music scene was vibrant – producing the likes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Pete Burns and a Flock of Seagulls. And I loved it all – even then.
But I can hardly believe the changes that have occurred since. Liverpool looks amazing. It feels buzzy. There is high-end through to bargain shopping to be had. And every culinary taste is catered for.
My only watch-out: If you venture into the famous Cavern Club area of the centre be prepared for crowds of drunken stag and hen parties being encouraged into a slew of pubs and bars along a sort of Magaluf-style strip in Matthew Street. It’s all light-hearted stuff – but not everyone’s cup of tea (so to speak!).
Click picture to advance…