Liverpool is a great city break destination in the UK, perfectly combining rich culture, sandy beaches and bars. With international travel restrictions in place for most of 2020, it was a great opportunity to explore more of my own country. Liverpool blew me away with the amount of things to do, fun nightlife and friendly locals. It’s also a must for any Beatles fans.
Another great city break destination, for when international travel opens, is Lisbon!
Best things to do in Liverpool
Walking tours are a great way to see a new city, learning about its history and for local insider tips. There are many different walking tours available in Liverpool, depending on your time frame and interests. During my stay with friends, we opted for the Beatles and City walking tour – which was brilliant! We spent several hours learning about this beautiful city and the legendary Beatles. It was a great opportunity to learn about how they started out and places they would frequent.
If you’d rather have the independence and freedom of a self-guided walking tour, check out GPS my city for different pre-planned routes; including historic sites, religious tours and everything Beatles.
The Cavern Club Tour also host a fantastic tour that explores this venue’s history and it’s role in the Beatles rise to international fame. After the tour, be sure to visit the Cavern Pub or The Grapes opposite. These are well renowned pubs opposite the Cavern where the Beatles would regularly visit. The Cilla Black statue is found here too.
Formby Day Trip
Formby is a stunning coastal town, boasting a pristine beach, striking sand dunes and an expensive pinewood forest. Located just 30 minutes from Central Liverpool, Formby makes for the perfect day trip.
Formby beach is 150 acres long, with a surrounding landscape of sand dunes and pine forests. There’s plenty of space to sunbathe, have a picnic or go for a long walk. The beach’s high dunes provide for excellent views over the Irish Sea, and on clear days, you can see as far as the Cumbrian Mountains.
Protected by the National Trust, Formby Pinewoods is beautiful pine tree forest – ideal for walks, cycles and red squirrel spotting. The area has numerous trails for long walks and cycling, which can be found at the forest’s entrance. There are options to rent bicycles if you don’t have one.
The Pinewoods is also home to a red squirrel reserve. For the best chance of catching a glimpse, go in the morning and stay off the main paths. We wandered off the trail paths into the bushy forest and saw two red squirrels.
It’s possibly to drive here from Liverpool, but beware of the limited parking spaces, particularly during the summer. Traffic leading up to beach, lack of parking and £7.50 charges, makes the quick 30 minute direct train during more appealing. If you do decide to drive, get there early to guarantee a parking spot and to avoid queues leading up to the forest.
Formby is the perfect day trip if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in Liverpool. Whilst you’re there, consider taking a detour to Crosby Beach and see the dramatic sculpture exhibition along the waterfront.
Another gem on the Merseyside coastline is Crosby Beach. Located between Formby and Liverpool, Crosby is great day trip, and is only 17 minutes from the City centre by train.
This unique beach is home to Antony Gormley’s exhibition ‘Another Place’. This eerie art installation comprises of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures that line this sandy beach. Spanning across three kilometres along the sand, and one kilometre out to sea, these statues make for an interesting and unusual experience! To get the most out of it, visit during low tide.
Crosby beach is 4km long and is prefect for long walks along the sand or Coastal Path. Additionally, it’s dog friendly! A short walk from Crosby Beach lies St John’s Road – home to many restaurants, tea rooms, a pub and a few vintage shops. If you’re short on time and just want a beach to relax on, I would suggest Formby over Crosby!! The latter is primarily soft sand and mud and not suitable for sitting or sunbathing.
Merseyside River Tours & Boat Trips
The Mersey River stretches for 70 miles, from Stockport to Liverpool Bay. There are a number of river cruises available, providing a great opportunity to explore the historic docklands and surrounding areas. One of the most popular tours is the 50-minute daily River Explorer Cruise. This tour focuses on the River Mersey’s fascinating history and gives incredible views of the Albert Docks.
Another bucket-list worthy trip is the Dazzle Ferry snowdrop. Created by Sir Peter Blake, this striking ferry is made up of colourful and monochrome designs. Ride the Dazzle Ferry five minutes across the Mersey River to Seacombe for impressive skyline views of Liverpool and the dock. Although it’s a short trip, the views are worth it!
For a unique dining experience along the ride, take a ride on the Floating Grace. Liverpool’s only floating restaurant and bar boat, offering stunning views of Albert Dock and the City. From afternoon tea and sunny lunches, to Christmas parties and evening fine dining, there’s something for everyone.
The Albert Docks
The Albert Dock is arguably the heart of Liverpool. Since its opening in 1846, the Albert Docks have undergone numerous transformations and developments to become what it is today. From it’s role during WWII, up until its UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition in 2004, the docks are full of history. There are many places to eat, drink, visit and stay in this area. Smuggler’s Cove and Revolucion de Cuba are two great bars/restaurants worth checking out. Many of Liverpool’s best museums and galleries are found in this area too, including the Tate, the International Slavery Museum and Museum of Liverpool.
Liverpool is home to two cathedrals: Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. The former is the largest in Britain and 5th largest in world, at 189m long. It is also the permanent home to a neon pink sign by Tracey Emin that reads ‘I felt you and I knew you needed me’. The Metropolitan Cathedral is very modern and features works of art and multi-coloured window.
The striking contrasts between the two cathedrals’ architecture makes it worth visiting both for comparisons. Plus, they’re within a short walk of each other! However if you’re pushed for time, and can only visit one, I would recommend visiting the Anglican Cathedral. Both cathedrals are free to visit but welcome donations!
Museums and Galleries
Liverpool boasts an impressive number of museums and galleries throughout the city. I’ve included some of the most noteworthy below.
The best museums in Liverpool
- International Slavery Museum: Located by the Albert Dock, the International Slavery Museum aims to educate on the history and legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. This thought-provoking museum looks at slavery between 1500 and 1865, with emphasis on Liverpool’s role as a major slaving port. Admissions: free (donations welcome).
- Museum of Liverpool: A museum showcasing the diverse and interesting history of Liverpool. Modern designed building sitting alongside the stunning waterfront. Admissions: free
- Liverpool Beatles Museum: As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to the Beatles and is suitably located by the Cavern Club on Mathew Street. Expect to learn about the Beatles’ origin and how they rose to become on of the most well-known and loved bands in the world. Spanning across three floors, in a stunning Grade II listed building, this museum houses a large collection of their memorabilia. Admissions: £15/£7.50 (adult/child) Accessibility: As it’s a listed building, there are no lifts.
- Merseyside Maritime Museum: This museums explores the rich maritime history of the city. It was the first public building to open at Albert Dock. Expect to see ship models, paintings and even a full sized vessel. Admissions: free.
- World Museum: Opening in 1853, this is the oldest museum in Liverpool. Admissions: free.
The best art galleries in Liverpool
- Tate Liverpool: For the best modern and contemporary art, head over to the Tate Liverpool by the Royal Albert Dock. The Tate’s four floors are filled with continuously changing exhibitions and events. Admissions: free, except for some exhibitions.
- Walkers Art Gallery: Established in 1877, the Walkers Art Gallery homes one of the largest art collections in England. With an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures, spanning six hundred years, this is a must do for an art lovers. Admissions: free.
- Victoria Gallery & Museum: The Gothic building at the University of Liverpool houses everything from fine art to dentistry through the eras.
The street made famous by the Beatles 1967 song ‘Penny Lane’ is great photo-worthy spot. The song was originally inspired by John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s shared childhood memory of meeting at Penny Lane to catch a bus into the city centre.
Many Beatles fans make the journey to this hotspot every year to snap a shot of the famous Penny Lane street sign. Although the sign is definitely worth visiting, the area is largely residential and quiet. I would recommend adding on a trip to the Strawberry Fields museum nearby to make the journey from the city centre worthwhile.
The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields was inspired by an orphanage in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton. Although John Lennon never attended here, his childhood home was only a short distance away.
The once former Salvation Army children’s home is now a interactive exhibition showcasing the story behind John Lennon’s ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. You’ll be guided with an audio tour of Lennon’s childhood and early writings of the song. After that, visit the gardens to see the famous red gates.
Check out the Strawberry Fields website for more information and admission fees.
Rooftop Bars & Nightlife in Liverpool
Liverpool has an eclectic nightlife scene, from family pubs to all-night clubs and everything in between. For great views over the city, head to the rooftop gardens at ‘Oh Me Oh My’. Situated in a former bank, this sophisticated tea room has a stunning roof garden offering some of the best views of Liverpool. Buy drinks on the ground floor before catching a lift to the top and enjoy this quirky outdoor space. There are so many bars, clubs and pubs to visit, but I’ve added some of the most noteworthy below.
Some good bars in Liverpool:
- The Alchemist: Chain bar serving quirky chemistry-style cocktails.
- Peacocks: Cocktails, pizza and a DJ set in an exposed brick bar.
- Alma de Cuba: Iconic bar serving Latin American inspired cocktails, tapas and dishes.
- Heebie Jeebies: A bar/club hosting different DJ nights and live music, with great cocktails in the basement.
- E.B.G.Bs: A great lively bar underneath Heebie Jeebies.
- Smuggler’s Cover: Found in the heart of the Albert Docks, this pirate-themed bar and restaurant is famous for in rum cocktails and deli boards.
- City Wine Bar & Kitchen: Wine bar that also serves fantastic lunch and afternoon tea during the day.
- Bunch Wine Bar: Classy, small wine bar with very knowledgable staff. Great little spot hidden away for good quality wine or inventive cocktails.
Best Pubs in Liverpool:
- The Grapes: Established in 1804, the Grapes is one of Liverpool’s oldest and most famous pubs. It’s well known connection with the Beatles, great Mathew Street location and newly refurbished decor (2019), make it a great place for a drink or two.
- The Cavern Pub: Opposite the Cavern Club, this venue has great live music and plenty of Beatles memorabilia.
- Shenanigans: One of Liverpool’s best Irish bars and a great places to watch sports games.
- Fly in the Loaf: Famous for its many world beers and its sports TVs.
Among the many eateries in the city, Bundobust was our favourite! This reasonably priced Indian restaurant has many delicious sharing dishes, perfect for groups meals! We also had a fantastic breakfast/brunch at The Quarter, which goes on to serve Mediterranean cuisine later in the day.
Vinyl Stores & Shopping in Liverpool
Like any big city in the UK, Liverpool has numerous large shopping centres and high streets filled with chain stores. However, what differentiates shopping in Liverpool is the large number of vintage and vinyl stores. With a whopping 19 vinyl stores, this is a definite must-do for any music lovers or record collectors. Some of the most popular stores include Dig Vinyl, Defend Vinyl, 3B Records, Probe Record Shops and Jacaranda Records.
How to get to Liverpool
The city is easy to assess given how well connected it is. There are regular direct trains from London, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and other major cities. Additionally, it’s well connected to the UK motorway network, with London just shy of four hours away. There’s even a local airport with regular domestic flights from around the country.
Once in Liverpool, it’s easy to travel around given how the amount of transport links within the city. Local buses, cheap taxis, underground and overground train networks allows for cheap and easy travel. Additionally, it’s a very walkable city, with many key sites and eateries easily accessible by foot.
Where to stay in Liverpool
There are plenty of accommodation options throughout the city depending on your budget and needs. During my trip in the summer, we stayed in a lovely AirBnB in the heart of everything. Located between Ropewalks and the Knowledge Quarter, we were central to all sites, transport links, restaurants and nightlife. Despite the central location, we didn’t have any issues with loud streets at night either.
Although I would argue you can never have enough time in a new city, three to four days would be the ideal amount of time to see the highlights this city has to offer at a relaxed pace. Let me know your favourites parts of Liverpool and other great city breaks in the UK!
Happy Travels x