One of the destinations on my last travel wish list blog was surprising to some. No passport required, no vaccinations and definitely no requirement to learn another language. Unless you count Scouse. Yep, A Brummie Home and Abroad finally made it to Merseyside for a February city break. Here’s what we got up to in our 36 hours in Liverpool.
Did you know this city guide is also available as a GPS navigated app? To download this, and other Liverpool self-guided tours, please click here!
For us Brummies it’s less than 2 hours on the train from New Street direct to Liverpool Lime Street. We’re making the most of our weekend by heading straight to the station after work. Via Tesco Express for train cans to get the party started. An unannounced platform change, and we’re finally off. Train cans ahoy.
It’s just after 8pm when we arrive. We rely on Google Maps to get us to our hotel, dragging our wheelie cases through the Friday night revellers. We’re staying at the Z Hotel on North John Street. It was a last minute change of accommodation after remembering I’d booked a “just-in-case” cancellable hotel, which looked a bit dodgy on second viewing. The Z Hotel rooms are a little on the small side, with very little storage space and a double bed shoved up against a window. Mr Fletche is not a fan of the glass shower and toilet situation. I press myself up against the opaque glass to prove my modesty is intact. Mr Fletche is not convinced.
I unpack and realise I have woefully underpacked. I have taken the whole capsule wardrobe idea a little far. One jumper (black). One t-Shirt (black). One pair of skinny jeans (black). One dress (sparkly). Two skirts (one sparkly, one burgundy). And three pairs of tights (black). At least everything matches. I throw on the black t-shirt with the sparkly skirt and we head out to dinner.
In a moment of excellent advance planning I have booked us a table at local tapas restaurant La Vina, meaning we don’t have to wander around Liverpool looking for somewhere we both fancy to eat post-9pm. I’ve already written about La Vina and the other places we ate in Liverpool here. We end our first night with a stroll up to Ship & Mitre, a great craft ale pub recommended by my friend Elkie.
Despite being wedged between Mr Fletche and a freezing cold exterior wall, I manage a reasonably good nights sleep. As in all hotel rooms, I am either shiveringly cold or boiling hot during the night. The sun is streaming though the window though, and there are lovely views across the rooftops to enjoy whilst Mr Fletche makes us a cuppa.
We have a full day exploring ahead of us so it’s important to fill up with a hearty breakfast. We’re just around the corner from Moose Coffee so head there for what is indeed a hearty breakfast. You can read more about Moose Coffee here.
Where else to head first in Liverpool but to the waterfront? The Liverpool skyline is one of the most recognisable in the U.K., mainly due to the beautiful and elegant architecture of the Three Graces. The Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building are an iconic trio, with the twin Liver birds looking over the river and the city.
Even after stopping for breakfast we are lucky to reach the Beatles statue with relatively few people around. I kindly snap a group of girls posing with the Fab Four and then manage to inveigle myself into a prime photo position. I also encourage Mr Fletche to get involved. We continue our stroll along the waterfront, past the Museum of Liverpool, and head to the Royal Albert Docks. The sun is playing hide and seek, but when it comes out and lights up the buildings and water it’s a spectacular sight.
After spending far too long at Albert Docks and taking far too many photos, we continue walking along the waterfront, past the M&S Bank Arena. We cut back in when we realise we’re in danger of walking right out of the city. Liverpool Cathedral is looming ahead so we decide to visit. Finding it from our current location proves harder than first thought. Particularly when I get distracted by simultaneously trying to find the Baltic Triangle. Luckily they are not a million miles away from each other.
For someone who pours scorn on those obsessed by Instagram, I spend an extraordinarily long amount of time posing in front of Paul Curtis’ Liver Bird wings on Jamaica Street. The Baltic Triangle is full of little hideaways and secret bars behind locked doors that I’d love to spend longer exploring, but it’s onwards and upwards to the Cathedral.
I am so glad we made the effort to visit the Cathedral – even if we arrive via a very circuitous route. Not only is it Britain’s biggest cathedral but it has a beautiful interior; wide open spaces unencumbered by pews, high vaulted ceilings, and a simple neon motif from Tracy Emin. We surprisingly spend about an hour here, just wandering around before partaking in a cuppa in the mezzanine coffee shop. It’s a place of religion, and of spiritualism, but also of community and comfort. And apparently wonderful views from the tower, although we didn’t venture up there on this occasion.
From the cathedral, we head back into the hustle and bustle of the city. We pass the ruins of St Luke’s – bombed in the May blitz of 1941 but now used as an outdoor events space. This is something Liverpool does so well, repurposing disused buildings and areas into something for the community. We then head down Hope Street, passing lots of tiny independent boutiques, bars and coffee shops before hitting the main shopping area. We’re not interested in sightseeing around New Look or Primark – we have a much more Liverpool-focused location in mind.
We make a quick pit stop at our hotel to drop off camera bags and head back out. Just two minutes walk from our hotel is the Cavern Quarter, and indeed, the Cavern is our destination.
There seems to be two camps when it comes to The Cavern. The first say “avoid like the plague, it’s tacky and touristy and hot and crowded and claustrophobic” The second say “How can you not go to Liverpool and not see where it all began for the Beatles?” I’m firmly with the latter. But going early afternoon probably improves our experience immensely so definitely get there earlyish.
We pass over just a couple of quid each as an entrance fee and then we’re descending down and down, underneath the streets. I get more and more excited and I can hear the faint thrum of music from beneath me. And it is absolutely worth the hype. We’re between sets when we arrive, so we grab a drink from the bar – surprisingly not overpriced – and find a leaning post by a pillar where we can see the stage and the screens dotted around the club. It’s busy but not rammed and the atmosphere is buzzing as resident solo act Jay Murray takes to the stage. He’s talented and engaging, with great audience participation (“Anyone here actually from Liverpool?”) and I’ve just warmed up my vocals up nicely so we stay for another round of drinks.
Liverpool Beat play the next set, and they are excellent. The crowd are singing and dancing and we get a glimpse of what the Cavern would have been like back in the halcyon days. I particularly love their rendition of Cilla’s “You’re My World”. The couple next to us have a marker pen which we borrow to scrawl our names on the wall amongst all of the other graffiti. I’d happily stay here all day, getting merrier and merrier on both alcohol and the atmosphere, but there is more to see and do so we leave the crowds behind, ascend the stairs and emerge blinking in the daylight. It feels like it should be about 10 o’clock at night, not 4pm in the afternoon.
We head back down to the ferry port hoping to get the famed Ferry Cross the Mersey. Unfortunately it’s still on winter timetable and we’ve just missed the final sailing for the day. Plan B then. We decide we haven’t had quite enough Beatles action. No, we don’t head back to the Cavern (although I’m sorely tempted) but instead, to the Beatles Story Museum at Albert Dock. We manage to squeeze in about 10 minutes before last admission time. There are people milling about but I think we’ve picked a pretty good time to come.
There are headphones to give us an audio tour, which enhances some exhibits, but we only have a limited amount of time to get round the museum so end up skipping some sections of the audio. We rush through some areas, and linger on others, taking in the sights, sounds and the incredible legacy of the band. We sit for a while in a replica of the Cavern Club, marvelling that we’ve already been in this iconic place. In all honesty, if you’re pushed for time you could give the Beatles Story a miss as it’s a bit steep at £17pp.
We’re all Beatle’d out for a while. We return to the Z Hotel for a quick freshen up. With my limited wardrobe selection I don’t bother changing, but do run a brush through my hair in concession to the fact that it’s Saturday night. And I slap some lippy on. Tonight doesn’t require dressing up as we’re heading back across the city to the Baltic Triangle. Yep, after all the walking we’ve done today, what’s another couple of miles. And of course, this is us, so we blindly follow Google Maps until we’ve almost walked out of the city. A quick U-Turn, following the smell of food permeating the air and we finally reach our destination. Baltic Market. I wrote about our Liverpool street food experience here but rest assured, Brum’s own Digbeth Dining Club still hold the #1 spot in our hearts.
We trek back to our side of the city, dodging the Coyote Ugly/Revolution/Slug n Lettuce partygoers. Every city has them. Even cool cities like Liverpool. We swerve the chains and head to the Dead Crafty Beer Company for a final drink. Or two.
Despite all the walking and drinking and eating and Beatles, we’re ready to put in a few more hours sightseeing before our early afternoon train home. We head towards Hatton Garden where there are a couple of breakfast options on the list. We’re up and about earlier than the proprietors of Barley and Beans though so end up at the infinitely instagrammable Love Thy Neighbour for avocado smash (him) and a full English (me). You can read more on our breakfast and brunch choices here.
Despite the biting cold wind, we decide to try the Ferry Cross the Mersey once more. This time we’re in luck. We purchase our tickets for the River Explorer Cruise, and take our place on deck. We set sail to the dulcet tones of Gerry and the Pacemakers. The staff must get sick of hearing the same old song, for hours on end, every day. My teeth are chattering, my fingers are turning blue and we’re facing the wrong way for the commentary. But it’s worth it for those views of the Liverpool skyline.
With a little bit of time to kill before we collect our cases and head to the station, we pop into the Museum of Liverpool on the waterfront. Largely to warm up. We wander around the exhibitions, including a special exhibition celebrating John Lennon and Yoko Ono and their Imagine Peace campaign. The museum is free to enter, although donations of course are always welcome.
Finally, its time to wave bye-bye to Liverpool. We’ve had an amazing weekend and the city has been everything I’d expected. If (when?) we return, there would be no need to do those touristy Beatles things again and could concentrate purely on learning more about the city’s history, about its part in both World Wars, and on visiting more of those fab independents. Although you’d have to drag me out of the Cavern Club first.