Liverpool's cultural heritage, from art to architecture and music, is incredibly rich. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend in the ‘Wondrous Place’ (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool was once the most important city in the British Empire – and that legacy is tangible today in its astonishing architectural heritage, with only London outdoing Liverpool's quota of Grade I and II listed buildings. The city is also – of course – the birthplace of The Beatles and home to the world-famous Liverpool and Everton football clubs. But there is more – contemporary Liverpool is a vibrant, creative and modern city, always pushing forward, always full of surprises. Here’s how to make the most of a weekend in the ‘Wondrous Place’.

Friday evening: getting to know the ropes

Old street with brick wall buildings in the downtown of Liverpool

Liverpool's atmospheric 'Ropewalks' streets are now home to much of the city's best nightlife (Photo: Getty Images)

There are reminders of Liverpool’s seafaring past everywhere in the city and to the southeast of the centre lies a grid of narrow streets known as the Ropewalks district. This was once the centre of ship rope-making and chandlery. Now the district’s tall Victorian warehouses and grand merchant homes host dozens of independent restaurants and bars that are very much the future.

Treat your taste buds at the award-winning Duke Street Food & Drink Market, which houses no fewer than six kitchens serving imaginative cuisines. Upstairs, there’s Barnacle restaurant, where the menu tells the story of the region’s food and drink provenance. 

In neighbouring Seel Street (no 32) you’ll find the Kazimier Garden, Liverpool’s original garden bar and a favourite haunt for locals and visitors. Affectionately known as ‘the Kaz’, it is a relaxed and friendly local in an unconventional space that serves up a great selection of European beers with food and snacks. The entrance is marked by a single wooden signpost and is easy to miss.

Liverpool is a compact city and many of the must-see attractions are easy to reach on foot. Both Aloft Liverpool and Delta Hotels Liverpool City Centre enjoy brilliant central locations, with some of the city's most iconic sights on their doorsteps. Housed in a grand listed building, Aloft Liverpool is part of the city's formidable architectural heritage, while Delta Hotels Liverpool City Centre offers some superb views from its guest rooms.

Saturday morning: exploring the waterfront

Port of Liverpool, Cunard Building and Liver Building Make Up 'The Three Graces', Merseyside

Whether admired from the land or the deck of a Mersey Ferry, Liverpool's 'Three Graces' are one of the UK's most stunning architectural sights (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool was once the most important city in the British Empire and its architectural might remains evident with the city’s array of Grade I and II listed buildings second only to London.

At the waterfront Pier Head, prepare to have your breath taken away by the majestic Three Graces. The Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings were constructed at the height of Liverpool’s early twentieth-century prosperity. Just behind, on the corner of The Strand, stands Albion House, the former HQ of White Star Line, which owned the ill-fated Titanic.

Learn to play in a band, master a dance style or simply enjoy an unrivalled collection of pop memorabilia at the British Music Experience in the Cunard Building. From the Beatles, Stones and Bowie to The Spice Girls and Adele, the BME has British music history covered.

Next, get a feel for Liverpool's rich heritage, history and what makes it tick over several floors of the nearby Museum of Liverpool – especially good if the weather doesn’t lend itself to riverside strolls.

Alternatively, make the most of the city’s skyline by heading to the Mersey Ferries building and hopping onto a 50-minute River Explorer Cruise. There’s guided commentary and, of course, Gerry & The Pacemakers to serenade you with that 1963 hit Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey.

Saturday afternoon: revisiting magical Merseybeat

The Cavern Quarter in Liverpool

Liverpool still dances to a distinct Merseybeat and diving into the city's Fab Four heritage is all part of the fun of visiting (Photo: Getty Images)

No trip to Liverpool would be complete without a hefty dose of The Beatles – and Fab Four heritage is omnipresent.

A good way to immerse yourself in the sights of the wider city is through the eyes of John, Paul, George and Ringo on a guided bus trip. In this case it means a Magical Mystery Tour replica coach which sets off at Anchor Courtyard in Royal Albert Dock. Explore the real Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields and the group’s childhood homes, finishing at the legendary Cavern Club. 

If retail therapy is more your thing, then head for Liverpool One. Spread over 42 acres, the development was hailed as the biggest privately owned shopping and leisure estate in Europe when it opened in 2008, Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. All the big brands are here in myriad stores, with a wealth of restaurants and bars that overlook a nicely landscaped park.

Saturday evening: diving into the Capital of Culture

Liverpool’s cultural heritage is rich. There’s a great variety of shows to enjoy at venues across the city centre, including The Everyman, Playhouse, Royal Court, Epstein and Empire theatres, and smaller fringe drama hubs like the Unity.

The music scene is as vibrant as ever – Liverpool is a UNESCO City of Music – from the world renowned Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and its dynamic conductor Domingo Hindoyan to independent grassroots venues such as The Invisible Wind Factory, Jacaranda, District, Camp and Furnace, Hangar 34 and more.

The Baltic Triangle is where it is at in terms of nightlife with a twist. Leading the way is Bongo’s Bingo, a crazy mix of traditional bingo, dance-offs, rave intervals and audience participation. The BB phenomenon has gone global but it was born here in the Baltic and now has a permanent weekend residency.

Cain’s Brewery Village is here too, boasting the exciting Baltic Market with street food offerings by the dozen. Just the thing after a round of Ghetto Golf or retro arcade games at ARCains.

Sunday morning: discovering authentic Chinese cuisine

Close up of the dragon chasing the pearl during the traditional dragon dance to mark the Chinese New Year pictured in Liverpool

Liverpool's Chinatown, right in the heart of the city, is the oldest in Europe (Photo: Getty Images)

Liverpool enjoys excellent transport links to the surrounding area courtesy of Merseyrail. On Sunday morning, take a scenic, rejuvenating trip to Hall Road on the Northern Line, passing the docks and the mighty Mersey as you go. Here you can combine a dose of seaside air with your art fix for the day. Antony Gormley’s remarkable installation, Another Place, which stretches along three kilometres of Crosby Beach, sees one hundred iron figures cast from the artist’s body looking out to sea. Walk back down to Waterloo (where you can pick up a return train to the city centre) and enjoy a reviving hot drink and a snack at Waterloo Sunset cafe (Marine Terrace/South Road).

Back in Liverpool, take in Bold Street. A century ago it was known as the Bond Street of the North, a place of high-end furriers, tailors and theatres. Nowadays it is teeming with cafés and quirky shops like Pop Boutique and radical bookshop News From Nowhere. Leaf and Cafe Tabac are among the standouts for breakfast or brunch.

At the top of Bold Street is St Luke's church, known as ‘the bombed-out church’, and now operating as an atmospheric, multi-use events space. With Bold Street at your back, turn right at St Luke’s and you’ll come to a huge Chinese arch, gateway to Chinatown, the oldest in Europe. Liverpool's Chinatown is a destination in its own right, with multiple authentic cuisine options, plus one fabulous outlier in the form of The Bagelry (42 Nelson Street).

Sunday afternoon: exploring cathedrals and quaysides

Anglican cathedral in Liverpool

'If you want a Cathedral, we've got one to spare' goes the local saying – Liverpool's two magnificent cathedrals stand facing each other at either end of scenic Hope Street (Photo: Getty Images)

The city has two cathedrals – both strikingly different – flanking one road, Hope Street. Dominating the entire landscape in red sandstone is Liverpool Cathedral, the biggest Anglican cathedral in the world. Experience views of the city and far beyond by reaching the top of its tower, climbing among the world's heaviest peals of bells en route.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King is equally awe-inspiring. The largest Catholic cathedral in England is known as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ owing to its unique design.

Afterwards, wander along to Hope Street's midway point to join Liverpool café society by grabbing a table outside The Quarter at Falkner Street. Here you'll be assured of a good lunch in the heart of the beautiful Georgian Quarter. One of Liverpool's greatest pubs, The Belvedere Arms, is just round the corner from here.

There is still time to experience Royal Albert Dock, and you really must. This series of former bonded warehouses, restored in the 1980s, is the biggest group of Grade I buildings in the UK. Now its quaysides are home to Tate Liverpool , Merseyside Maritime Museum, The International Slavery Museum and The Beatles Story. In between, there are dozens of retailers to pick up those last-minute gifts and souvenirs, or simply stop off at one of its critically acclaimed restaurants – Lerpwl, Lunyalita, Maray and Madre spring to mind.

Published: February 21, 2023

Article Tags:  Liverpool , United Kingdom

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