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Across the Pond to Liverpool

by margaret 3. August 2011 10:22

When planning your next trip to England, you could go to London like everyone else. Wait in a long line to get into Buckingham Palace (if it’s even open when you go), stop by Big Ben or take a ride on the London Eye. Or you could head north to Liverpool, the 2008 European Capital of Culture. It’s there that you can take in museums, theater, an abundant musical history, parks, shopping and more. Sounds fun right? Liverpool is fast becoming an even more popular destination for tourists, giving London a run for its money!  

Liverpool, Capital of Culture 

Liverpool is situated in the Northwest part of England on the Mersey River. A historic port city, Liverpool is famously known as the hometown of the Beatles. While there’s a lot to see and do that focus on the Fab Four’s rise to fame, we’ll start with everything else going on there first!

For the frequent shoppers heading to town, Liverpool ONE is one of Liverpool’s newest developments. Completed in 2009, Liverpool ONE is the UK’s largest open air shopping center and one of the largest in the world. Full of various shops (including one for each football club, called Liverpool One and Everton Two), a cinema, restaurants and hotels, the shopping center has seriously helped to boost Liverpool’s economy and pushed them into the top five most popular retail locations in the UK. While Liverpool ONE caters to most Liverpudlians (the locals) and visitors, the Cavern Walks hold many boutique and designer shops for those shopping with a bit more of a budget. 

Of course shopping isn’t all there is to do there. Liverpool is home to several different museums, from history to fine art. Some of the top art galleries are located in Liverpool, like the Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, the Tate Liverpool and the 290-year-old Liverpool Bluecoat. The brand new Museum of Liverpool, just opened in July of this year, focuses of course on the history of Liverpool’s culture and what it means to be a Liverpudlian. As Liverpool is known famously as a port town, the Merseyside Maritime Museum should definitely be a stop on your trip as it takes you through the history of people and ships connected to the port.

 

The Royal Liver Building is a famous part of the Liverpool skyline, with the two Liver birds on top that watch over the city  

Eating and Drinking Through Liverpool

Eating is a top priority on anyone's vacation list, and Liverpool offers plenty of options for anyone from the picky eater to foodies. Once a revolutionary docking system upon its creation in 1846, the renovated Albert Docks now offer several different bars and restaurants for visitors and locals to enjoy, including popular spots Spice Lounge and Blue Bar & Grill. Liverpool ONE of course offers a variety of restaurants, anything from tapas to Italian and Mexican cuisines. Liverpool is also home to Europe’s oldest Chinatown, a neighborhood full of restaurants serving authentic cuisine for sit down or take away. On a recent trip over there, we checked out Il Forno, an authentic Italian spot with so many amazing options on the menu, you definitely can’t go wrong! And while most foodies might put England at the bottom of their culinary list, Liverpool has been doing a lot lately to cater to them. That includes the upcoming Liverpool Food and Drink Festival that starts September 3, 2011. Anyone looking to attend can of course find cheap airline flights to Manchester International Airport, or cheap flights to London connecting to Manchester. Of course, if you want to try an authentic Liverpool dish, you’ll need to try a Scouse Pie, found at many local pubs. Scouse is a form of stew and Scouse Pies were eaten by the working class in Liverpool years ago, and quickly became something the area became known for, especially when the term Scouse was given to the local dialect. 

Liverpool is no different than anywhere else in England when it comes to pubs, and they really do have some of the best. Some of the most popular watering holes in the city are around Mathew Street in the City Centre. Home to places like the Cavern Club and The Grapes, the streets are lined with pubs, and on a busy night are full of people having a great time. But while the City Centre offers plenty of places to grab a pint, The Phil, as it’s called by locals, was one we could have stayed at and gone back to our whole trip! The beautiful art deco design was done in 1898 for brewers Robert Cain & Company and sits just around the corner from the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (it is, after all, technically called the Philharmonic Dining Rooms). It was at the height of its popularity in the 1960s, and was one of the places John Lennon hated giving up for the price of fame. 

 

The bar at the Philharmonic Dining Room, known to locals as The Phil  

The Beatles and Liverpool

One of the most popular reason people frequent Liverpool is all for one group, The Beatles. Even if you don’t claim to be one of their biggest fans, it’s still a reason to tour around the city, seeing their humble beginnings and places made famous by songs like “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” After being purchased by the National Trust, you can even step inside the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, redecorated to appear as they did when they were growing up. While on the Magical Mystery Tour around town (yes, you actually tour the city in a replica of the MMT bus!) you do get a glimpse of the homes George Harrison and Ringo Starr grew up in. But while Harrison’s home is still there (with a family residing there), nearly the entire neighborhood Starr grew up in is getting ready to be torn down. The bus will pick you up at the Beatles Story at the Albert Dock, the museum taking you through their lives and careers with a treasure trove of artifacts. The bus drops you off by the famous Cavern Club, where it all got started. 

Yes, you really can take a ride through town on the Magical Mystery Tour bus!

It’s hard to go far in Liverpool without stopping at a place the Beatles once went. Pubs like the Jacaranda and the Casbah Club (a bit further out of town) were favorite spots of the group before they rose to fame. But two of the most popular spots are found on the famous Mathew Street. One is the world famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles famously got their start and were discovered by a record shop owner named Brian Epstein who soon became their manager. When the Cavern Club opened its doors in 1957, it started as a Jazz club inspired by those the original owner had seen in Paris. It quickly caught the eye of local skiffle bands in the area that started to turn it into a rock and roll club. While the one that’s there isn’t the original (that was torn down in the 70s to make room for a project that never happened), the current Cavern Club is roughly in the same spot and was built with the same design using many of the original bricks. In the early days of the Cavern Club, alcohol wasn’t served, so before gigs, the Beatles and other bands used to frequent the Grapes a short distance away. As with many pubs around town, a photo of the Beatles in one of the booths sits on the wall next to that very booth, so patrons can sit and have a pint where their musical heroes once did.

 

The Beatles: They sat there, and so can you!  

Head North! 

With so much to do in Liverpool, it’s hard to think why anyone would want to visit London instead… ok, at least why anyone would want to miss out on Liverpool. It’s a city full of culture and life that has a lot to offer anyone who visits, and is easy enough to get to through cheap flights to Europe or even a direct flight to Manchester at low fares. But however you get across the pond, just don’t forget to add Liverpool to your list! 

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