The big idea

You want world-class sport, music, culture and heritage? Liverpool’s got it. Nothing seems to be done on a small, low-key scale in this city; it seems like if you’re going to do it, you may as well be the best at it. And Liverpool has certainly achieved that: The most famous pop group in the world ever? Check. One of the most popular football teams in the world? Check. World class golf, horseracing and rugby league? Check. Iconic Waterfront recognised the world over? Check. One of the most successful terms as European Capital of Culture? Check. Pretty impressive, eh?

That waterfront

Okay, try and get the strains of Ferry ’Cross the Mersey out of your head when you conjure up an image of Liverpool’s world famous Waterfront (it almost seems to be the law in telly land that when you show Liverpool’s Waterfront, you play that tune) and focus on its magnificence – it’s not for nothing that this place is part of the city’s World Heritage Site. Let’s start with the Three Graces – Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building, arguably the defining structures of the Waterfront – constructed to show Liverpool’s success, wealth and place on the world stage. At the very highest point of the Liver Building sit the two famed Liver Birds – legend has it that if they were to fly away the city would cease to exist so, to prevent them from seeing each other and flying off to mate, they were placed facing in opposite directions. In reality, the birds are positioned in this way to watch over the city (our people) and the sea (our prosperity).

And then there’s Albert Dock, one of the most popular free tourist attractions in the North West (students of the 1990’s will also recognise it as home to Richard, Judy and Fred’s weather map on This Morning). The fabulous St George’s Hall is classed as one of the finest examples of neo-classical architecture in the world, and Birkenhead Park on Wirral was used as a model for Central Park in New York.
It’s a truly stunning place and, of course, the best view is from – yes, you’ve guessed it – a ferry across the Mersey!

Art and culture

It’s hard to think of any other city in the world that has had as big an impact on popular music as we know it than Liverpool. We all know the story of The Beatles, almost 300 performances at The Cavern, and how they captured the imagination of the world with their seemingly effortless ability with melody and words. And the city quite rightly celebrates this and pays homage to a city’s famous ‘Fab Four’ sons without the usual cheese and tack. Check out the two Beatles Story sites at Albert Dock and Pier Head, the Magical Mystery Tour, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, run by the National Trust), and catch live music at the world famous Cavern Club in Mathew Street. All are major attractions in the official World Capital of Pop. And to add to the experience, there is the Hard Days Night Hotel, the world’s first Beatles influenced hotel.

If classical or contemporary music is more your thing, try these: a wide and varied programme from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; for a great free celebration of music try the annual Mathew Street Music Festival; and across the River Mersey in Wirral you’ll find the annual International Guitar Festival of Great Britain.
And then there’s the culture – the place is swarming with it, which was quite rightly recognised when Liverpool was European Capital of Culture 2008. There are more museums and galleries here than in any other UK city outside London, and they’re all well worth a visit. If you twisted our arm we’d pick out Tate Liverpool, Museum of Liverpool (from July, 2011), Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Walker Art Gallery, and Lady Lever Art Gallery in Wirral’s picturesque Port Sunlight Village. There’s also the Billiard & Snooker Heritage Collection in Liverpool and the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport – now that’s what you call variety!

World-class sport

So, we know that Liverpool does architecture, grandeur, arts and culture very well, but its expertise doesn’t end there – of course we’re talking about sport. Liverpool excels with two Premier League football clubs, Everton and Liverpool. England’s Golf Coast boasts the finest stretch of Championship golf in the land, and includes three Royal links courses – Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St Annes. Liverpool City Region is home to the world famous John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree Racecourse. And there’s one of the most successful Super League rugby clubs, St.Helens.

The essence

This city is quite simply Iconic

The interesting bits in the history

Liverpool has been a town since 1207 when it was granted its first charter by King John, who decided the sheltered harbour would make a good port from which to defend and attack against the Irish. And although there may have been settlements here earlier than that, the place isn’t mentioned in the Domesday Book, so wouldn’t have been that significant. In fact, from this point forth, Liverpool’s location and its port played a massive part in shaping the city as we know it today.

With the port came a transient population and a demand for ale houses and trade, something made easier when the town was a given charter that allowed it to hold a market. The town grew but even by the 14thCentury it was probably only home to about a thousand people. It had a church and a castle; and was importing and exporting from Ireland. But during the 16thand 17thCenturies, Liverpool was on the up and by 1626 it had received a new and improved charter. By the end of the 17thCentury the place was booming thanks to trade with the Americas and the West Indies, and in 1715 the world’s first wet dock was built here.

The town benefited from the growth of nearby Manchester, and became the country’s third biggest dock, behind London and Bristol. It was at this time, too, that Liverpool’s connections with the slave trade began, when the first ship sailed from here in 1699. In fact, 100 years later, 40% of the world’s slave trade would sail from Liverpool. The slave trade was finally abolished in 1833, but as with any profitable operation many traders went underground – but Liverpool hasn’t forgotten its past, and the story is told in great detail in the International Slavery Museum at Albert Dock.

Despite the abolition of slavery, trade continued to prosper in Liverpool and the population grew accordingly, taking in immigrants from Ireland and Wales. City status was granted in 1880 and by the turn of the century the population stood at 700,000. During the 20thCentury, immigration continued from Europe, the three iconic buildings were erected on the site of the previous St George’s Dock, and the city suffered during the air raids of World War II, which led to much rebuilding, particularly of housing, post-war. By the 1980’s Liverpool’s fortunes had declined and it was a difficult time for the city.

But the city pulled back and showed its true character, the Albert Dock area was redeveloped and there has been massive investment in museums and culture, culminating in winning the bid and then delivering a hugely successful European Capital of Culture in 2008. Now it’s a thriving metropolis, with an award-winning tourism offer, and one of the finest cities you’ll ever visit.

How it can make you feel/ who’s it for

Proud, adventurous, even cheerful; this is an alive city; one that’s revelling in its new found iconic status.

Perfect for shoppers, culture lovers, sports lovers; especially people who like the finer things and like to actually do stuff.

How to experience what’s different/get under the skin of:

Liverpool’s got two cathedrals, so why not start at one?

At the top of Hope Street stands the modern Metropolitan Cathedral, the local Catholic cathedral with the unique circular design and huge stained glass windows that flood the interior with an array of colours, and inside there’s a collection of modern artworks. Afterwards, walking south down the street you’ll pass the famous Everyman Theatre, where legends like Pete Postlethwaite and Julie Walters first trod the boards – and this year will undergo a £28million redevelopment. You’ll then pass the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, home to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the oldest surviving professional symphony orchestra in the country.

Carry on along Hope Street and you’ll come to Liverpool Cathedral. This imposing building, the largest Anglican cathedral in Britain and the fifth largest in the world, has plenty worth dropping in for. Head to the top of the Tower for stunning panoramic views of the city, it takes two consecutive lifts plus 108 steps to reach the top. Or visit the impressive embroidery exhibition, or revel in the huge Great Space, which tells the cathedral’s fascinating story.

After the cathedral, head towards Lime Street Station and William Brown Street, part of the Cultural quarter of the city. Here is the magnificent St George’s Hall, famously described by architecture guru Pevsner as ‘the finest neo-classical building in the world’. And remember what we said about ‘if you’re going to do something, you may as well be the best at it?’ Well this place is just such a cracker. Built back in the 1840’s as a multi-purpose hall to provide musical entertainment and home to the then Crown Court, this unique venue houses the biggest hall in Europe at 170ft long, one of the greatest brick arches in the world, and the priceless Minton mosaic floor which is made up of 30,000 tiles. Both impressive and iconic.

Just across from St John’s Gardens you have museums and galleries. The Walker Art Gallery, the national gallery of the North, holds one of the finest collections of fine art in Europe, dating back to the 13thCentury. While World Museum Liverpool, recently extended, is a vast building with numerous collections including Natural history and a planetarium.

Take a stroll to Whitechapel – and it’s time for some shopping. Metquarter is a designer shopping house that’s home to stores such as Kurt Geiger, Jo Malone and Molton Brown. Next door is the famous Liverpool address Mathew Street. Why famous? Well it is home to Vivienne Westwood and WAGs favourite Cricket – but it’s also where you’ll find a certain Cavern Club!

Just across the city centre, in School Lane you’ll find The Bluecoat, the oldest Grade I listed building in the city centre and now an arts centre with an inspiring programme of visual art, dance, music, literature and live art. Look out for the Display Centre at The Bluecoat, it sells some cracking pieces. A new attraction can also now be found here, The Reds Gallery at The Bluecoat, a free exhibition to showcase the illustrious past of Liverpool Football Club, the content of which will change every three months. Nearby, you will also find visual arts centre for new media FACT, which is also home to a cinema.

Just a short walk is Liverpool ONE, a £1billion shiny new shopping and leisure complex with 160 shops, restaurants and bars. As well as flagship stores for John Lewis, Debenhams and the largest Topshop outside of London, both of the city’s football clubs have a store here – Everton’s, rather wittily, is called Everton Two (at Liverpool ONE).

Pop down Lord Street and you’re now in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a large area including not only the well-known parts of the Waterfront, but the docks, large parts of the Cultural Quarter, many of the commercial buildings in Castle Street, Dale Street and beyond. This area is so large because it reflects the city’s importance as a world port, as well as its historic and cultural importance. In fact, Liverpool has the highest collection of Grade II listed buildings in the country.
Make your way to the Waterfront for Albert Dock and the Arena and Convention Centre Liverpool. There is a wealth of things to do at Albert Dock, including the thought-provoking International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Beatles Story and Tate Liverpool, where you can see international contemporary art in beautiful light-filled galleries. You can even take a city tour with a difference on a Yellow Duckmarine, which will take you on a sightseeing tour of the city before a ‘Splashdown’ into the waters of Albert Dock.

Amble along the Waterfront and see some of the city’s most spectacular sights for yourself – the Three Graces, the Liver Birds, and the new Museum of Liverpool. Here’ll also see the stunning new Liverpool Canal Link, which gives people travelling on narrowboat a whole new perspective of the city. And just a short walk is the City of Liverpool Cruise Terminal, which has welcomed some of the world’s biggest liners since it was launched in 2007.
And to end such a visit? Where else but on the deck of the world-famous Mersey Ferry, where you can see in spectacular fashion this iconic city – and maybe even sing along to the song after all, when in Liverpool...

When to visit

City pics