City of World’s Firsts
For a very, very long time now I was keen to have a travel guide for the beautiful and vibrant Liverpool, but it was also many years since the last time I was there, long before I even started to create my travel blog hence I knew I had to return one day to get and compile the most up to date information and news, and experience it all once more to finally be able to share with you all what I consider as one of the most fascinating and impressive cities in the United Kingdom. A city that has given the entire world not just its name as such, but an entire institution of what its name means in the world of industry, transport, finances, arts, crafts and yes; music. The Merseybeat era (also known as Beat music or British Beat, with The Beatles the most prestigious band ever in history at the time.
A city not of Roman origin, celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007. Ever since, the rapid transformation and consciousness in the incredible heritage, rich history from every building’s walls and its magnificent harbour and old docks transformed a decaying and quite dilapidated city into a modern thriving 21st century destination. Project after project, the change became unstoppable and continues to be so, to the point in which the prestigious listing of being an UNESCO World Heritage Site is nowadays in danger to retain. See it for good or for the bad, the organization claims that the continuous rise of taller and taller towers, striking museums and a blend with such post-modern style next to the most celebrated architectural classical icons is distorting the integrity and identity.
Many sites and entire ares in the city are UNESCO designated, notably what refers to its most direct past with the sea as a mercantile city. These are the magnificent Albert Dock and the Pier Head among others. Liverpool was once thriving in trade and transatlantic passengers; and there is another part of the city’s history, home to the Cunard Line and White Star Line, with some of the world’s most famous ocean liners registered in its port such as the Titanic, Olympic or Queen Mary.
Together with nearby Manchester, both cities were the very first ever in the world to be linked by a passenger railway line, right in time with the boom of the Industrial Revolution. Migrants from everywhere coming to the city, growing unstoppable yet plenty of projects created that are nowadays the very heart and fabric laid for generations to come. Although modest, back in the 1850’s was nicknamed the “New York of Europe” because of the high rise buildings along its shoreline. Stunning to see these all beautifully restored as main attractions.
A city pioneer in railways, steamboats, trams. Home to the first ever elevated electric rail system in the world (dismantled long ago); first railway tunnels in the world, and first under a tidal river; together with the first deep underground stations. The first public baths and wash houses, first all equipped ambulances, x-ray diagnosis, motorised fire engine, orthopaedic surgery. The first integrated sewer system, first purpose-built department store, first metal framed glass curtain wall office building (prototype of a skyscraper) and countless more. The city of the world’s firsts, even with the introduction of the banana to the UK in 1884 to the first tracking shot by the Lumière brothers in 1897. Or have you ever wondered from where Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys come from? yes that’s right, it was Liverpool inventor Frank Hornby.
And so while everything mentioned before sounds like great and beautiful, not everything was how it seems. With the unimaginable growth and booming population came diseases, mostly brought from the rivers of migrants arriving daily from Ireland and beyond in ships seeking for a better life. Then being a city solely depending from the Industrial Revolution, after the crash of it all the riches and wealth also vanished, only enhanced with the decline and destruction during the WWII and believe it or not, you can still see and feel the consequences from the dark years in many neighbours, so decaying and dilapidated that crime is still a severe problem.
While a day is more than enough to enjoy the entire city, it will become too short when considering such a great other cities and villages nearby. Just north you have the party resort city of Blackpool, east is Manchester, while south Chester. Southwest you are in idyllic North Wales, and everything in between. From beautiful beaches, castles, palaces, Roman remains to grand Victorian architecture showcasing the best of the era with piers, theatres, cinemas, ballrooms and plenty more.
For further information about Liverpool check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The united Kingdom’s currency is the Pound (£, GBP). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Liverpool
- The Waterfront Perhaps the most symbolic and historic landmark, not only from the wonderful legacy of the once merchant city by the sea but also the incredible architectural jewels aligning the Mersey riverside. Here was built the world’s first enclosed wet dock and the first ever hydraulic lifting cranes.
-Albert Dock South of the city, near the city centre. Dating from 1846 it comprises the largest single collection of Grade I listed buildings anywhere in Britain. The most advanced at the time of construction, it helped the city to become one of the most important ports in the world. Countless restaurants, bars and museums now occupy the buildings:
-Museums Being the most important within the Albert Dock the Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Tate Liverpool and The Beatles Story.
-Museum of Liverpool Next to the Pier Head. Built in 2011 becoming a landmark due to its architecture. Contains great history about the city.
-Mann Island Buildings Opposite the Museum of Liverpool. These building together with the museum create a great piece of post-modern architecture.
-Pier Head/The Strand Where the “Three Graces” are. The icons of the city, some of the most magnificent structures. Located north from Albert Dock.
-Royal Liver Building Opened in 1911 was one of the first buildings in the world built using reinforced concrete. Crowning the towers are the largest electronically driven clocks in the UK, yes, larger than the ones within the Big Ben in London.
-Cunard Building The next after Liver, was completed in 1917 in a blend between Italian Renaissance and Greek Revival as the headquarters of the Cunard Line that stood in this building until 1960. Right behind along Strand is the Albion House, former headquarter of the White Star Line.
-Port of Liverpool Building Completed in 1907 in Edwardian Baroque style with reinforced concrete as was the same case for the Liver Building.
-George’s Dock Building Right behind the Port of Liverpool Building, along The Strand, it completes the site with this beautiful 1930s art-deco style ventilation shaft of the Mersey tunnel.
-Albion House Opposite the George’s Dock shaft, was the headquarters of the world famous ocean liner company the White Star Line, the creators of Titanic.
-Tower Buildings Directly opposite the Liver Building, and deigned by the same architect. One of the earliest steel-framed buildings in England.
-St Nicholas’ Church After the Tower Buildings.
-Mersey Ferry Running from Pier Head towards Woodside in Birkenhead and Seacombe in Wallasey. A great way to enjoy the views of both shores and Liverpool’s skyline.
-Princess Dock North after the Pier Head, this area is still being refurbished into a strikingly new residential and office area (as of May 2019). You can enjoy the views of the city behind and the great new buildings being constructed.
-Stanley Dock Although the site is currently under a regeneration project, it is home to the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse, the largest brick building site in the world.
- Commercial District and Cultural Quarter Another of the areas listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It follows the original medieval core, however its buildings are a great concentration of Georgian and Victorian eras.
-Water Street/Dale Street The major thoroughfare, an unmissable sight on its whole length. Runs from Pier Head towards the St John’s Garden.
-Oriel Chambers Behind the Tower Buildings in Water Street. Designed by architect Peter Ellis and built in 1864 as the world’s first building featuring a metal framed glass curtain wall. In Water Street, near the Town Hall.
-India Buildings Across the road from the Oriel Chambers. Completed in 1932 as one of the largest office buildings in the city, containing also retail and an underground station entrance.
-Martins Bank Once the head office of this bank, which later was bought by Barclays in the 1960’s. Once of the nicest classical structures from the time.
-Town Hall The oldest building still standing in the area, dating from 1754, located at the top of Castle Street.
-Exchange Buildings Designed in Italian and French Renaissance styles. These surround the Town Hall behind it, and creates an internal square.
-Aloft Hotel Occupying the former Royal Insurance Building, built in 1903.
-Prudential Assurance Building The next after the Aloft Hotel, easy to spot for its bright red bricks and tower.
-Municipal Buildings Designed in Italian and French Renaissance styles.
-Castle Street Perpendicular to Water Street and Hardman Street. Also full of architectural gems.
-Bank of England Also on Castle Street, in neoclassical style. One of only three provincial branches of the national bank.
-Victoria Street The second major thoroughfare, just parallel to Dale Street and also heading towards St John’s Garden. It marks the northern boundary of one of the oldest part of Liverpool’s original medieval quarters, with the world’s famous Matthew Street cutting through.
-Mathew Street A major tourist attractions, especially for all related to The Beatles where they started playing. It’s also the location of Europe’s largest annual free music festival. Plenty of bars, clubs and concert halls along it, not to mention the memorabilia about The Beatles.
-St John’s Garden At the end of Dale Street. Fully surrounded by elegant buildings on all sides, all of them included in the UNESCO listing.
-World Museum Liverpool Along the north side of the garden, part of a complex of buildings in grand neoclassical style. Specialising in nature and civilisation artefacts.
Central Library The central part of the complex of buildings, easy to spot for the semicircular Picton Reading Room that was modelled after the British Museum Reading Room and completed in 1879 becoming the first electrically lit library in the UK.
-Walker Art Gallery Completing the complex of buildings. Known as the National Gallery of the North, home to a invaluable collection of works of art, mostly pictures.
-St George’s Hall Along the east side of the garden, also facing Lime Street. Regarded as the best example of neoclassical building anywhere in Europe.
-Lime Street Railway Station Another of the imposing buildings in the area, in Renaissance Revival style. Opened in 1836, it is the oldest grand terminus mainline station in continuous use in the world.
-Empire Theatre Right by the northern side of the station. The largest 2 tier theatre in the country.
-Adelphi Hotel At the time of construction in 1914, one of the finest in the world. Just south of the train station.
- East and South of the City Farther east from Lime Street. While there is not much in the are worth to the average tourist; bearing both Cathedrals and some of the university buildings.
-Metropolitan Cathedral Built between 1962 and 1967, one of the first cathedrals to break the traditional longitudinal design, hence its unusual circular shape.
-Liverpool Cathedral Built between 1904 and 1978 in neo-Gothic style is regarded as one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century. It’s the 5th largest church buildings in the world. Located at the south of the city. Linking both cathedrals is Hope Street.
-Chinatown The first and oldest one to be created in the country. Although just a main street and the side ones, not to be missed the beautifully decorated grand arch.
Liverpool John Lennon International Airport is the main gateway by air, however, not the most convenient airport in the choice of destinations available. In tandem, there’s the much larger alternative, Manchester, offering a great choice of national and international routes not just only within Europe, but beyond to almost every continent in the world.
From the airport is fast and cheap to reach the city centre either by commuter train, or via buses. The same do apply if coming or going from Manchester International. Trains and buses cover the route directly to the city centre Lime Street Railway Station.
Coming overland is straightforward, fast and very reliable by railway. Liverpool is a major city on the network map and one can easily take a train in London, Oxford, Bristol, Nottingham, Leeds, New Castle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Blackpool… name it and chances you have a direct connection there are high. Same do apply to buses, where National Express or Megabus have a good monopoly in the country.
Once in the city, every tourist site is within easy reach one to another, walking distance everywhere. Certainly no need for taking any public transportation to go anywhere, unless for the Mersey Ferry which is totally recommended should you simply wish to have the picture perfect skyline of Liverpool, or reach the beaches at New Brighton.
Public transport are mostly buses everywhere, and railways. The Mersey Railway acts as a proper Underground system, where most of the stations are in fact deep underground within the city. These were the very first underground railway stations in the world.
Since this was a day trip from our base at nearby Southport, there is little I can say about accommodation here in Liverpool other than the main reason why we ended up in Southport rather than Liverpool, prices. It’s in any case the general rule all over the country, but specially at the bigger and more touristy cities, the prices can seriously be too high, without value for money. Not the most convenient if you depend on public transport, however if you are renting a car, do not even consider to be in the city centre where you will also need to pay extra for the car park. Southport worked great for us.
Seeking your accommodation is easy browsing some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. Note that the difference in price between a b&b or airb&b does not really make much sense, so you can be better off at a hotel.
We stayed at the Prince of Wales right in the main street of Southport. Once upon a time a grand and elegant Victorian property, nowadays dated yet still, comfortable, spacious and clean of course. Very friendly staff and all needed for our 3 days stay so definitely a good value for money in our experience. Conveniently located in the middle of the shopping area, with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants.