If you love the U.K. and its culture, you will certainly not be able to avoid dropping by to visit Liverpool, a cheerful and vibrant seaside city in the northwest of England.
The fame of Liverpool, which was even named “European Capital of Culture” for the year 2008, is inextricably linked to the Fab Four-the Fabulous Four-John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, aka The Beatles-who were born right here during World War II and, through their music, made this city known to the whole world.
How to get to Liverpool
Liverpool is a relatively small city (population about 550,000) that can be easily visited in two or three days, either as part of a larger tour of England or by deciding to devote a long weekend to it.
In the latter case, the town is conveniently accessible via Ryanair’s low-cost flights from Italy to Manchester. From Manchester it is then possible to take the regular train (approx. £15.00 one way, travel time approx. 1h 30min – https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/) to Liverpool Lime Street, the station in the middle of the city center in Liverpool. There is also a bus option (approx. £10.00 one way, travel time approx. 1h – https://www.nationalexpress.com/en) with terminal also in the city center area, near theAlbert Dock.
As for my personal experience, to reach the city of Liverpool I would recommend the train: although more expensive than buses, it is more reliable and usually more on time.
One can also reach Liverpool by air since there is the Liverpool John Lennon Airport (and who else could it be dedicated to?), located south of the city. However, it does not offer direct connections to Italy.
In any case, if you are arriving by plane, I recommend using this transfer between the airport and the city.
If you are a Beatles fan and should happen to pass through the airport anyway, I would point out the statue of John Lennon at the main terminal, but also a huge “yellow submarine” outside the building, located on a traffic island near the cab stand, as well as a number of memorabilia always on display between check-in desks.
Getting around Liverpool
As already anticipated, visiting Liverpool does not take up too many days. In particular, the city center is not very extensive and can be walked around comfortably, taking care to book a hotel that is located in the city center, perhaps not far from Lime Street station or along the right bank of the Mersey near the Albert Dock.
Some of the major sites of interest to Beatles fans, on the other hand, are located outside the city center, but to visit them at leisure it is worth joining one of the many Beatles-themed guided tours, which I will tell you more about later in the article.
Where to Stay in Liverpool
As I wrote in the previous paragraph: CLICK HERE to see hotels in the Lime Street station area or HERE for the right bank of the Mersey. Alternatively, you can consider the entire city of Liverpool and take a look at all available hotels HERE.
City Discovery Tours
The city of Liverpool is obviously very much associated with the history of the Beatles. Discovery tours of the English city all place emphasis on this relationship between their music and Liverpool itself. I recommend both a tour that you can find HERE for a group tour for a fee in English, which is much more immersive.
Alternatively, you can purchase the Liverpool-Pass which includes many experiences that you will find described in the next paragraphs.
Things to do in Liverpool: the main attractions
The most attraction-rich area of the city is definitely the one that overlooks the right bank of the River Mersey, a river in the west of England on whose wide estuary precisely Liverpool lies. It is no coincidence that Liverpool’s “riverfront” has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004.
Starting from the north and walking all along the wide, mostly pedestrian promenade that runs along the river, one encounters in order the following points of interest.
One can only start visiting Liverpool from this beautiful bronze statue of the Fab Four, unveiled in 2015, which depicts the Beatles as they are in a famous 1963 photograph taken in Liverpool itself and also used as the cover of the recent album “The Beatles – On Air – Live at the BBC – Volume 2.”
Royal Liver Building
In the background you can see one of Liverpool’s most famous buildings, whose image was also often used by the Beatles themselves to evoke their hometown. It is a skyscraper from the early 1900s, featuring two clock towers, each of which is camped by a “liver bird,” a bird symbolic of the city of Liverpool
Mersey Ferries and “The Beatles Hidden Gallery”
Ferries depart from the Mersey Ferries terminal to sail on the River Mersey, from which it is possible to see the city’s main attractions from another point of view. There are several tours to discover Liverpool from the river:
- CLICK HERE for a cruise that can also be combined with a ride on a Hop on Off bus (for reservation purchase tickets
- Or choose this 2 1/2-hour tour on the river.
If you are a Beatles fan, I recommend a tour of this ferry terminal. For on the second floor is a collection of photographs of the Fab Four, known as “The Beatles Hidden Gallery,” dating from 1963-64. The ticket for access to this exhibit is the same one that also allows entry to “The Beatles Story” museum. It is advisable to purchase tickets in advance HERE with audio guide in English. For more information and openings: https://www.beatlesstory.com/.
Museum of Liverpool
Continuing southward on the itinerary among things to see in Liverpool, we definitely find the Museum of Liverpool, dedicated to the city’s history. Opened in 2011, it is extremely modern both the building that houses it and in its layout. Inside this museum, which is free and open daily (https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/mol/) the entire history of Merseyside’s capital is chronicled. There really is something for everyone here: adults and children alike can learn all there is to know about the city, from industry to sports to music, of course.
In addition, the museum is very useful as a shelter during (typical) British rainy days…!
Superlambanana: 124 sculptures in Liverpool
Also amusing and interesting are the installations outside the museum: these are some “Superlambanana” specimens! These sculptures were produced in 124 copies in 2008 on the occasion of the city’s nomination as “European Capital of Culture” and represent the union of a lamb (lamb) and a banana, while alluding to the risks associated with the abuse of genetic engineering and Liverpool’s commercial export history.
These cute statues, scattered throughout the city, as well as the original giant version from 1998, located on Tithebarn Street, have now become another recognizable symbol of the city and make for fun photo-remembrances! You will find various reproductions of them in all souvenir stores.
Albert Dock and Liverpool’s other museums
The Albert Dock is probably one of the most striking and fascinating sights in all of Liverpool’s “waterfront”: its buildings, made entirely of red brick and cast iron, form a kind of court that encloses the waters of the Mersey in its center. Where there used to be warehouses, there are now bars, restaurants, stores, museums, and life here appears hectic and lively. Spending some time here is really enjoyable and definitely worth it.
Some of Liverpool’s most important museums are based at the Albert Dock, including:
- Merseyside Maritime Museum, dedicated to the city’s maritime history, with an interesting section on the Titanic. Free admission, for more information: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/
- Tate Liverpool, picture gallery of modern and contemporary art, local branch of the UK Tate complex. Free admission, https://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool)
- The Beatles Story Museum, this museum, with paid admission and for which advance ticket purchase is recommended (CLICK HERE to purchase it), traces the history of the Liverpool four, reproducing their settings, displaying memorabilia and offering films and audio contributions. The museum will certainly not enrich the most experienced fans, but it is overall enjoyable and provides the less informed with a good smattering of the Fab Four’s musical and non-musical adventures. Very well stocked (and expensive) is the Beatles-themed shop located at the exit of the exhibit.
What to see in Liverpool: other points of interest
With the Albert Dock we have come to the end of the Liverpool Waterfront, also marked by the presence of a large Ferris wheel and the M&S Bank Arena, but we have certainly not exhausted all that Liverpool has to offer its visitors.
Here are the other places of interest to visit in Liverpool.
Leaving the River Mersey behind and moving from the Albert Dock into the interior of the city, you come across this large commercial area of the city, with all its stores, bars, and restaurants.
About a 20-minute walk from Albert Dock in the city center is this museum of natural history, science and culture, with free admission.
Walker Art Gallery
Also in the area you can visit this art gallery with one of the largest collections of paintings in Britain.
Liverpool Central Library
Next to the World Museum, it is definitely worth a visit to admire its building, a perfect blend of ancient and modern, and to enjoy some relaxation by taking advantage of the free reading areas.
Somewhat away from the center, about a 25-minute walk from Albert Dock in a southeasterly direction, however, is Liverpool Cathedral, the largest church in the United Kingdom. Paul McCartney never fails to mention that as a child he was not allowed into the choir of this cathedral because he was judged unfit…!
A match or tour at Anfield Road
For all soccer fans, the city stadium at Anfield Road may be of interest, allowing you to witness a great sporting spectacle, with the Liverpool team on the field and its fans in the stands chanting the ever-present “You’ll never walk alone.” If you want you can purchase a tour of the Anfield Road, one of the most important stadiums in English soccer.
The Beatles: visiting Liverpool through the Fab Four
Finally, if it is true that there is no Liverpool without the Beatles and there is no Beatles without Liverpool, one cannot help but participate in at least the two main themed guided tours offered by this magnificent city: the Magical Mystery Tour and the Beatles’ Childhood Homes Tour.
Magical Mystery Tour
The Magical Mystery Tour starts directly from the Albert Dock, just outside The Beatles Story shop. It is inspired by the Beatles film of the same name and takes its participants to visit all the major Beatlesian sites of interest in the city of Liverpool. These places include the legendary sites of Penny Lane and Strawberry Field, some of the places frequented by the four during their childhood, adolescence and youth.
The tour ends near the ever-present Cavern Club, the venue where the Beatles gave their first concerts, where the man who would become their manager (Brian Epstein) first heard them play, and where they performed 292 times!
Little curiosity: the club that can be visited today is actually a reconstruction of the original one. This was in fact destroyed as a result of excavation work for railroad lines and later rebuilt, albeit with a slightly different location than before. In any case, walking down the stairs leading to this “underground cavern” is for fans of the Beatles, and of beat music in general, very exciting and is an experience that you certainly cannot avoid if you decide to visit Liverpool!
The club is still active and is a great place to have a pint while listening to one of the many bands that perform here every day. You can book the tour through the cavern Club website, it costs about £20. When it comes to boarding the bus, you can’t go wrong: you’ll feel like you’re leaving with the Beatles on their Magical Mystery Tour!
Beatles’ Childhood Homes Tour
The Beatles’ Childhood Homes Tour, as opposed to the Magical Mystery Tour, is in my opinion more suited to the truest and most die-hard Beatles’ fans (like me, if it is still not clear to you at this point…).
Organized by the National Trust (a kind of British FAI), it provides access to the famous childhood homes of John Lennon (the legendary Mendips) and Paul McCartney (at No. 20 Forthlin Road). These houses are particularly significant to the history of the Beatles. It was here that the songwriting duo began their fruitful output, composing songs such as “She Loves You” or “When I’m 64.”
The interiors of these homes will also be familiar to devoted fans as they are portrayed in numerous photographs of the young musicians or reproduced in films dedicated to them. The very knowledgeable and passionate National Trust staff will not fail to tell you many interesting anecdotes, and if you love the Beatles you will surely love this tour as well. I have taken part in it three times, what an exaggeration…!
You can book the tour directly from the national Trust website at this link . The tour costs about £30 and always starts from the banks of the Mersey. The meeting point is the lobby of the Jurys Inn hotel, just south of the Albert Dock and near the M&S Bank Arena.
Please note: Both tours are conducted by English-speaking guides; in case you don’t quite chew the language, you can still ask for some information material and explanatory brochures in Italian.
Precautions for visiting the city at its best
At this point I want to give you some general tips for visiting Liverpool in the best possible way.
The English weather
As is well known to all, the stereotype of the Englishman with an umbrella under his arm is particularly well founded. Although temperatures in Liverpool are never too cold, thanks to the presence of the sea and its beneficial influence, it is not uncommon to run into dreary days with heavy rain. It is no coincidence that Ringo Starr, speaking of America on one of their first “New World” tours, joked saying things like, “I like it there, they even have sunshine!”
Actually, the sun, of course, is often there in Liverpool as well, and if you are lucky enough to have nice days, you will definitely be captured by its beauty and charm as a seaside city. In any case and just in case, remember to bring a k-way or a nice rain poncho with you!
In contrast to international London (where nowadays it is easier to meet Italians than Englishmen!) and despite the now considerable influx of tourists, Liverpool is a city that still retains its typically English feel. Its inhabitants are very friendly and personable, and if you happen to be here on a Friday night, don’t miss the spectacle of the pubs, crowded with people of all sexes and ages, all mostly tipsy and eager to have a good time together after the labors of the work week. The Sunday family lunch at the pub is also a must-do.
Useful notes and miscellaneous trivia
And now I will end with some side information, but certainly useful.
- Restaurants and pubs generally close their kitchens early. If you plan to eat around 9 p.m., you risk having to go to bed without dinner.
- Fast-food restaurants, on the other hand, are always a certainty at more or less all hours, just in case.
- Liverpool’s slang and accent can be quite incomprehensible at first: have fun testing your English with the locals!
- By participating in the National Trust tour, you could win the lottery and even meet Paul McCartney himself! If you love Paul and know English, I recommend watching the episode of Carpool Karaoke he recently took part in ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjvzCTqkBDQ ): Paul turns himself into an exceptional city guide for the occasion and takes us to all the places dear to the Beatles, not leaving out his home on Forthlin Road, of course!
In conclusion, Liverpool is a city that knows how to captivate with its vibrancy, its offer of free museums and its beat-rock&roll charm. Personally, I can only agree with what Paul McCartney said about his hometown: “You can take a boy out of Liverpool, but you can’t take Liverpool out of a boy“.