Our trip to Liverpool for last year’s early May bank holiday felt like it was a long time coming. While not typically at the top of most people’s must-see lists in England, Liverpool has been at the top of mine practically since I was old enough to sing along to ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ on my parents’ cassette player. (Total age giveaway there!) And when CDs grew more popular a few years later, the first two I owned were Help! and A Hard Day’s Night. Why the Beatles when everyone else my age was listening to Ace Of Base and Blues Traveler? Because my parents raised me well, that’s why. I kid, I kid. I liked all of the usual 90’s bands, just like everyone else did, but I loved the Beatles. So much that when it came time to choose each other’s on-air nicknames in college for our radio broadcasting classes, I was given the name PennyLane. Ten years later, I still have friends who won’t call me Sarah, and I’m sort of proud of that.
Back then, I never in a million years would have expected to ever get to see Liverpool. But when we found out we were moving to London, it was one of the first things I thought of. It only took us so long to go because I was nervous it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. What if I visited the home of the Fab Four and didn’t love it?! How awful would that be? Luckily, the three days we spent in Liverpool more than lived up to my high expectations. Except for a quick ferry ‘cross the Mersey, everything we did in Liverpool was centered around the Beatles. Even though we only spent a long weekend here, I did the same amount of planning I usually do for our longer trips because the chances of us ever returning to Liverpool are slim and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything important from my favorite band’s hometown! Like usual, I’ve got a whole series of posts planned on Liverpool, but for today, I’ve got a short list of my favorite things to do in Liverpool for Beatles fans. If that’s you, you won’t want to miss these!
THE CAVERN CLUB
A trip to Liverpool wouldn’t be complete without a stop to see the famous club where the Beatles got their start. Although the original Cavern Club was badly damaged in the 70’s when a project by British Rail demolished the floors above, it has since been reconstructed to look much the same as it did in its prime using as many of the original bricks and materials as possible. The result feels a little like walking back in time. We visited twice while we were in town, once during the day so we could see it when it was less crowded, and then again at night when we got tickets to a Beatles tribute band show. I can’t even describe to you what it felt like to be standing in the Cavern Club, dancing and singing along with a bunch of strangers to a set list of my favorite songs. It was unforgettable.
Note that children under 18 are not allowed in the Cavern Club at evening. Entrance is free until 8pm on weekdays and until 1pm on weekends. Tickets for shows vary, but ours were only £3 per person bought in advance from the Cavern Club website.
THE GRAPES PUB
While you’re on Mathew Street to see the Cavern Club, you might as well drop into The Grapes Pub where the Beatles used to go for a drink before and after shows at the Cavern Club. It’s not the prettiest of pubs, so it’s probably not somewhere you’ll want to spend your whole evening, but it’s worth a quick stop in any case. Some of the original decor from the 60’s remains, and if you walk into one of the corner rooms you’ll find a spot where you can take a photo on the same wall where a famous photo of the Beatles was taken. (It’s hanging on the wall, you can’t miss it.) I recommend going early if you plan to visit. Despite the fact there are much better pubs in the area, this one is nearly bursting with people (loads of stag parties!) from around 9pm on.
A quick Google search revealed some of the Beatles’ favorite drinks, so if you really want to get into character, you can order a White Russian or Brandy Alexander like John Lennon, bourbon if you want to drink like Ringo, Scotch and coke for Paul, or forgo the alcohol and choose tea if George Harrison is your favorite Beatle. (FYI – George was no saint. He just preferred to puff the magic dragon, or so I read. I don’t recommend you do that at The Grapes.)
BEATLES TAXI TOUR
It would be possible to make your way around to all of the Beatles’ family homes, Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, and the dozens of other places in Liverpool with ties to the Beatles on your own, but it’s a lot easier and definitely more fun to hop in a cab and let someone else do the driving. Bonus, the ride comes with good tunes and story-telling! There are a few companies in Liverpool who do this, but we chose Fab Four Tours since their prices were reasonable and their tours were highly rated on Tripadvisor. (Totally not paid to say that. We covered the cost of this tour all on our own, and you can read all about our experience here!)
Over three hours, we made our way around to every single location I’d wanted to see, plus plenty of others I’d never even heard of. I learned so much from our driver, Jay, and it was great to have someone available to take our picture at some of the more famous spots. He was even kind enough to make a few stops at sights that didn’t have anything to do with the Beatles, but are hard to see if you are in Liverpool without a car. Fab Four Tours range from 2-5 hours long. We went with the Lennon Tour since it covered all of the major Beatles sights, but left off the Casbah, which we hadn’t heard the greatest things about. Definitely read some reviews on that one if you’re considering it as part of your tour.
THE BEATLES STORY MUSEUM
Die-hard fans who already know all of the history of the Beatles (or maybe lived through it!) may not find this one as interesting as the rest of us, but I loved it. The Beatles Story Museum was the first thing we did when we got to town and it really set the tone for the rest of our vacation. It’s mainly a chronological history of the Beatles’ early lives, how they got together, and everything that happened after, but there’s a good bit of memorabilia to see as well. The museum is large – so large the whole thing doesn’t even fit in one location. There is a separate portion of the museum on the Pier Head, just a short walk away from the main Albert Dock location. (We all agreed the main location is the better one, so if you’re short on time, you can probably skip the second part!)
Even though I didn’t learn a lot of new facts or stories here, it was a good refresher course for me on the Beatles’ story and definitely made my experience on the taxi tour that much better. The whole museum is so beautifully done and contains so much information that it’s easy to spend upwards of 3 hours here if you’re covering both museums. Audio guides come included in the ticket price, and if you don’t have time to see both museums in one day, you can return the following day to see the one you missed at no extra charge. You can purchase tickets here.
JOHN LENNON & ELEANOR RIGBY STATUES
Located on Mathew Street (John Lennon – pictured first in this article) and Stanley Street (Eleanor Rigby – above), these famous statues are an easy walk if you’re staying in the center of Liverpool. John Lennon stands, leaning casually against the corner of the wall, right by his old stomping ground, the Cavern Club. You’ll have to wait patiently for your turn in a haphazard queue with every other tourist in Liverpool if you want a picture with this one. It seems John Lennon is nearly as popular in bronze as he was in real life!
The statue of Eleanor Rigby was sculpted by Tommy Steele, one of Britain’s first rock and roll stars, and she has been sitting on the bench along Stanley Street, holding her shopping bag since 1982. Getting a photo of Eleanor is quite a bit easier given her location is a little farther away from the craziness of Mathew Street. Sitting next to her, posing for a photo with your best poker face is totally optional. :)
Update: Since our visit in May 2015, a new statue of all four Beatles has been added to the Pier Head. You’ll definitely want to check that one out, too!
DINNER AT A HARD DAY’S NIGHT HOTEL
Although only a tribute hotel, and not a direct relation to the movie of the same name, this hotel would be a fun place to stay if you can afford it. (Check out the Lennon suite!) But if you’re like us, you probably just want to see the inside, and checking out the Beatles-themed bar and hotel lobby is free. Because I’d heard the food at the hotel’s restaurant, Blakes, was pretty incredible, I booked a table here for our first night in Liverpool. We loved everything about this place – the atmosphere, the friendly service, the Beatles cover songs playing softly in the background, and the amazing 3-course meal we had for a very reasonable price. Almost a year later, I still think about the fish and pak choi I had for dinner here!
Note: To get the best price, book for lunch or an early dinner and choose the All You Need Is Blakes 2- or 3-course menu.
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