It’s always a good sign when you tell someone where you’re going on holiday and they respond by scrunching up their nose and asking why in the world you’d ever choose to go there, right? It was this reaction, or something equally negative, I received nearly every time I mentioned our plans to head up to Liverpool for last year’s early May bank holiday. I was stumped and, quite honestly, a little worried. I mean, with a reaction like that, you’d think I’d just announced our plans to go dumpster diving outside a seafood restaurant for the holiday. But this was Liverpool, home of the Beatles and at least half a dozen UNESCO sights. It couldn’t really be that bad, could it? As a fairly regular traveler, I’ve learned not to let other people’s opinions or perceptions of a place color my own, but it was with at least a little trepidation that I boarded the train that would take us a couple hours up north to Liverpool. I really had no idea what to expect.
What did I discover? First, arriving somewhere new with almost no expectations is super fun. Second, those people who wrinkled their noses have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Liverpool is awesome. We had an absolute blast during the three days we were there! Liverpool is sort of like an amusement park for adults. It’s a lively city with a lot of entertaining people-watching, everybody generally looks like they’re having a good time (especially the later it gets…or early, depending on how you look at it), the food is amazing, and if you’re anywhere within the vicinity of Mathew Street, you’re sure to experience some sensory overload (and possibly just barely escape being trampled by a pack of shrieking bridesmaids).
It’s a little gritty, I’ll give the naysayers that. If you’re looking for something akin to London or the quaint English towns we all fall head over heels for, you will leave disappointed. Liverpool is unlike anywhere else I’ve visited in England, and I loved that. Not that I’ll ever get tired of turning the corner and seeing Big Ben or visiting villages full of tiny cottages with thatched roofs, but sometimes you just want something a little different. I liked that Liverpool was a little louder, a little less polite, and a little more unpredictable. To make possibly a horrible analogy, Liverpool seems to me a little like the black sheep of the family. She does her own thing and makes no apologies to anyone for it, and you’ll either love her or hate her for that, but either way you can’t help but feel a little admiration for her passion and boldness. But then again, I’ve always been partial to black sheep.
If that description feels a little too alternative for you, there’s another side to Liverpool, too. A little more elegant and traditional one. You’ll find that side down by the water along the Pier Head and Albert Dock. It’s bloody beautiful down there on a sunny day, and far more relaxing than the buzzing vibe in the city center or the cheerful chaos of Mathew Street. We didn’t spend as much time in this area as we did elsewhere in the city, but on our last day, we were able to spend a few hours walking along the banks of the river and taking a ferry ‘cross the Mersey. Being down here felt like a peaceful retreat after the craziness of the two previous days. I really feel like this city has something for everyone, but if you’re still not convinced, just keep on reading…
8 Great Reasons to Visit Liverpool
You should probably put Liverpool on your travel radar if…
You love the Beatles. How about we start with the most obvious? Certainly there’s a lot more to Liverpool than a history as the birthplace of The Beatles (as well as a ridiculous amount of other bands and performers – seriously, what is in the water there?), but if you’re a fan, you’ll no doubt enjoy following the footsteps of the Fab Four as they grew in fame. There’s a lot to see here – their birthplaces, the many places mentioned in their songs, as well as where it all began at the infamous Cavern Club on Mathew Street. I’ve written a whole post about things to do in Liverpool for Beatles fans. If that’s you, you might want to check it out!
You collect UNESCO sights. There are now over 1,000 places, both man-made and natural, listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list and it just keeps growing every year. To be on this list, a place has to be of special cultural or physical significance, which for a traveler means you can pretty much just thank UNESCO for creating your bucket list for you. We don’t travel for UNESCO sights, but we do check before we go to see if there are places at our destination on the list, and in Liverpool there are six!
You’re a people-person. Or you just like to strike up conversations with total strangers. Folks in Liverpool are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met in England. I’m not a particularly shy person, but I also don’t typically walk up to random strangers and start telling them my life story either. But for some reason in Liverpool, I never went anywhere without getting into a conversation with at least one other person. It was loads of fun and made me feel so comfortable in an otherwise completely foreign city. I even had one guy I met while taking photos down by the docks offer to let me use his gigantic telephoto lens, and when I declined (because it would be just like me to drop a $10k piece of equipment), he took it off his camera and offered it again. Seriously, who is actually that nice?
You’re the frugal type. Liverpool is pretty cheap, by English standards, anyway. Had there not been a footie match going on while we were there (more on that in a sec) our hotel would have been the cheapest place we’ve ever stayed at in Europe. (And it was far from a dump!) We only stayed in Liverpool for two nights, which is a super short trip and otherwise would have felt a little like a waste of money if we hadn’t spent so little to get here and stay here. I am ever so proud of myself when I find a good deal, and in Liverpool, we definitely feel like we got our money’s worth.
You like to eat. I know this is going to sound like I’m buying into the ‘food sucks in the UK’ stereotype, but outside of London, I hadn’t really been wowed by a meal in England…until Liverpool. We ate really well while we were here, and for extremely reasonable prices. I had the most inventive meal of the trip at the restaurant in A Hard Day’s Night Hotel, but the most delicious was at Casa Italia. You know the food is going to be good when you have to queue up outside for it! After half an hour of waiting, I had what I am convinced was the best vegetarian lasagna outside of Italy. A year later and I still think about that meal!
You bleed blue or red. Translation: Your team is Everton or Liverpool. Both are hugely popular Premier League teams based in Liverpool, and even if you’re not particularly a fan of either, going to a football game is sort of an English rite of passage, so why not do it where some of England’s oldest teams play? I don’t even consider myself a football fan and I still enjoyed the game we saw in London last year. It was obvious Liverpool was playing a match the weekend we were visiting because I’ve never seen so much red in one place as I did on our train on the way up. (That train was packed, too. Not even standing room left by the time we reached the city. Keep that in mind if you’re traveling to Liverpool on a game day!)
You like to party. I have never in my life seen so many hen parties and stag do’s in the same place. On our first day in Liverpool, we counted over a dozen around the Mathew Street area after being in the city for less than 2 hours. And when we tried to get into The Grapes Pub to check out where the Beatles used to go for drinks, at 10pm it was already so packed with people that getting a seat, or even a place to stand, was about as likely as getting a seat on the Piccadilly line at rush hour. Those who know me know this is so not my scene, but when in Rome, right? Cory and I got tickets one night to the Cavern Club and we danced and sang right along with everyone else until the wee hours of the morning. (Actually it was before midnight, but we’re like 100 years old now, so…) FYI for those who like a little tipple – beer and wine prices are significantly lower in Liverpool than London, which might explain the massive invasion of hen and stag parties. :)
You like to stay busy on holiday. I’m pretty sure that, unless you’re holidaying here for over a year, you won’t be running out of things to do in Liverpool anytime soon. Besides the popular Beatles locations around town, there are at least two major cathedrals (we only went inside one – the Liverpool Cathedral), a multitude of free museums covering everything from art to slavery to maritime history, a few dozen famous buildings (my favorites were St George’s Hall and the trifecta of beauties along the Pier Head – the Royal Liver, the Cunard, and the Port of Liverpool buildings), and the River Mersey itself to go see. Bonus, Liverpool scores a 10/10 in terms of walk-ability. Except for the Beatles Taxi Tour we took, we explored Liverpool solely on foot, which is always my favorite way to get around.
So have I sold you on Liverpool? Or have you already been and loved it…or hated it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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