There’s a certain level of pressure that is applied to the last city of any trip. After spending weeks, months, or even years traveling, the last destination of any itinerary not only has to compete with those that came before it, but also has the privilege of imparting one last impression on travelers, one that will stick with them until their next great adventure. For us, after nearly six months of travel throughout Europe, this honour was bestowed upon the city of Liverpool.
In addition to having to live up to the expectations of cities past, Liverpool also has a reputation to maintain as a city of music, football, and culture. It’s exactly this triple-threat that attracts over 4.6 million tourists to the city each year – each one jonesing for a stroll down Matthew Street and a visit to the infamous Cavern Club, known for hosting a pre-Beatlemania John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as other distinguished acts including The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Elton John, Queen, and the Who.
Although the role Liverpool played in creating The Beatles should be reserved for debate by fans more hardcore than we, it’s difficult to claim that any present day city has bound itself to the Fab Four more so than present day Liverpool. Their likenesses are plastered all over the town – statues, posters, memorabilia of every kind. It’s impossible to go anywhere in downtown Liverpool without seeing those famous mop-heads.
But Liverpool is much more than just the Beatles. Named a European Capital of Culture 2008, with the famous Pier Head Waterfront being a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004, it is a city of contrasting architectural styles, wonderful culture and museums, and a spectacular waterfront.
Our walk along Liverpool’s iconic Pier Head begins at the Royal Liver Building, easily recognizable by its pair of clock towers topped with matching mythical Liver Bird sculptures. It is said that the bird at the front of the building is female and she looks out over the sea watching for the fishermen to return while the bird at the back of the building is male and he looks out over the city centre waiting for the pubs to open. While the story may be amusing, the birds are hard to miss and a must see during any stay in Liverpool.
Together with the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building, both well known for their ornate decoration both inside and out, they are collectively referred to as the three graces, a grouping of iconic buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century that have transformed the Liverpool waterfront.
Looking at it today, it’s hard to imagine that this section of waterfront was the George’s Dock throughout most of the 1800’s when it served as a roundup area for the city’s busy trans-Atlantic shipping industry. Moorings, docks, and ships have been replaced by open spaces, modern art, and a couple amazing museums. This drastic change over the past century has largely contributed to the UNESCO World heritage Status of this part of town.
A short walk from Pier’s head takes you past the amazing Museum of Liverpool, where any question you could ever think up is answered) to Albert Dock, probably our favourite place in the city. Another region where drastic restoration and repurposing has taken effect, this is the cultural heart of the city. The brick and iron buildings and warehouses have been transformed into some of the most interesting and innovative museums in all the UK – most notably the Maritime Museum and TATE Liverpool.
Perfectly restored ships line the interior of the dock as part of the Maritime Museum’s displays, fish and chip shops hawk the fresh catch of the day, and people mull around searching for the perfect Beatles trinket – this is the perfect place since the newly constructed Beatles museum is just around the corner.
We spent almost an entire day wandering around the waterfront of Liverpool – it’s just that fantastic. Walking among the old ships, exploring crazy art in TATE, and playing Beatles themed I Spy all contributed to the surprise Liverpool handed us.
Once you’ve had enough walking around and can’t possibly bear another minute in a museum, the perfect place to head is Liverpool One – one of the UK’s premier shopping centres. With hundreds of shops and countless restaurants, this is the perfect place to pick up a bite to eat and a football scarf or jersey before heading to see some live music or a football match.
And that’s exactly what we did. As our tradition dictates, we ended our final night of this trip with a meal at Nando’s – not exactly our typical scene but it’s tradition! With our bellies full, we headed off to a final football match. And that’s where everything went all screwy…but you’ll have to read about that in our next post!!