Liverpool is a place apart. Singular in its personality, diehard in its passions and inseparable from its past, it’s somewhere that likes to think big – and for good reason. As the home of two globe-straddling icons, in the shape of The Beatles and Liverpool Football Club, the city’s name is common currency worldwide. Less well known, however, are its numberless other attributes, from its revitalised docklands to its buzzing neighbourhoods. It’s a great place to spend a few days, and gives strong value for money.
The main attractions
Here’s something that might surprise you. Liverpool has more museums and galleries than anywhere in Britain outside of London. And more good news – most of them are free. National Museums Liverpool has seven venues across the city, none of them requiring an entrance fee. Top picks include the Museum of Liverpool, spotlighting everything from the war years to culture and entertainment, and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which delves into the city’s hugely influential role as an international port.
Elsewhere, you’d be crazy to miss the free-to-visit Liverpool Cathedral. The largest place of worship in the whole of Britain, it’s a vision of soaring gothic arches and towering interiors – trust us when we say it has serious wow-factor. And for something arty? Two of the choicest options are the contemporary-focused Tate Liverpool (one of just two Tate galleries outside of London, with a free Roy Lichtenstein exhibition until June 2018) and the hugely impressive Walker Art Gallery. Both cost nothing to enter.
To get your Fab Four fix, descend a winding flight of stairs to the rebuilt Cavern Club (free entry before 7pm – or, if you join the well-reputed Magical Mystery Tour around the city’s key Beatles sites, there’s free evening entry too). And some advice for football nuts: rather than paying for separate entry to the Liverpool FC Story museum at Anfield, opt for a stadium tour, which also includes free entry to the museum.
Sandemans New Europe Tours has free three-hour walking tours of the centre, covering all the key sights and showcasing the city’s earthy, twinkle-eyed character. For something unexpected, meanwhile, we recommend catching one of the regular Merseyrail trains from the centre to Blundellsands & Crosby station, from where you can walk to Antony Gormley’s incredible Another Place artwork. Open to all, and made up of 100 life-size cast-iron figures spread across Crosby Beach, it’s a mesmerising sight.
Back in town, make the most of Liverpool’s waterfront setting by taking the song’s lead and catching a ferry across the Mersey. A good way to save money is to join locals on the Mersey Ferries passenger service, which makes regular ten-minute commuter sailings every morning and evening.
If you’re here in July, don’t miss the Liverpool International Music Festival’s Summer Jam, a three-day musical bonanza in Sefton Park, with big names performing for free. At other times of year, you’ll find free live music at pubs like The Caledonia and Lanigans Irish Bar (Liverpool, of course, being a city with a thick Irish heritage). It’s also well worth knowing about Bluecoat, the city’s centre for contemporary arts, which has regular free talks, lectures and poetry events.
If you’re after a shopping bargain, head a few miles out of town to the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, which has catwalk-brand goods at prices up to 70% lower than elsewhere. Or head along to The Shipping Forecast, which has a free-entry vintage fair on the first Saturday of each month.
Getting there and around
Liverpool John Lennon Airport has good European connections, and the city is also easily reached from the likes of London, Birmingham and nearby Manchester – the latter as little as 35 minutes away by rail. In the centre itself, much of the city is walkable, but consider buying a Merseytravel Saveaway ticket, which lets you use trains and buses anywhere in the wider city region. There’s also a cheap City Bike rental scheme.
Where to stay
There are some good, central hotels with well-priced rooms. Some to mention include the stylish Z Hotel Liverpool, the compact Tune Hotel Liverpool and the budget YHA Liverpool, and you’ll also find a wide range of central Airbnb options. Hatters is another well-located, low-cost choice (and offers free meals on Tuesday nights), while Travelodge has no less than nine properties in and around the city.
Where to eat
If there’s one part of the city that best sums up Liverpool’s creative, independent side, it’s the aptly named Bold Street. Cosmopolitan and colourful, it’s also home to good-value restaurants like Lebanese joint Bakchich and vegan-friendly LEAF, which has some great sharing platters. Elsewhere, you’ll find eye-catching meal deals at Restaurants of Liverpool and Groupon, and there are good-value lunch menus and early evening offers at classy dining spots like 60 Hope Street and The Art School.
For more information on Liverpool and the rest of Britain, head to VisitBritain.com
To purchase attraction tickets and more, head to VisitBritainshop.com