How to discover another side of Liverpool

Liverpool is the birthplace of legends, famed for its music, museums and maritime heritage – and is home to one of the world’s top football teams (depending who you ask, of course). But the city’s real magic lies in its much smaller charms: its one-of-a-kind restaurants, secret tours, vibrant street art and outdoorsy adventures. Whether you’re exploring the docks by boat, seeking hidden history on an underground walk, or watching stand-up comedy in a bombed-out church, here’s how to get a new perspective on Liverpool.

Quirky things to do in Liverpool

Colourful art installation, Love of my Life, by Chila Burman at River of Light

Liverpool wears its history proudly on its sleeve – from the maritime monuments of Albert Dock, to the musical memorabilia of the Cavern Quarter, where The Beatles played their first gig. But there’s so much more to this city than first meets the eye. Tours of the Mersey Tunnels venture deep into Liverpool’s subterranean transport system, to a hidden warren of passageways that even most locals haven’t set foot in. Meanwhile, Lutyens’ Crypt is a secret spiritual space – the underground origins of a grand uncompleted place of worship, an architectural gem set below the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Liverpudlians are renowned for their warmth and wit, which makes their guided tours all-the-more engaging. City Unscripted will match you up with a local person, who’ll reveal the sights, restaurants and street art you’d never spot from a guidebook. The city has plenty of unusual walking tours, from ghost hunting jaunts with Shiverpool to craft beer crawls with Liverpool Brewery Tours and pirate-themed fun with Treasure Hunt Liverpool. But for something more energetic, try a Liverbirds 5km run: you’ll clock up the miles on a jogging tour of the city, stopping for history snippets and photos along the way. If you fancy something faster, join a bike trip with Liverpool Cycle Tours, or zoom through the docks at Liverpool Watersports Centre. As well as regular powerboats, board the Wheelyboat for a wheelchair accessible experience.

The long-awaited Shakespeare North Playhouse will open in Prescot this summer, revitalising the playwright’s works with state-of-the-art technology and leading actors. Also, look out for the River of Light Trail 2022 (21 October – 6 November), an illuminated art trail on Liverpool’s waterfront, featuring laser displays, interactive sculptures and dazzling light tunnels. At St George’s Hall, The History Whisperer is an immersive new tour, combining spoken-word storytelling with music and augmented reality – a cutting-edge way to explore one of Queen Victoria’s favourite concert halls.

Alternatively, embrace Liverpool’s strong cultural ties among the crumbling ruins of St Luke’s Church. Destroyed by bombs in the Second World War, it’s now been transformed into a unique theatre, hosting stand-up comedy, cinema, plays and concerts galore. To the north, around a 20-minute train ride from the city, is Crosby Beach, where Anthony Gormley’s Another Place sculptures face poignantly out to sea. Alongside a welcome dose of fresh sea air, try stopping by at sunset for an eye-catching pic.

Liverpool’s quirkiest places to stay

A welcoming, family-run retreat in central Liverpool, 2 Blackburne Terrace has just four suites – and they’re all treasures. Think roll-top baths overlooking the city, beautiful antique furniture and crisp Egyptian cotton linens. Better yet, your hosts Sarah and Glenn have a wealth of local knowledge, which they’re always happy to share.

Lock and Key often leaves reviewers in raptures, thanks to its intimate style and eye-catching, playful décor. Each of its 14 rooms is unique, but they’re united by their dazzling wallpaper, velvet armchairs and swish marble bathrooms. Some even have their own drinks trolleys, and there’s an elegant bistro-style restaurant downstairs.

Where to dine differently in Liverpool

 High angle view of people sitting at long tables, Baltic Market, Stanhope Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK.

From spicy pad Thai and towering burgers, to juicy fried chicken and grilled lobster tails, Baltic Market’s eclectic street food is lick-the-plate delicious. As for drinks, think frozen gin slushies, craft beers and artisan coffees (or espresso martinis, if you prefer): a great pairing with its live music and comedy nights.

The Vibe cafe’s all-vegan menu can intrigue even the most dedicated omnivore: think huge veggie breakfasts, hearty roast dinners, and nacho bowls piled high with guacamole, salsa and smoky jackfruit. It’s a friendly, family-run spot: ideal if you’re dining with veggie pals, or just want to try something fresh and exciting. 

Barnacle, a new brasserie in Duke Street Market, gives crab, clams and cockles a five-star twist, alongside meats, cheeses and veg sourced from nearby producers. For Latino cocktails and samba-themed afternoon tea, check out Alma de Cuba: it’s set in a beautiful converted church. Alternatively, don your flat cap and pocket watch and aim for the Peaky Blinders pub: a 1920s-style ‘beermonger’ in Cains Brewery Village, inspired by the hit TV series.

Getting there and around

Liverpool John Lennon Airport is served by major international and domestic airlines, and the city’s rail links mean there are fast, regular trains connecting to several key cities. From London, the quickest service takes just two hours and 12 minutes, while Manchester is less than an hour away.

Taking the Mersey Ferry is one way to enjoy fantastic views of the city – but there’s also an extensive network of trains and buses, with mostly step-free access. CityBike offers both electric and pedal rental options, VOI e-scooters are available for hire, and there are dedicated cycle/bus lanes throughout the city.

11 May 2022(last updated)

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