The Sound Of The City: Where To Visit In Liverpool
Music, football and religion – the holy trinity in Liverpool. No other topics arouse quite as much passion in the city as these do. And as it has more Grade-II buildings, national galleries and museums than any UK city outside of London, it’s well worth a visit.
Located in the north west of England, in the county of Merseyside, Liverpool is a thriving metropolitan city. Deriving its name from ‘lifer pool’, meaning muddy pool, the city was founded in the 13th century. But it wasn’t until the 18th century that this ‘pool’ played a role in the city’s fortunes as the seaport became Britain’s trading gateway to the world.
Albert Dock was built during Queen Victoria’s reign, and is now home to top restaurants, cafés, bars and Tate Liverpool. Take a Ferry Cross the Mersey, as immortalised in the song by Gerry & The Pacemakers, for a view of the famous skyline and then hop off and learn about outer space at Spaceport or about the mysteries of a World War II boat at U-Boat Story.
As the city’s ambitions grew, so too did its skyline with ‘The Three Graces’, which include the Cunard Building, Liver Building and Port of Liverpool Building. Also, as new communities came, so did new places of worship: Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is an example of 1960s architecture. Meanwhile, Liverpool Cathedral is the largest in the country and is home to artworks by names including Tracey Emin.
For a sight that is just as sacred to Liverpudlians as its churches, take a stadium tour of one of its football grounds: Anfield is home to Liverpool FC, and Everton’s Goodison Park is the UK’s oldest purpose-built football stadium. The rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool’s teams (and cities) is so intense that you should refrain from shouting ‘Come on United!’ in a Liverpool pub. Ever changing, this year Liverpool has taken centre stage and become Britain’s most popular filming location outside of London.
While you wander the streets, you may bump into a celebrity as movies shot in the city include Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them starring Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell, the Sherlock Holmes franchise with Jude Law and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with Keira Knightley. While A-list names are now regulars on these streets, there are still four names that draw in tourists from across the world: John, Paul, George and Ringo…
There is no way you can talk about Liverpool without talking about The Beatles. The Fab Four may be Liverpool’s gift to the world, but the group are a gift for the city’s tourism – so much so that Beatles fans who make a pilgrimage here add £82 million a year to Liverpool’s economy.
Start your journey where it all began: the Beatles’ Childhood Homes. Thanks to the National Trust, you can experience a day in the life of the group by visiting John Lennon’s home, Mendips, and Paul McCartney’s home, 20 Forthlin Road.
Sit on Paul McCartney’s bed, go into the room where She Loves You was written and stand on the exact spot where The Beatles rehearsed. While the walls can’t talk, the guides – husband and wife Colin and Sylvia Hall – certainly can. The duo have anecdotes that even the biggest Beatles fan might not know, and the experience gives you the chance to step back in time into a 1950s British suburban home. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
The Beatles Story, which is the world’s largest permanent exhibition devoted to The Beatles, is a holy grail for fans. Located at the historic Albert Dock, the main exhibition takes you on a magical history tour from the early days when the band were known as The Quarrymen, to their dizzying heights of global fame and into their hugely successful solo careers. Items on display range from John Lennon’s glasses to George Harrison’s first guitar. www.beatlesstory.com
While you’re in Liverpool, try to talk to the locals. Forthcoming and friendly, the only thing that may hold you back is if you stumble upon someone with a strong Scouse accent! Among the older residents, it’s easy to find someone with a Beatles connection. You will often hear: ‘I saw them at The Cavern Club when they started!’ The Beatles performed at the club more than 300 times – while it moved in the 1970s, the look and feel of the venue is very much the same, and if you are lucky enough to visit on a night where there is a tribute band playing, the sound may well be, too. www.cavernclub.org
Song references can also be ticked off. You can find Eleanor Rigby’s grave at St Peter’s Church where John and Paul first met, then visit Strawberry Field in Woolton and Penny Lane with its ‘shelter in the middle of the roundabout’.
The British Music Experience
David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust costume, handwritten lyrics to New Order’s Blue Monday and Noel Gallagher’s Union Jack Gibson guitar are just some of the 600 iconic items of memorabilia on display at the British Music Experience. Opening in Liverpool’s Cunard Building (from 11 Feb), after a five-year run at London’s O2 arena, the exhibition will be bigger than before and have new interactive elements.
The permanent exhibition is dedicated to the history of popular music in Britain. Starting in 1945 and finishing in the present day, it shows how rock, pop, dance and other genres have influenced British culture. Let out your inner rock god in The Gibson Music Room – it is filled with guitars that you can strum like a superstar. You can also learn dance moves from different eras or sing your heart out in the vocal booths.
Sir Peter Blake, who is famed for creating album covers including The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Oasis’s Definitely Maybe, is a patron of the experience. Blake says: ‘I am delighted to be able to support the British Music Experience in its task to archive, celebrate and collect the nation’s popular music heritage for generations to come, and Liverpool is, of course, a fitting city to call its home’. www.britishmusicexperience.com