Liverpool: England’s Capital of Culture
Many places around the UK profess to being capitals of culture in one form or another, yet only one in recent years has been formally designated as such: Liverpool. Sat on the banks of the River Mersey, the UK’s fourth most populous city offers a wealth of things to do for casual day visits or long-term stays – and should be at the top of anyone’s list if they make the journey to this part of Britain.
Named European Capital of Culture in 2008 – just one year after its 800th anniversary in 2007 – Liverpool is perhaps most famous for its striking architecture, which continues to evolve with the times to create a fascinating landscape that is as historical as it is beautiful.
Given its importance in shipping, the regenerated docklands present some of the most wonderful opportunities for exploration and enjoyment – indeed, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, described as “the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City“.
Perhaps the most famous building on this waterfront is the Royal Liver Building, which is home to the city’s symbol: the Liver bird. Two of them sit on top of the building, looking out to sea. Legend has it that if the two birds fly away, the city would no longer exist.
However, past the Pier Head area is the largest concentration of Grade-I listed buildings in the UK, found at the Albert Dock. Following heavy merchant use and a bombardment in the Second World War, the 1980s brought massive regeneration and reopened to the public in 1984. Now home to Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum and countless bars and restaurants, it is a must-see for anyone hitting the city.
Further inland are two of the most visually-striking buildings in the UK: Liverpool Cathedral and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. The first – the second longest cathedral in the world – was designed by red telephone box creator Giles Gilbert Scott and holds a striking position near to Chinatown on the highest point in the city. Going to the top of this stunning church reveals its more modern counterpart at the other end of Hope Street; known informally as “Paddy’s Wigwam” or the “Mersey Funnel”, the unconventionally-designed Roman Catholic building that features an aluminium roof and mosaic tiles.
More brilliant new architecture has developed at a phenomenal rate thanks to Liverpool One, which has made the city one of the most enviable shopping locations in Europe. Led by retail and anchored by Debenhams and John Lewis, this 42-acre offering incorporates a 14-screen cinema, a 36-hole adventure golf centre, office space, public gardens, apartments and transport hubs to make it the centre of everything that’s happening in the city.
Of course, one of Liverpool’s greatest assets is its music scene, both past and present. Its World Capital City of Pop moniker, bestowed on it by the Guinness Book of World Records, is largely down to the emergence of its most talented sons in the 1960s: The Beatles. The fab four’s impact on the city is not only found in artwork and almost-inescapable music playing in shops and restaurants around the city, but in the wealth of museums and tours dedicated to them: notably The Beatles Story – which sits on Albert Dock – and the Magical Mystery Tour, which departs from nearby and explores the family homes and hangouts of the band on their rise to superstardom.
Heading into the city presents the jewel in the crown of British music locations: The Cavern Club. Most famous for its association with the formative years of The Beatles, this underground club has also hosted other Liverpudlian talents such as Billy Fury, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Echo & the Bunnymen and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Of course, there’s plenty more to discover in Liverpool, but make a few days of it and discover some for yourself – only use these as a starting point! Luckily, it’s all pretty cheap in Liverpool; hotels are good value, while the likes of the YHA also operate in the area, giving really cheap overnight or long-stay accommodation to all kinds of excursions. Don’t delay – get across to Liverpool for a brilliant city break!