10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Liverpool
Think of Liverpool and you immediately think of The Beatles, Liverpool Football Club, and that unique Scouse accent. The heart of Merseyside lies on the east bank of the Mersey estuary, just three miles from the sea. At this point the Mersey is almost a mile wide, opening out inland into a basin three miles wide. This is one of the reasons Liverpool, with one of the largest harbors in the world not dependent on tides, remains a major port for transatlantic shipping.
The city has many handsome historic buildings, as well as numerous gardens and parks, museums and recreational facilities. Some of the main attractions are the Walker Art Gallery and the Philharmonic Hall, one of the best concert halls in Europe. It also has the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation that covers six locations in the center of Liverpool including Pier Head, Albert Dock and William Brown Street.
The origin of the city's name is traditionally connected with the mythological Liver Bird (pronounced "lyver"), a seagull-like bird seen in the city's coat of arms. The name Liverpool first appears in 1173 in a charter granted by Henry II. These days, Liverpool's an important trading metropolis, university town and financial center, as well as a key city for the Catholic and Anglican churches, both of which have bishops here.
See also: Where to Stay in Liverpool
1 The Beatles
Liverpool is famous as the birthplace of The Beatles. Various tours offer fans the opportunity to follow in their footsteps (Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields), including The Beatles Story in Albert Dock and the rebuilt Cavern Club, where they made their debut in 1961. Other Beatles related sights include the Cavern Walks (murals by Cynthia Lennon), The Beatles Shop, and 20 Forthlin Road, McCartney's former home and where the band wrote and rehearsed many of their early songs. The property is open to the public and features Beatles memorabilia and photos.
Location: Britannia Vaults, Albert Dock, Liverpool
2 Albert Dock
The superbly restored Albert Dock, the first in Britain to be built using only bricks and iron, is an impressive five-story high block surrounding the harbor basin where cotton, tobacco and sugar were once unloaded. The enormous Victorian buildings are built around an arcaded walkway, its cast Tuscan columns once serving as capstans for moored ships. The decoratively restored warehouses with their luxury apartments, designer boutiques, offices, restaurants, cafés and museums are a prime example of "gentrification", a phenomena which can also be witnessed in London, Manchester and Glasgow, whereby decaying inner cities are restored to provide recreational amenities.
Albert Dock is also home to a number of first-rate tourist attractions including The Beatles Story Museum with its memorabilia, photographs and films of the Fab Four; the International Slavery Museum located just yards from the dry docks where 18th century slave ships were repaired and fitted out; and the Border Force National Museum which tells the story of smuggling and contraband from the 1700s to the present day.
Location: Albert Dock, Liverpool
3 Tate Gallery
An acclaimed branch of the Tate Gallery has been established in the Albert Dock. As chance would have it, the London Tate Gallery - established at the end of the 19th century with a legacy from the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate - found space in the warehouses where raw sugar was stored before being refined. The ground floor of the "Tate of the North" has exhibition halls and galleries dedicated to contemporary art as well as works on loan from London.
Location: Albert Dock, Liverpool
4 Merseyside Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum in Liverpool is home to fascinating exhibitions about emigrating peoples who left via the Mersey between 1830 and 1930 for North America as well as seafaring in Liverpool beginning with 13th century fishing. It is all illustrated with model ships, authentic workshops and historic vessels. Equally fascinating are the exhibits relating to the stories of the Titanic and Lusitania, two of the most famous - and tragic - ships in history. Each had strong links with Liverpool. Also worth visiting is the nearby U-boat Story, which depicts life aboard a submarine during wartime.
Location: Albert Dock, Liverpool
5 Pier Head
The Pier Head area of Liverpool includes the traditional trio of harbor buildings known as the Three Graces: the Port of Liverpool Building, the Cunard Building (named after Canadian Samuel Cunard, owner of the first shipping line from Liverpool-Halifax-Boston), and the Royal Liver Building. It's also where you'll find the Titanic Memorial commemorating the "Heroes in the Engine Room" on the luxury liner which sank in 1912; the Queen Victoria Monument; and the Georgian Town Hall, built in 1754 with its lovely copper cupola crowned by a statue of Minerva.
Location: Pier Head, Liverpool
6 St George's Hall
The facade of St George's Hall on Brown Street is decorated with Corinthian columns and statues. Its sumptuous Great Hall, with one of the world's largest organs, is often used for concerts. To the rear of the building St John's Gardens feature statues of prominent Liverpudlians.
The nearby Polytechnic Building is part of an imposing group of neo-Greek buildings that include the William Brown Library, the Picton Reading Rooms and the Hornby Library.
Location: St George's Place, Liverpool
7 Walker Art Gallery
Liverpool's best known museum, the Walker Art Gallery, boasts a rich collection of works by Italian, Flemish and French masters from the 14th century to the present, including works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Rodin. Its display of English painting and sculpture, particularly of the 18th to 20th centuries, is unrivaled outside London and features works by Gainsborough, Hogarth and Moore. A poignant farewell scene at Liverpool's Pier Head is depicted by John J. Lee and entitled Sweethearts and Wives. The John and Peter Moore Exhibition, an important display of contemporary British art, is held every alternate year.
Associated with the Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House is an early 19th century mansion on Mossley Hill and is home to a gallery containing artists such as Gainsborough and Turner.
Location: William Brown St, Liverpool
The Catholic Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral reflects the high proportion of Liverpudlians of Irish origin living in the city. During the Irish emigrations of the 19th and 20th centuries, Liverpool was the principal port of embarkation for the US, and many emigrants ended up settling in the city. Building began in 1928, although it wasn't actually completed until 1967. Around its cylindrical tower is a huge "tent" 200 ft in diameter, rising sharply to a funnel-shaped drum 270 ft high, the whole structure looking like a huge lantern rising above the city.
The Anglican Liverpool Cathedral on St James's Mount was consecrated in 1978, although services were held there in the 1920s. Built of red sandstone with a copper roof, its 330 ft high tower contains a carillon with 2,500 bells. The largest weighs four tons. A 9,704-pipe Willis organ is one of the largest in the world.
Location: Mount Pleasant, Liverpool
9 Museum of Liverpool
Opened in 2011, the Museum of Liverpool celebrates the city's unique geography, history and culture using displays related to the port and its people. Collections include period costume and decorative art, as well as objects representing the city's social and urban history, oral testimonies, archaeological material and photos. The museum is also home to the famous Lion steam engine, built in 1838 and star of the film The Titfield Thunderbolt.
While you're museum hopping, be sure to visit World Museum with its fascinating account of how we humans created the world we inhabit.
Location: Pier Head, Liverpool
10 Croxteth Hall
Croxteth Hall is a charming mansion located on the outskirts of Liverpool, its rooms filled with Edwardian furniture and character figures. The Country Park is also home to a real working farm, a Victorian Walled Garden and a 500-acre nature park.
Location: Muirhead Ave E, Liverpool
Where to Stay in Liverpool for Sightseeing
If you're visiting the famous birthplace of the Beatles for the first time, the best place to stay is in the city center, near attractions such as the World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, and St. George's Hall. The waterfront, near the Albert Dock, is also a popular base, with Tate Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum, The Beatles Story Museum, restaurants, cafés, and shops. Below are some highly-rated hotels in these convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: Within walking distance of the Albert Dock, Hotel Indigo Liverpool has a funky, fun decor and colorful rooms themed around the city's cotton trading heritage. iPod docking stations and rainfall showers are in every room. In the heart of the city, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Liverpool resides in a heritage-listed building and is popular for its large, stylish rooms; spa; and contemporary take on Corinthian architecture. The new, sleek and stylish Pullman Liverpool, at Kings Dock on the waterfront, is steps from the Echo Arena, and its chic rooms have wonderful views of the city or docks.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Named for a famous football manager, The Shankly Hotel has sumptuous, elegant rooms with double whirlpool tubs and Bluetooth. It sits steps from the World Museum and the Walker Art Gallery. For those who like the option of self catering, the apartment-style Staybridge Suites is in a fantastic location on Kings Dock, opposite Albert Dock and the Echo Arena. Breakfast is included in the rates. Once the headquarters for the White Star Shipping Line, 30 James Street, Home of the Titanic is less than ten minutes on foot from the Albert Dock and has a luxury spa and elegant Titanic-themed rooms, most with a double whirlpool tub.
- Budget Hotels: A walk from shops, restaurants, and the Albert Dock, the contemporary Ibis Styles Liverpool Centre Dale Street, with small, bright rooms, offers excellent value for money, as does the Travelodge Liverpool Central Exchange Street Hotel, within walking distance to the Albert Dock. In a fantastic city center location, The Nadler Liverpool has smart, sparkling clean rooms with kitchenettes.
Birkenhead lies on the west side of the Mersey and is linked to Liverpool by tunnels and ferry services. Near the tunnel are the ruins of a 12th century Benedictine abbey with a chapterhouse, crypt and refectory. Birkenhead Park, the first publicly funded park in Britain, opened in 1847 and has three entrances with Gothic, Italianate and Norman architecture, as well as two lakes and an ornate bridge.
The Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead has an excellent collection of pictures and porcelain, together with material on the history of the town.
Location: Park Dr, Birkenhead
National Waterways Museum
Located on the banks of the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal, the National Waterways Museum includes numerous indoor displays, boat trips, historic Victorian-era buildings and the canal with its wonderful locks. Designed by Thomas Telford under the direction of William Jessop, the docks at Ellesmere Port were still in use as late as the 1950s. Visitors can explore their unique workings as well as the docks and warehouses, a working forge, stables and workers cottages.
Location: South Pier Road, Ellesmere Port
Port Sunlight Museum & Garden Village
Port Sunlight is of interest for its part in the history of British industrial development. The Lever brothers had made a considerable fortune from soap, so decided in 1888 to establish a model town for their workers on the estuary of the Mersey. Designed along similar lines to Cadbury's model village near Birmingham, the development included better schools along with training centers.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery has an excellent collection of Art Nouveau, 18th century furniture and Wedgewood porcelain, together with works by Turner and other English painters.
Location: King George's Dr, Port Sunlight, Wirral
One of the finest Tudor houses in England, Speke Hall (seven miles east of Liverpool in Hale) is a spectacular half-timbered house on the north banks of the Mersey. Built in 1530, it's notable for its great hall, beautiful plasterwork and fine furniture.
Location: The Walk, Speke, Hale
Widnes is on the Mersey 10 miles east of Liverpool and is home to a number of noted landmarks such as the Victoria Promenade and Catalyst, a fun science and discovery center. There are many hands-on, interactive exhibits at Catalyst, including a ride in a glass elevator to the observatory 100 ft above the Mersey.
Location: Mersey Rd, Widnes