Those who would know England must have been to Merseyside
MERSEYSIDE: THE ESTUARY OF THE RIVER MERSEY. A still-swinging music scene, working industrial port and harbor town, football-mad, friendly and proud: Liverpool is Britain’s “City of the Big Shoulders.” The vibrant, revitalized Mercyside complex of Albert Dock and the adjacent entertainment and shopping district known as Liverpool one form the centerpoint for one of Britain’s great urban visits.
Millions of Americans can trace their roots back to Liverpool—port of embarkation for a better life in the New World. Today, catch the ferry to Ireland or the Isle of Man. Radiating from Pier Head, with the emblematic Liver bird mounted overhead, the active waterfront and vibrant city center make Liverpool a perfect choice for a metro visit to a working class English city (of circa 500,000) very different from the cosmopolitan bling of London.
Take scouse, for instance. The Liverpudlian word describes the English accent or dialect unique to the city. Scouse also refers to the city’s own comestible, beloved by all, and on pub and café menus everywhere in town. Essentially, it’s a meat stew that was probably originally mutton, served as a staple ration to sailors and dockmen. Today, the potatoes, onion and carrots keep company with lamb or beef. Not surprisingly, proud Liverpool natives often receive the sobriquet “Scousers.” Do have a bowl.
Liverpool is an easy destination to do by direct train from London Euston in just over two hours. By car, from north or south, the motorway gets you to Liverpool on the M62 from the M6. Just follow the signs straight to the city center and Albert Dock.
A Liverpudlian Primer
The place to start is Albert Dock. In a sense, this is the historic and symbolic heart of the city. The huge complex of quays and warehouses once shipped the production of Lancashire’s mills to the world, and brought goods in return. The largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in Britain, Albert Dock is today a thriving complex of museums, shops and eateries.
The dock’s story is told at the Merseyside Maritime Museum. So, too, is how in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Liverpool saw millions of Irish, Scots and northern English pass its port immigrating to America, Canada and Australia. The darker side of Liverpool’s maritime past is told in the International Slavery Museum.
Perhaps the most popular attraction, though, is The Beatles Story. This is the major exhibition on the life, times and music of Liverpool’s most famous favorite sons. Climb into the yellow submarine and go along for the ride. Right next door is the Tourist Information Centre, the place to pick up maps of Albert Dock and the city—and find out what’s happening on the music scene. Catch the bus there for the Magical History Tour to the boyhood homes of the Fab Four, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. For those with enough time, and of a certain age, it really is a delight.
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There are also the acclaimed Tate Liverpool gallery, historic vessels afloat at the dock, hotels, restaurants and boutiques, as well. Then, it’s a short stroll to Pier Head, where at the Port of Liverpool you can catch the famous Mersey Ferry to Birkenhead and The Wirrall. You’ll not avoid hearing the 1960s song by Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Across the road, melding into the city center is Liverpool one. Completed in 2008, the 42-acre pedestrianized precinct is the largest open air shopping and leisure center in Britain. Cinema, adventure golf, dining and a plethora of familiar High Street stores vie for attention, with a steady stream of events through the year filling the attractive public spaces.
It’s just a few blocks to The Cavern Club, where the Beatles climbed to fame. Today, the Cavern Club remains a mecca for Beatles’ fans, and throughout the day and night local musicians play live Beatles’ covers. Expect to see a gaggle of folk in their 60s from around the world on their second pint. The neighborhood is still the epicenter of Liverpool’s thriving live music scene. For a more authentic experience, stop in at The Grapes just a few doors down, the pub where the Beatles themselves took their pints before and after gigs. you’ll find Eleanor Rigby sitting around the corner.
Liverpool is also home to two impressive cathedrals. Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, built between 1904 and 1978 is the largest cathedral in Britain. Built in the 1960s, Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral recognizes Liverpool as the most Catholic major city in England.
Room at the Inn
Location is everything in a broad, sprawling city like Liverpool, and again Albert Dock and Liverpool one are the place to be. Both Holiday Inn Express and Premier are great budget options at Albert Dock. The Liverpool Hilton is across the street; Jurys, Ibis and Hampton Inn are there as well.
Other Scouse Adventures
Liverpool is a football hotbed, with two legendary Premier League teams and legions of ardent supporters for either Liverpool or Everton. For serious soccer fans, the city has its own status. Take a behind the scenes tour of Anfeld Stadium www.liverpoolfc.com or Goodison Park www.evertonfc.com.
For the city’s own history and memorabilia, check out the Museum of Liverpool, conveniently at Pier Head. Or peruse the city’s outstanding paintings, sculpture and decorative art from the 13th century to the present at the Walker Art Gallery.
In addition to its legendary, active pop music scene, Merseyside offers world-class performing arts and concerts. In fact, Liverpool prides itself as a city of culture, with the largest collection of galleries and museums outside of London. Explore the full menu of Liverpool attractions, accommodation and events at www.visitliverpool.com.
Go Exploring the Region
After the bustle of Merseyside, from Liverpool it’s a short drive north across Lancashire to the Lake District. Or cross the Mersey and take the A55 across the North Wales coast to Conwy and Snowdonia. On a rail pass, you might head to Edinburgh and then work south to York.