A thriving port, a party city, and a cultural phenomenon, modern Liverpool buzzes with cultural energy and influences from all over the world.
Recent years have seen the city become England's second most important art hub, after the opening of the Tate Liverpool, while sporting attractions like the Grand National and Liverpool FC attract tens of thousands of fans.
Days in Liverpool can be filled with museums, galleries and, let's face it, Beatles tours, while in the evenings, the city center is a hive of parties, gigs, and shows.
Not many cities in the world gave rise to their own "sound", but Liverpool did, and in the 1960s it dominated global pop. The Beatles were the trailblazers, and you can tour their childhood homes, schools, and gig venues. You can also check out the ancestors of the Fab Four at great events like September's Liverpool Psych Fest.
These days, Liverpool is as famous for its visual arts as its music. That's mainly thanks to the superb Tate Liverpool, which has been hosting world-famous artists since 1988. But don't miss the Walker Art Gallery, where the collection is just as impressive.
Liverpool was once one of the world's riches cities (partly due to its place in the international slave trade). That history is reflected in the exquisite Georgian Quarter. But that's just one of many architectural attractions, with highlights including the beautifully regenerated Albert Dock, and the striking Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
Liverpool is synonymous with sport, at least for soccer fans. For decades, Liverpool FC dominated the European game, and they are on the rise again. Every couple of weeks, Anfield is full of the most passionate fans in England. But if that's not for you, Aintree Racecourse hosts the Grand National horse race every April, and the area around Liverpool regularly hosts golf's Open Championship.
Young people in northwest England flock to Liverpool at the weekend (and most weeknights) for one thing: it's huge range of bars, gig venues, and nightclubs. Clubs like Mansion pump out tunes all night long, while August's Creamfields Festival is the UK's premier open air dance music event.
An audition held on the upper deck of a Liverpool bus wasn't enough to change the musical landscape of the entire planet, but it did impress John Lennon enough to ask George Harrison to join his band with Paul McCartney. Of course, with the later addition of Ringo Starr, that band would eventually become a global phenomenon that sold more than 800 million records. That's a mere snippet of the magical history tour provided by the award-winning Beatles Story, the world's largest permanent exhibition for everything Fab Four. George's first guitar (a $3 Egmond valued at $800,000), John's iconic granny glasses, the era-defining suits the band wore for the Sgt. Pepper photo shoot, the gates to Liverpool's Strawberry Fields children's home, as well as replicas of the Cavern Club and Abbey Road studios are among the many highlights.
Curiously opening in 1854 to house both the courts and the cultural arts, the imposing St. George's Hall is a magnificent example of neoclassical architecture in the heart of Liverpool. With its vast labyrinth of nooks and crannies, to a cavernous basement that once served as a jail for the condemned, to concert halls where Charles Dickens once read from his latest work, this vastly ornate hall is steeped in Liverpudlian history. Loved for centuries for its vaulted ceilings, Minton-tiled floors and massive pipe organ, St. George's is a popular film location open to the public for events and exhibitions.
Dominating Liverpool's skyline, Britain's largest and most-photographed church is a treasure trove of superlatives. The world's largest Anglican church boasts the world's highest and heaviest peal of bells. With 10,267 pipes contained in two chambers, its magnificent organ is the largest in the UK, and its Gothic arches are the world's highest and widest. Artwork from five Royal Academicians, almost 20,000 square feet of stained glass, and panoramic views atop a church tower rising 500 feet over sea level make any excursion here an awe-inspiring experience.
For almost 150 years the Walker Art Gallery has exhibited one of the largest art collections in England, including Pre-Raphaelite works by Rossetti and Millais and Impressionism from Monet and Degas, along with Baroque-period masterpieces from Rubens, Poussin, and Rembrandt. Family-friendly, the gallery offers a Big Art for Little Artists program that introduces children under age eight to the collection.
Located on the fabled Albert Dock, Tate Liverpool is home to the most extensive collection of modern art outside England's capitol. Special exhibitions in recent years have included retrospectives of the work of Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol, while the scope of the Tate Collection embraces all media and encompasses both British and international modern and contemporary art.
If you want to trace the lives of the Beatles or take a tour of the docks, summer is definitely the time to do so. Between early June and late August, Liverpool's weather should be fine for sightseeing, but take a raincoat just in case. Spring is often wet, but it's a good time to enjoy the museums and galleries without peak season crowds.
Liverpool has its own airport (named after John Lennon) but most visitors from North America will touch down at Manchester instead. To get from there to central Liverpool, catch a Northern Rail service to Liverpool Lime Street, which takes less than 30 minutes. Expect taxis to cost around £50.
Liverpool Lime Street is well connected to London and Manchester, with at least two trains every hour during the day. The journey from London can take as little as two hours, but times vary depending on which ticket you buy, so be careful if you are in a hurry. Lime Street is centrally located, within walking distance of the docks and downtown hotels.
Those driving from London will need to take the M1 motorway to Rugby (Junction 19) and change to the M6, before leaving the M6 at Warrington (Junction 21A) and taking the M62 into town. The M62 runs straight from central Manchester, but if you are driving from Manchester Airport, take the M56 and then the M6 (Junction 9) towards Liverpool.
Liverpool is served by both Megabus and National Express buses, providing an affordable link to major cities like London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and Glasgow. Buses terminate at the Liverpool ONE Bus Station, which is directly opposite the Albert Dock.
The best hotels for sightseers in Liverpool are probably near the docks, where good options include the Crowne Plaza and the Mercure. However, the Hard Days Night Hotel offers a quirky, Beatles-inspired accommodation experience and may be more fun, while the Embassie offers cheaper hostel-style rooms.
The Docks and Central Liverpool - Liverpool has been a major port for centuries, and it's hard to imagine the city without its docks. These days, they have been reinvented as a cultural hub where you'll find the Tate Liverpool, the Beatles Experience, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, and the International Slavery Museum.
The Georgian Quarter - when Liverpool shipped goods around the world, much of the wealth ended up in the Georgian Quarter, a gorgeous neighborhood of elegant houses and churches. It's also a gourmet dining center due to eateries like the London Carriage Works, and the home of the Liverpool Philharmonic, the city's finest classical music venue.
Northern Liverpool - north of the docks and the city center you'll find both of Liverpool's football clubs, Everton and Liverpool FC, as well as cultural gems like the stunning statues by Antony Gormley on Waterloo beach.
Liverpool has a reliable subway and overground rail network called Merseyrail, which serves the suburbs fairly well. Just head to Liverpool Central station and you'll find your way to outlying destinations (unlimited day tickets cost £5.10). However, the city center is easy to walk around and parking is fairly easy to find, so tourists don't need to rely on public transportation.
Taxis are a handy way to get around Merseyside. For most of the day, standard rates of £2.20 for the meter drop, then around £1.40 per mile should apply. Uber offers an even cheaper service, charging a meter drop of £1 then £1.10 per mile for the UberX vehicles.
Car rental branches in Liverpool city center include Thrifty, Sixt, and Europcar and rates can be as little as £10 a day. If you have access to hotel parking space, having your own car will make it much easier to get around, and see day-trip destinations like Manchester or Chester, so it's well worth the expense.
Liverpool has no shortage of mall-style shopping opportunities. St John's Shopping Center at the heart of town is the place to go for chain stores and boutiques. Liverpool ONE is another great city center place to shop, as is Metquarter, which specializes in upmarket brands like Jo Malone and Armani.
You'll find supermarkets all over Liverpool, along with reasonable grocery prices. Some of the best options include Sainsbury's, Lidl, Tesco, and Marks & Spencer, where you can expect a gallon of milk to cost around £3.45 and 12 eggs about £1.90.
Liverpool's dining scene has blossomed in line with its cultural attractions, and there aren't many better places to eat in northwest England. If you want gourmet French or traditional British food, try the superb Art School Restaurant, and the confusingly named London Carriage Works. The best restaurant near the docks is Miller & Carter, while the city's finest curries can be found at Rumi by Bukhara, which mixes wholesome Indian dishes and homemade ice cream. Prices vary. Expect a curry to come to around £15 per head, or a gourmet meal in the Georgian Quarter to cost upwards of £30 per person.