I’ve visited 62 countries around the world yet I hadn’t managed to visit Liverpool, a mere 2 hours train ride from my London home. Until last weekend! Finally!
What.A.City. I have always said that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the UK other than London – now then Liverpool, I could live in you! I don’t know if it’s my recent lifestyle change (becoming tee total), rapidly approaching the big 4-0 or just simply tapping into creations of the so called millennials but Liverpool suits me down to the ground. Street food galore, war memorials, modern art, beaches, record shops, hidden tunnels, the nicest people and well, it’s a lot less busy than London.
The city is famous for being home to The Beatles, which has been a draw for many visitors. Despite me working in the music industry, The Beatles history wasn’t part of our itinerary for the weekend, so here is my alternative guide to a fun packed weekend in Liverpool:
First stop was as soon as we stepped off the train at Lime Street. A short walk down to St Luke’s Church which is locally known as the Bombed Out Church. Found at the top of Bold Street, St Luke’s was bombed during the Blitz in 1941. The walls of the church have since been left standing in memorial to the people who lived and died during the Blitz. Regular events are held at the church – concerts, weddings, cinema screenings. If I lived closer I would definitely be a regular.
Of course the heavens decided to open whilst we were visiting an outdoor space so we ran to take shelter in the nearest cafe, 81 Renshaw. A small cafe with beautiful wooden furniture, music posters adorn the wall, a small selection of nicely selected craft beers on tap, plenty of brews, records to sift through and a fully stocked record store in the basement.
On our way to our hotel we had a quick stop off at Albert Dock to do a reccy of what there is to see & do. I had wanted to go on the Dazzle Ferry that Sir Peter Blake had designed (the genius behind St Peppers album cover, and a local to where I live). Alas, it was rough out on the Mersey and all ferries were cancelled over the weekend, so it was good to check before planning the rest of our itinerary. A quick stop for a snack at one of the food stall huts and off to check in at our boutique hotel on Chapel Street – Hotel Indigo. It’s just a short walk from the docks, and equally a short walk to Moorfields Station. The decor is bold, has a theme based on the local cotton trade, beds are very comfortable, and the view from our room in the morning was a bonus!
Next up was a short journey out to Crosby Beach, a 17 minute train ride from Moorfields to Blundellsands & Crosby station. Trains are regular (final destination is Stockport), the Merseyside Rail website is helpful to plan your journey. Crosby Beach is then a short walk from the train station – just head straight for the sea. As you come over the brow of the hill and your eyes start to adjust you will start to spot the life size statues of Antony Gormley which stretch along 3kms of the beach and up to 1km out to sea. If the tide is coming in, it looks like people are just standing in the sea about to be submerged. It can be quite a terrifying moment until you remember they aren’t human and they are made of iron. If you walk along the beach to your right, when you get to the end of the installation (where the ramp for the lifeguard vehicle is), head directly inland and this will take you to Hall Station for the train back to the city centre. Saves you having to walk back down to Blundellsands & Crosby station.
Dinner time! Liverpool is divided into quarters, we headed out to the Baltic Triangle. First stop along the way was at the new(ish) street art installation by Paul Curtis on Jamaica Street. Form an orderly queue and have your picture taken with the Liver Bird Wings, an Instagram must. Make sure you check out the John D’oh art next to it – brilliant!
Our final destination for the day was the Baltic Market – a covered street food market situated at Cairns Brewery. Long wooden benches, a well stocked bar, more street art works from Paul Curtis and a DJ. Despite all of the wonderful choices my sole purpose for my dinner was to try the halloumi fries from Hafla Hafla and then finally sample (eat every single last bit) a bubblewrap waffle from The Midnight Delivery. I spotted such a phenomenon at the popup shop in Chinatown Bubblewrap, except it would seem everyone in London has spotted it too and the queues go on for miles. This is why I love Liverpool, hipster offerings, good crowds but without the long queues. Mind you the students weren’t back yet…. maybe the queue situ will change then…? Despite feeling like I may have given myself diabetes by eating majority of the bubblewrap waffle all by myself – it was the best dessert ever and well worth the hype!
A slower day today, whilst the hotel offers breakfast I had explored local brunch options. Barley & Beans came to my attention as they also make bubblewrap waffle’s but also, amazing freakshakes. THIS is the ultimate drink, cake, shake, all in one – best shared I reckon! I’m yet to try one, desperately wanted one just to instagram, they are a pure work of art! Brunch was delicious, and a treat of M&M’s in a shot glass with your tea or coffee is a unique bonus. Despite it being on what felt like a quiet street, it is very popular – get there early to bag a table (or pre-book).
Fully fuelled, a brisk walk (with slight indigestion), our next stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral. We passed the Catholic cathedral by accident to be honest – what an amazing find though! The architecture of the building wouldn’t look a miss amongst some of the ex-Soviet countries I’ve visited and the inside decor was a complete surprise. A fluorescent interior with the most amazing stained glass funnel in the centre was just stunning.
For something a little bit off the traditional tourist trail, we walked over to the University area to visit Williamson Tunnels. Early 19th century, Joseph Williamson acquired some land which he built houses on and also created a network of tunnels, for what reason, it is still unknown. Not having any children to pass the projects down too, historians have tried to piece together the detail. It was known that Williamson was wealthy and also eccentric. The most plausible theory is that he was simply creating jobs for the poor. After his death the tunnels became landfill sites until 1995 when surveys and excavations began. Two of the main tunnels that have been cleared, but also still being worked on are open to the public for guided tours. The history and how they are piecing together the information that they are gathering is fascinating. Just simply, for me, the thought that there are many more undiscovered tunnels lying below what is now student accommodation is quite exciting. Again, if only I lived closer, I would definitely be volunteering to help dig for discoveries.
A short taxi ride back down to the docks the next stop was the TATE gallery. A quick pit stop at the Tate Cafe for a cuppa before we headed to the top floor for the current exhibition that was on. For the second time in the weekend, the moment we stepped outside of the TATE the heavens opened again and the rain belted down. The walkway round the docks is covered and provides a good shelter at such times. We took the opportunity to take shelter in the London bus that doubles as a cafe just opposite the Tate. A great fish finger butty to complete our tour of Liverpool.
Whilst not doing a Beatles tour over the weekend we did come across the (very tall) statue of the Fab Four down by the docks…..
One final bit of advice – it may sound silly to some, but personally I’m so used to paying for everything by contactless card in London that I rarely have cash on me. A lot of the places we visited were cash only so if like me, it’ll help to remember to get some cash out before you arrive.