There really is nowhere like Liverpool. I’m almost certainly a little biased in claiming so (I grew up there and now live nearby), but as this year’s Eurovision celebrations have shown, this maritime city has a spirit that’s totally idiosyncratic. No wonder the saying goes ‘Scouse not English’.
Glossy Eurovision promo videos did a pretty good job of showing off the city’s greatest hits, from the football clubs to the Beatles Story and the two cathedrals – but away from the classic tourist trail, you’ll find brilliant food, unique architecture and a thriving cultural scene.
Still, I firmly believe that every trip to Liverpool should start at the iconic waterfront. Once a hotspot for underage drinkers with MySpace fringes, the city’s Pier Head got spruced up in 2008, when Liverpool was crowned European Capital of Culture.
These days, it’s a striking mix of old and new: the sleek lines of the Museum of Liverpool standing out against the Three Graces, the breathtaking trio of buildings harking back to the city’s shipping heyday.
Most famous is the Liver Building, watched over by the liver birds, two 18ft copper renderings of the city’s mascot (Scouse legend has it that the male bird is looking back into the city to scope out whether the pubs are open yet).
You’ll get an unrivalled view of them (and an excellent photo opp) at Goodness Gracious, the rooftop terrace at afternoon tea spot Oh Me Oh My. While you’re down by the Mersey, drop in at Open Eye Gallery, a tiny arts space that reliably punches above its weight with exhibitions.
As part of the Eurovision celebrations, it’s currently hosting Home: Perspectives, a showcase of contemporary Ukrainian photography.
The Albert Dock is a short stroll away, where you can pay homage to the very spot where Alison Hammond accidentally pushed an unsuspecting man off the This Morning weather map and into the water during an iconic live TV segment, and enjoy Middle Eastern-inspired sharing plates at Maray. Dressed with punchy chermoula and harissa, their ‘disco’ cauliflower is a vegan dream, but I’m reliably informed that the fried chicken is pretty good too.
If you’d prefer Catalan tapas, you’ll find Lunyalita, baby sister to much-loved deli-slash-restaurant Lunya, a few units along.
Follow the river further south and you’ll reach the Baltic Triangle. Once a bunch of unloved warehouses, the area emerged as Liverpool’s creative district after a major regeneration project.
En route, the brickwork buildings have been brightened up with street art; the pair of liver bird wings on Jamaica Street by local artist Paul Curtis has fast become one of the city’s most Instagrammed spots.
The Baltic Market was the first venue to bring street food to the city when it opened in 2017, and you’ll still find an array of Merseyside’s best independent traders here. Hafla Hafla’s halloumi fries are Baltic legend (if you like the look of what they do, you’ll find an extended menu at their restaurant on Lark Lane), while La Bistroteca, a new venture from Maray’s former head chef Livia Alarcon, has just joined the line-up.
Nearby Camp & Furnace is a cavernous space that put on an enjoyably chaotic line-up of events, ranging from Taylor Swift nights (fancy dress encouraged) to pop culture quizzes, from Partridge to Peep Show.
For a caffeine hit, head up Bold Street. The always buzzing Bold Street Coffee serves up seriously generous iced lattes and prides itself on its filled toasted brioche buns, while Leaf is practically a Merseyside institution. This laidback, catch-all venue boasts an incredible tea list and holds open mic nights, life drawing and offline singles events from Bored of Dating Apps.
At the top of the road is St Luke’s, known as ‘the bombed out church’. Bombed by the Luftwaffe during World War II, only the shell of the church itself remains. As well as serving as a failsafe landmark for calling a taxi at the end of a night out, it’s now host to an outdoor bar and a seasonal pop-up cinema.
If you fancy venturing out of the city centre, make a beeline for the aforementioned Lark Lane, a leafy street with a villagey feel that’s home to a high density of brilliant pubs, bars and restaurants.
It’s just moments from the gorgeous Sefton Park and its Victorian Palm House, featuring a botanical collection that will give you serious house plant inspiration (or envy).
As for further afield? As a, erm, dyed in the wool ‘wool’ (a disparaging Scouse term for those who hail from the areas around Liverpool, FYI) it’d be remiss for me not to shout out the Wirral, the peninsula that you’ll see from across from Pier Head. Catch the ferry over if you fancy living out your Gerry & The Pacemakers dreams (yes, as I would tell tourists during one summer stint working at the terminal, they do play the song – several times) or hop on a Merseyrail train to West Kirby.
Once an old-fashioned seaside resort, this coastal town is still seriously picturesque, thanks to its views over Wales and its marine lake. An optical illusion means that the walkway across the lake looks almost invisible from the prom, so the weekend strollers look almost like they’re floating on the sea.
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