Why go now? Because one of the highlights of the art calendar takes place for the first time outside London.
From Friday (19 October to 13 January 2008) the Turner Prize exhibition will be held at Tate Liverpool (0151 702 7400; www.tate.org.uk/liverpool ; open 10am-5.50pm daily except Monday) at the Albert Dock (1); admission is free, but book ahead for the Turner exhibition. And Liverpool has much more to celebrate: its “official” year of birth is 1207, when King John granted it city status. When the 800th anniversary celebrations are over, the city takes up the mantle of European Capital of Culture 2008 – an honour shared with Stavanger in Norway.
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Trains arrive from London Euston, Birmingham, Manchester and many other locations at Lime Street Station (2) (0845 748 4950; www.nationalrail.co.uk for times and fares). Liverpool John Lennon airport (0870 129 8484; www.liverpoolairport.com ) is eight miles south-east of the city; frequent buses connect the airport with Liverpool South Parkway station, four stops from Lime Street. The Airport 500 bus departs from outside the terminal for the city centre (including Lime St) every 20 to 30 minutes, fare £2. A taxi into the centre takes 15 to 20 minutes and costs around £11.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
The city centre is compact and easily manageable on foot. The main tourist office (3) is at 08 Place, 36-38 Whitechapel (0151 233 2008; www.visitliverpool.com ); it opens 9am-6pm from Monday to Saturday (from 10am on Tuesdays) and 11am-4pm on Sundays. There is also a tourist office at the airport. Public transport is operated by Merseytravel (0871 200 2233; www.merseytravel.gov.uk ); fare options include Saveaway, a one-day off-peak travel card valid on the buses, trains and ferries (from £2.10).
Recent times have seen much more choice in terms of innovative, well-located accommodation. Options include the stylish Hope Street Hotel (4), 40 Hope Street, (0151 709 3000; www.hopestreethotel.co.uk ), where a double costs £140, room only. The sophistication and reliability of Malmaison (5) has arrived at William Jessop Way (0151 229 5000; www.malmaison.com ); doubles from £99, room only. With an estimated 600,000 of the city’s annual visitors citing The Beatles as their main reason for coming, it’s not hard to guess who the brand new Hard Day’s Night Hotel (6) on North John Street (0151 236 1964; www.harddaysnighthotel.com ) is hoping to attract when it opens next February; doubles from £145, room only. For those on a tighter budget, the International Inn (7) at 4 South Hunter Street (0151 709 8135; www.internationalinn.co.uk ) offers dormitory accommodation from £15 per person excluding breakfast, as well as apartments with equipped kitchens.
TAKE A VIEW
Dominating the city’s skyline – and consequently a big help should you lose your sense of direction – is the Radio City Tower (8) (0151 472 6800; www.radiocity.co.uk ). Now home to Liverpool’s leading local radio station, the 452ft tower offers panoramas of the city, the Mersey, the Irish Sea, and, weather permitting, North Wales. Tours (£6) are offered on Saturday and Sunday at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.
TAKE A HIKE
For a good overview, start at the Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral (9). Walk along Hope Street to the Metropolitan (Catholic) Cathedral (10). Follow Mount Pleasant, then turn right on to Lime Street, passing St George’s Hall (11). Turn left on William Brown Street past The Walker (12) and adjacent Central Library, then take Dale Street. Pass the Town Hall (13) and continue down Water Street to the “Three Graces” – as the Liver Building (14), Cunard Building (15) and Port of Liverpool Building are known. Follow The Strand to Albert Dock (1) from where you can look back between the warehouses at your starting point, the Anglican Cathedral.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
Delifonseca (16) at 12 Stanley Street (0151 255 0808; www.delifonseca.co.uk ) is open 8am-9pm daily except Sundays. Assemble a gourmet picnic in the downstairs deli, or sit at one of the communal tables or in a leather booth upstairs, and tuck in to a classic sandwich or imaginative salad.
The big city-centre shopping venue is Metquarter (17) in Whitechapel (0151 224 2390;
www.metquarter.com ). It occupies the city’s former main post office and is packed with designer shops. If you find modern shopping centres to be lacking in soul, head for Quiggins (18) at 12-16 School Lane (0151 709 2462;
www.quiggins.com ), a three-storey emporium with vintage clothing, antiques, and a whole lot more to rummage through. Pedestrian shopping areas with boutiques, speciality shops and department stores include Church Street, Lord Street, Whitechapel and Bold Street. There are also a number of chic designer stores around Cavern Walks off Mathew Street – From Me To You (19) is the place for Beatles souvenirs.
Happening bars in the trendy Albert Dock (1) include Babycream (0151 702 5826; www.babycream.co.uk ) and the Pan American Club (0151 702 5840; www.panam-venue.co.uk ). Elsewhere in the city, a former Polish church dating from 1788 now houses Alma de Cuba (20) on Seel Street (0151 702 7394). The Cavern Club of |The Beatles’ early years was demolished long ago, but the current version (21) at 8-10 Mathew Street (0151 236 1965; www.cavernclub.org ) continues to be a big draw. On the same street is the Cavern Pub where many other pop groups began their careers between the Fifties and Seventies.
DINING WITH |THE LOCALS
The London Carriage Works (22) at 40 Hope Street (0151 705 2222; www.tlcw.co.uk ) offers classical French cooking with an international twist. A few doors down, 60 Hope Street (0151 707 6060; www.60hopestreet.com ) serves Modern British food. Located in a former Georgian merchant’s house, The Monro (23) at 92-94 Duke Street (0151 707 9933; www.themonro.com ) is probably the city’s best gastropub. Liverpool’s Chinatown is said to be the oldest in Europe, and has the biggest Chinese arch (24) outside mainland China. If you feel like reaching for the chopsticks, the New Capital (25) at 9 Nelson Street (0151 709 1427) is a good choice.
SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH
Choose between two magnificent cathedrals, or better still, visit both. Liverpool Cathedral (9) on St James Mount (0151 709 6271; www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk ) is the largest Anglican cathedral in Europe and the fifth-largest cathedral in the world. It is also home to the world’s biggest church organ. Nicknamed (with typical Scouse irreverence) “Paddy’s Wigwam”, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (10) in Mount Pleasant (0151 709 9222; www.liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk ) has a |striking modern exterior. It boasts the world’s largest stained-glass window, comprising some 25,000 pieces of coloured glass.
OUT TO BRUNCH
If you’re feeling the effects of an over-indulgent Saturday night, head for Korova (26), 39-41 Fleet Street (0151 709 7097; www.korova-liverpool.com ), a bar, club, and restaurant (the latter is open from 11am on Sundays). Order a “Korova Hangover Breakfast”, for £5.95.
Built in 1877 and known as “the national gallery of the north”, the Walker (27) on William Brown Street (0151 478 4199; www.thewalker.org.uk ) holds one of Europe’s best collections of fine art. Artists include Rembrandt and Van Dyck. It opens 10am-5pm daily; admission is free, as it is for all National Museums Liverpool venues.
The World Museum Liverpool (28) on William Brown Street (0151 478 4393: www.worldmuseumliverpool.org.uk ) features an aquarium, a World Cultures gallery, and a Bug House with models of giant insects. It is also free and is open 10am-5pm daily.
Inside the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) (29) at 88 Wood Street (0151 707 4450; www.fact.co.uk ) are free displays and exhibitions of film, video and “new media” – and three comfortable art-house cinemas. FACT is open 11am-11pm Monday to Saturday and noon-10.30pm Sunday.
The place to learn about Liverpool’s seafaring history and nautical heritage is the Merseyside Maritime Museum (MMM) in Albert Dock (1) (0151 478 4499; www.merseysidemaritimemuseum.org.uk ). The museum is free and open 10am-5pm every day. Liverpool was a major emigration point for America – and a leading port for the slave trade. That is the rationale behind the International Slavery Museum in Albert Dock (same contact details as MMM) which has just opened. It is open 10am-5pm daily and entry is free.
Cavern City Tours (0151 236 9091; www.caverncitytours.com ) operates a two-hour coach tour – sorry, “Magical Mystery Tour” covering the city’s best Beatles-related sites. It departs daily from Albert Dock (1) at 2.10pm and from the tourist office (3) at 2.30pm; £12.95. In the Britannia Pavilion at Albert Dock (1) “The Beatles Story” (0151 709 1963; www.beatlesstory.com ), is unmissable for Fab Four fans. The award-winning exhibition is open 10am-6pm daily and admission is £9.99.
TAKE A RIDE
Follow Gerry & The Pacemakers’ advice and take a ferry ’cross the Mersey. Regular departures daily from early morning to early evening connect Pier Head (30) with both Woodside and Seacombe. Prices are £1.40 single, £2.20 return. If you choose Seacombe, rather than taking the next ferry back, you could visit another new attraction, Spaceport (0151 330 1333; www.spaceport.org.uk ) and experience a virtual journey through space from Earth to the darkest corners of the galaxy. Special packages are offered including ferry and admission. The company (0151 330 1444; www.merseyferries.co.uk ) also offers River Explorer cruises.
ICING ON THE CAKE
In terms of the quantity of listed buildings (over 2,500), Liverpool is second only to London. In addition to the few mentioned above, there are numerous examples of wonderful architecture. For example, many rate St George’s Hall (11) on William Brown Street (0151 225 6909; www.liverpool.gov.uk ) the finest neo-classical building in Europe and one of the finest examples of Graeco-Roman-style architecture in the world. It opens 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, 1-7pm Sunday, admission free.
Or why not let your eyes admire a great Art Deco concert hall as your ears are treated to wonderful sounds? The Philharmonic Hall (31) on Hope Street (0151 210 2895; www.liverpoolphil.com ) is home to the celebrated Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, but also features a broad spectrum of musical treats.
Additional research by Alice Palmer