For most people, Liverpool is famous as the birthplace of the Beatles or the home to one of the most successful football teams in the world, Liverpool F.C. For me, for over half of my life, it was simply the place I called home. Born in this wonderfully energetic, ever evolving, exuberant city, one of my favourite things is sharing the sights and the stories that make this city such a magical place to visit. In this article, I’ll give you my local’s guide to the most popular things to do if in Liverpool City Centre. There is one exception – Anfield, because I couldn’t not include it. But I will give you info on how to get there from the city centre.
At the end, I’ve included a map of all the attractions listed in this article.
1. Royal Albert Dock
The best starting point for any visit to Liverpool is the Royal Albert dock. As well as being the UK’s largest collection of Grade I listed buildings, the location on the riverfront is beautiful. Opened in 1854, the Royal Albert dock does have a difficult past – it played a significant role in the British Slave Trade. However, regeneration has given the dock a brighter use. Brimming with some of Liverpool’s best museums, art galleries, cute boutique shops and independent bars and restaurants, you can visit by day and stay all night. Some of the cities best museums are located in the dock (details below).
2. Pier Head
The Royal Albert dock sits within the waterfront area known as the Pier Head. It’s a beautiful part of the city that has plenty of things to do. Simplest, you can take a river-front walk and enjoy the cafes and restaurants. Otherwise, you can visit the Museum of Liverpool, take the popular Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey or see the Three Graces, which includes the famous Liver Building – details on each of these attractions below. In short, don’t miss the Pier Head.
3. The Liver Building
The Royal Liver Building is Liverpool’s most iconic sight. From TV programs and films to postcards and instagram pics, if you’ve seen images of Liverpool, you’ve almost certainly seen the Liver Building.
Standing sentinel on the edge of the River Mersey in the Pier Head, the Liver Building is a Grade I Listed Building. It opened in 1911 and, at 98.2 metres tall (322 ft) it was the first skyscraper in Europe. Impressive, huh? The most famous part of the building is the two Liver birds sitting on top. Look closer and you’ll notice that one faces the water and the other faces the city. According to legend, the two birds are positioned to protect over the most essential aspects of Liverpool – the city and the sea. There is a viewing floor inside the Liver Building with 360 panoramas. Book here: Royal Liver Building website.
How do you pronounce ‘Liver Building’? – it’s ‘lie-ver’, not ‘liver’ as in ‘Liverpool’. Don’t worry – most visitors get that wrong.
4. The Three Graces
The Three Graces refers to three buildings from the early 1900s that stand strong on the riverfront and offer an impressive aspect to the city’s skyline. The buildings making up the Three Graces are The Port of Liverpool Building, The Liver Building and The Cunard Building. Built in the gothic style, there’s no doubting their grace, majesty and magnificence as architectural feats. They’re an especially great photo opportunity when you see them in panorama from the ferry on the river Mersey. Otherwise, get up close as you stroll around the Pier Head.
5. Beatles Statue
While you’re at the Pier Head, you’re likely to see the first hint that Liverpool is home to the Beatles – a life-size statue of the Beatles, located opposite the Mersey Ferries Building. It looks like the fab-four are taking a stroll to the water’s edge. The statue is relatively recent, donated in 2015 by the Cavern Club. Good luck trying to get a picture without a fifth, sixth or even seventh ‘Beatle’ photobombing in the background.
6. Ferry Cross the Mersey
Taking the ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ is such an iconic thing to do in Liverpool that there is a song about it (by Gerry and The pacemakers). What used to be a commuter ferry has been expanded into a tourist attraction. The 50-minute river cruise on the brightly coloured ferry gives you a full waterfront tour with narration. Visitor info: Tours leave hourly. Book ferry tickets ahead of time or check the schedule on Mersey Ferries.
7. Museum of Liverpool
Liverpool has some of the most visited Museums outside London and there are many to choose from but if you have time for only one, make it the Museum of Liverpool. Located in the Pier Head, the museum is an immersive walk through the history and culture of the city. From the tenemant houses to the ‘pop culture’ sight of ladies wearing hair curlers in the city centre (yes, it’s a thing), you’ll understand the city a bit better. (Though perhaps not the curlers, even I don’t really get that). Visitor info: Closed Mondays. Free entry.
Want more museums? The World Museum, Tate Liverpool and Merseyside Maritime Museum are a few of my other favourite museums in the city centre. I’ll be writing a more complete guide to Liverpool’s museums very soon.
8. St George’s Hall
St George’s Hall is a wonderfully imposing Grade I listed neo-classical building that sits opposite the equally grand Lime Street Train Station in the heart of the city. It started life as an infirmary but during the Victorian era, with the city lacking a large concert venue, the building was repurposed to include a concert hall, a ballroom, and, a little at odds, law courts and prison cells. Today, the hall is event space and museum. You can take a guided tour through the hall. Otherwise, the grand façade with it’s thick columns, statues and intricate carvings are enough of a attraction.
Like history? Check out my guide to: 16 Great Things To Do In Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
9. The Beatles Story
Even if you’re not caught up in Beatlesmania, there are some fun Beatles-themed activities in Liverpool that are still worth a look. And The Beatles Story, a museum of memorabilia, is probably at the top of the list in terms of popularity. It takes around an hour to visit The Beatles Story and you can book tickets in advance.
Insider tip: personally, I found The Beatles Story over-priced and underwhelming, despite it being so popular. Unless you’re a super-fan, you might have more fun in The Cavern or on the Beatles Bus tour (details below).
10. British Music Experience
If you want more musical bang for your buck, skip The Beatles Story and head to the British Music Experience. With over 600 musical artefacts, the museum gives you the ‘ultimate history of British rock and pop’. It’s the UK’s national museum of music and includes items from The Beatles, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Oasis and Adele.
11. Beatles Tour Bus
If you are in Liverpool to do some Beatles sightseeing, the Beatles Tour Bus is a great way to spend a few hours. The route takes 1.5 hours and will drive you past some of the most famous Beatles locations in Liverpool including John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes and Penny Lane. There is also a photo stop at Strawberry Fields. Most of these places are in Liverpool’s suburbs so the bus is a great way to see them. You get some great commentary and music along the route as well as a bit of a tour of the city centre. Book here: Liverpool City and Beatles Bus.
12. Liverpool City Sightseeing Bus
Prefer to take one of the regular City Sightseeing buses? You can either take a 50-minute tour of the city or use it as a hop-on-hop-off bus to explore Liverpool’s main attractions including the cathedrals, Royal Albert Dock, Pier Head and the Philharmonic Dining Rooms (one of my favourite stops). Although the city is relatively compact, the bus is a great option if you don’t have good walking legs.
Visitor info: You can buy tickets for the bus here: City Sights Liverpool Tour Bus. The bus ticket includes a book of vouchers so it’s worth taking the bus at the beginning of your trip.
13. Mathew Street
Your visit to Liverpool isn’t complete until you take a walk down famous Mathew Street. Yes, it’s pretty touristy and it can get loud and busy but that’s part of the fun of Mathew Street. There are are a few don’t miss sights on Mathew Street even if you don’t fancy the bars:
- The Liverpool Wall of Fame: Bricks etched with the names of Liverpool bands who’ve hit number 1 in the music charts.
- Statue of Cilla Black, a famous singer and TV personality from Liverpool.
- Statue and plaque of “Four Lads Who Shook the World”, a Beatles tribute sculpture.
Above all, Mathew Street is best know as the location of The Cavern – the basement bar where the Beatles used to perform.
14. The Cavern Club
Open day and night, The Cavern is a great spot for a beer, a bit of live music and unbeatable atmosphere. Many people are surprised at how small the basement is – the stage is tiny. And because of the size, I recommend visiting in the middle of the week in the daytime. Unless you like your bars crammed, in which case, head there on a Saturday night in summer!
Fun fact: The original cavern closed in the 1970s during work on the underground train system. It moved a few doors down, which is where it has remained. And, to you and I, it looks the same, covering around 70% of the original club’s footprint and is within the same block of basement buildings. I tell you this because you can see the original location – wander a few doors down from The Cavern and there is a plaque tucked away in a doorway, that most tourists miss.
Visiting info: There is a £5 cover charge to enter. You can find out more on The Cavern Club website. Don’t get confused with the Cavern Pub across the road. It’s a great pub and there’s no cover charge but it’s not THE Cavern.
15. Radio City Tower – St Johns Beacon
No matter where you are in the city, you can almost always see Radio City Tower. Officially, it’s called St John’s Beacon but the locals call still call it Radio City Tower, so named after the local radio station, Radio City which broadcasts from there. You can take a tour inside the tower, which on a clear day can include views of The Wirral, North Wales, Blackpool and Lancashire. If it’s really clear, you might even see Snowdonia. Book at: St Johns Beacon website.
16. Anfield Stadium, Liverpool F.C.
Football fans will have Anfield, the home stadium of Liverpool Football Club, at the top of their list of things to do in Liverpool. It’s a few miles out of the city centre, but easy to reach by bus. There are a range of stadium tours you can take – either a standard tour of Anfield or a fuller range on the Liverpool FC Stadium Tours website.
How to get to Anfield from Liverpool City Centre: Uber or taxi cost around £7-£10 each way. By bus, take number 17 bus from Queen’s Square. Buses leave every 10 minutes and costs £2 for a single ticket. For more travel info: Liverpool FC.
17. Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral is nothing short of breath-taking. As the longest cathedral in the world and the 5th biggest (by volume), you can start to see why. Inside, the tall vaulted ceilings will have you craning your neck in awe. It took an awfully long time to build – from 1901 to 1978 – but I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth the time.
Visitor info: The cathedral has a Tower Experience which will give you views of the city from the tallest Cathedral in the UK. Tickets costs £6. The Cathedral is also used as an event space so you can often find art installations inside – check what’s on before you visit. Find out more: Liverpool Cathedral.
On route: if you’re walking from the riverfront towards the cathedrals, you’ll pass through Liverpool One – the city’s main shopping Street.
18. Paddy’s Wigwam – Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
Stand with Liverpool Cathedral behind you, peer down Hope Street, and you’ll see Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s known to the locals as Paddy’s Wigwam thanks to the circular shape. It’s a very modern structure that hails from the 1960s and offers a wonderful contrast to the old, traditional style of Liverpool Cathedral. If you only have time (or heart) to go inside one cathedral, make it the Metropolitan. Why? There is a circle of stained glass windows set up high that cycles through the colours of the rainbow and sends shafts of light around the interior.
Nearby: Visit Hope Street for a wonderful selection of restaurants and bars.
19. The Philharmonic Dining Rooms
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms is on my itinerary every time I take friends around Liverpool. There are a few reasons for that, most notable being that ‘The Phil’ (as its locally know) is an old Victorian gin palace that oozes glamour. Insider, it’s a warren of nooks as well as a grand opulent dining room. It’s no surprise The Phil has been named the most ornate pub in England more than once.
But that’s not the only ‘attraction’. The men’s toilets are Grade I listed on account of them being a well preserved example of a Victorian pisser. Nope, I’m not kidding. And yes, you can visit (even the ladies). Just get a gentleman or bar person to check the toilet is empty before you go inside. Warning: it’s not the most pleasant smell so don’t go mid-meal.
20. Bold Street
My best tip (and place) for restaurants in Liverpool is Bold Street. This pedestrianised road is packed with independent cafes and restaurants with new ones popping up all the time. Food here gets pretty international with flavours from India (Mowgli), Turkey (Elif), Vietnam (Pho), and Italian pizza (Rudy’s). Those are just some of my personal favourites. There are plenty more to choose from. Bold Street has lots of outdoor dining, making it a popular spot in summer. It does get busy so book ahead.
Tip: while there are lots of restaurants on Bold Street, it’s pretty thin for bars. Head to nearby Duke Street for drinks. Baltic Triangle is also a great option for bars and restaurants, popular with the creative crowd.
21. St Luke’s Bombed Out Church
St Luke’s is the most interesting church in Liverpool. Located at the top of Bold Street, St Luke’s was the casualty of World War II bombing in the city. What’s remarkable about it is that the exterior walls of the church remained standing while the rest of the church was destroyed. The church was left ‘bombed out’, which makes for some pretty interesting views inside. The church features regular events from beer festivals to plays, and hosts a beer garden in warm weather. Find out more: St Luke’s Bombed Out Church.
Don’t miss: the ‘All Together Now’ sculpture in the gardens. It depicts the real event where fighting ceased during WWI for the soldiers to play a game of football together.
I present a mission – see how many Superlambanana you can spot in Liverpool. Super-what? Superlambanana are colourful lamb-banana-esque sculptures often in bright colours and patterns that have been placed in the city. The original superlambanana was a 5.2 metres (17 feet) yellow sculpture by a Japanese artist. The superlambanana have bred – there are 125 (smaller) replicas throughout Liverpool and the Merseyside region. They move around the city (hopefully not on their own!). Seeing how many you can find is a great game with the kids.
Map of Things To Do in Liverpool
That’s my guide to the top things to do in Liverpool city centre. Leave a comment below if you have any questions or tips.
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