How To Spend 48 Hours In Liverpool, UK
Liverpool is a famous port city that played a big part in the Industrial Revolution. Liverpool acted as the gateway to all the raw materials (and unfortunately slaves) required by the factories of Manchester. The interdependence between the two cities led to the development of the first commercial railway line and the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, which were both revolutionary at that time.
Today, Liverpool has moved on from its maritime past but still celebrated by the rejuvenated Albert Dock and Pier Head. Liverpool also holds sway as one of the cultural capitals of the world by being the birthplace of The Beatles and Liverpool F.C. After spending four satisfying days in Manchester, we took the Northern Train to Liverpool mainly to tick-off another item in my bucket list – to live and breathe in the same air as “The Fab Four.”
Here’s how you can spend 48 hours in Liverpool (especially if you are a fan of The Beatles!):
Royal Albert Dock
We arrived at Lime Street Station in the afternoon and had a quick Italian lunch at Liverpool ONE. We then strolled to Royal Albert Dock, a complex of docks and warehouses built in 1846 initially to store precious cargoes and goods. After the second World War, the dock went into decline before the city decided to revitalize it into a cultural and lifestyle hub from the mid 1980’s. Today, Royal Albert Dock is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City hosting a number of cafes, museums and events.
We entered the dock to the sight of the former Dock Office, noticeable by its Doric columns. A remarkable bit about the buildings here is most of them are in their original state. They were built using cast iron, brick and stone without any wood to prevent fires from breaking out. The brickwork and foundation were structurally sound that no major repairs were needed prior to the docks’s reopening in 1984!
We decided to take a stroll along the dock as a post-lunch workout. We began by walking along the riverfront and when the wind got too cold, we sought shelter under the inward-facing warehouses of the quays. We saw museums related to Albert Dock’s and Liverpool’s history like Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum and The Beatles Story. After going round a full loop, we visited Tate Liverpool for a bit of culture.
Tate Liverpool is part of Tate which has amassed a huge collection of British and international modern art. This art gallery is linked with its more glamorous counterparts Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London. The museum is housed in a stretch of refurbished warehouses by a quay called the Colonnades. I wanted to visit Tate Liverpool on this trip because I found out one of my favorite artist’s works were on display.
“Roy Lichtenstein in Focus” on the fourth floor gathered the New Yorker’s art from the 1960’s – when pop art boomed – until the end of his career.
Like his contemporary Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein re-imagined comic strips, commercial advertising and consumer goods using his now signature Ben-day dots and lines. One of his most iconic works is Whaam! (acquired by Tate in 1963) which is a cartoon version of a fighter jet blowing up his enemy. I was also fortunate to peer into his later works he used synthetic materials on steel to produce stunning 3D landscapes.
We also checked out another gallery, this time a mix of art and photography.
I was particularly captured by L.S. Lowry’s 1955 painting “Industrial Landscape” portraying both Liverpool and Manchester in their heydays. Andreas Gursky’s “Chicago, Board of Trade II” was also interesting – at first glance it looks like another day at the stock exchange but upon closer look, we could see the chaos was generated from double exposing several sections of the image.
Tate Liverpool is not as grand as London’s art galleries but it does give a refreshing break from the monotonous brick and mortar buildings of Royal Albert Dock. While the museum has its own permanent collection, most of the exhibitions are revolving throughout the year so do check their website to see what’s on!
Read Also: The National Museum of Art, Osaka
Once we were done at Tate Liverpool, we crossed a set of bridges to Pier Head. This section of the riverfront has all kinds of interesting buildings and sculptures.
The most prominent structure by the water’s edge is Museum of Liverpool. This sail-shaped museum, a tribute to the city’s past, archives the history and culture of Liverpool. Behind the museum are “The Three Graces,” a trio of landmarks gracing the Liverpool skyline. While the Port of Liverpool and Cunard buildings are prestigious on their own right, the Royal Liver Building is known for having two Liver birds perched on top of their own clock towers.
Further along Pier Head is the Titanic Memorial. Although the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, it was actually owned by White Star Line which was founded in Liverpool. This memorial is dedicated to the 244 engineers of the company who perished on the ship on that fateful day. A recent addition to Pier Head is The Beatles Statue, donated by the Cavern Club in 2015. This sculpture was unveiled to commemorate the band’s last concert in Liverpool and I just had to join in the photo-op as the fifth Beatle!
The only thing that looks out of place at Pier Head are the “Superlambananas” sculpture. Designed by Japanese artist Taro Chiezo, these genetic aberration are made of the two most common cargos in the city docks – lambs and bananas. The first Superlambanana is located at Tithebarn Street and has since multiplied to over 125 scattered across Liverpool and Merseyside. We only found two out of four Superlambananas lounging around the waterfront!
Dinner – Fish & Chips at Lobster Pot
After a long day of travel and walking, we decided to take out a great British dish – fish and chips. We went to Lobster Pot since it was the nearest chip shop open for dinner. We went with a cod and a haddock and the portions are huge! The batter was okay to my standards (somehow Cor Blimey! back in Malaysia is much better) but the fish was fresh and not chewy. The little one simply went crazy over the somewhat limitless hand-cut fries!
The Beatles Story
We started off the morning with another trip to Royal Albert Dock and today was all about The Beatles.
The Beatles Story is the self-proclaimed “world’s largest permanent exhibition purely devoted to the lives, times, culture and music of The Beatles.” The gallery tells the story of John, Paul, George and Ringo from the band’s first formation all the way to John Lennon’s tragic death. Each room is a re-creation of the important moments of the band’s lives. Some galleries include paraphernalia like George Harrison’s first guitar to Sir George Martin’s original orchestral arrangement of “Yesterday.”
As a fan of The Beatles, I was really excited to learn about them not only as the biggest pop stars in the world but also human beings. I finally get to see and read on each members’ upbringing and how their music evolved throughout the years. One of my favorite (but sad) sections is Abbey Road Studios where the band recorded their penultimate album which happened to be the last album where all four Beatles participated.
As far as albums go, my personal favorite is Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The outrageous concept and multi-genre songs spurred on my interest into 60’s and 70’s rock and roll and an appreciation to music in general. The final gallery before we exited The Beatles Story is the poignant “White Room.” The room is a re-creation of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s room at Tittenhurst Park while the song “Imagine” plays ad infinitum.
The Beatles Story
Entrance fee: £18.00 (Adults), £10.00 (Children 5-5 years)
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Daily
Magical Mystery Tour
Now that we have a grasp on the history of the Fab Four, it is time to witness for ourselves the bits and pieces of Liverpool that shaped The Beatles into what they were.
At the end of the block from The Beatles Story is the ticket office and pick-up point for the Magical Mystery Tour. The two-hour tour takes fans to eight Beatle-related locations around Liverpool. It began raining when the bus rolled out to the first location and to show how Liverpool is a “music city,” our guide was Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Holly Johnson’s younger brother.
Our first stop was a peek at Ringo Starr’s childhood home on Madryn Street. The row of houses was nondescript, nobody would have figured the drummer of The Beatles used to grow up there. The bus then proceeded to take us along Penny Lane where the guide pointed out landmarks like the barbershop (“In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs…“) and a roundabout that used to be a bus terminal. We eventually stopped by at one corner of Penny Lane for a quick photo session.
We then dropped by George Harrison’s birthplace at No. 12 Arnold Grove which was also a project housing but now someone actually lives there. The rain finally let up when we arrived at Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army children’s home immortalized in “Strawberry Fields Forever.” John Lennon used to play at the gardens during his childhood and the red iron-wrought gates was the most memorable image for me on this tour.
Less than a mile away from Strawberry Field is John Lennon’s childhood home. His (and Paul McCartney’s) house are put under the National Trust, heritage conservation charity, that allows visits only by appointment. We could only see Lennon’s house from the bus since his home is in front of a main road but we were able to get down and have a closer look at McCartney’s place.
I find it amazing that all these culturally important buildings – when it comes to The Beatles – are preserved for generations to come. We then criss-crossed around John, Paul, George and Ringo’s former school and colleges before being dropped off at The Cavern Club – where it all began.
Magical Mystery Tour
Opening hours (Ticket Office): 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m, Daily except Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day
Tours depart regularly from 10:00 a.m.
The Cavern Club started off as a jazz club when it opened its doors 1957 but had to cater to increasingly popular Beat Music when the 60’s rolled in. Each member of The Beatles played gigs here in different bands before the first line-up consisting of John, Paul and George made their debut on 9 February 1961. By the time Brian Epstein, their first manager, saw them perform in November, they have become The Cavern Club’s signature act.
The Cavern Club is truly a cavern!
The entrance quickly led to two flights of stairs into the catacombs of rock and roll. The place was dark and dank save for the lights illuminating the walls, bar and stage. The walls were peppered with posters of luminaries that once played here from The Who to the Arctic Monkeys. The centerpiece of The Cavern Club is the stage – the cramped and confined stage where The Beatles strut out their stuff on the way to becoming worldwide superstars.
Just around the corner is Hard Day’s Night Hotel which is a Beatles-inspired boutique hotel. You can peer into the lobby with countless Beatles photographs and artwork or if you’re a huge fan, check-in at the Lennon Suite which comes with its own white piano!
Late Lunch – Wagamama
A whole day out and about with The Beatles have made us hungry! So we tried Wagamama, an Asian-inspired fast casual restaurant at Liverpool ONE. Our empty Malaysian tummies demanded rice so each of us ordered a rice bowl. I went with a Shiitake Donburi mixed with broccoli, shredded carots, chili, greens and a perfect amount of teriyaki sauce. Fresh, crunchy, wholesome and full of flavor!
Our final day in Liverpool is a bit more relaxed. We had late breakfast and went down for a bit of shopping.
Liverpool ONE is the city’s ultimate shopping experience – there’s all the high street and designer brands mixed together with fast fashion stores which were more up our alley. The missus spent most of her time at NEXT (getting clothes for the little one) and Cath Kidston (there are no stores in Malaysia) while I only forcibly went to Liverpool FC Store to get some merchandise for my friend.
I like how Liverpool ONE is designed unlike your typical shopping malls. Instead of looking like a citadel of consumerism, Liverpool ONE embraces the strip mall concept with restaurants and bars clustered into a few sections. A pedestrian walkway also cuts across the mall that directly connects it to Royal Albert Dock making it a seamless trip for visitors like us.
Lunch – Maggie May’s
Our last meal in Liverpool is as traditionally Liverpudlian as you can get.
Maggie May’s serves classic British dishes like Gammon Steak and Smoked Haddock but it is known for Liverpool’s “national” dish –
Lobscouse. Scouse is the heartiest stew I had ever eaten and it nearly cured me from the cold I was carrying for the past couple days. Scouse is a North Atlantic beef stew cooked with onion, potatoes and carrots served with crusty bread. It is also the blandest meal I have eaten only saved by the tanginess of the red cabbage.
If Scouse is not your thing, Bold Street is a haven for foodies as the street is littered with international fare and cafes. We also tried Elif which is a delectable Turkish BBQ restaurant – all good on a chilly April afternoon.
9:45 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Monday – Wednesday, Saturday); 9:45 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Thursday – Friday)
So, there you have it – a solid 48 hours in Liverpool! We pretty much did all we set out for (I did not visit Anfield; why would a Manchester City fan visit Anfield?!?) before hopping on the train back to London. Would you want to visit Liverpool? What’s your favorite thing to do in Liverpool?
Where To Stay In Liverpool
We booked a one-room serviced apartment at Liverpool City Centre by BridgeStreet for two nights. Liverpool ONE is right at our accommodation’s doorstep and Royal Albert Dock is just a 5-minute walk away. Although the layout of our place is a bit off, every room was spacious for the three of us. Breakfast is DIY where housekeeping will replenish it every day.