Beyond Manchester: Our tips for a top Liverpool city break

The Liverpool skyline

Liverpool is a city you might think you know. After all, it occupies a massive place in our collective hearts with a historic, sporting and musical heritage known around the world. But despite its oversized role in popular culture, the city is still full of surprises, with something to confound or delight on every corner. And its compact size makes it a breeze to explore.

In its Victorian heyday, Liverpool handled 40 per cent of the world’s commerce and was the largest emigration port in the world. Today it’s a thriving modern city with a unique character and fascinating history, much of which is brought to life via a series of world class museums and striking public art, including more sculptures than anywhere else in the UK outside London.

The Three Graces, Liverpool

The Three Graces, Liverpool

But what gives Liverpool its special warm character is its people. Scousers are notoriously good fun and have always taken enormous pride in their city. With this in mind, we’ve quizzed two of our Liverpool-loving staff members on their top tips – one a born and bred Liverpudlian – who’ve approached the city from different angles. Here’s their view on why Liverpool makes one of the best city breaks on the planet.

Dave Wilding

Dave Wilding

Liverpool for first timers

Dave Wilding spends his time flying around the world looking after our global IT systems. He spends more time in the air than our crews. On a recent and rare weekend off, he shot up to Liverpool to take in all the tourist sights for the first time:

Albert Docks, Liverpool

Albert Docks, Liverpool. Photo by Dave Wilding

“As a first-time visitor, you really need to base yourself around Albert Dock. It’s a great introduction to the city. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs abound, and the same complex also houses modern art gallery Tate Liverpool and the Merseyside Maritime Museum, which highlights how shipping has always been at the heart of the city. Next door is the International Slavery Museum – a moving record of a very dark period in our history.

“Walking distance from Albert Dock is the Wheel of Liverpool with its views over the dock and down the River Mersey to the Irish Sea. A pause to refuel at the Pump House is highly recommended, as is walking around the dock and Pier Head at night. The floodlit views are stunning.

Liver Building at night

Liver Building at night. Photo by Dave Wilding

“Pier Head itself, five minutes’ walk from Albert Dock, should also be on everyone’s list. The iconic Three Graces (the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard building, and The Port Of Liverpool Building) overlook the end of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the floating wharf where ocean-going liners are often moored. Pier Head is also home to the futuristic-looking Museum of Liverpool. A good few hours can be easily spent here, whether you want to learn about the history of the city, the Merseybeat of the 1960’s, or Liverpool’s sporting heritage.

“Shoppers will love Liverpool. Options include the vast Liverpool ONE mall – with everything from exclusive department store Harvey Nichols to high street favourite Primark – and the city’s huge variety of eclectic independent stores. And if you’re looking for a Beatles souvenir you’ve definitely come to the right place!

“If there were two things I’d recommend for first timers, I’d have to start with a ride on the Mersey Ferry, with its view of the waterfront and running commentary on Liverpool’s industrial history. One ferry in the fleet is particularly eye catching. Currently known as the Dazzle Ferry, ‘Snowdrop’ sports a kaleidoscope of colours, not to be funky, but to represent the ‘razzle dazzle’ camouflage designs painted on merchant shipping in World War One to confuse U-Boat torpedo aimers. No lesser artist than Sir Peter Blake created the design for the Dazzle Ferry. If that name is familiar, it’s because Sir Peter is better known for designing the sleeve of the Beatles’ masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The Dazzle Ferry on the Mersey

The Dazzle Ferry on the Mersey. Photo by Dave Wilding

“Which leads to the second must-see… Liverpool was home for four lads who changed the world. You cannot go anywhere in Liverpool without coming across something Beatles-related, whether that’s the new statue of the Fab Four at Pier Head, the Magical Mystery Tour bus, or the clubs and bars on Mathew Street, where the Cavern Club launched their careers. But if there is one Beatles-themed attraction to see, it has to be The Beatles Story at Albert Dock. Book in advance as the queue for walk-up tickets is always huge.

Top tip? Go and buy a copy of Frank Shaw’s Lern Yerself Scouse. The accent is unique, and a phrase book is always handy!

The insider’s guide

Kerry Sinnett, proud Scouser and Cabin Crew

Kerry Sinnett, proud Scouser and Cabin Crew

Kerry Sinnett is one of our Manchester-based Cabin Crew who is a scouser through and through. She has lived in Liverpool all her life, and fizzes with an infectious enthusiasm and pride for the city. Here she takes us off the beaten path and shares an insider’s guide to the Liverpool she loves.

Central Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. You can visit the famous rare books collection housed in the magnificent Hornby Library and Oak Room, see the impressive Picton Reading Room, and view the archives which tell Liverpool’s story from the 13th century to the present day. You can also grab a quick coffee on the terrace overlooking St John’s Gardens.

“The Williamson Tunnels tour is an opportunity to get to know Joseph Williamson and try to work out why, in the early 19th century, he set about digging a huge network of tunnels under the city. There are several theories as to why he might have done this but truth is nobody knows. It’s a fascinating story and a very unusual tour. And while you have your mole thing going on, you can also take a tour of the famous Mersey tunnel.

“The Baltic Triangle is Liverpool’s up and coming boho quarter. A ten-minute walk from the city centre, you can explore the chic bars, clubs and restaurants hidden among the old trading buildings that now serve as the creative and design centre of the city. My favourite bar in the Baltic Triangle is the seasonal Botanical Garden, a great little hideaway specialising in gin.

30 James Street, used to be home of the White Star Line, owners of the Titanic. Now a hip hotel with the Carpathia rooftop bar (named after the ship that rescued the survivors of the Titanic).

“At 30 James Street hotel, the Carpathia rooftop bar ticks several Liverpool boxes. Apart from being a great hangout, the bar offers panoramic views of the city and a fantastic tapas-style menu. The hotel was also the HQ of the White Star Line, operators of the RMS Titanic. Although the ship never visited Liverpool, it was registered here and bore the city’s name on its stern. Visit the above-mentioned Maritime Museum to learn more about the strong links between the ill-fated liner and the city of Liverpool.

“Take a hop-on hop-off Mersey Ferry River Explorer Cruise between Liverpool and the Wirral and explore the Wirral peninsula. A short walk from the ferry terminal is Hamilton Square, which contains the most Grade I listed buildings outside London. On the peninsula you’ll also find scenic walks, plenty of National Trust properties, beautiful villages and views across the Dee and Mersey estuaries to the Irish Sea. You can also visit gorgeous Thurstaton beach, a favourite place for locals to spend their summer days.

Liverpool cityscape from the Radio City Tower

Liverpool cityscape from the Radio City Tower

“One of my top tips for visiting cities is to go to the highest point and get an idea of the layout. In Liverpool that would mean the Radio City Tower, otherwise known as St Johns Beacon. Entry fees are very reasonable and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the city, the Wirral and north Wales.

“We also have beaches. Not the first thing that springs to mind when talking about Liverpool but just up the road is the Crosby Beach the home of the famous statues by Anthony Gormley. There are also nice beaches on the Wirral”.

Crosby Beach and the Gormley statues

Crosby Beach and the Gormley statues

Getting there and getting around

Liverpool is incredibly easy to get to and explore. It has great rail and road connections to the rest of the north west, and lies just 40 minutes from Manchester and two hours from London by Virgin Trains. The city’s layout is easy to decipher and its size means most of it can be easily walked, or cycled using the the city’s bike hire scheme. There’s also a city-wide bus service, or alternatively, you can always use a helpful local cab driver to get around.

Check out the official tourism website at Visit Liverpool for more tips and ideas.

About Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.
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