If you’re an American coming to visit England, chances are London’s your first, if not sole, destination in the country. Not a surprise. Can I make a quick case to pry you from the allure of The Big Smoke and point you to another great town located up North? Though uttering “The Beatles” should be enough to sway you, Liverpool is a fine waterside port with a longstanding creative culture and world-class architecture. And who is the world’s “Capital of Pop,” has the most No. 1 singles from one city, has the country’s largest cathedral, and is the most successful soccer city? It isn’t London. If you’re intrigued thus far, here’s a suggested two-day itinerary to maximize your time in this pint-sized city of culture, legendary music, and darn good dining.
If coming from London, it’s far simpler to hop on one of the Virgin Trains, which surge to Liverpool at 125 mph. After the two-and-a-half-hour journey to Liverpool Lime Street Station, take a short stroll or cab ride and check-in to Hope Street Hotel, undoubtedly the city’s “it” hotel along the refined street it’s named after. Here, slick Scandinavian design meets British hospitality and top dining, a combination that’s garnered the four-star boutique hotel constant “best of” accolades since its 2005 debut.
The most alluring draw? You’ll be snoozing in the same hotel as Kanye West, Meryl Streep, and the late Amy Winehouse; they have all booked the duplex penthouse suite with insane panoramic city views.
While on Hope Street, a satisfying lunch is but a crosswalk away at Host, a cool, calm, and eclectic pan-Asian eatery with moreish large and small plates (like the hot & sour beef salad or the addictive crispy fried squid with chile mayo) with generous weekly specials.
Walk off your meal and get to know your stately neighborhood, the Georgian Quarter. You’ll find the quaintest cobblestoned residential areas with Georgian architecture, as well as theaters, traditional pubs, the Philharmonic Hall, and the Victoria Gallery and Museum. Liverpool’s must-visit attraction is also here; the Liverpool Cathedral — one of the world’s largest — sits acropolis-style at 170 feet (from its base) above the city center. If you’re not afraid of heights, ascend an additional 331 feet on its rooftop via “The Tower Experience” for a 360-degree visual treat. Fun fact: Though it appears to be a medieval-era marvel, the Liverpool Cathedral’s ambitious conception and completion all occurred in the twentieth century.
Return to Hope Street Hotel for supper at the hotel’s food flagship, The London Carriage Works, and enjoy modern British dining in Liverpool’s hottest restaurant. If you’re dining with a mate and feeling fishy, the Seafood Platter of smoked Scottish salmon, Southport potted shrimp, pickled Scottish herring, and beer-battered cod tenders will do you just right.
After a night’s rest, fuel your body for the day with breakfast at the hotel, as you’ll have much to see in a day. First, hit the docks — Albert Dock especially — on Liverpool’s Unesco-listed historic waterfront district, which nods to its past as one of the world’s premier mercantile ports. Here, the venerable gallery Tate Liverpool, housed in a large warehouse conversion, is currently hosting some of art icon Henri Matisse’s most famous works (which you can see for free).
Mosey along the promenade to the The Beatles Story to immerse yourself in the world’s largest permanent exhibition dedicated to the Fab Four. Diehards can further treat their Beatlemania with a two-hour escorted odyssey on The Magical Mystery Tour, which begins at Albert Dock, where you’ll get to see the childhood home of John Lennon and take selfies on Penny Lane.
While on the waterfront towards Pier Head, your eyes will inevitably be drawn to a trio of grand, classic buildings. You’re looking at The Three Graces. Also, do pop in to the cutting-edge Museum of Liverpool for a fine glimpse into the city’s past.
From Pier Head, hop aboard the Mersey Ferry for a 50-minute cruise along the river, which will make you appreciate how attractive Liverpool’s waterfront really is.
End your evening with a meal-and-view to remember at Panoramic 34. As the name suggests, the upscale restaurant and bar sits on the 34th floor wrapped in glass walls, with the Liverpool skyline and neighboring Wales in plain, high sight. Superb plates such as scallops with pickled apple, kohlrabi, and candied hazelnuts, or beef filet with creamed truffle polenta, Shimeji mushroom, and pickled shallots will dispel any notion that London has the monopoly on great British food. Or great British cities.