Liverpool is Awash in Music, Museums and Theater

From by Sean Hillen
Liverpool is Awash in Music, Museums and Theater

Designated a UNESCO Heritage City, home to six theaters, 2,500 listed buildings and more public sculptures than any British city except London, Liverpool certainly offers many reasons to visit. Here are a few of the highlights.

liverpoolPhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen

City Tours

An easy way to familiarize oneself with this northern English port is to take a trip on the ‘City Sights’ Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. With several options, this transport service brings guests to destinations ranging from the renovated docks area to philharmonic hall, with live guides speaking on board. We were especially fortunate to have friendly, well-informed Damien Ewing leading our special Beatles tour who promptly produced a guitar and sang several of the Fab Four’s biggest hits as part of the afternoon’s entertainment.


Magical Mystery Tour Photo Credit: Columbia Hillen

For those more interested in the legacy of The Beatles, an alternative choice is the two-hour Magical Mystery Tour bus tour. You’ll see many places associated with John, Paul, George and Ringo including whether they lived and grew up, formed the band, even Abbey Road and Strawberry Fields, after which hit songs were named. The tour also includes free entrance to the Famous Four’s musical hideout, the Cavern Club.

liverpoolPhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen

If traveling by land doesn’t float your boat, why not go by water—and see the most iconic sights aboard the Mersey Ferry. A 50-minute tour on the River Explorer Cruise takes in the best views of the urban skyline with commentary throughout. You can also make a full day-trip out of the excursion by hopping off at both Seacombe and Woodside ferry terminals to explore the sci-fi Spaceport featuring a planetarium and themed galleries with interactive and audio-visual exhibits, as well as go to the U-boat Story where you climb aboard World War Two German U-boat submarine U-534.

Empire TheatrePhoto Credit: Empire Theatre

Live Entertainment

An entertainment venue for more than a century, Empire Theatre is a pillar of strength in the Liverpool’s rich cultural life. My companion and I not only enjoyed the upbeat musical, Wonderland, directed by Lotte Wakeham and starring Kerry Ellis as Alice, but also the comfort of the theater’s VIP Ambassador Lounge, with complimentary pre-show and interval snacks and drinks.


Unity Theatre Photo Credit: Unity Theatre

Recently refurbished, the intimate Unity Theatre lies in the heart of the historic Georgian district, and is home to a creative group of actors and directors. We were fortunate to see members of Liverpool’s Royal Court in a farcical romp, ‘Omnibus,’ written by Katie Mulgrew and directed by Robert Farquhar, winner of the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize, about a zany afternoon in the lives of several friends. A bar beside the main stage serves drinks and snacks with views out to the local neighborhood.

The EpsteinPhoto Credit: The Epstein Theatre

The Epstein is located close to the downtown shopping complex, Liverpool One, as well as the Albert Dock area. Also a vintage venue, it hosts shows ranging from music concerts to plays. Another reason for visiting is to admire its ornate Art Nouveau exterior and interior design.

Cavern ClubPhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen

With The Beatles being arguably the most famous entity to emerge from Liverpool, a plethora of activities has sprouted around them. For a nostalgic sense of the ‘60s era, spend an evening at Cavern Club, its walls bedecked with rock ‘n' roll memorabilia. This brick-vaulted, warehouse cellar has been host to many of the world’s top bands and singers, from Queen and Status Quo to The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Adele and the Arctic Monkeys. Live concerts take place several evenings a week, sometimes on two different stages, with the excellent tribute band ‘The Cavern Club Beatles’ playing at weekends.

British Musical ExperiencePhoto Credit: British Musical Experience


With so many museums to choose from, perhaps it’s best to begin with the newest of them: the British Musical Experience. Colorful costumes, memorabilia such as psychedelic posters and recorded interviews and songs of performers spanning 70 years of British music, as well as a three-dimensional laser concert show, combine to tell the story of popular music from 1950s skiffle through The Beatles, Cliff Richard and Bowie to Adele and X-Factor talent winners. Located at the Cunard Building, across from the Mersey ferry, visitors can even try the vocal booth, dance the decades and play guitar and drums. Requiring three hours, you can always take a break in the café.


The Beatles StoryPhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen

It’s hard to escape the Fab Four in Liverpool and The Beatles Story museum is the ultimate immersive experience focusing on the iconic pop group. Exhibits include replicas of places closely associated with the band such as the Casbah, Mathew Street and The Cavern Club. Memorabilia include costumes, instruments, photographs, awards and video interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album so several new exhibits and special events are ongoing. 


Museum of Liverpool Photo Credit: Columbia Hillen

The waterfront Museum of Liverpool does exactly as it says—provides insights into the city’s history. Organized under headings such as ‘archaeology,’ and ‘transport,’ the three floors of exhibits take visitors through 10,000 years of urban evolution. There are also three free short movies shown at regular intervals daily on various subjects, including football and, of course, The Beatles, as well as ‘The Power and the Glory? about Liverpool’s global position and how industrialization and the growth and decline of the British Empire created, then almost destroyed the city. No tickets necessary. Interactive games keep children and younger adults suitably engaged.

International Slavery MuseumPhoto Credit: Columbia Hillen

It’s brave of the city fathers to own up to what is a most shameful episode in the Liverpool’s history, which is exactly what they do at the International Slavery Museum. Local multi-millionaires owed their riches to the sale of defenseless people as mere chattel, with no regard, aside from their commercial value, to their health, or happiness. Many historical buildings here were built on the back of such wealth. Through slides, photographs, video, voice recordings and artifacts such as crude hand and leg shackles, the sad and suffocating stories of such slaves are told vividly, including the break-up of families and the slow, agonizing deaths on slave ships. While the exhibition is not for the weak of will, at least some positives can be drawn from special exhibitions such as the ‘Black Achievers Wall,’ the development of black music and the highlighting of racism and discrimination.

liverpoolColumbia Hillen

With its illustrious sports and cultural history, it comes as little surprise to learn that Liverpool is among the top bids for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Go quickly before tourists descend in droves.