by ANTONY CLAY
EVERYONE knows Liverpool – or think they do – but it is only when you trek around the city that you get a real sense of the place.
The Beatles, The Liver Birds, Boys From The Blackstuff etc etc etc have all formed an idea of this city in our minds but, really, it is as thriving and varied a place as you could find anywhere in the world.
Even over the last few years it has been transformed significantly. The Waterfront area alongside the Mersey now has swanky restaurants and even a major art gallery.
But there is still plenty of the old city to enjoy and a rich history to engross yourself in.
Yes, there is some mention of the Fab Four, and why not? Liverpool hit the ground running in the Sixties and, after a few ups and downs in the Seventies and Eighties, is right back up there again.
Liverpool has always been a self reliant sort of place and this attitude comes through in the friendly people and distinct atmosphere. It really is a city that feels individual.
Let’s start with two of Liverpool’s more famous buildings – maybe in one case infamous in some people’s eyes – namely its two cathedrals. There couldn’t be more of a contrast architecturally, with the big imposing C of E construction compared to the ultra-modern Catholic counterpart.
Liverpool Cathedral, that’s the Church of England one, looks as though it has been there for centuries. Big, bold and steadfast, it looks every bit the equivalent of, say, Durham Cathedral. But the truth is that it was only started at he beginning of last century and completed in 1978.
Oddly, based of its very different appearance, the Roman Catholic Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral– more properly known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King – was finished before the C of E building (in 1967), though it was only started in 1962.
It is worth visiting both because inside they are stunning with amazing features. The nave and sanctuary of the Metropolitan Cathedral, for instance, really are like no other place of worship with its imaginative and inspiring design. Liverpool Cathedral’s west window and its Lady Chapel are well worth a look for their grand architecture and traditional design.
The city centre offers shops galore, as well as cultural attractions and stunning architecture both old and modern.
There are bus trips around the city – including bus tours – but you can easily get around on foot and take in the rich variety that you will come across. Enjoy the Town Hall and the Philharmonic Hall, for instance.
But it is Liverpool’s Waterfront that has seen an astonishing level of revamping over the last few years. The docks area has literally been transformed into one of the most attractive and trendy areas you will find anywhere in this country.
For a start there’s the famous Royal Liver Building with its famous birds – the Liver Birds – on its roof. These are surely the symbol of Liverpool in most people’s minds.
The Liver Building forms part of the Three Graces along with The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.
Part of The Cunard Building is now a home for the lively and colourful attraction The British Music Experience. Anyone who likes popular music will find this place fascinating as it takes visitors on an interactive trip through the changing faces of music from the 1940s to the present. Liverpool’s undoubted contribution to that story is in there but the experience is much more wide-ranging musically than that.
You can even have a go on a drum kit, bass or guitar should you feel the urge. There is even a Hofner ‘violin’ bass made famous by Sir Paul McCartney.
The Pier Head area is part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site which includes The Beatles Statue and the Mersey Ferry.
The Museum of Liverpool tells the the history of Liverpool City Region and the Merseyside Maritime Museum highlights the city’s seafaring past, with the International Slavery Museum confronting a less positive but very important part of Liverpool’s timeline.
Lovers of art must venture over to Tate Liverpool which has fascinating exhibitions, literally bringing you face to face with the works of great painters and photographers.
We really shouldn’t forget the Beatles fans out there who can have a heavenly holiday exploring the city’s most famous export. There is the Beatles Story at the Albert Dock and the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour (how could it be called anything else?).
There is so much to see or do that at least a few days in Liverpool are required to make the most of it. But public transport means you can get out and about really easily as the city is very much geared towards helping its visitors.
You really need to plan ahead though, just to get it all in.
There is the Knowledge Quarter, the Baltic Quarter, the Georgian Quarter, St George’s Quarter and the Cavern Quarter, all with their own features and attractions.
As for places to eat or have a tipple or two, you are literally spoilt for choice. There are more traditional places to scoff in the town and trendier eateries in the Waterfront area, and entertainment locations include cinemas, theatres and clubs.
Sports fans can get up close and personal with their hero teams at Liverpool FC and Everton football clubs, and fans of the gee-gees can take a trip to Haydock Park or Aintree racecourses. There are also golf courses and sailing venues, and much more.
Liverpool is a proud city which has always looked after itself. That has given it character.
The city has a proud seafaring past and has had some gloomy times too over the years but now there is no going backwards for this future-looking, wonderful city.
As former Liverpool footballer Fernando Torres once said: “At Liverpool, winning is customary”. He might have been talking football, but the phrase refers just as much to the city as a whole. It is indeed a winner.
Visit Liverpool – This is the best website to visit and can be found at https://www.visitliverpool.com/