Liverpool is a brilliantly underrated city to explore for a weekend. It has a trendy coffee shop ratio equal to London, cobbled streets, gorgeous old buildings from the 1800s, old record stores and a Tate whilst it’s at it. The city was named the Capital of Culture for 2008. It’s got all The Beatles paraphernalia you can indulge in – or ignore – and you can see the sea. It’s 2.5 hours out of London and the accents are cracking. Head up on a Friday night and stay until Sunday This is both a guide to Liverpool, and an ode to time out and books whilst I’m at it.
Liverpool is a brilliant place. There is a certain joy that comes from exploring somewhere on your own terms. My Mother comes from Liverpool and I had a trip there as a kid but I’d never felt like I really met the city. But then, being dragged around the windy streets on a rainy day at a young age is never prime time to understand why certain areas mean so much to your tour guides and feel their delight (and confusion) of how the streets have changed over 40 years. Lucky then, that I went for a weekend.
We could all use solo weekends away, escaping by ourselves with the fun and oddness that comes with it. That’s my feeling at any rate and one I’m embracing this year. After five days in August stomping around Norwegian hills on a solo jaunt last August, I realised half of what I loved doing was holing up in coffee shops devouring books. What stayed with me from that trip was how much I like reading. I’ve missed books. (I pretty much stopped reading them when the internet appeared, it seems.) They’re bloody great. Writer Joyce Carol Oates poetically puts it: “reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul”. Getting lost in a new place just adds to this feeling. Sometimes it takes effort and breaking your routine to remember this stuff. But it doesn’t take a trip to Norway to shake up your routine, so I hunted out a UK city to explore.
Given that I went to read books, drink coffee and spy at some art, which means this won’t be the most comprehensive city guide you’ve ever read. Still, I came away wanting to bang on about how nice it was and so I shall. I’ve included tips from a favourite Liverpudlian pal plus including with a few of my own discoveries. Embedded map at the bottom.
Yellow submarine spotting
Visit the Bombed Out Church, both Cathedrals (you can’t miss them – one’s old, one’s modern) and the Three Graces which are three impressive Unesco heritage buildings down at the waterfront. The waterfront itself is worth a good stomp around and stare out to sea. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a yellow submarine floating about too.
The Bluecoat building: an 18th Century building with an equally old bookshop and a local crafters shop hidden inside.
St Georges Hall is a huge neoclassical building, The Walker Art Gallery has – I think – one of the largest collections outside London, all within a gorgeous Victorian building, and the Central Library is just huge and worth a gawp as you wander past. Tate Liverpool pretty much always has something good on and is “a good excuse to be a tourist at the Docks” I was told. I popped to the Tate for an exhibition inspired by Farhrenheit 451 then walked back in the grey weather playing early Beatles in my ears and feeling all warm and odd thinking about the 60s, or my romanticised idea of it. I didn’t have a chance to visit Fact, but it looks like it serves art house cinema and weird exhibitions.
Bold Street Coffee
Coffee type places
A wander up and down Bold Street or its neighbouring cobbled streets will serve most of your needs in Liverpool. Try Leaf for tea and coffee, Filter & Fox on nearby Duke Street (and don’t underestimate their banana, peanut butter and honey bagel – or try to read a book whilst handling it) and Bold Street Coffee for a mean avocado on toast, good coffee, ace music, and they sell maps of indie spots in Liverpool, too.
Cow and Co is a coffee shop/design store. They serve coffee, have a shelf of magazines you can read and have a bunch of oddities along a wall from interior accessories to marmalade. I grabbed a copy of Boneshaker magazine – the first article was an utter gem and I laughed at it loudly whilst eating beetroot chocolate cake. McGuffies was recommended too, though I didn’t have a chance to try it.
Cow and Co
Food type places
The Egg Cafe is a vegan restaurant with a typically community vibe. It reminded me of living in Brighton, as these places always do, so i am immediately fond of it (cash only). East Aven Bake House sells brunches and coffee in the morning, but was also my favourite dinner spot – I can’t get over how good it was.
The AirBnBs game’s strong, too.