“You can take away some grass, but don’t try and get it through an airport!”
advised Carol, as she handed my 8 year old daughter some valuable merchandise. It’s not as bad as you might think. The “grass” in question had been harvested from the sacred turf at Anfield. Carol was our stadium tour guide, exhibiting typical Scouse humour which obviously went over my daughter’s head, as I later had to field questions on how the visitors from Norway, Italy and Korea were going to get theirs home. For me, the tour around the home of Liverpool Football Club was the highlight of our family break in the city. I think my little girl enjoyed the Build a bear workshop in Liverpool One better, but she did warm surprisingly well to the stadium tour and really enjoyed the museum. She marvelled at the real Champions League Trophy the club was allowed to keep after its 5th victory in the competition. She excitedly looked through the Steven Gerrard collection of memorabilia, and was delighted to have her photo taken with the great man, courtesy of a green screen. The visit went remarkably well, considering I am the only football fan in the family.
At first glance, it is easy to conclude that tourism in Liverpool is all centred around football and The Beatles. Delve a little deeper though, and there is much more to the city than this, as we discovered on our 2 night break. Liverpool has an impressive collection of museums, including a world museum, a city museum, and ones dedicated to its maritime history and the slave trade. It is home to several theatres and concert venues, has a regenerated central shopping and leisure area known as Liverpool One, as well as some grand architecture – it is 2nd only to London in numbers of listed buildings.
We checked in at the Shankly Hotel. While it is dedicated to the legendary former manager of Liverpool FC and houses an impressive array of memorabilia collected throughout his career, the hotel is well appointed and good for non football fans as well. Many rooms have whirlpool baths and are very spacious for a city centre lodging. Our first port of call was Mathew Street, home to the Cavern Club and all things John, Paul, George and Ringo. We passed a statuesque John Lennon loitering on a corner, and sat down for a chat with an equally static Eleanor Rigby. I know I said there’s more to the city than LFC and the Fab Four, but you can’t ignore them completely.
After dining on the restaurant terrace at Liverpool One, it was back to our hotel. The following morning was dedicated to shopping, much to my daughter’s approval. As well as toy and clothes shops, we did manage to visit the LFC superstore. Liverpool One employs helpful staff, who seem to pick on tourists, and the bewildered, to offer advice and directions. Due to this welcome assistance, we didn’t get lost until we took a wrong turn on the way to Hope Street, the road linking the city’s two cathedrals. I had a look inside the impressive wigwam, otherwise known as the Roman Catholic Cathedral. The coloured rays of light shining through the stained glass windows grabbed my attention in an almost hypnotic way. After some reflection, it was time for lunch at the Philharmonic pub, regarded as one of the most ornate Victorian inns in England.
In the afternoon, we continued our walk down Hope Street, passing rows of Georgian terraces, to the Anglican St George’s Cathedral, and then on to the Ceremonial Arch marking the entrance to Europe’s oldest Chinatown. We walked on through wind (but not through rain) to the waterfront, around the Albert Dock where we visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The displays ably told the story of the city’s seafaring history, though a little heavy on shipping disasters.
We couldn’t leave Liverpool without a visit to St George’s Hall, an outstanding piece of neo-classical architecture from the city’s prosperous Victorian era. Described by Nikolaus Pevsner as one of the finest neo-Grecian buildings in the world, the interior of the main hall is stunning, and can be viewed for free when there is no event taking place.
Departing from Lime Street station, there was just time for an obligatory photo with Ken Dodd’s statue. Our little girl didn’t want to leave, which counts as a successful break in our family. Luckily, there was no problem getting the grass through a train station.
Liverpool is in the north-west of England.
The city’s main railway station is Lime Street. Direct services are available from a number of UK towns and cities. The nearest airports are Liverpool John Lennon (9 miles) and Manchester (35 miles). Buses run every few minutes between the city centre and Liverpool FC’s Anfield Stadium.
We stayed at the Shankly Hotel which is a short walk from Lime Street Station. Numerous other options are available in the city centre and along the waterfront.