Liverpool: It’s So Much Nicer Than You Think!

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Years ago, I read a short essay written by an American expat living in Liverpool. She wrote about the smoke stacks, the cold, the poverty, the desperation of a city that made you want to do nothing more than curl up with a book.  Forever.

That essay was the only piece of literature that I had read about Liverpool, really, so it influenced me far more than it should have.

Well.  Maybe it was because it was an inconceivably gorgeous day.  Maybe it was because we explored the nicest areas.

But I found Liverpool to be nothing like what I expected — it was shining and beautiful.

Liverpool is just thirty minutes from Chester by train, so Dave spends a fair amount of time there.  He was determined to show me the best day in Liverpool possible.

We started — as everyone should — with a ride on the Mersey Ferry.

Though the point of the ferry is, ostensibly, to get from one side of the river to the other, many people just take the ferry to enjoy the view.  I loved the riverfront architecture — the newer buildings were designed with such careful consideration for the older buildings and the docks. Everything blended beautifully.

Take the Royal Liver Building, seen in in the first photo on this page.  See the two Liver Birds on top?  They say the one in front is female and facing outward so she can watch over the sailors.  The one in back is male and facing inland so he can see if the pubs are open!

It actually reminded me a lot of Boston.  The Mersey River is around the same width as the Charles, and some of the buildings in Birkenhead, on the other side of the river, seemed to evoke Beacon Hill.

A short walk away is Albert Dock, another must-see in town, where warehouses have since been converted into museums, stores, chic restaurants, and galleries.

One of the museums there is the Tate Liverpool — a wild, quirky modern art museum. I love modern art museums, and this is one of the best I’ve been to in recent years.  And like the Tates in London, admission is free!

The second floor was really cool — it was a silent disco!  You put on headphones, which blasted music, and danced on a touch-sensitive dance floor that blasted different colors.

And, of course, there’s what Liverpool is most famous for: Beatles worship.

If you’re a die-hard Beatles fan, you’ll be in heaven.  Liverpool is overflowing with Beatles nostalgia.  You can even visit the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

We skipped The Beatles Story, which is supposed to be the great museum.  Instead, we made our way to Mathew St.

Mathew St. proudly refers to itself as “the birthplace of the Beatles.”  They were discovered on this street while playing at the Cavern Club, and they spent a lot of their time in the pubs on this street as well.

You can still see bands perform at the Cavern Club — or just listen to the pitch-perfect buskers on the street.

I just had to tickle Ringo.

Mathew St. isn’t far from Liverpool’s downtown shopping area, and I was shocked at how nice it was.  It reminded me of The Grove in Los Angeles, or outdoors in Santa Monica, just planted into the gritty city of northwest England.

One stereotype of Liverpool is incredibly true, however — the accent is indecipherable. I hung out with a scouse for a few days in Siem Reap and I couldn’t understand a word he said.  Ever.  This holds true for Liverpool, and remarkably, the accent stays firmly in Liverpool.  You don’t hear the accent in Chester, just 30 minutes away.

UK accents fascinate me — how many there are, how different they are (having had a few more centuries to evolve than American accents), how easily Dave can hear a 5-second snippet of conversation and say, “Oh, he’s from Newcastle but the others are from York.”  But I can’t even wrap my head around the Liverpool accent.

Yesterday, I dug out the essay that I had read years ago, the one that had been my source about Liverpool.

The author lived in Liverpool in 1978.

I can’t believe I unconsciously put so much faith into that one essay!

It doesn’t matter. Times change.  Liverpool back then might have been a dreary place — but the Liverpool today is shining.

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24 thoughts on “Liverpool: It’s So Much Nicer Than You Think!”

  1. “The author lived in Liverpool in 1978.”

    I was going to ask when the essay was written because it doesn’t sound like the Liverpool of today. A few years ago the city was the European City of Culture and it is clear Liverpool is now a modern city.

    Glad you had a good time, and don’t worry about the accent, I’m from South London and I don’t understand what scousers say half the time.

  2. I’ve always had an interest in going to Liverpool, but like you I was put off by the it has been portrayed in the media of the last decade or so. Thanks for setting it straight! Really good to get a fellow travelers perspective!

  3. Liverpool was the European City of Culture 2008, so in the period between 2005 and 2008 the city underwent major rejuvenation. I’m not saying it wasn’t a nice place before 2005 (when they learn’t they would be the City Of culture 2008) but it is certainly a lot nicer now. Did you seen the “Super Giant Lamb Bananah”? If not Google it. It’s very cool. I’m from England (Suffolk in East Anglia) and I some times struggle to understand Northern accents! Have you met any Scottish people yet? You’ll stand no chance understanding them 🙂

  4. Awww you make me want to go to Liverpool again, now! I admit that I only visited so I could take the Beatles tour but when I think back, I regret not staying longer and explore the city’s rich history. It seems like an easy place to mingle and meet locals, even though I probably wouldn’t have been able to respond to any of their sentences 🙂

  5. I visited Liverpool a few times each year since childhood. In the 1970 ‘s and 1980’s Liverpool suffered a lot of neglect. On each visit there would be more shops and houses boarded up. The film “Letter to Brezhnev” is a comment on the prospects for many of the disenfranchised living in Liverpool at that time. Then from the mid 1980’s the regeneration of Liverpool began. Albert Dock was one of the first steps in this process. That is not to say that it wasn’t worth visiting before as the Beatles sites were there for anyone prepared to do their own research.
    Liverpool has had a lot of negative press, but Scousers are very friendly and heplful and have a wicked sense of humour.

  6. As someone who was raised to be a Beatles fan, Liverpool is definitely on my list of places to visit if ever I make it to England one day. And I’m glad to read such a glowing review of the place! Makes me want to visit even more.

  7. Oh my, accents. I’m in Scotland now and one of my biggest fears leading up to this trip would be staring blankly at someone and not understanding them. With a few exceptions though, things have been okay. I mostly have trouble with recordings. We forget how much we take from visual cues!

  8. That silent disco looks awesome!! I love the Tate Modern in London, it’s one of those places I revisit everytime I’m there, but I think I’m gonna have to check out the Tate Liverpool as well!!

    You made Ringo chuckle 😉

  9. I totally agree with you on English accents! I’m totally fascinated by them and love listening to different actors/people from England to figure out the various types! So fun.

  10. As much as I despise their football team, I do want to visit Liverpool one day. Mostly to pay homage to John, Paul, George, and Ringo…Nice to know there is much more beyond that!

  11. As a proud scouser I am really pleased you’ve visited my city. Having followed many of your posts through Asia I often thought if you’d ever head somewhere closer to home. Liverpool has had a bad press throughout the 80s mainly due to biased tabloid newspapers such as the Sun. (hillsborough tragedy) and unemployment. But the city has so much rich history. I hope your post gets many of your readers in the mood to go and visit Merseyside, far too many tourists visit London and don’t get to see the real England – the North! I wish you had the chance to see Liverpool FC play! especially since the Boston red sock’s owners own Liverpool too!

    And yeah about accents, nobody outside Great Britain understands me, no one!

  12. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to Liverpool, I was born and bred there and still think it’s the best and one of the most beauitful cultural cities there is. (Capital of Culture 2008…what can I say) Plus Matthew Street is the best, funniest night out you can have! Love that you wrote a lovely post about ti x

  13. Hi, Kate..

    Wow! What a lovely post about Liverpool, hon’! As a die-hard Beatle fan, it’s been one of my dreams to visit the city, and you’ve made it sound more then appealing, not just because of the influence of those Beatley boys, but in its own right. Nice photos and descriptions of the city.

    Are you an expat who used to live in Boston? Sometimes I think about moving to England. I’ve always been enamored of the people and culture and accents! And I have no family of my own to keep me here, honestly..but I wouldn’t even know the first thing to do if I ever wanted to move overseas. Between needing a job, place to live and fitting in with the locals…. But I’ve read some time ago that the Northwest of England has some of the nices people..and funny that you have Chester listed in your links, because I had looked into that area as an “alternative” when I was dreaming of moving to Liverpool. (Yeah, yeah..this girl has lots of unfulfilled dreams).

    Anyway..nice blog, hon’. Thanks for the post. 🙂

  14. Liverpool has undergone a lot of reinvestment in recent years and the city centre is a delight to explore. I have friends who live in Liverpool so I get to see both the good and the bad side of the place.

    As a tourist it is a fabulous place and there are a great many things to see including all those tunnels dug just for employment. Also don’t forget Anfield Road the home of Liverpool Football Club, which has a museum to one of the most successful teams in English and European football.

    You are right about the accent, it is very broad.

  15. I spent 4 days in Liverpool this past December (2014). As a fan of the Beatles, this is THE place go visit. Lots of shopping (and quite modern at that) and a busy downtown bustling with people both local and tourists. What I did not get the opportunity to do is see “real Liverpool” other than a quick drive through some streets that were obviously residential areas. What I’d like to ask since time did not allow me to explore and find out, are there ANY scenic areas of Liverpool outside of downtown or is downtown Liverpool to total sum of what there is to see as a tourist?

  16. Hey, Mark!

    How are you! I had long forgotten that I elected to receive comments from this website till I received yours!

    Unfortunately, I can’t answer your qiestion..but I just wanted say that I think you’re SO lucky to have been able to see Liverpool. 🙂 It’s long been a dream of mine as a die-hard Beatlefanatic. For the holidays, I just spent Christmas in Florida visiting my sister and nephew..but I would rather have experienced the ‘pool, to be honest. Though it was lovely seeing family, 80 degrees at Christmas just didn’t sit right with me. 😉

    I hope you receive an answer to your question soon!

  17. First 12 hours in Liverpool, all my luggage was stolenough from the boot of my car, which was parked in the shadow of the building in the first photo. Police and ‘City Watch’ didn’t even want to come out and do a crime report. Homeless and drifters are everywhere in the area. After traveling 6,000 miles across Africa and Europe, it took just half a day in Liverpool to ruin my whole vacation.
    Oh, and their camera system is a complete joke. They charge you to get the film.

  18. Liverpool is an historic port city like Naples, Marseille, Palermo, New York City, making its people unique to the rest of the country its situated in. Its people are tribal like they don’t come under the national government but have their own customs and rules metaphorically speaking. It is and always has been one of the great cities of the world with a history to match.

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