Visit Liverpool, UK: sights, things to do, ETA information

Packed with history, culture, and intriguing architecture, Liverpool is a city that impresses thousands of visitors each year. With a population of half a million, it is the UK’s tenth largest city – but its cultural impact has been felt around the world. With points of interest that include The Beatles, Liverpool FC, horse racing and the Titanic, this is a city with plenty to discover.

A history of Liverpool

Records show that Liverpool was founded as far back as 1207, with the ascent of King John. However, its most important historical role began in the eighteenth century – specifically in the year 1715, when its first dock was built. Thanks to its strategic location, where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea, Liverpool quickly rose to prominence as a maritime city.

For centuries, Liverpool has been known for its docks and shipyards. By the start of the 19th century, 40% of global trade had passed through Liverpool, making it one of the most important cities in the world. Travellers from around the world rubbed shoulders here, and the city became home to Britain’s oldest African community and the largest Chinese community in Europe. As cruise travel became popular, Liverpool was the headquarters of Cunard and the White Star Line.

20th-century Liverpool

In the post-war period, manufacturing and shipbuilding declined. Modern Liverpool is better known for its cultural output than its maritime prowess. In particular, it enjoyed a golden age in the 1960s, when its unique music scene – producing a style known as Merseybeat – became known across the UK and beyond. The chief purveyors of Merseybeat were The Beatles, and their legacy can still be felt in the city today.

Since The Beatles, Liverpool has produced many successful music acts. It is one of only nineteen cities worldwide to have been awarded the UNESCO City of Music title. This is not only due to the Beatles’ influence but also the city’s thriving music scene, which covers a range of genres and styles. It boasts a museum dedicated to popular music, the British Music Experience – with costumes, instruments, and interactive exhibits.

The Beatles in Liverpool

Cavern Club

Famous throughout the world, the Beatles remain the best-selling music act of all time. The Fab Four were all native Liverpudlians, and their presence can still be felt in the city. Beatles fans will find it easy to organise an itinerary for visiting the city. Top of the list has to be the legendary Cavern Club, where they regularly played before becoming famous. It was here that manager Brian Epstein saw them for the first time. This underground club today features live music seven days a week, from the morning until the evening. The Cavern Club has become so well-known that today the streets around it are collectively called the Cavern Quarter. Many of the pubs here were popular with the Beatles, and some have transformed themselves into Beatles-themed eateries.

Albert Docks

There are several statues of the Beatles dotted around the city, but the best-known is located at the Albert Docks. This bronze statue, unveiled in 2015, shows all four musicians as young men, with the “mop-top” hairstyles that they sported at the start of their fame. Beatles fans can also visit sites that have been immortalised in songs, such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, as well as the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A number of Beatles tours are available for an in-depth look at this musical side of Liverpool.

Liverpool’s football fever

Anfield Stadium

Anfield Stadium has been the home of Liverpool FC for over a century. Fans and visitors flock here on match days. The family-friendly Main Stand offers an excellent view of the pitch, while the Kop Stand tends to attract fervent fans who sing and chant throughout the matches. The stadium is also open for visits. These include guided tours of the stadium itself and its museum, which tells the history of the club.

Museum of Liverpool

Football is so important to the city that the modern Museum of Liverpool has an area dedicated to the sport. Non-football fans will also find plenty to keep them occupied here, as this museum contains a thorough history of the city. Its exhibits cover everything, including the ancient Neolithic settlements that were once found here, the rapid changes that accompanied the Industrial Revolution and how the city suffered during the Blitz of World War II.

A visit to the docks

Historically, Liverpool was known for its maritime importance. Today that may not be the case, but in recent years the historic docks have been renovated and revitalised. The Liverpool docks have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are a key site for anyone interested in history. Today, the Waterfront also features modern attractions, such as a shopping centre, art galleries and an 11,000-seat arena.

Merseyside Maritime Museum

The Merseyside Maritime Museum offers a detailed look at the city’s seafaring history. It also features an exhibit dedicated to the Titanic. Although the ill-fated liner did not actually pass through Liverpool on its voyage, it was registered in the city.

International Slavery Museum

Nearby, the International Slavery Museum was opened to remember Liverpool’s role in the 18th-century slave trade. It is dedicated to telling the stories of enslaved people and providing historical information that visitors might learn from.

The Grand National and Aintree racecourse

Visitors to Liverpool in April can enjoy a unique experience. Aintree Racecourse is home to the Grand National steeple chase, which takes place over three days. Although there is no official dress code, attendees take the opportunity to dress up. In particular, the extravagant hats worn by women on the Grand National Ladies’ Day are often celebrated in the national news.

While the Grand National only takes place once a year, Aintree does have some other, smaller racing events. At any time, the Visitors’ Centre offers a history of the race, from its 19th-century origins to its rise to national fame. A statue of Red Rum, the only horse to win the race three times, can be seen here. Aintree is also home to a golf course and a number of family-friendly sporting facilities.

Ferry across the Mersey

The Liverpudlian band Gerry and the Pacemakers enjoyed the city’s ferry crossing so much that they wrote a song about it, which is still cherished by locals. Once, ferries were common throughout the day as commuters travelled in and out of the city. In the last decades of the 20th century, the growth of buses, trains and other forms of transport means that the traditional Mersey ferry is no longer commonly used as part of workers’ daily routines. However, it remains a cultural icon for the city, and visitors can still enjoy a leisurely cruise across the Mersey.

Port Sunlight

Ferry rides, which come complete with onboard commentary, cross the River Mersey to the Wirral Peninsula. Once across, visitors can go to Port Sunlight. This village was built at the end of the 19th century to provide homes for workers in Lord Lever’s soap factory. It features authentic historical architecture, a museum, a garden centre and a riverside park and offers a peaceful, relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Architectural Liverpool

Visitors interested in architecture should head to the Pier Head, where some of the city’s most celebrated buildings can be seen. Three buildings – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building – are particularly well-known. Collectively, they are referred to as the Three Graces. All three were built at the start of the 20th century. The birds on the Liver Building are liver birds, mythological creatures that have become one of the city’s symbols. On the building, one bird is looking out to sea, watching over the sailors. The other gazes across the Mersey River and represents the sailors’ wives who stayed at home looking after their families.

Liverpool Cathedral

Another interesting architectural sight is Liverpool Cathedral. It is the largest cathedral in Britain and one of the newest. A competition was held to find a suitable architect in the late 19th century. The winner, Giles Gilbert Scott, was just 24 when construction began in 1904. Problems with the design led him to almost completely rework it in 1910, and the construction was further delayed by the two World Wars. The cathedral was finally completed in 1978, eighteen years after Scott’s death. Designed with a mixture of Gothic and Modernist styles, it was made from locally-quarried sandstone. This is a working Anglican cathedral that hosts regular services and special events.

Culinary Liverpool

Thanks to its multicultural population, Liverpool has a healthy culinary scene, offering food from around the world. From traditional pubs in the Georgian Quarter to international offerings in Bold Street, the city offers a wide range of different styles of food.

The local delicacy of Scouse has become synonymous with the city, to the point that Liverpudlians are also known as “Scousers”. It is served at many restaurants around the city. Ingredients of this stew vary, but it usually contains beef, potatoes, carrots and onion. It is generally served with crusty bread and pickled beetroot or red cabbage. Visitors who are in Liverpool on 28th February can participate in Global Scouse Day, when the dish is sold in restaurants and pubs across the city to raise money for charity.

Getting around Liverpool

Liverpool has a well-connected public transport system. Visitors often use the Merseyrail trains, which run over a network of 68 stations in and around the city. Merseyrail features four underground stations in the heart of the city, making it easy to get in and out. The city’s centre can be crossed on foot, and bikes are also available for those who prefer to cycle.

UK ETA for Liverpool

The UK ETA programme is set to be launched soon as part of an initiative by the British government to fully digitalise the country’s borders. This Electronic Travel Authorisation programme will affect visitors to Liverpool and other British cities. All foreign visitors will need permission to enter the UK when it is in place. This includes visitors from visa-exempt countries and the European Union.

All visitors to the UK will be able to apply for an ETA online in the days before travelling. They will need a biometric passport, email address, credit or debit card, and details of their travel plans. The ETA application is processed within 48-72 hours. Once approval has been granted, visitors will usually be allowed to spend up to 180 days in the UK and to travel freely within the country.

Once the ETA programme is running, all visitors to the UK will need permission to be in the country, whether in the form of a visa or an ETA. It is essential that travellers are aware of this and that they apply for their ETA with enough time before starting their journey.