Sipping cocktails by the water always puts me in holiday mode. So a cool Aperol Spritz in the sunshine at Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock, watching the world go by as we wait for lunch, is the perfect start to our weekend getaway.
My partner and I are in Liverpool for a mini-break. Being greeted by glorious blue skies certainly helps with the holiday vibes, but there’s also a lot to be said for plotting an escape that requires zero airport faff.
We got here by train – an essential mode of transport for us, since neither of us drive – but, with sustainability now a key consideration for travellers and many cutting back on overseas holidays due to rising living costs, exploring the UK by rail is becoming ever more appealing.
It’s rather lovely to rock up to a station with your overnight bag, pick up coffee and pastries for the journey, then sit back and watch the villages whizz by.
We have no real agenda, other than leisurely exploring and seeking out some good spots to eat and drink. Plus, Liverpool is an ideal city for enjoying on foot: small enough, easy to navigate and packed with historic architecture.
We’re staying at Aloft Liverpool, in the former Royal Insurance Building, although you’ll find lots of options at various price points if you plan ahead. Rooms are comfortable and spacious and there’s a great breakfast buffet. But most ideal for us is the location – just minutes from the edge of the city centre.
After dropping our bags, we stroll to Royal Albert Dock, a hub of action for tourists and locals. For lunch, we find a table next to the water at Gusto, an Italian on Edward Pavilion, where four cocktails, two starters and a huge pizza to share comes to about £70. It’s all delicious (especially the burrata), and tastes even better served alongside the twinkling River Mersey.
We meander in and out of gift shops before heading to Tate Liverpool, on the far side of the dock; free general admission, but booking required. Next, we take a ride on the Wheel Of Liverpool – a giant gondola Ferris wheel that gives a bird’s-eye view of the city and out towards the mouth of the river.
Of course, Liverpool is best known for its musical heritage, most notably as birthplace of The Beatles, with museums and tours galore dedicated to the iconic band. Those aren’t on the cards for us – but we head to Mathew Street, home to the new Cavern Club and a string of bars. It’s all about the atmosphere here: everyone is having a great time and the happy vibes are infectious.
After that excitement, we steer away from the tourist trail for dinner. Maray, a local chain promising Middle Eastern-inspired small plates, catches our eye and we book a table at the Bold Street branch. It’s a win: intimate, stylish and relaxed.
Typically, we order too much food, but it’s good – the disco cauliflower (coated in chermoula, harissa, tahini, yoghurt, pomegranate, almonds and herbs) and the halloumi (one thick slab, dressed with honey, dukkah, kale and spiced buttered leeks) keep us reminiscing for days. Our meal, including a bottle of wine and dessert, comes close to £80.
For after-dinner drinks, we debrief over an Old Fashioned at Berry and Rye, a speakeasy-style whisky and gin bar on Berry Street. Liverpool also has a vibrant gay bar scene: our final stop is The Lisbon on Victoria Street (famous for its ornate ceilings) for a nightcap and boogie.
Sunday calls for an even milder pace. We while away an hour rummaging through endless racks in The Vintage Store on Church Street, and dip in and out of well-stocked charity shops and vintage boutiques along Bold Street – which quickly becomes one of our favourite spots in town. A short walk up from here is St Luke’s Bombed Out Church.
Today, the monthly Makers’ Market is on, with stalls selling handmade jewellery, prints, artisan coffee, bath salts and more.
We bag a few early Christmas gifts before refuelling with a cider beneath the trees in the grounds.
Determined to squeeze in one more attraction before catching the train home, we walk down to the Radio City tower, where visitors can take a lift 400ft up to the St John’s Beacon viewing gallery.
This unmissable landmark has loomed over us all weekend, and its 360-degree views of Liverpool’s spectacular skyline is a great way to top off our getaway.
Liverpool boasts an impressive collection of museums. The Museum of Liverpool tells the city’s history and the International Slavery Museum teaches about the city’s role in the history of the slave trade.
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