Referred to by locals as the "biggest village in the world," Liverpool is renowned for its friendly population and walkable center. Boasting world class football teams, dynamic museums, and rock 'n' roll royalty, is it any wonder it was the first British city to be named European Capital of Culture? With the journey from London as simple as hopping on a single train, we’ve compiled an itinerary to help you hit as many iconic sights as possible in 48 hours—all while sampling the best of Liverpool's contemporary drinking, dining, and entertainment.
Day 1: Morning
10 a.m.: Once you arrive at Liverpool Lime Street, head over to the Shankly Hotel to drop off your luggage. Designed in homage to legendary football manager Bill Shankly, every aspect of the hotel tastefully reflects Shankly’s personal and professional life. To make the most of your time, grab a quick snack at the hotel’s Bastion Bar and Restaurant, where you can admire private memorabilia donated by the Shankly family.
11 a.m.: Start making your way towards the Royal Albert Dock, stopping by the statue of Queen Victoria. Located in Derby Square, this impressive tribute to the famous monarch was built on the former site of Liverpool Castle.
Day 1: Afternoon
12 p.m.: Weather permitting, take the ferry across the River Mersey to the Three Graces: the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool Building. Assumed to be named after the mythological Greek goddesses of charm, beauty, and creativity, the Liver Building is the most famous of these. A copper Liver Bird (represented by a cormorant) sits atop each tower; the female bird is said to watch over the sailors at sea while the male guards the city. The Liver Birds have come to symbolize the city, and legend has it that the day they fly away is the day Liverpool will fall.
2 p.m.: Head to the Smugglers Cove for more mouthwatering grub than you can shake your hook at. We recommend the hanging kebabs—specifically the salt and pepper pork. Don’t forget to wash it all down with one of 141 available rums.
3:30 p.m.: Take your pick from the smorgasbord of museums dotted around the docks. Since we all know British music is the best in the world—Liverpool boasts more No. 1 singles than any city on Earth—why not brush up on your knowledge at the British Music Experience? If art’s more your bag, head to Tate Liverpool, little sister to London’s Tate Modern. Or, visit the International Slavery Museum to learn more about Liverpool's dark past as one of the world's major slave ports. If rough waters forced you to skip the ferry earlier on, feel free to take in multiple museums, several of which are free to enter.
Day 1: Evening
7 p.m.: Indulge in a pre-dinner cocktail at The Oracle, a magic-themed bar located in an 18th-century merchant's house and packed with original features. Close-up magicians roam around full-time, so kick back with a smoky old fashioned with maple syrup, and don’t be surprised if your glass is suddenly empty.
8 p.m.: For dinner, head to Wreckfish, whose modern take on the classic bistro quickly earned a reputation for excellence. Expect a decadent seasonal menu, and make sure you order the truffle fries. Ask to be seated upstairs for views of the chefs doing their thing!
10 p.m.: It wouldn’t be a visit to Liverpool without stopping by the Cavern Club, birthplace of the Beatles. Resident tribute band The Cavern Club Beatles—who have been given the seal of approval from locals—are on hand to entertain most Saturdays and Sundays. Prepare to let your hair down and get your sweat on.
Liverpool also happens to boast a thriving burlesque and cabaret scene. Check to see whether the likes of Millie Dollar’s Martini Lounge, The Secret Circus, or the Spare Rib Burlesque & Cabaret have any shows scheduled. Alternatively, head to OMG Liverpool for live drag.
If you’d rather be pounding the streets tonight, those who are feeling brave will enjoy letting Liverpool’s long-dead residents guide them on a Shiverpool ghost walk through the city’s historic neighborhoods. Fun fact: In 1890, an estimated 180,000 mummified Egyptian cats were sold at auction at the Albert Docks. So, you might spot a few four-legged spirits floating around.
Day 2: Morning
10:30 a.m.: First things first: rehydration. A freshly squeezed smoothie from The Brunch Club will cure the grizzliest of headaches if you had a little too much fun last night. Wildly popular with visitors and locals alike, this is considered the best brunch spot in the city. Whatever you order is guaranteed to set you up for the day (we're still dreaming about the wild mushrooms on toast).
12 p.m.: Amble over to the "Bombed Out Church," the last bomb site of the Blitz and testament to the city’s resilience. If you’d like, give a small donation to explore what is now a multidisciplinary venue.
Once you’re done, head to the Anglican Cathedral, the biggest in Britain and longest in the world. At 67 meters (219 feet) above floor level, it boasts the highest and heaviest ringing peal in the world. On your way in, check out famed modern artist Tracy Emin’s neon artwork to the right.
Next, meander into St James’s Gardens. This former quarry and plague pit is a tranquil spot to lap up the sun and escape the city bustle. Take note of the city’s only natural spring, and let the imposing cathedral leave you breathless.
1 p.m.: Liverpool has not one but two cathedrals—one on each end of Hope Street—and the second is affectionately known as "Paddy’s Wigwam." It proudly sports the title as one of the seven ugliest buildings in the world, so head on over to see if you agree.
As you walk though the city's Georgian Quarter, stop by the Philharmonic Pub. Inside the "Phil," you’ll find the U.K.’s only Grade I-listed toilets, which have become a tourist destination in their own right. As the glamorous thrones can only be found in the men’s, do make sure to knock before entering!
Day 2: Afternoon
2 p.m.: For a special lunch, head around the corner to The Florist Restaurant and Bar, located inside a former school. This is one of the most visually arresting venues in the city, with a modern, Asian-inspired menu that’s perfect for sharing. The cocktails are also a wonder—you are on vacation, after all.
If you’re after something a little more low-key, make your way to nearby Bold Street, Liverpool’s cultural epicenter. Here you’ll find something to suit all tastes, with so many options to choose from you might find yourself walking up and down the road in indecision! Highlights include The Italian Club, Nolita Cantina, Bundobust, and, for feline fans, the Cat Cafe. But, since you are in Liverpool, we recommend a bowl of the city’s famous scouse; originally brought over by Scandinavian sailors, this hot stew was a cheap and satisfying meal for workers. Head to Maggie May’s tea room for the best bowl in town.
Afterwards, drop into the Kazimier Gardens. Like many British cities, Liverpool has suffered at the hands of gentrification over the last few years, but this beloved bar is hanging on. Expect funky décor and cool tunes.
Day 2: Evening
6 p.m.: Speaking of beloved bars, tonight you’ll drink like a local. First stop: The Pilgrim, in all its retro, sticky loveliness. After a quick one in there, just across the cobbles you’ll find Ye Cracke, hangout of John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia Powell while they attended art school. Next up you’ve got The Little Grapes; ask the bar staff to recommend a local ale and have a natter with the locals. Finally, finish off at Berry & Rye, a 1920s-style speakeasy—there’s no sign, so you’ll have to knock to gain entry.
7.30 p.m.: Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to the Baltic Triangle. In this part of town you’ll find the city’s coolest new venues, the Baltic Market tying them all together in a street food extravaganza. Do as the locals do and squeeze up alongside strangers Oktoberfest-style, and sing along to the resident oompah band.
9 p.m.: This one’s a wild card, but you’re going to love it. Introducing Ghetto Golf—think an over-the-top version of mini golf. Expect ridiculous design, thumping tunes and a nostalgia-inducing bar. The popularity of this place shows no signs of abating, so make sure you book well in advance.