Of all of England's cities, Liverpool has perhaps the strongest sense of its own identity. The hard industrial port which sits mostly on the eastern side of the River Mersey has long been known for its radical politics and a 50-year struggle to keep economic decline at bay.
Spiralling unemployment and the partial demise of the once all-powerful labour movement have made the last 20 years particularly difficult, but the proliferation of EU funds and local investment has seen a dramatic turnaround.
The city is busily preparing for its 800th birthday celebrations later this year and in 2008 it will be the European Capital of Culture.
Liverpool was the birthplace of the Beatles. Their worldwide success secured Liverpool as the capital of pop and there is no shortage of landmarks and tours honouring them.
It's almost compulsory to take a Magical Mystery Tour. These two-hour coach tours are led by expert guides and introduce visitors to 30 Beatles places, including their birthplaces, former homes and schools. You can hop off for photographs at Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and the homes of Paul and George, finishing at the Cavern Club for a free souvenir postcard.
The Cavern Club on Matthew Street is not the original the council demolished that. It doesn't seem to matter that this is a replica as fans come from around the world to visit. The names of every band which has played the Cavern are carved in a wall. There are Beatles statues, themed venues and live music most nights and weekend afternoons.
International Beatle Week Festival is held in August and bands travel from around the world to pay tribute to the Fab Four.
These days most of the city's hits come out of the Radio City Tower, home to station 96.7. It offers not only great music, but fantastic 360° views of the city.
Liverpool is also home to two internationally famous football clubs, Liverpool and Everton, and that keeps locals charged up.
England's largest collection of heritage buildings outside London is in Liverpool. The famous Albert Dock is acknowledged as a truly stunning architectural triumph. It opened in 1846 and quickly became a treasure house to precious cargoes from all over the world. Today a $250 million redevelopment has transformed it into one of Liverpool's busiest and most cosmopolitan centres. It offers fashionable bars and restaurants and a range of museums, from the Tate Liverpool through to the Maritime Museum and HM Customs & Excise National Museum. Combined with retail boutiques, the Albert Dock offers entertainment within beautiful historic surroundings.
Albert Dock is also home to The Beatles Story in the Britannia Pavilion, which takes visitors on a journey into the life, times, culture and music of the Beatles. The audio guide is narrated by John Lennon's sister Julia.
One of the city's favourite nightspots is Alma de Cuba, a Caribbean-themed bar and restaurant in the 200-year-old St Peter's Polish Catholic Church. The stained-glass windows, altar, Lady's chapel , winding stone staircase and religious paintings remain, beautifully candle-lit.
New decor includes a dark, glossy bar, Havana-style booths and chandeliers created from fake antlers. Colours are opulent reds, greens and browns and materials used include leather, perspex and smooth wood. And there are candles absolutely everywhere. The bar does a roaring trade in wine, martinis and mojitos, as does the mezzanine restaurant.
The north-west of England.
Magical Mystery Tour two-hour tours are about $32 per person. They operate every day. Tickets can be purchased at the Tourist Information Centre.
The Beatles Story at Albert Dock costs about $25 for adults, $13 for children, and $62 for a family(two adults and two children).
Alma de Cuba opens Monday to Saturday, between 11am and 2am, and Sundays, between 11am and 2.30am. Bookings are recommended.
Emirates has flights to London.
- Perth, $2268
- Melbourne, $2315
- Brisbane, $2317
- Sydney, $2332
- Adelaide, $2934
- Darwin, $3657
These fares are valid for sale until March 31, 2008, and for travel between October 4 and November 11, 2007.
Prices correct at March 8, 2007.
Magical Mystery Tour
Ph: 44 151 236 9091
Tourist Information Centre
Ph: 0151 233 2008
Fax: 0151 233 2453
Albert Dock Company Ltd
22 Edward Pavilion
Liverpool L3 4AF
Ph: 44 151 708 7334
Fax: 44 151 708 0929
Alma de Cuba
Liverpool L1 4AZ
Ph: +44 151 702 7394
Ph: 1300 303 777