LIVERPOOL LIFE: Iconic landmarks on the Liverpool waterfront, taken at dusk; the Beatles Story museum in Albert Dock; and a statue of John Lennon outside the historic Cavern Club.
LIVERPOOL LIFE: Iconic landmarks on the Liverpool waterfront, taken at dusk; the Beatles Story museum in Albert Dock; and a statue of John Lennon outside the historic Cavern Club. ChrisHepburn

Ticket to ride back in time

A BUSTLING industrial port, home to a famous football club and the city that spawned the Merseybeat and one of the world's greatest musical acts.

All I knew about Liverpool was based on the grainy black-and-white footage from Beatles documentaries but since my obsession with the band began at 15 it had been on my must-visit list.

With Penny Lane in my ears and in my eyes, I journeyed north for a weekend getaway while staying with a friend in England.

Part of me worried my friend, who could name about three Beatles songs, would be bored by the trip.

The other part was ready to explain, in intimate detail, the long and winding road of the band's history (with elements of each member's solo career, obviously).

Being the fifth-largest city in the UK, transport to Liverpool is relatively easy.

Unfortunately, our visit coincided with Storm Brian hovering over the northwest coast.

We opted for black cabs between the city centre and Airbnb accommodation and were told by several Scouse drivers Brian was not a name to make you quake in your boots.

Brian did, however, bring gale-force winds, evidenced by the piles of broken umbrellas left strewn on every street.

Unable to fully enjoy the historical buildings the city boasts thanks to the weather, we opted for exploring the rejuvenated Albert Dock.

In its heyday, Albert Dock was revolutionary: the first non-combustible warehouse system in the world and the first using hydraulic cranes.

Now it's a lifestyle hot spot but one that is also popular with locals.

There are dozens of restaurants and cafes where you can get a taste of this history, with seating nestled into the nooks that would have once housed valuable cargo such as brandy, cotton, tea or tobacco.

It's here you'll find several of the city's drawcard museums.

The Beatles Story is the place to start, whether you know only Yellow Submarine, or can speculate the influences of every Lennon-McCartney original.

Dedicate at least two to three hours to exploring the museum, where every significant element of the band's career has been painstakingly recreated.

From the murky streets of Hamburg's red light district in the 1960s to the NEMS offices where manager Brian Epstein was working when he signed the boys and the interior of the iconic Abbey Road studios, you'll be guided through while listening to commentary from John Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, and other key players in their story.

A few fascinating hours following the evolution from Cavern Club to rooftop farewell concert is probably enough for the casual fan.

 

A statue of John Lennon outside the historic Cavern Club in Liverpool.
A statue of John Lennon outside the historic Cavern Club in Liverpool. chrisdorney

But if you're headed to Liverpool because it's your Beatles Mecca there's only one tour to satisfy that curiosity.

You'll need a ticket to ride on this National Trust tour, the only one to take visitors inside the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

With a group of about 16 people, travel from the docks past Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields to leafy Woolton.

The first stop is 1950s semi-detached Mendips, the home you'd least expect for the self-proclaimed working class hero.

After a quick photo, we were given a guided tour of the house and allowed time to soak up the atmosphere, including the porch where many a Lennon-McCartney original was composed.

Inclusive of all ages on the tour and highly animated, I couldn't fault our guide's commentary.

Our tour through McCartney's home, a post-war terraced council house, continued this high standard and offered a view of brother Mike's private family photos.

With an hour at each home, you're able to become fully immersed in the lives of both families.

Fans should also down a pint at the Cavern Club on Mathew St, which retains an air of authenticity despite having been rebuilt down the street from its original position.

But make sure you live like a local and enjoy the best of Liverpool's vibrant night life and shopping precincts away from this tourist-heavy street.

With a large student population, Liverpool boasts great restaurants and bars without the London price tag or travel hassles.

Set aside time to explore the Merseyside Maritime Museum and International Slavery Museum, a solemn reflection on how the city's wealth grew on the back of the transatlantic slave trade.

Liverpool ships carried more than 1.5 million enslaved Africans on 5000 voyages and the vessels were repaired just minutes away from where the museum is housed.

Given Australia struggles to talk about issues of race, it was sobering to see a museum so openly talking about racist practices past and present.

A thrumming cosmopolitan city with a rich cultural history, Liverpool is a destination not to be missed and one that I wildly underestimated.



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