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Capital of Culture Series: Liverpool

(Liverpool's Rubber Soul pub, made famous by the Beatles)
TravelGumbo now draws your attention to Liverpool.  It was the EU's 2008 Capital of Culture winner. It's a fantastic city with some of the best free museums I've seen anywhere.  I've visited the city  twice and was fortunate enough to follow GarryRF's tips (below) and I also enjoyed his and his family's warm hospitality  

Here are Garry's tips (With added comments by me on some of my favorites):

First, for Beatles history: Start at Mathew Street, where the Beatles started at the Cavern Club in the 60's.  Many other groups got their start there too.  And the street is pretty neat in its own right.

Walk to William Brown Street (5 minutes), to the World Museum and Planetarium and call in for a (free) look. Then next door for the Walker Art Gallery. This is one my personal favorite art museums anywhere.  Really well done and  free of charge. (These 2 museums  should take a full day)

When you leave, have a look across William Brown Street at St Georges Hall, a huge neo-classical building -considered to be the best example in the world.

Taxi or a mile walk to Hope Street.  Cathedrals at both ends of the street. Catholic one built in the 60's and the Anglican at the other end. The Anglican Cathedral was the largest in the world before the construction of St Johns in New York. Amazing architecture. Many of the gravestones outside have short biographies on them. They tell some interesting tales.
Taxi or walk  to the Albert Dock.  There's the Tate Gallery. It has modern art . I personally skipped that.  Then there the Merseyside Maritime Museum which is by far my favorite museum in Liverpool.  Its collections are like a combination of museums.  My favorite inside the Merseyside was 'Emigrants to a New World Gallery.'  It shows the starting history for many millions that arrived at Ellis Island. Also in the same building is the International Slavery Museum on the third floor that is quite worthwhile too. And believe it or not, free again.

Short walk to the Pier Head. 3 of the finest old buildings you'll see anywhere in the world.  Amazing interiors. Looking north you will see the Ferry Terminal. This  is where millions of immigrants  from Ireland and Europe embarked for New York in the 17 and 1800's,  and where American troops landed during WW2.
If you have time, go out of the city to do Beatles Tours, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields etc. For real  Beatles fans, there is also The Beatles Story - inside the Albert Dock.They charge admission for that one.

And a cool thing to do on your way out of town is seeing Speke Hall, Liverpool near the airport. Tudor, built 1490 and really maintained very well.
[Speke Hall                                                                     Wikimedia/Sweetie Candykim]
John Lennon Airport in Liverpool is one of the best budget airports in Europe. Easy to get through, and flights are usually very cheap.
Just a start.I hope GarryRF will consider a "Hidden Liverpool" blog as well in the future. While Liverpool is now "discovered" for Europeans, a lot of Americans are still in the dark about this wonderful city.


Images (2)
  • Rubber Soul Pub, Liverpool (courtesy GarryRF): Made famous by the Beatles, who used to hang out here and named one of their albums after it.
  • Speke Hall (Wikimedia Commons/Sweetie Candykim: Liverpool's Speke Hall

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In a way, most of the places in the world worth visiting have some history of being "dirty, industrial" places--that's where people cluster and societies are forged. The ancient cities of the Middle East and Greece, and Rome itself were like that!


We recently visited the excavated Roman city under central Barcelona, and were surprised to see how much of the area in the center of the ancient city was given over to commercial laundry, large-scale dye works and industrial-scale wine-making. The dye companies had a license from the city, by the way, to place public urinals on street corners; the urine was needed for the bleaching process.

No, not thinking of mills and chimneys, necessarily--note my very pre-Industrial Revolution examples--but certainly industrial, and by the nature of sizable cities with people living in close quarters and with the side-products of their industry, an argument can be made for dirty. It's not a's just the condition of cities that are alive.


Here's a quotation, by the way, from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health:

The industrial revolution in England had by the beginning of the 19th century led to what we would now call rapid urbanisation. Push factors from the rural areas (poverty, disease, changes in agriculture, displacement of peasant farmers) and pull factors from the cities (industrialisation and the growth of Empire) led to huge urban growth in places like Liverpool, Manchester, York, and Birmingham. The result of all these processes in places like Liverpool was the growth of slums and parishes of enormous density.

Housing like these back to backs and courts in Liverpool were typical when in the 1830s Liverpool's first medical officer of health, William Henry Duncan carried out a survey of sanitary conditions while still working as a local general practitioner. He found that a third of the population lived in the cellars of these houses, which had earth floors and no ventilation or sanitation, and as many as 16 people to a room. These conditions predisposed to the spread of epidemic disease, and in particular the cholera that struck England in the mid‐19th century with devastating consequences.


According to JECH, there is an exhibit of reconstructed "back houses" at the Liverpool Museum of Liverpool Life. That must be a fascinating museum! And the author mentioned that while most of the back houses were town down in urban renewal, the few that remain have been turned into luxury housing!



Not only is Liverpool a great city to visit,but it has so many great places for daytrips that make staying there an excellent base. And  to me it seems prices are half the cost of London.


One thing Garry might expand on in the thousands of European tourists that are coming there for the day or weekend ,thanks to the budget flights. It has a very international feel to it.

Here's  a good quote Paul


by David Rosner Columbia University


When  a horse died, its carcass would be left to rot until it had disintegrated enough  for someone to pick up the pieces. Children would play with dead horses lying on  the streets.

In addition to lacking street cleaning, the city also had no sewage system  and no flush toilets. Garbage--which included both human and animal waste--was  basically thrown out windows and onto city streets. People would use chamber  pots, essentially basins, as a toilet in the middle of the night, to make a  deposit of what was called "night soil." Between the hours of 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.,  you were supposed to bring down your night soil and deposit it in your outdoor  privy, usually an overflowing heap. More often than not, however, the actual  custom was to sling it out into the middle of the street from the window of your  four-story walk-up.

Despite the presence of animals, the city had no systematic street-cleaning  efforts. During winter, neighborhoods sometimes rose between two and six feet in  height because of the accumulation of waste and snow. The middle-class  brownstones of the 1880s provided a stoop leading to a second-floor entrance so  that the residents would rise above manure--which seeped into the ground floor  during a storm or with melting snow.

Such incredible human congestion combined with a primitive infrastructure to  create ideal conditions for a dramatic increase in epidemic disease. The  relatively healthful city of 1800 experienced an onslaught of infectious  diseases. Cholera, typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, malaria and other mosquito-  and tick-borne diseases festered. The city's mortality rate skyrocketed, and  children died in large numbers. The city seemed to be coming apart.


You don't see many Travel writers asking if the New York of 1880 has changed its reputation - do you ?

Last edited by GarryRF
Originally Posted by PHeymont:   According to JECH, there is an exhibit of reconstructed "back houses" at the Liverpool Museum of Liverpool Life. That must be a fascinating museum! And the author mentioned that while most of the back houses were town down in urban renewal, the few that remain have been turned into luxury housing!
I visited a block of "back to backs" in Birmingham, the last left after thousands were demolished in the move to urban renewal in the city center.  They've been restored to reflect styles of various eras from the industrial revolution to the 1970's and are, indeed, fascinating.


Garry...I certainly did not mean to pick on Liverpool, or to pick it out of the very large crowd consisting of all large cities of the time.


My point was that the reputation that Dr. F mentioned was not untrue--but was also nothing special about Liverpool. All the great and interesting places have been through that stage, and to some extent it will never end.


While Prof. Rosner's description is a little simplified and sensationalized, it could serve as a prototype for writing about most cities in that time. And I don't think I need to point out that the 1800s saw so much change (compare 1800 anywhere to 1890) that talking about "the 1800s" is a good deal like talking about "what the Romans did" without taking into account that you're talking about 1000 years of change.

Now there's another word with mixed definitions !

In Britain you would say "I like GarryRF's spirit"

You may want to check out what your version means in England !

Like when I attend a party in America and I get "Pissed" (Drunk)

And someone says "Why - who upset you to make you pissed?"


Last edited by GarryRF

Tnanks TravelRob!  some great points here.  I can see I'm going to enjoy Liverpool and especially want to explore that Beatles history.  They're like part of the family.


Rob, did you have any advice on hostels in Liverpool?  Presume there's probably a lot but was wondering if you had a recommendation?

In Europe, I have had good luck finding value accommodations at and Europe-Stays. com.  Those sites list hostels with their ratings and prices.  A quick peek for June shows several promising choices for around $ 21 USD per bed per night.


Unless you just want company, you might budget hotels pricing similar to the hostels.  They often charge per person, not per room, which is a big help for the solo traveler.


Tune Hotels will work for the London part of your trip, but they are not in Liverpool.  Take a look at Travelodge, which has several budget choices in Liverpool.


Check the private room listings on   Do you know Airbnb ?   There are several listings in central Liverpool for around $ 25-30 USD per night.  Your own room in a home.  Usually, the airbnb hosts will provide a breakfast or kitchen privileges.  Being able to "self cater" is a big help on the budget.  Look for listings that mention being close to public transport.

Last edited by Former Member
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