Forget the Beatles (though not completely if you’re a fan like I am), this year the most interesting thing happening in Liverpool is their Biennial.
I traveled to Liverpool in collaboration with VisitBritain, Visit Manchester, Visit Liverpool, Virgin Atlantic and Travel Mindset. I am being compensated for sharing this post but opinions and all images are my own.
Until 28 October 2018, Liverpool’s Biennial – a Festival of Contemporary Art – sees art exhibited all over the city. In historic complexes like Bluecoat and modern institutions such as The Tate, exhibits of all form and shape are transforming the city inside and out. As the daughter of an artist and as a creative person, I definitely didn’t want to miss the Biennial when I found myself in nearby Manchester this month.
How to Get to Liverpool
I flew to Manchester on Virgin Atlantic’s nonstop flight from San Francisco, taking the time to enjoy their incredible cocktail program in the Clubhouse pre-flight. Head bartender Justin consults around the world and has partnered with local institution Smuggler’s Cove. The already creative menu also features cocktails inspired by their well known Tiki menu. It helped set the tone for a what was to be an exciting few days in Manchester and Northern England.
After spending a few days in Manchester, it was time to explore another city in Northern England. Manchester is the perfect base to explore the rest of the North, so it was an easy, direct train ride over to Liverpool from Manchester’s Piccadilly station. I could have also rented a car, but I do so love train rides. Once I was in Liverpool, I took a cab to The Titanic Hotel, which was to be the base for my visit, to drop my bags before catching another cab to Albert Dock to dive right into the Biennial.
How to Experience the Biennial
The Tate is part of the UNESCO-protected Albert Dock. It hosts exhibits that are part of the Biennial on the ground and fourth floors which focus on Indigenous issues from the point of view of Canadian, Australian and South Korean artists. I really enjoyed these rooms and would recommend starting any Biennial experience here.
Once I saw what was at The Tate, I walked into the city through Liverpool One to Bluecoat. This is a historic venue that offers places to shop and eat indoors as well as outside in a beautiful garden in addition to the Biennial art.
While the Biennial takes places across the city, these two venues were a great example of the full spectrum of spaces that Biennial exhibits and events take place in. But there are so many more! I found all the information I needed on their site and via their social media.
Where to Eat in Liverpool
From Bluecoat, it was an easy walk to Filter + Fox. I loved their semi-rustic but adorably cozy interior, avocado toast with English bacon and two different kinds of frozé. They offer almost all day service — from coffee in the morning to cocktails at night. Their current partnership with Lillet is sooo up my alley because that’s a favorite of my Francophile heart.
I also ate at Neon Jamon. Cocktails were on point, the cheese and meat tasted like they were imported straight from Spain and I thought the interior was funky and fun. Spain is another favorite country of mine, so I was thrilled with the chance to sort of travel around the world via my meals in Liverpool.
For that all-important start to the day — coffee of course — I stopped in at 92 Degrees. Joe at Visit Liverpool recommended this coffee shop to me and I was so glad I took his advice. The interior is cozy but bright and the Flat White was terrific.
Where to take photos in Liverpool
Not too far away from 92 Degrees is the Georgian Quarter, one of the largest collections of Georgian buildings in the UK outside London. I found it to be the perfect place for façade photos of colorful doors with cheerful window boxes. Golden Hour light and the setting sun also helped the neighborhood feel magical. Had I longer to spend in Liverpool, I would have returned multiple times.
Liverpool Cathedral was recommended to me for its views from the roof, but I wish I’d left more than just an hour to explore this landmark. The soaring interior is so huge it defies explanation. I’ve never walked into a church that felt as large inside as this one does. (So large in fact, that I didn’t have the right camera equipment with me to get the entire space in one shot.) Once I was done photographing on the ground floor, I took the two different elevators to the roof where Frank helped me understand more about the city I was seeing and the cathedral itself. The architect, Giles Gilbert Scott, also created England’s iconic red telephone boxes. He died before the Cathedral was completed in 1978 but not without making sure that one spire on the roof was higher than all the others. In fact, it’s so high that it’s the tallest point in the city of Liverpool and his initials are, of course, carved into the spire.
A new friend in Manchester recommended The Florist to me. She guessed I would love taking photos of its interior laden to the brim with floral displays. She was right, of course. (Fun fact: I dream of one day opening a flower store slash coffee shop slash book store and bar at night!)
The Umbrella Project has returned to the city for the second year as a way to raise money to make a difference in the lives of families and children with neuro-developmental disorders through Liverpool-based ADHD Foundation. Umbrellas could be sponsored for £100 (about $130) and signed by children filling in the prompt “My Super Power is…” In a world that seems so hopeless sometimes, I loved walking down this street and being reminded that there are people helping people everywhere.
Additional Experiences to have in Liverpool
Right now, China’s Terracotta Warriors are on display at the World Museum. I enjoyed seeing this traveling display after hearing about it for many years. The golden horse was fascinating to see and the Warriors themselves were so intricate.
And since I AM such a huge Beatles fan, going to The Beatles Story at Albert Docks was fun. It was campy and packed with people but is probably essential to the truly obsessed Beatles fan. To walk in their footsteps and not just learn about them I would have headed to Matthew Street, Penny Lane, Strawberry Field or The Cavern Club. These landmarks are still open and/or accessible today. All were a part of the band’s life and story in their home city – next time perhaps!
After all, 36 hours in Liverpool wasn’t nearly enough and I hope to return one day for longer!