Liverpool Weekend Break - The Docks to Lime Street and everything between

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In the past, I've broken down our weekend breaks into a sort of summation of the trip, the things we did and what we enjoyed alongside a travel diary which is a much more personal recap of the trip. Now I'm moving to more of a combination of the two, but if you are just here for the recommendations then check out the bolded attractions for what we loved about Liverpool.

We are slowly working our way around all of the greatest cities on these isles with our weekend breaks, but sometimes you end up having to go off script and the end result can be something spectacular! I have my list of cities, so when it comes to my turn to plan a weekend break I just check my list, comparison shop some hotels and away I go. Ultimately, Love Our Adventures focuses entirely on the positive, so it pains me to be negative but it has to be said: some cities just aren't worth visiting. It is to be expected, not all cities have great long histories, well-preserved buildings, castles, city walls and so on and so forth. Not all cities have a roaring nightlife, sprawling options for shopping and little cafés and eateries to enjoy. But if a city can have one or two of these then it is at least worth a look at! So I have quite a sprawling list, but this weekend break wasn't my choice - it was up to Rox, and she was having some grief. She had a handful of places in mind, but prices were either high or, as we were planning a December trip, they were lacking a Christmas market, which, while not an absolute requirement, is nice to have this time of year. I offered to provide some suggestions, but my existing list had all of the same issues, so I did what I always do: started scrolling through Google Maps for inspiration. After a while, I settled on a sizable waterfront city on the Mersey: Liverpool. I posed the suggestion to Rox, who interestingly had had the same idea simultaneously, and just like that our next city break was on.

Our journey began as most of our city breaks do - bright and early, a quick bite and coffee then load up the car, all packing was done well in advance it was boots on and go! Our departure was a little tinged with worry, several areas of the UK had received a bit of a blanket of snow, and our area was one of them. It was only a light snow, but we would be driving through some of the harder-hit areas too. Smart motorways may have robbed us of hard shoulders, but every refuge point and even the outer lane were lost to a blanket of white. I hadn't even planned on taking the motorways, but opted to because we figured they would have been gritted - they were not. In fact, by the time we were taking a breather and grabbing a bite to eat at the services, I'd say we had to wade across the car park in about 2 inches of snow. Of course, slow and steady on the snow will get you there safe, and as we progressed the coverage thinned - by the time we reached the M62 you could barely tell it had even snowed.

It is always nice to start our adventures off without a hitch, we made great time and pulled up outside our hotel in Liverpool - we went with the Marriott, having enjoyed our stay in Cardiff and knowing it was in a good location, up on the north of Liverpool's centre and right where the Christmas Markets were. Naturally, we had arrived far too early for check-in, but we could lock our car away in the car park and begin our adventure into Liverpool's heart. Considering we had opted for a Sunday - Tuesday weekend break, efficiency was key as plenty of places would be shut on Monday and some places would only be open on Sunday. A slightly circuitous route was laid out by Rox, best using our time to see things as and when they were open, but we would certainly be doing some walking. As we couldn't head to the hotel yet, we went straight to our first destination: St Luke’s Bombed Out Church. Heading straight up Bold Street it is hard to miss the bombed-out church, with its spire looming ahead - the building is an early 1800s Anglican church that took considerable damage during World War 2, leaving it a shell of its former self. It is a beautiful testament to the sacrifice even the folks at home were forced to endure during the war. We were only able to explore the exterior, as the interior had been turned into an ice skating rink for Christmas - a disappointment for us, but for those who had tickets, I am sure it was an absolutely magical experience! We took in a lap of the perimeter before heading across town to make our first visit to the Docklands.

The bombed-out church from the rear

Liverpool docks with a hint of fog on a rainy day

A tour of the Maritime Museum

The docks of Liverpool stretch the entire length of the city along the edge of the Mersey and play host to a massive array of things to see and do, from the Royal Albert Dock to the museums and all of the statues it is an exciting and lively place to be, as well as the additional market stalls all around to explore. We had a brief explore before deciding to take in the Maritime Museum. Approaching the Royal Albert Dock from Salthouse Quay, between the beautiful red brick buildings, the old chimney of The Pumphouse and all those little stalls is your first clue to the Maritime Museum's existence: a giant anchor! Enter through the doors and the first bonus to these museums will become apparent, I feel one thing that has become a real problem with travelling (or pretty much just existing outside your home) is this expectation that everything has a price tag attached to it - this isn't the case here, with all of the museums under the "National Museums Liverpool" (the squiggle logo museums as I came to call them) umbrella being entirely free! Donations are welcome and there are a few specific events which may have a ticket price attached, but there is so much here to see and do that is free and it is great to see it. The Maritime Museum itself is a fun dive into a good chunk of Liverpool's history - Liverpool was the home to the world's first commercial wet dock, established in the early 1700s, and has been a bustling hub ever since. But the Maritime Museum is so much more than that, going deeper into the history of shipping but also stretching to the modern day, even into the seedy underbelly with a look at smuggling and some of the methods people have used to get illicit items into the country. As a testament to just how interesting it was, we had hoped to take in the Maritime Museum and the funky-looking Museum of Liverpool with the time we had available, but we simply spent far longer than expected just in the Maritime Museum! We emerged educated and hungry, Rox tends to lead our exploration of eateries and she had picked out one nearby that sounded exciting...

Looping around the Albert Dock building along a windswept waterfront that saw us hurrying to escape the elements brought us quickly to our lunch destination: Madre. The dock buildings themselves have retained a lot of their industrial feel, and the ambient lighting gives an intimate feel, even in the middle of the day, which makes them a great place to set up all these exciting kinds of restaurants and shops. Madre is a charming Mexican eatery advertising itself as Street tacos & cocktails - it was a bit early for the latter, but we were very excited about the former. Still, the allure of a Mexican beer was too strong, so I paired our Guacamole Y Totopos and Birria Tacos with a Modello and Rox grabbed Jarritos Mexican Cola. The Birria Tacos were so flavourful, we had loved them from past adventures into Mexican cuisine at home and these were a great example, we left satiated and ready to explore onwards. With check-in time looming we decided to cross the city back to the general locale of the Marriott and there is plenty to see and do over there too.

Lunch at Madre

A collection of displays at the World Museum

Even more displays at the World Museum

The Marriott is situated in the northeast corner of what may be considered the city centre for Liverpool, overlooking St George's Hall, St John's Gardens and surrounding buildings in what is labelled as the  "St George’s" Quarter of the city. This is not only a stunning part of the city, but it brings us back to more of those great museums we had been dying to see. The Walker Art Gallery and the World Museum were the two most interesting to us, with the latter being what we selected to kill the time until check-out. This would be, as it would turn out, a brilliant decision. Liverpool's World Museum is an absolute gem, stocked full of amazing displays across multiple floors, all for the incredible price of £0 - it didn't end up killing time for us, instead, we ended up being late for check-in because we were enjoying it too much. A little taste of everything animal, nature and historical was on display here, with highlights for us personally including the room full of taxidermy drawers and real-life skulls you can explore freely and an active leaf-cutter ant colony which you could watch navigating a rope above your heads. All of the historical displays were equally awe-inspiring, and exploring the dinosaur and wildlife displays was a treat too - this has to be one of my favourite stops around Liverpool.

Check-in was smooth and our room was nearly perfect - EXCEPT for the heating not working, less than ideal on a rainy December stay! Luckily, the front-of-house staff were lovely in handling it and our second room was perfect. We shifted into a fresh set of clothes and headed down to check out Liverpool's Christmas Market. The damp weather wouldn't dampen our spirits as we circled our way around the market, well stocked with all of the expected stalls plus a few distinct and interesting things - some of the food choices were amazing! The market curves around the outside of St George's Hall and fills the square around Liverpool Cenotaph - it stretches far out, with rides and a bunch of different shops alongside beer vendors and food options. Rox settled on a Salt & Pepper Chicken pot and I got a Pizza loaded with  Mac and Cheese, both were phenomenal although I failed to account for how messy a mac & cheese pizza would be to eat while walking so it did result in my coat getting more than a little messy! From the food stalls back to the booze huts, we found a lovely corner underneath a space heater to have a German beer or two before deciding to retire for the evening with a few drinks in the room and to dry off from an incredibly rainy day.

Christmas Market goodies!

The next morning I arose a little more groggy than I had expected... The beer had gone down easy the night before and I had loved it at the time, but I was in desperate need of something to fix me - Lovelock's Café sat a short walk away and it ended up being a great little spot, lovely bread for my Bacon Sandwich and friendly service, it was exactly what I needed to set myself right and to take on the day... We had another big day of walking ahead of us, and our first stop: Chinatown. Just up past where we had headed yesterday to check out the bombed-out church is Chinatown, Liverpool has the first Chinatown to be established in Europe and the city has a thriving Chinese population. Chinatown itself combines the expected Liverpudlian architecture with terrace houses, but adorned with Chinese framing and signs you'll never mistake it for somewhere else. Oh, and there is, of course, the looming Chinese Arch at the top of Chinatown. We were a little early to sample all of the great foods on offer, but to see it alone is worth a trip. Plus, it put us on the right side of the city for our next stop.

Breakfast at Lovelocks Cafe

Liverpool Chinatown Arch

Liverpool Cathedral from the outside

Exploring Liverpool Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral sits a little walk outside of the city centre, but I would recommend going to it because I was in awe of the scale of the place. I remember loving York Minster when we first saw it, being so impressed at the scale of it and Liverpool Cathedral is even taller. It is a much more modern build than what you may picture for a cathedral but it is an amazing building all the same, a red brick structure over 100 metres tall built throughout most of the 1900s. It is free to enter and explore and it is just as unbelievably awesome inside - towering columns up to the ceiling far, far above, ornate displays and of course Christmas decorations make it a beautiful stop-off around Christmas. Our day was packed, so we ventured onwards, today's plan was to spend more time exploring the docks, so we headed straight across town to the Queen's Wharf bridge so we could slowly work our way up the waterfront and explore the docks to their fullest. The area is littered with bars, restaurants and shops as well as a bunch of different statues along the way. Liverpool's collection of statues is frankly insane, so we were going to see some of them across the docks and into the city - along the docks, we wanted to stop by most of them, including the Edward VII, Billy Fury and Titanic Memorial to name just a few. I had to tick off one important stop before following the statues further which is, naturally, the Liver Building. We didn't take any time to really go inside, but if you visit Liverpool it' is sort of an essential stop!

One stop we hadn't really put much stock into but kind of wished we had is Gravity Max, we found ourselves in Chavasse Park to see what it was offering to the Christmas Markets and ventured in in search of Wendy's, but it must be said this is such a cool thing to have right in your city centre. Amusement, Mini-Golf, VR booths, Batting Cages and so much more - I'm pretty sure we could have easily spent the entire day in here without ever getting bored! That being said, we needed time to recover after all of the walking and I had us booked in for food that evening so we went back to the hotel room to recover for a while before it was time to eat. Hours had fled by and we made our way in the rain down to Albert's Schenke - we were a little early but they were happy for us to have a drink at the bar or be seated immediately. I've always loved German food and the menu looked amazing, so I was so excited about this, we opened by sharing a Pretzel Platter which came with the most amazing dips and then our mains were, as must be done, big German Sausages! The cheese-filled Sausage I had on my loaded hotdog was simply incredible, and a flight of the German beers on tap made the whole thing perfect. Not only that, but I have an allergy to Mushrooms which can be a little awkward to deal with (as it's not one of the traditional 14 allergens), but the staff went above and beyond to accommodate that. All in all, it was a great evening, and as we stepped outside the absolute torrential rain, coupled with the journey home looming tomorrow, meant we should probably call this one an early night to avoid another groggy head on the 'morrow.

Liver Building overlooking the Titanic Memorial

Inside Gravity Max

Albert's Schenke meal - all of it was perfect!

The next day was another early start, we would be leaving Liverpool today but we had a decent checkout time of midday and still plenty of Liverpool to see. Today was a simpler day: shopping! We had deliberately not been really exploring the shopping options of the city so we could make the last day all about that, and geez! Liverpool is as solid a shopping destination as any! But first, grub. We wanted another café like the morning before, so we delved into the city looking at the menus posted to the walls outside spots until we stumbled upon Bramley's Café - family run since the 70s, so they must be doing something right! As soon as we got our food we could see why, a proper bit of grub to start the day with the highlight being the Old English Sausages, simply spectacular! With a full stomach, we headed into Liverpool, starting at the heart of the shopping with Liverpool ONE and spiralling outwards to see what we could find. Liverpool's shopping is deep and wide, with something to find on just about every street - if you are looking to go shopping in a fresh city then absolutely consider Liverpool as your one-stop destination. Midday came faster than we could imagine, so we swung back around to the hotel to check out, move our bags to the car and return to the city as we were still not done exploring. Rox packs a freezer bag to load up with all the food she wants to take home with her, so we bounced from one fast-food shop to another grabbing all the things not readily available around us, before we returned to the car one last time, paid the piper (the cost of 3 days parking in a city centre will always be a bitter pill to swallow) and started home. I'm happy to say I have nothing to say about the journey back, it was smooth and over before I knew it, bringing a happy conclusion to a great city break in Liverpool.

78,260. That is how many steps I did over our weekend in Liverpool. It was a brilliant break in an amazing city, one full of opportunities for fun, great food and amazing shopping all in one hub. If anything, I deserve a slap on the wrist for not having Liverpool on my list of places to visit to begin with! It is a quality addition to our recent list of city breaks and one we are certainly going to visit again in the future. There isn't really too much to add to this story, I've spent enough time gushing about our time in Liverpool, and all I can do is say this: plan your own city break here and see if the 2008 European Capital of Culture can capture your love too!

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