by Kathryn Rivers.
Most people who visit England tend to head straight to London and many of them never venture far from there. However, many cities in the north tend to offer a variety of things at a fraction of the price. One of my personal favourites of these cities is Liverpool. Best known for its football club and origination of the Beatles, this city has a number of activities to fit in a frugal traveler’s budget.
So here’s a list of some of the best free and almost free things you can find to do around Liverpool:
1. Check Out a Museum Liverpool is an absolute gold mine for a museum lover looking to learn a bit about everything from history to art to music. Many of them, like these first ones listed, are conveniently located on or around the docks and have free entry. Museum of Liverpool- Located in Pier Head, this museum has exhibits detailing various aspects of the local history. You can see how Liverpool grew and developed, largely thanks to its location on the river, learn what was around in the Ice Age, and even catch a Football or Beatles show. The museum has free entry, even for the shows. Merseyside Maritime Museum- This museum is located directly on the Albert Dock and once again will cost you nothing to enter. Being a port city, Liverpool’s history is entwined with ships and the sea. This museum gives a glimpse into the city’s role in the war, life on the sea, and even boasts a special exhibit on the Titanic. They also run tours of the Old Dock on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but it is suggested to book in advance since they only allow a limit number of people on each tour.
Tate Liverpool- Close by the Maritime Museum, the Tate showcases various modern and contemporary art exhibits. The main part of the gallery is free but occasionally there are special exhibits that you have to pay to enter. You can even interact and “design” some of the art there. The exhibits change every few months so there is always a reason to stop by, even if you’ve been before.
International Slavery Museum- This one is actually a museum on top of a museum. The International Slavery Museum is located just above the Merseyside Maritime Museum. It’s exhibits gives a glimpse into the lives of people, both past and present, who have been taken into slavery and aims to look at the impact it has had a various countries throughout the world. Pier Masters House- This is less of a museum and more just a rather old house but it is a interesting look at what a war time house would have looked like. It is the only one out of the four houses built on the site that survived the bombings during World War II. It’s free to nose around and doesn’t take to long, so while it not have the most interesting or interactive exhibits, it is a good way to kill a bit of time.
Walker Art Gallery- This museum is conveniently located near Liverpool Lime Street train station making it a great first or last stop in the city if you’re looking to maximise your time. This gallery is a little bit more of a traditional art museum than Tate Liverpool. It contains various paintings, sculptures, video, and fashion pieces dating from the 13th century up until present day. It also covers artists from Rembrandt to Freud.
World Museum- Locating a few meters from the Walker Art Gallery, this museum has a little bit of everything. It exhibits cover topics from natural history to the history of ancient worlds and cultures. It houses an aquarium, bug house, and planetarium. There are several interactive activities in the museum as well as daily planetarium show.
British Music Experience- This is one of the few museums you have to pay for, but if you’re a lover of British music, it’s well worth the £16. The Music Experience walks you through a history of British Music covering everything from the wartime music in the 1940s to The Beatles to Bowie all the way up to X-Factor. It takes you through 8 different zones representing different musical eras in Britain. There’s even an interactive exhibit that allows you to play on a variety of instruments and even test out your singing voice in a vocal booth.
2. Appeal to Your Inner Beatles Addict If you love The Beatles, then Liverpool is definitely the place for you. It’s where the band got their start and holds a number of significant landmarks in their history. One of the biggest attractions in the city is actually taking Beatle tours but those tend to be a bit pricier. Luckily, it’s entirely possible to see most of the same sights for a fraction of the price if you don’t mind a bit of walking or bus riding.
For those who might not be obsessed with The Beatles as others, a good place to start might be The Beatle Story museum with two locations; one on Albert Dock and one at Pier Head. It is £16 to get in, but the price includes access to both locations. The gives an extensive history on the band and even has some Beatles themed activities you can take part in to help elevate your love of the band.
You can continue the tour at a number of locations. In the middle of the city, you can locate the Cavern Club, which is most often credited with the start of the band. It continues to serve as a functioning bar but if you don’t feel like buying a drink, you can still nose around and often enjoy some live music. From there, you’d need to catch a bus or cab to get to the next stops. A bit outside the city sits Penny Lane. There’s not much to see there beyond the street and road sign but that doesn’t stop people from dropping by for the photo opportunity. A couple of miles from there are both John Lennon’s and Sir Paul McCartney’s childhood homes along with Strawberry Field. If you wish to go into the house to really soak in the experience, it’ll cost you £23 for both. But, if you simply being in the area and being able to get a few pictures is enough for you, it’s easy to knock them all out quiet quickly and won’t cost you a thing.
3. Find a Festival There is always something happening in Liverpool. The city hosts a number of festivals throughout the year ranging in price from free to £15. There are festivals for dance, music, art, theatre, comedy, lifestyles and acceptance, culture, food, and even news. You might even just happen to walk into one or two without planning it seeing as some run down the main streets of the city. However, if you’d like to plan it out a bit more, you can find many of them on visitliverpool.com.
4. Soak Up the (fleeting British) Sun England might be best known for it’s rain and chilly climate but the sun does occasionally pop out. If it does, it’s the perfect time to head to the beach and Liverpool has a number of them to chose from. Perhaps the best beach is located just a bit north of the city. Blundellsands beach offers nice sand and a great view. It is also home to several iron sculptures of men sitting just on the tide line. These sculptures are part of an installation by Anthony Gormley and gives the beach an incredibly unique look. The installations can also be found on the adjoining Crosby beach.
A few other beaches lie just on the other side of the Mersey River. Moreton Beach boast a large stretch of sandy beach that gets exposed as the tide lowers. New Brighton Beach is very popular with families when the weather is nice and gives a great view of Liverpool Bay. West Kirby Beach offers views in to Northern Wales and when the tide is low enough, you can even walk out to a set of small islands. Make sure to leave plenty of time to walk back though!
5. Create Your Own Walking Tour
If you’re into walking and especially if you like architecture and city art, then Liverpool is the perfect place to simply talk a walk. The city is home to numerous old and beautiful buildings along with more public sculptures than anywhere else in Britain aside from Westminster.
One building that will be hard to miss is the Bombed Out Church in the city centre. It has sat in the heart of Liverpool since 1832 and was wrecked by bombing in 1941 during World War II. The church has been left as a war memorial and on certain occasions is even open to the public. There are a few other gorgeous churches and cathedrals in the city to check out as well. The Liverpool Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church are both brilliant structures and are easily appreciated for their architecture. Besides the religious buildings, Liverpool also has a number of other old, attractive buildings to see. The Bluecoat, Town Hall, and The Old Post Office are just a few you can check out. If you head down towards Merseyside, you can also see a collection of three buildings known as the “Three Graces”. The Royal Liver, Port of Liverpool, and Cunard building are easily recognisable on Pier Head and you can follow up your visit of those with a walk around the Albert Dock.
As far as public art goes, Liverpool is in no short supply. Several sculptures are located around the city of a variety of people from politicians to musicians to artists themselves. You can find John Lennon at the airport and the whole Beatles group at Pier Head. Peter Pan sits in Sefton Park and Minerva is spotted just above the town hall. You can also hunt for Queen Victoria, William Mackenzie, Abraham, Charles Darwin, and many others. The best way to do it is just to wander the city and keep your eyes open. Odds are you’ll run across a number of other public art works as well. If you prefer, you can also do a quick google search to find exact locations of all the statues throughout the city.
As you can tell, there’s no reason to break the bank on entertainment in England. Liverpool is just one of many city that boasts a number of free sites and activities throughout it and when it doubt, a good wander around the city will always turn up a few surprises.