Energised by its 12-month stint as European Capital of Culture, Liverpool is a vibrant city-break destination with boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants – and history. Here's how to visit in style
If you're looking for outstanding architecture, maritime heritage, music, literature, arts or sport, look no further than Liverpool. Last year, lured by its reputation as European Capital of Culture 2008, more than two million visitors flocked to the city for a cultural experience that goes way beyond the Beatles. Here are my tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to see and do there.
Blessed with one of the most beautiful and dramatic waterfronts in Europe, the Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings – otherwise known as The Three Graces – have become beloved symbols of the city which sit proudly on the River Mersey. A trip to the Maritime Museum (www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk), now recognised as a Unesco world heritage site, is a must. Here, visitors will be able to relive the experience of the nine million people, from every corner of Europe, who emigrated through the city. Last year, the maritime festival was one of the highlights of the Capital of Culture year. The Tate museum (www.tate.org.uk), with its magnificent views across the Mersey, hosted the Turner Prize in 2008 and is definitely worth a visit.
In terms of stylish places to stay and eat, Liverpool is undergoing a renaissance. New designer boutique hotels include the sleek Hope Street Hotel (rooms from £110, including breakfast), which offers a memorable experience for any lover of über chic. Built in 1860 in the style of a Venetian palazzo, the hotel enjoys a magical setting between Liverpool’s two majestic cathedrals. Its decor is cool and contemporary, with luxurious Ren products in abundance.
Next door, have dinner at The London Carriage Works (0151 705 2222, www.hopestreethotel.co.uk) which has garnered rave reviews in both Harden's and The Good Food Guide since its opening in 2003. Formerly the home of coach and carriage builders, the restaurant offers modern international cuisine in a historic setting.
A stone's throw away, 60 Hope Street (0151 707 6060, www.60hopestreet.com) has established itself as one of the city’s best restaurants. Spread over three stylishly appointed floors of a former gentleman’s residence, it boasts a beautiful Georgian entrance but the interior design is contemporary. An expertly crafted menu blends traditional and modern, with influences from around the world. The restaurant walls often act as a gallery space. Previous exhibitions have included works by artists such as Damien Hirst and Lucian Freud.
In the business district, 62 Castle Street (rooms from £115, including breakfast) is a stunning place to stay. The Victorian architecture could mislead you into thinking this is a conventional hotel – but, once inside, the startlingly modern interior turns this notion on its head.
For some retail therapy, head to Cavern Walks where designers such as Vivienne Westwood have stores. This is also the home of Cricket: Liverpool’s No 1 fashion boutique. The Met Quarter is home to Prada, Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana and is a wonderful place to relax, have a coffee and view the wonderful art that adorns the walls.