Albert Docks, this marvellously engineered shorefront along the River Mersey yields an amazing variety of sights, sounds and physical testaments to Liverpool's maritime heritage. With origins dating back to 1837 the current cruise terminal area has been a vital driver of Liverpool's cultural and economic development for over 150 years. In that time it has borne witness to countless shipments of exotic cargoes, boats of migrants from all across the world, and the maritime activities of two world wars. These past legacies have coalesced in the form of two institutions dedicated to explaining and showcasing a history of centuries old maritime exploits.
The Liverpool Maritime Museum tells an unabridged tale of Liverpool's seafaring heritage, from an interesting connection to RMS Titanic to the city's central role in the American Civil War. You'll hear about the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II and even get to take a tour of an old pilot cutter ship moored in the dock. As well as exhibits from bygone eras you can also find out about the modern issues facing Liverpool's international ports, such as drugs smuggling, human trafficking and tax evasion.
The International Slavery Museum turns to a darker page Liverpool's history- its position as a major slaving port in the 18th and early 19th centuries. At the peak of its involvement over 120 ships a year were setting sail for Africa from Liverpool docks, bringing the city and individual beneficiaries great wealth. In the years immediately prior to the 1807 abolition of slavery it is estimated that three-quarters of all European slaving ships left from Liverpool. It is fitting that the Slavery Museum, the first of its kind in the world, should be situated on the waterfront of a place with such vital connections to the historic trade. On top of Liverpool's practical involvement, you'll get to explore personal stories of bravery and rebellion, what life was like in West Africa at the time and what problems it faced, and the modern legacy of slavery throughout the world.
Two other interesting features close to the Albert Docks that bare a relation to Liverpool's oceanic heyday are the U-boat Story and the Titanic Memorial. Located the St. Nicholas Place, Pier Head, the fully titled 'Memorial to the Engine Room Heroes of the Titanic', is a substantial and poignant testament to the 244 engineers that lost their lives in the 1912 disaster. Across the River Mersey at Birkenhead is where you will find the U-Boat Story. This popular and exciting museum takes visitors on a journey into the dangerous life of a WWII German submarine crew. The exhibition is centred around the salvaged remains of U-534, a vessel that was sunk by British aircraft after refusing to surrender at the end of the war. Glass viewing partitions give visitors direct insights into the submarine's interior, and extensive exhibitions showcase a huge variety of recovered artefacts.
Despite the maritime focus so far, Liverpool's fabulously eclectic waterfront isn't all centred around the high seas. The reason I've particularly honed in on the Albert Docks thus far is that it hosts the city's greatest diversity of top attractions along with numerous bars and restaurants. Right across from the Maritime Museum is the Tate Liverpool, England's most renowned contemporary art galley outside of London. Permanent exhibitions display works by famous names including Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
A bit further down is the Beatles Story, a popular attraction chronicling the life, culture and music of the Fab Four. Exhibitions span from the groups early years as a local sensation playing at venues such as the Cavern Club, to the American invasion and international stardom. The Beatles Story even contains a 'Going Solo' exhibition, which explores the solo careers of John, Paul, George and Ringo after they disbanded.
Further up the docks from the Tate Galley you'll find the Museum of Liverpool. This institution, as its name suggests, is dedicated to telling the story of the entire city and its people. The building only opened in 2011 and is a stunning piece of ultra-modern architecture. See how Liverpool's complexion both cultural and physical as evolved over more than the century.
A final recommendation before looking deeper into the city would be a ride on the Echo Wheel of Liverpool. This 196ft ferris wheel takes passengers up in a glass capsule for panoramic viewings of the interior cityscape and riverside. It should be noted that you can combine a ticket for the Wheel with City Sightseeing's Liverpool bus tour. When you are ready to explore more of the city this hop-on hop-off sightseeing service is one of the quickest and easiest ways to travel between Liverpool's top attractions.
Check out the Walker Art Gallery and World Museum. The Walker Gallery houses one of the largest English collections of European art from the medieval till the late 19th century. Included in the exhibits are original works by Rembrandt, Nicolas Poussin and Edgar Degas. At the World Museum you'll encounter fascinating exhibits spanning the fields of archaeology, horology, ethnology and the natural and physical sciences. The museum hosts fun activities for all age groups and is home to a number of highlights including its own planetarium, a rare Aztec Codex, and the Egyptian antiquities of Joseph Mayer. Both the Walker Gallery and the World Museum are situated on William Brown Street.
A type of landmark Liverpool is well known for is cathedrals. The city has two equally awe-inspiring examples each with their own stand-out features. The older Liverpool Cathedral on St James Mount is the largest of its kind in the UK and the fifth largest in the world. While the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, which is Roman Catholic as opposed to the formers Anglican, presents a startling modernist design contrast with its conical nave and radial flying buttresses. If you visit one be sure to take a stroll down Hope Street to admire the other. I recommend starting at the Metropolitan and working down, because once you've seen Liverpool Cathedral you're only a short distance away from the next highlight.
Remember that Liverpool is the home of two English premier league football teams. Liverpool F.C. and Everton both call the city home and have stadiums at Anfield and Goodison Park respectively.
I'll finish off this introduction by providing a few tasters for anyone thinking of doing their own Beatles Trail. By the far the most famous spot associated with the band is the Cavern Club on Mathew Street. Venture slightly further out into West Derby and you'll reach the Casbah Coffee Club.