Liverpool, the fifth largest city in the UK, is famous for being home to the Beatles, its eponymous football club, and its ‘ferry, cross the Mersey’. Since having a baby, we have become more interested, than ever before, to explore our home country, especially seeing what other UK cities have to offer us as a family. The city has the second-highest number of art galleries and national museums in the UK, second only to London, and is set up as a tourist destination while retaining its unique cultural heart.
The old is seamlessly blended with the new, most notable at the city’s Royal Albert Dock, pictured above, where stone old buildings sit next to modern day glass towers. There is a huge sense of regeneration and reclamation of abandoned spaces, across the city. This means that the skyline is very mix-and-match cool, so you can while away many enjoyable hours simply wandering around – never far from family-friendly eateries. The streets around the main town and Dock areas are pretty flat and pram-friendly, and for climbing the hills up to the University buildings and Cathedrals you can hop on the hop-on hop-off buses, which are a favourite of ours. Here are our top Liverpool tips, and recommendations for where to take your family while staying in the city for a weekend – although, most of them would be my recommendations whether you have a child with you or not, bar the odd play centre…
- From London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street takes about 2.5 hours by train. Book early bird tickets for the best prices and you might like to pick seats near the doors, like us, for easy access to luggage.
- We stayed as guests of the Jurys Inn, Liverpool, located right next to the Royal Albert Dock, pictured above. This was the perfect location, as we could wander from the station to the hotel, through the town in about 20 minutes. From there, it was a two-minute walk over to the Dock, and just a few more minutes to the port and the town. The hop-on hop-off bus tour stop is near the hotel.
- Don’t miss my review of the Jurys Inn Liverpool hotel we stayed at for our weekend break – a mid-range, newly refurbished, well-located and family-friendly hotel.
Quick tick list:
1 The Royal Albert Dock
2 Ferry across the Mersey
3 The Museum of Liverpool
4 The Baltic Triangle: Creative Quarter
5 The Wheel of Liverpool
6 Open top hop-on hop-off bus tour
7 Tate Liverpool
8 Victoria Gallery and Museum
Keep reading for all the info on the above, and lots more…
Walking up an appetite around the Royal Albert Dock
1 – The Royal Albert Dock
The picture directly above is of the port area to the right of the World Heritage Royal Albert Dock, illustrating that old/new skyline I was talking about – cool, hey? The main Dock area, in the first picture, you might well recognise from the days when it was home to the This Morning studio, and the weather map hovered on the waters. Now, it has been redesigned as a leisure attraction, offering loads of family-friendly restaurants, and a few shops, with the focus being on local and independent businesses. There are LOTS of pop ups and events held at the Dock, in all seasons, so do check out what’s on before planning your trip.
The Beatles Story attraction is located at the Dock, which looks fun, but it is pricey (£17 per adult, family tickets available), so, if you aren’t a super fan it might not be one for your list. There are plenty of Beatles-related sights to spot for free, around the City. Mattel Play, an indoor play centre across three themes, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, is also here. We didn’t visit on our trip, but definitely good to note for rainy days (note: £12 per child from age one).
All aboard the Mersey Dazzle Ferry!
2 – Ferry across the Mersey
Iconised by the Gerry & the Pacemakers, Liverpool’s Ferry has ferried famous passengers including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip and The Beatles, as well as millions of commuters and tourists across the Mersey river. Starting at the city’s Pier Head it sails across to the Wirral, docking at Woodside and Seacombe. At both stop-offs passengers can disembark and explore the local area. Seacombe is where the Spaceport attraction is. The ferry above is the Snowdrop Dazzle Ferry, which was painted by artist Peter Blake as part of First World War commemorations. It is the only one in operation in the UK.
“The eye-catching dazzle design is in honour of the patterns that were first used on vessels in World War One. They worked by ‘baffling the eye’ and making the ships difficult to target. Each ship’s pattern used unique colour and monochrome designs – to avoid making classes of vessels recognisable to enemy U-boats and aircraft.” – @merseyferries, do check the website for operating times.
We stayed on for the round trip and bought our ticket as a double up with the hop-on hop-off bus, which I think is such a brilliant way to see a city, especially when you are only staying somewhere for a few days. Our toddler loved being on deck – on both the ferry and the bus. Note: the ferry above looks empty, here, but it can get busy on nice days so be prepared to queue. There is covered seating below deck.
Above: ‘Double Fantasy: John & Yoko’ at The Museum of Liverpool
3 – The Museum of Liverpool
After a stroll along the Quayside, from the Dock, make a stop at the Museum of Liverpool. The ‘Double Fantasy: John & Yoko’ exhibition, pictured from outside in the top image above, is on until 3rd November 2019. The Museum is right beside the Mersey ferry dock. It opened in 2011 and the foyer is reminiscent of the spiralling Guggenheim, in New York. The main focus of the museum is the city’s ‘global significance through its unique geography, history and culture’. The Little Liverpool Gallery at the museum is a timed free entry play space for kids under the age of six. There are games and imaginative areas to introduce children to the city’s culture via play. Each session in the Little Liverpool Gallery lasts about 30 minutes, and there are usually seven sessions each day – do book ahead of your visit if you can.
The street art covered walls of the Creative Quarter
4 – The Baltic Triangle: Creative Quarter
As Londoners, we can easily sniff out a craft brewery and street food market. No wonder we were drawn to the uber-cool Baltic Triangle are of Liverpool, which felt akin to a cleaner and quieter version of modern day Shoreditch, where all the creatives gather and have uber-cool ideas. Presumably acting as a place to get those ideas flowing, Cains Brewery Village is host to several bars and street food outlets. We stopped for the one drink at a Peaky Blinders themed bar. I imagine the whole place gets excitingly raucous come nighttime, but during the day, we found it to be a nice chilled place for a quiet drink and it was sensory overload for our daughter; who loved running on the fake grass and dancing to the house and R&B music. She also loves a spot of street art, so she was basically spoiled for choice.
Side note: Can’t quite believe our umbrella fold pram withstood all that weight hanging off the back of it without tipping backwards… It is our My Babiie pram, from the Abbey Clancy Catwalk Collection range and it is BRILLIANT, comes on all our trips. Lightweight yet sturdy, it lies flat and is very comfy for naps (she has long naps in it), and comes with the most useful cup holder – which unlike many others does not fall off.
5 – The Wheel of Liverpool
The big wheel is near the Royal Albert Dock, next to the M&S Bank Arena Liverpool, (in the picture above on the right), and the Jurys Inn Liverpool hotel, (in the picture above behind the Wheel). We didn’t get to ride it on our visit (much to our and our daughter’s disappointment), because it was having maintenance carried out. Luckily, I do like to leave a place I enjoy with a reason to return. The 42 gondolas carry riders 60 metres high and give a 360 degree panoramic view across the Dock and over the city. Check the Wheel of Liverpool website and social channels for opening times and prices.
6 – Open top hop-on hop-off bus tour
If you’ve read from the top of the article, you’ll know by now that I have a thing for hop-on hop-off bus tours. We took the double option of combining our bus ticket with the Mersey Ferry. We bought our ticket, with City Explorer Liverpool, at the stop just by our Jurys Inn hotel. The tickets are valid for 24-hours and it does what it says on the tin – join the bus at any stop and hop off and get back on wherever you need to.
From the Royal Albert Dock and the famous St Luke’s Bombed-Out Church to the historic museums of Liverpool and the Chinese Arch (pictured above), there are 14 stops. There is space to park or fold the buggy downstairs, and, since it was nice weather, we went on the upper deck – our daughter loves the breeze in her hair – and it meant we had uninterrupted views of all the sights. The guide was informative and funny, I love the Scouse accent, and all-in-all it is an easy way to spot lots of top sights in a short time, jumping off to explore any of the ones you want to see close up. Visit the website for more info on the tours and to book tickets.
‘Liverpool Mountain’ by artist Ugo Rondinone
7 – Tate Liverpool
The Liverpool branch of the Tate family is located at the Royal Albert Dock, filled with British and International contemporary and modern art. Tate Liverpool is free to visit and has static collections as well as visiting exhibitions. I am sad we missed out on seeing the Keith Haring exhibition, (on until November 2019), but we just ran out of time on our visit. We love visiting the Tate Modern in London – both are a baby sensory dream.
8 – Victoria Gallery & Museum
This place is what our tour bus commentator described as a ‘hidden gem’ seeing as it doesn’t get as much publicity as the bigger museums, but it is very beautiful – and holds some real treasures, although the star of the show is the Victoria Building, itself, with all its glorious tiles and lofty ceilings. The Victoria Gallery & Museum is a ‘collection of curiosities’ gathered during the University’s 127-year history. There is a children’s activity area on the top floor, and things (like fancy dress up and colour in pictures) dotted around the special exhibits, to keep everyone entertained.
Where to stay
Don’t miss my review of the Jurys Inn Liverpool hotel we stayed at for our weekend break – affordable, well-located and family-friendly.
Best of the rest…
We didn’t find time to see these things on a weekend visit, but here are some other child-friendly suggestions, if you are staying in Liverpool for longer than 48 hours:
- Merseyside Maritime Museum – great day out if boats float your boat
- Imagine That! Science Museum, and play centre
- The Liverpool World Museum (has an aquarium and is home to 1.7million artefacts)
- Spaceport – space-themed galleries
- Liverpool ONE – leisure complex of shops, a nature trail and ping pong tables
- Chester Zoo – outside of the city
- Knowsley Safari Park – safari drive outside of the city
We stayed for one night as guests of the Jurys Inn Liverpool. All activities were of our own accord. See @fashtravels Instagram stories ‘Liverpool’ highlight reel for lots more images and info about our stay and activities during our Liverpool weekender.