Sipping cocktails by the water always puts me in vacation mode. So a chilled Aperol Spritz in the sun at the Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool, watching the world go by while waiting for lunch, is the perfect start to our weekend getaway.
My partner and I are in Liverpool for a mini break. Being greeted by glorious blue skies certainly adds to the holiday mood, but there’s also a lot to be said for planning an escape that requires no airport hassle.
We got here by train – an essential mode of transport for us, as neither of us drove – but with sustainability now a key consideration for travellers, and many cutting holidays abroad due to the rising cost of life, exploring the UK by rail is becoming ever more appealing.
And, provided there are no major disruptions on the day of your trip, it’s really nice to swing to a train station with your duffel bag, grab some coffee and pastries for the trip, then sit back and watch the fields and villages go by. .
We don’t really have an agenda, other than quietly exploring and looking for good places to eat and drink. Plus, Liverpool is a great city to enjoy on foot: quite small, easy to navigate, and packed with historic architecture.
We’re staying at the Aloft Liverpool (marriott.com; doubles from £104 per night), located in the former Royal Insurance Building, although you’ll find plenty of options at different prices if you plan ahead. The rooms are comfortable and spacious and there is an excellent buffet breakfast. But most ideal for us is its location, just minutes from the edge of downtown.
After dropping off our bags, we stroll to the Royal Albert Dock, one of Liverpool’s most visited areas and a real hub of action for tourists and locals alike. For lunch, there’s a waterside table at Gusto (gustorestaurants.uk.com), an Italian on Edward Pavilion, where four cocktails, two starters and a huge pizza to share cost around £70. Everything is delicious (especially the burrata) and even better served alongside a glistening River Mersey.
The Royal Albert Dock is also at the heart of Liverpool’s iconic cultural scene. The city has one of the most impressive collections of museums in Europe and many of them are concentrated here. One of the highlights is the Museum of Liverpool – the world’s first museum dedicated to the history of a regional city – while the nearby International Slavery Museum offers the opportunity to learn more about the role of the city in the history of the slave trade, as a major port for ships and merchants in the 18th century.
We wander through the gift shops before heading to Tate Liverpool, located across the Dock (tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool; general admission free, but booking required – and see website Web for paid exhibitions). Then we’ll take a ride on the Wheel of Liverpool (adults £12) – a giant big gondola wheel which is a fun way to get a birds-eye view of the city and towards the mouth of the river at the -of the.
Of course, Liverpool is perhaps best known for its musical heritage, especially as the birthplace of the Beatles, with many museums and tours dedicated to the iconic band. It’s not planned for us, but we head to Mathew Street, home to the new Cavern Club and a string of pubs and bars, all playing live music and packed with bachelor and bachelor parties daughter. It’s all about the vibe here: everyone is having a good time and those happy vibes are contagious.
After all the excitement, we veer off the tourist trail for dinner. Maray, a local chain promising Middle Eastern-inspired small plates, caught our eye (maray.co.uk) and we booked a table at the Bold Street branch. It’s a win from start to finish: intimate, elegant and relaxed. The friendly team are happy to talk to us about the menu and give us wine tastings.
We usually order too much food, but god it’s good – the Disco cauliflower (coated in chermoula, harissa, tahini, yogurt, pomegranate, almonds and herbs) and the halloumi (which comes in a thick plate , dressed in honey, dukkah, kale and spicy buttery leeks) remind us for days. Our meal, including a bottle of wine and dessert, came to almost £80.
For after-dinner drinks, after researching the secret entrance, we debrief at an Old Fashioned at Berry and Rye (berryandrye.uk), a speakeasy-style whiskey and gin bar on Berry Street. Liverpool also has a vibrant gay bar scene: our final stop is The Lisbon on Victoria Street (famous for its ornate ceilings) for a nightcap and a boogie.
Sunday calls for an even gentler pace. We spend an hour rummaging through endless shelves in The Vintage Store on Church Street, and delve into the well-stocked charity shops and vintage boutiques along Bold Street – which is quickly becoming one of our favorite places in town. A few steps from here is the bombed-out Church of St Luke.
Today the monthly Makers Market is open (slboc.com; see website for details of future events), with stalls selling handmade jewelry, prints, artisan coffee, bath salts and more. We wrap a few early Christmas presents (so organised!) before refueling with a cider under the trees in the park.
Determined to visit another attraction before catching the train home, we descend to Radio City Tower, where visitors can take a 400-foot lift to the St John’s Beacon Observation Gallery (stjohnsbeacon .co.uk; adults £7).
This must-see landmark has been looming over us all weekend, and its 360-degree view of Liverpool’s dramatic skyline is a great way to top off a fabulous little getaway.
To plan your rail journey, go to www.nationalrail.co.uk. Book in advance to get the best rates. You can also save an extra third on most journeys with a Railcard, for just £30 a year.
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