Back in July, we went to Liverpool for a weekend. Despite staying in the worst hotel ever (VERY noisy, uncomfortable in terms of bed and temperature, and expensive because we didn’t plan in advance), Liverpool was fantastic for a weekend away from London.
Typical of our traveling strategy, I suggest the silly and impossible (Penny Lane was unfortunately too far to go to go sing the Beatles song there), we go to as many museums as humanly possible and I get coerced into eating food I’ve never had before (and usually like it).
As well as getting talked into tapas (which I loved), I was also talked into a boat tour of the Mersey. I really think this was the best way to see what Liverpool is all about. Throughout the weekend, we hit up three or four museums and I was pleasantly surprised. I only say I was surprised because I’m so used to the quality of most museums in London that I’m a massive snob and because I really didn’t know what to expect. We avoided the Beatles Museum (even I thought it looked like too much of a tourist trap and I love those.)
The Museum of Liverpool was really, really good. It had a good mix of ‘high’ historical and ‘pop’ historical. So, it had exhibits on the roots of the city, football, and the Beatles. The building is really cool as well!
The Maritime Museum was really interesting. I thought I was permanently sick of seeing boats after the Museum of London, Docklands, but I really enjoyed seeing Liverpool’s history with great exhibitions international trade, and wartime actions (including some things you can play with!). It also had a large section on the Titanic which I found really moving. It was one of the only times that I was actually able to understand the scale of the ship and the disaster.
At the top of the Maritime Museum is the International Museum of Slavery. This museum is pretty new and I had head mixed reviews. However, I thought the entire museum was curated perfectly. It was informative and sensitive without being overwhelming. It simultaneously showed the horror of the slave trade and the cold hard facts regarding the economic trade of human beings and the human side of it. The museum put slavery into the context of the time period whilst also explaining the historical implications of it, for example the American Civil Rights movement. I’ve never seen an exhibit, let alone a whole museum, that so clearly and respectfully shows the scale of slavery. I would say that the Museum of Slavery is worth the trip to Liverpool on its own.
All the museums we went to and most of the weekend was centred on the old docklands area. The regeneration of the Liverpool docklands is an example of where regeneration works really, really well. It, of course, was an area for tourists, but it seemed to be an area for the locals to enjoy as well. (We saw some people getting ready for a night out nearby. In Liverpool, you know when someone is going for a night out. I haven’t seen heels that high since I was in Italy.) The Liverpool docklands should be a blueprint for other cities attempting to do similar projects that want the space to actually be useful and used.