The sights in Liverpool and the metropolitan county of Merseyside won’t jump out at you, but if you know what you’re looking at you’ll fall in love.
That goes for the warehouses on the Albert Dock where exotic goods from all over the British Empire were stored, or elegant Southport, which is claimed to have inspired Napoleon III to build the boulevards in Paris.
There are prestigious links golf courses like Royal Birkdale, model villages like Port Sunlight and coastal landscapes that will set your pulse racing.
And let’s not forget the Beatles trail where you’ll discover the childhood homes and teenage haunts of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Merseyside:
The city centre has been intensively revitalised in the last decade, as you’ll see at Liverpool One, a snazzy district of shops, hotels and dining.
Just around the corner on Matthew Street is the fabled Cavern Club, where the Beatles first built their buzz and performed 300 times, far more than at any other venue in the UK. The enormous St.
George’s Hall is spectacular inside and out, and you have to make time for the monolithic Liverpool Cathedral, built in the early-1900s, and the Walker Art Gallery, which is as good as any art museum outside London (think Degas, Rembrandt, Hockney and Freud). And it wouldn’t be fair not to mention Anfield Stadium, the ground of England’s most successful football club in an unprepossessing stadium.
2. Liverpool Waterfront
The Mersey obviously contributes a lot to Liverpool’s identity, and a large proportion of the city’s top attractions are on the UNESCO-listed riverside.
For starters you catch that famous ferry across the Mersey from Pier Head to Woodside in Birkenhead and get a better view of Liverpool’s singular skyline.
There are museums aplenty in here: The Beatles Story, Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum are in solemn warehouses on Albert’s Dock, while the Museum of Liverpool has a more futuristic aspect.
And you can’t miss the iconic Liver Building, a symbol for the city along with the Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building.
There aren’t many English seaside resorts in such rude health as Southport, which has all the signature amenities of a Victorian escape.
There’s an amusement arcade, pleasure park and the spacious Ainsdale beach, all accompanied by local shops.
The second-longest pleasure pier in the British Isles is in Southport, at more than a kilometre in length and with a modern glass pavilion at the end.
Lord Street, the leafy main shopping artery, is especially lovely with glazed shop canopies and the plush Wayfarers Arcade.
Napoleon III spend the last couple of years of his exile here in the 1840s before returning to rule France’s Second Empire.
The muddy beach at Crosby is to be admired from the grassy foreshore rather than in the water, as bathing is prohibited because of the fluctuating tides.
But you have a strong motive to sit and contemplate the scene as it currently hosts Anthony’s Gormley’s Another Place art installation.
There are 100 cast iron life-sized figures spread at wide intervals, each weighing 650 kg.
At sunset they imbue the beach with real drama, but won’t be here forever so you need to come to see them sharpish.
There’s also loads of Georgian and Victorian architecture about the town, and for some Titanic trivia, the captain Edward Smith lived at a house on Marine Terrace.
You won’t be catching the ferry across the Mersey just for the view of Liverpool, as there are some attractions to keep you in Birkenhead for longer than you might expect.
The Lady Lever Art Gallery is one of Merseyside’s top museum with lots of Victorian art, especially by the pre-Raphaelites and a hoard of Wedgwood fine china, as well as vases and sculpture from Ancient Greece and Rome.
The 12th-century Birkenhead Priory is the oldest building still standing on Merseyside, and at the Wirral Transport there are vintage buses and trams gathered from around Merseyside, and you can also ride the heritage tramway that stops outside this former tram shed.
6. Port Sunlight
An outstanding piece of 19th century urban planning, Port Sunlight is a model village built on what had been empty marsh land south of the Mersey.
The 800 houses in this estate were for workers at a factory owned by the Lever Brothers, and the name “Sunlight” comes from the brand of soap that was manufactured there.
Some 30 architects worked together on the project, and Port Sunlight conveys the more humane attitude towards workers at the turn of the century, providing a pastoral atmosphere, abundant green space, places of worship and leisure facilities.
At the village’s museum you’ll meet William Hesketh Lever, who conceived the village and see some of the innovative plans that were never realised.
In a metropolitan county like Merseyside unencumbered nature can be hard to find.
But Formby bucks the trend with epic sandy beaches on the edge of sand dunes banking up like a miniature mountain range.
All this is just minutes from the centre of Liverpool, so joggers, cyclists and dog-walkers all make the trip for the sea air and wide open scenery.
It’s no mystery why Formby has been chosen by Liverpool’s high-earning professionals, and many Liverpool and Everton footballers live in the vicinity.
If you can handle a golf club you’ve got a choice of coastal links courses like Royal Birkdale, Hillside, West Lancashire and Formby Golf Club in this area.
8. West Kirby
The endless sandflats along the Irish sea coast can make bathing tricky, but at West Kirby there’s a man-made marine lake replenished by the sea.
The panoramas here are pretty special, as water surrounds you in three directions at the western corner of the Wirral Peninsula.
If things heat up in summer, come here for some bathing, while the consistent breezes bring windsurfers and sailors further away from the shore.
On dry land, West Kirby is a high-earning kind of place, with lots of parkland, the Royal Liverpool Golf Club and streets around the centre with restaurants, independent shops like butchers, delicatessens and florists.
9. New Brighton
Up from Birkenhead on the norhteastern corner of the Wirral Peninsula is a seaside resort that came to prominence in the 1800s but suffered in the 20th-century.
There was once a massive iron tower here, larger than the one in Blackpool, but dismantled in the wake of the First World War.
What does remain though is plenty of charming Victorian housing, Fort Perch Rock a coastal battery from 1825 and the majestic New Brighton Lighthouse from 1825. And then there the timeless sandy beaches on the Irish Sea, just what you need on sunny July and August afternoons and matched with crazy golf, kids’ play areas and the much-loved Floral Pavilion Theatre.
Known as the Georgian Quarter, Canning is a small area just east of the cathedral that was residence for the city’s wealthy industrialists in the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are broad streets of beautiful flat-fronted houses, some five storeys tall and other charming cottages with rose gardens out front.
It seem strange to see Canning now, but these glorious houses were run down in the 70s and 80s before finding a new lease of life as Liverpool’s fortunes improved.
In the fenced gardens at Falkner Square you’ll be wondering if you’ve accidentally ended up in Bath or Cheltenham.
11. St Helens
A working town with industrial roots, St Helens had a wide variety of industries in the 18th and 19th centuries, such as cotton weaving, coal mining, glassmaking and copper-smelting, on top of a number of other mining operations for minerals and limestone.
You’ll encounter the legacy of this period at attractions like the World of Glass, a historic kiln with exhibitions of vintage local glassware and the possibility for you to try your hand at glass-blowing.
In the north the “League” code of Rugby is king, and St Helens has one of England’s top sides.
St Helens RFC have won the Rugby League Championship 13 times and play their home matches at Langtree Park Stadium in the spring and summer months.
Just down from West Kirby, Thurstaton is another place on the Wirral Peninsula that feels like open countryside.
The Wirral Country Park is a mix of the sandy coast with beaches you can bathe on, and mature woodland and heathland woven with trails bounded by the 20-metre boulder clay cliffs.
At the Dee Cliffs you’ll see the most beautiful sunsets and can gaze out over the Dee River to the Clwydian Range in northeast Wales.
You could treat your little ones to a trip to the Church Farm Park, which has turned farmyard sights and activities into a mini-theme park.
There are tractor rides along with enclosures for hens, goats, alpacas, cows and sheep.
If you’re a committed Beatles fan you can pick up the trail in this upmarket southeastern suburb.
To people not in the know, many of the sights around Woolton will be pretty nondescript, but for fans they will be shrines of pop history where history was made.
So, you have St. Peter’s Church, where Eleanor Rigby is buried, and where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in the church hall in 1957. There’s Strawberry Field a former estate belonging to the Salvation Army, where John Lennon would come for an annual garden party in summer.
And lastly there’s John Lennon’s childhood home, at 251 Menlove Avenue (Mendips), bought by Yoko Ono and then donated to the National Trust . It was restored to its appearance in the 1950s in 2003.
And if you’ve come this far you’d be remiss not to see the childhood homes of the remaining two founding Beatles members.
Allerton neighbours Woolton to the south and is also a cosy, middle-class kind of place.
Calderstones Park is a gentle green space with a botanic garden, all next to the Calderstones House, a handsome neoclassical mansion from the Regency Era.
And as for the Beatles trail, Paul McCartney’s childhood home is at 20 Forthlin Road.
Then a little closer to the city centre in Wavertree is the house in which George Harrison was born in 1943 and lived until 1950, at 12 Arnold Grove.
Just a small outer suburb to the east of Liverpool, Prescot is bordered by the grounds of Knowsley Hall.
This is an 18th-century stately home passed down by the Earls of Derby, although there had been a hunting lodge on these lands since medieval times.
Knowsley Hall is now rented out for functions, while the ten square kilometres of grounds host Merseyside’s favourite animal attraction.
Knowsley Safari Park has its roots in the Earl of Derby’s menagerie, and has rhinos, elephants, tapirs and baboons in smaller enclosures, and then everything from Siberian tigers to African wild dogs in semi-captivity in seven different zones at the Safari Drive.