Liverpool in 12 hours

From York to Edinburgh, there is much to see in age-old British cities—best to stay on track with a schedule.

Liverpool has gained much fame, thanks to the Beatles, but the city was a powerhouse long before that. As a major force in shipping, it was Britain’s longtime second city. As in much of the world art deco became the symbol of Liverpool’s ill-fated optimism in the interwar years. While the good times did not last, the icons endured, and from the docklands to the old Speke airport—now a Crowne Plaza Hotel—Liverpool is full of gorgeous art deco landmarks.

9:00 Emerge from Lime Street Station into a landscape of impressive neoclassical facades. The stunning Walker Art Gallery celebrates local interwar artists alongside cabinets filled with Jazz Age ceramics. Have a coffee in the atrium café to charge up for your day ahead.

11:00 Carry on to the rust-red Royal Court Theatre, where the scaffolding has just come off after its £11.9m refurbishment. You can indulge in a 90-minute tour of the dramatic gilded auditorium for an easy £5.

12:30 Cut through St John’s Gardens to Dale Street. Straight ahead is a striking 1930s building streaked with emerald green panelling: the current United Way headquarters. As you cross the roundabout, peek down the Queensway entrance to the carved limestone entrance of the Birkenhead Tunnel.

13:00 Hungry? The 80-year-old Ship & Mitre does a fine fish’n’chips, and the upstairs bar still has its original art deco features.

14:00 Farther down Dale Street is the old Martins Bank, a distinguished symbol of industrial might that could have come right out of Gotham City. It was designed by art deco hero Herbert Rowse in 1932. If you continue to the waterfront, you’ll spot another Rowse masterpiece: the monolithic Georges Dock Building. Look out for the ‘Modern Mercury’ sculpture on the western face and the futuristic gargoyles climbing up its fluted tower.

14:30 Spend an hour touring the old docks, the source for Liverpool’s rise and swift decline over the past two centuries. When you come up for air, wander back into the centre, using the Gothic spire of the Liverpool Cathedral as a beacon.

15:30 The genteel Georgian townhouses of Hope Street connect the cathedral with its spiritual sister, Liverpool Metropolitan, England’s largest Catholic cathedral. It’s a modernist marvel with obvious art deco influences.

16:30 Fancy a cup of tea? The Philharmonic Dining Rooms serves up food and drinks behind a flamboyant art nouveau entrance, a delightful deco counterpoint.

17:30 Across the street is the reason you’ve come all this way: the Liverpool Philharmonic building. Its façade is quintessentially art deco with all white-mullion windows, bulbous symmetrical stairwells, and etched-glass doors.

18:30 It’s happy hour. Join a jolly Liverpudlian crew at the Richard John Blackler pub, named for the former Blackler’s department store, its landmark art deco home. There is much to take in as the rambling limestone structure occupies an entire city block.

19:30 Make your way over to Tess Riley’s for an encore happy hour.

20:30 Wrap up your day with a late bite at the chic new Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill, the buzzy, low-lit bistro at the Hotel Indigo Liverpool.

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