Ahead of Liverpool hosting the Eurovision Song Contest this May, it is an ideal time to celebrate the city’s musical heritage and explore the must see bars, venues and museums that music lovers can’t miss when they visit Liverpool.
Liverpool has always had a unique and eclectic history, marching to its own Mersey beat and creating a musical heritage that for a time, changed the world. This is the city that gave the world Gerry and the Pacemakers, Elvis Costello, Echo and the Bunnymen, The La’s, The Lightning Seeds, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and of course the Fab Four themselves, The Beatles. (We won’t mention Atomic Kitten!) As rock ‘n’ roll became more popular in the 50s, Liverpool took it and made it its own with the Merseybeat phenomenon that took over the world, cementing Liverpool’s reputation as one of the most influential musical cities in history and making it more than deserving of it being awarded a title of UNESCO City of Music in 2015, one of only two cities in the UK.
Liverpool is still as music mad today as it has always been, and there are constant reminders of its musical legacy all over the city if you know where to look, not to mention countless live band bars – including the famous cavern club itself – events, festivals and museums that celebrate its musical heritage. This made Liverpool the perfect choice for hosting the 67th Eurovision Song Contest in 2023, so before the celebrations begin here are the top attractions, bars, venues and museums music-lovers have to visit.
If you want to take a walking tour of all of these sites it is very easy to do on your own and you can follow this roughly circular list in order if you choose or make up your own itinerary dependent on what sites you want to visit. They are all within relatively easy walking distance of each other and many are clustered together too, so all it takes is a little planning to include all the spots you want to see.
Situated right in the heart of the city in the Cavern Quarter, just a short walk from Central Station and St John’s Market, any musical tour of the city really should start here. Mathew Street is Liverpool’s famous nightlife mecca and is the heart of the city’s musical history and heritage, containing a number of iconic venues and musical attractions.
Situated in the Cavern Quarter at the heart of the city. Liverpool’s most famous street not only houses the Cavern Club but numerous references and connections to the “four lads who shook the world” and Liverpool’s long musical heritage. There’s shopping, bars and pubs, and come summer weekends the street is packed with partying locals and tourists.
The Cavern Club.
The new Cavern Club is a Liverpudlian Institution, originally opening up in 1957 as a Jazz club and then becoming the birthplace of the MerseyBeat music genre and most famously as the spiritual home of artists like the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black. The legendary stone walls are filled with memorabilia and live gigs are still played here most nights with local and international musicians. Adele, the Arctic Monkeys and Sir Paul McCartney himself have played here in recent years.
Most tourists will end up here to listen to some awesome live music in the Cavern Club itself at some point, but many of them will miss a tiny little detail just outside. Just outside of the Cavern Club, opposite the entrance, is a tiny attraction that most tourists will miss. Alongside the statue of John Lennon there is a wall that features bricks that have been carved with every Liverpool based Number 1 UK chart hits since 1952. And there are a lot!
The Beatles Museum.
Not to be confused with the Beatles Story which is on the docks, this museum holds one of the largest authentic Beatles collections in the world. Telling the story of the bands early days, you can see personal instruments, outfits and equipment actually used and worn by the band, as well as thousands of pieces of Memorabilia all housed within a Grade II listed building on the historic Mathew Street.
The Statue Of Our Cilla.
Think the Beatles were Liverpool’s only gift to the music world? Just across from the statue of John Lennon and the famous bricks is a statue of Cilla Black, the local girl who once worked in the cloak room of the Cavern Club it stands in front of and had a successful music career alongside the Beatles and a TV career after that. Look out for the secret images and song lyrics carved in her dress, it is these little details that raise so many Liverpool statues above and beyond mere attractions!
The Beatles Statue.
Donated in 2015 by the Cavern Club and located just a short walk away from it, the Beatles statue is located almost right in front of the Royal Liver Building on the waterfront and commemorates the city’s most famous musical export. But what is it exactly that makes this statue so special? Well what most tourists don’t know is that the statue is filled with secret references to the band’s – and the individual members – lives. If you look closely you will find that in John Lennon’s hand there are two small acorns, cast from actual acorns from outside the Dakota building in New York, Lennon’s former home until he was murdered on the steps outside. The acorns represent the two acorns that John and Yoko Ono planted by Coventry Cathedral in 1968 to symbolise both their meeting and world peace. Paul McCartney is holding a camera, a reference to his late wife Linda who was a famous photographer. The number 8 is carved into the sole of Ringo Starr’s shoe, symbolising the Liverpool postcode L8, where he was raised, and finally George Harrison has Sanskrit engraved onto his belt, symbolising the bands many years in India and George’s fascination with the culture that eventually led him to Hinduism. The whole band are stood in order that they would appear on stage and are all very slightly out of step with each other, but what that means you will have to figure out for yourself!
The Fab 4 Cafe.
After admiring the Beatles statue, stop and have a specialist coffee and some pastries or a sandwich at the fabulous Fab 4 cafe, situated at the Mersey Ferry terminal at the Pier Head (just opposite the statue), and enjoy the Beatles themed decor.
The British Music Experience.
Located just behind the Beatles statue and next door to the Liver building is the Cunard Building, a grade II-listed structure designed to resemble the Palazzo Farnese in Rome and home to the only museum dedicated entirely to the history and cultural impact of British music over the centuries. The British music experience obviously celebrates Liverpool’s own significant contributions but also looks at musical history throughout the UK, from costumes worn by Freddie Mercury and the Spice Girls to instruments played by the Sex Pistols and much more besides. Music lovers cannot miss a visit here.
The Beatles Story.
Just a few minutes walk along the waterfront from the Cunard Building will lead you to the Albert Dock, a great place to stop for refreshments or a spot of lunch, but the real reason music lovers should come here is the epic Beatlemania experience. The Beatles Story is much more than just a museum, it is an interactive experience that tells the story of how four local lads from Liverpool conquered the world to become one of the biggest bands in the history of the world.
You can walk through replicas of the Casbah, the venue where the Beatles first played, Mathew Street, Abbey Road Studios and The Cavern, to give you a sense of what it must have been like in Liverpool during the swinging Sixties!
The Echo Arena.
Next door to the Albert Dock on the Kings Dock is the famous Echo Arena, the Home of Liverpool’s Eurovision show! Now of course known as the M&S Bank Arena, it will be forever known as the Echo Arena by locals after its former sponsor. The arena is a central icon of the King’s Dock redevelopment, and is the only combined arena and convention centre in Europe. Hosting major international events like the MTV Music Awards and concerts from world famous performers like Elton John and Beyonce, and in May 2023 is the home to the Eurovision Song Contest itself! The arena is Liverpool’s premier concert and show venue, and if you get a chance to catch a show during your visit it is well worth it.
Camp And Furnace.
Camp and Furnace is a large live music space and bar located in the transformed Baltic Triangle, just a short walk from the Kings Dock. Apart from normally holding a variety of live music acts and gigs, it is also the venue for ‘Euroclub’, the official Eurovision event that will host a series of parties and live viewings for those who couldn’t get tickets to the Echo Arena.
The Liverpool Philharmonic.
A short walk from the Baltic Triangle is the famous Hope Street, so called because it is situated between Liverpool’s two Cathedrals. This is the site of the renowned Liverpool Philharmonic. Originally built in 1840 and rebuilt after a fire in 1933, it is home to the world famous Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the UK’s oldest continuing symphony. An evening of high culture awaits for any fan of classical concerts or choir singing, but the Hall also offers a wide range of musical events and one off spectaculars as well. The Eurovision final will be broadcast from here along with a themed event and after party.
Taking a few minutes to walk back into the city centre you should find yourself on Slater Street, near Chinatown. In the middle of this street is a low key pub that is easy to miss but is a vital part of Liverpool’s musical history. The Jacaranda was opened in 1958 by Allan Williams, the first manager of The Beatles, and is credited as one of the major players that started the Merseybeat scene in the 1960s. The Beatles themselves played many gigs here during their very early days, but now it hosts a wide range of independent live bands and singers, and has a great menu of coffees, beers and cocktails and even a vinyl shop.
No, it isn’t owned or ran by Paul himself, but this atmospheric pub is a mecca for great live music just a short walk away from the Jacaranda, and as you would expect has extensive displays of Beatles and Merseybeat era photographs and prints, and is a great place to stop for a drink and soak in the atmosphere for any music tour.
The 02 Academy.
Now that you are back where you started near the centre of town, you can finish the walking tour with a trip to the O2 Academy for a live gig of independent, up and coming and even household name bands, including the Fratellis, the Killers and even Steven Seagals Blues Band! Located just a short walk away from Lime Street train station on Hotham street, it is the perfect way to end your musical themed day!
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Lots of Beatles attractions here!
Well it is Liverpool, what do you expect> ;D
Good to know there will be places holding events and after parties, I love Eurovision and was so psyched when I heard it was coming to Liverpool. I couldn’t get tickets but I’m still planning to travel up and stay over for the weekend.
That’s great to hear Sally! I’m sorry you couldn’t get tickets but I am sure you’ll have an amazing time here. There are the official parties and venues but there are dozens of unofficial ones in bars all over he city too so you won’t miss out.
Eurovision is going to be fire this year!
Well it is being held in the best city in the world …
Always wanted to visit Liverpool as a lifelong fan of the Beatles. Thanks for the inspiration!
You are very welcome! Enjoy the city. 🙂
I knew Liverpool has a musical history with the Beatles but had no idea it was a UNESCO musical heritage city, I didn’t even know that was a thing! What a great walking tour.
To be fair Bill I didn’t know that for a long time either, I don’t think the tourism board promotes it enough. And thank you!
This is a brilliant way to explore the city, and some great suggestions! We’ll be coming up from Birmingham for Eurovision so will definitely make time to check these out! Thanks.
Thanks Cheryl, have a great time!
Is that really Steven Seagal?! In Liverpool? When was this??
Ha, yes it is! This was around 2014/15 I think, at the O2. And I really was standing this close to him! He’s actually a nice guy up close.
Haha! Seagal is such a crank!
What about all the other Beatles attractions? Paul and John’s houses? Strawberry fields?
Well there are already so many Beatles specific tours that include those and they are a little more than walking distance from the city centre. I had to exclude some things to make this a doable tour in one day and also include other things that weren’t just the Beatles. I could probably add 2 or 3 more day tours to include everything!
This is very informative and thanks for sharing, lot of travellers aren’t aware that its UNESCO musical heritage city. first time i am hearing this.
Thanks Ahmed, you are right, many aren’t. The tourism board really should boast about it more!
Eurovision was amazing for Liverpool! What an event!
Did you manage to get tickets Mary?