In some areas of the UK -perhaps among certain Oxbridge students – Liverpool might have a mixed reception. While it has produced titans of British culture (the Beatles are still the most successful band of all time and Liverpool FC is one of the best-supported football teams in the world) in the UK, the city still suffers from a somewhat poor reputation. For the most part, this is due to the effects of deindustrialisation in the 1970s and 80s, when the city’s docks fell into decline. However, since the early 2000s, Liverpool has undergone an impressive recovery and has once again reclaimed its place among the UK’s liveliest cities. While I live outside of Liverpool, but still in Merseyside, the city was very much the background to my life before Oxford and in my opinion it remains one of the most wonderful cities in the world.
From the Beatles to the Wombats, Liverpool has always had a thriving music scene nurtured by the city’s many independent live music venues found mainly in the Ropewalks district. These include the Arts Club on Seel Street where I went to my first gig and which hosts a varied array of music throughout the year. Ropewalks is also home to numerous local art galleries such as FACT which combines independent cinema and interactive exhibition space, as well as having an excellent cafe.
The country’s oldest Chinatown is also located here, acting as a visible reminder of when Liverpool’s docks connected Britain to the rest of the world. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Liverpool’s port made it the wealthiest city in the British Empire, leading to the construction of a series of grand civic buildings which stand to this day. Most notably for tourists are Liverpool’s World Museum and Walker Art Gallery, as well as more modern developments in the former dockland which explore with the city’s role in the slave trade. Liverpool’s Maritime Mercantile City is a UNESCO world heritage site, being home to the iconic Liver Building while Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral is the largest in the world.
For a relatively small city Liverpool is notable for having two of the most successful clubs in English football. Everton has been in the top league of English football for a record 116 seasons, while Liverpool FC has won six champion’s leagues making it Britain’s most successful team in Europe. While an early memory of mine was watching Liverpool’s 2005 “Miracle of Istanbul”, football played relatively little role in my childhood. However my interest has been renewed with the club’s inspiring rejuvenation under Jurgen Klopp, whose face can be seen on murals and posters across the city.
While the division between “red” and “blue” runs through Merseyside, this sporting heritage also creates unique group solidarity – keenly on display in the city’s response to the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 Liverpool fans died. In the aftermath, Everton erected memorials to their sporting rivals and the entire city still takes part in a three-decade-long boycott of the Sun newspaper following their slanderous reporting on the tragedy. Outside of football, Liverpool is home to several parks, as well as being ideally placed between the Lake District and Snowdonia for outdoor activities.
Food & Drink
For fans of haute cuisine, Liverpool’s newly opened restaurant Roski is highly tipped to win the city’s first Michelin star following glowing reviews by the Guardian’s Jay Rayner. For those of us on a student budget Liverpool is also home to countless affordable but delicious independent restaurants, many of which are located around Bold Street and the Baltic Triangle. In particular, I always miss the Lebanese cuisine of Bakchich on Bold Street whenever I am away in Oxford, and the Rococo cafe was a favourite place to take a break while studying for A levels at the city library.