London is a magnet for tourism in England, but people who do not visit the vibrant city of Liverpool are missing out on a unique experience. Liverpool was named a European Capital of Culture in 2008 and its arts, music and cultural scene has been flourishing ever since. It has been a major commercial port of London, for several hundred years. But Liverpool is not all about business. It is also about having fun. And the best place to get a flavor of this fascinating city is by visiting The Albert Dock.
The name does not do justice to this vast arrangement of stunning Grade I listed buildings. It is the most popular free attraction in the North West of England for very good reasons and has a unique and delightful blend of cuisine, shopping and culture. The dock complex includes the fascinating Beatles Story, the Tate Liverpool, the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the International Slavery Museum. It has an almost bewildering array of attractions, events and places to eat and drink. The Albert Dock started life as a, for its time, state-of-the-art dock for commercial sailing ships in July 1846. It covers 1.25 million square feet and is the masterpiece of the architect and engineer Jesse Hartley.
The Albert Dock was the first complex in the country entirely built of brick, cast iron and stone. Up until that time the wooden warehouses of the period, which used oil lamps, were very prone to fires. The Albert Dock was designed to be non-combustible. When it was finished it had seven acres of enclosed water and five warehouses, each of them five stores. It was the most efficient shipping and warehousing operation of its time. The dock was designed for sailing ships carrying up to 1,000 tons of cargo but by the early 20th century only a handful of sailing ships were left. By 1920 the dock’s trade had dried up. During the Second World War it was taken over by the Royal Navy and suffered from Luftwaffe bombing raids. After the war it was left to deteriorate and it was finally closed in 1972.
Saved For The Nation
But thankfully this superb and unique example of industrial architecture was saved for the nation. It was refurbished by the Arrowcroft Group and officially re-opened in 1988. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, winning many awards and accolades. About five million people visit the dock every year. It is the most popular free attraction in England outside London. It now has more than 25 shops and over 12 restaurants and cafes. It also contains two hotels. But if you are looking for hotels in Liverpool there are over 300, so you are spoiled for choice.
The Tate Liverpool, which is free, exhibits works by 20th century artists and special exhibitions of works from international and national collections. It has earned acclaim for its retrospectives of Picasso and Klimt and its Turner Prize collection. The Beatles Story tells how four young lads from Liverpool shook the music world by the neck and created the most famous band on the planet.