For a short break with teenagers in the depths of winter, you can't go wrong with Liverpool Waterfront
Product: For further info on all that Albert Dock and the Liverpool Waterfront has to offer, visit www.albertdock.com or www.liverpool waterfront.org Price: £90.00 Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
It can be hard to find a short break at this time of the year that will appeal to all members of the family, particularly if you have children or teenagers in tow. With this in mind, I booked a weekend trip to Liverpool which incorporated shopping, eating, culture and, best of all - music!
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, Albert Dock, in Liverpool’s Waterfront. The Albert Dock manages to blend old and new with huge success. Situated in the heart of Liverpool's historic waterfront, there are museums, galleries, shops, various attractions and loads of places to eat and drink. Its transformation from a collection of derelict warehouses to a cultural capital has been spectacular and its beautiful colonnades and columns now make up the largest group of Grade I listed buildings in the country.
Nearby attractions include the Beatles Story, the International Slavery Museum, the Magical Mystery Tour, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Tate Liverpool as well as walking tours.
Situated in a Grade I listed building, Holiday Inn Express is a lovely place to stay. The rooms are large and comfortable and the staff were very helpful and professional – even though there had been a mix-up on my booking. There was plenty of room in the family room we stayed in, with clean comfy beds and ensuite facilities, as well as Wi-Fi (essential when travelling with teens!) plus tea and coffee-making facilities and a large TV. We had fabulous views over Albert Dock and the Mersey and our room faced the Three Graces, which looked beautiful all lit up at night. Towels were provided and although there are no centrally-heated radiators in this Grade I listed building, the storage heaters were plenty warm. Being converted from an old warehouse gave the hotel lots of character, with its fabulous exposed brickwork and arched ceilings.
It’s a really spacious hotel where you can be ensured total privacy and freedom, but there’s attentive staff service if you want it. Breakfast is included and consists of a buffet-style affair with a range of cooked or continental.
Car parking is at a premium here and the hotel do not have their own car park but you get a 25% discount with the Liverpool Waterfront multi-storey car park a few minutes walk away. Ask at reception for a discount voucher when you check out and it reduces your ticket price. We paid £15 for a 27-hour stay. There are, however, free disabled parking spaces on site.
- Useful info: Holiday Inn Express Albert Dock, Britannia Pavillion, Albert Dock,
- Liverpool, L3 4AD.
- Reservation:, 0871 423 4876 (calls cost 10p per minute + network extra)
- Prices: £90 for a family room (one double bed, one sofa bed). Price depends on number sharing room and time of year.
- Albert Dock is a 10-minute walk from James Street train station (so you can leave the car at home if you prefer) and 8 miles from Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
The Magical Mystery Tour
Who doesn’t like the Beatles? Even teenagers respect the Beatles and their music so this tour is suitable for everyone. Full of stories, facts, opinions and, of course, music, it’s fun, informative, very revealing and at times very touching.
One not to miss when visiting Liverpool waterfront, the multi-coloured coach bearing the logo of the Magical Mystery Tour departs from the front of Albert Dock and you can buy tickets online or at the ticket desk at Anchor Courtyard, Albert Dock. At £16.95 per person it may seem a tad expensive if there are a few in your party but believe me, it’s well worth it!
The tour guide was an absolute gem, bursting with knowledge and obvious pride in his city and the legend of the Fab Four. It’s a two-hour trip which visits the sites of John Lennon’s childhood, such as the home where he was brought up by his aunt, as well as the fields where he used to play (Strawberry Fields no less), as well as McCartney’s home and the streets where Ringo and George were born. There’s an opportunity to get off the coach at Penny Lane and take a photo of the road sign (now painted on as apparently fans kept stealing them!) as well as Strawberry Fields, McCartney’s street in Forthlin Road and also the tiny terraced house where George was born and lived in with his family of six!
The tour winds its way through Liverpool city as well as the suburbs, so takes in a few other sights such as the two imposing cathedrals, the theatres, the Institute where McCartney was a student (now the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) and the Grade II-listed former art college next door where Lennon famously met his first wife, Cynthia.
The last stop is the world famous Cavern Club, still hosting live music. The tour ticket includes free general admission to the club on the evening of trip, too.
- Useful info: Call the Cavern Club on 0151 703 9100 or visit www.cavernclub.org
- Tickets: £16.95 per person, advance booking recommended.
- Buy tickets online or call in to the Magical Mystery Tour Ticket Office, Anchor Courtyard, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AS.
- Tickets also available at the Cavern Pub, Mathew Street.
- Tours depart regularly from 10:30am Monday to Friday, 10am Saturday and Sunday. No tours 25, 26 December or 1 January.
The Liverpool Wheel
The Wheel is situated next to the river, outside the ECHO Arena, opposite Albert Dock, so it’s in a good position to really get a bird’s eye view of the city.
We chose to take a trip at night and see the city lit up in all its glory. Luckily it was a crisp, clear night January night and it felt as though the city was lit up especially for us!
The capsules on the Wheel are completely enclosed and quite warm so you don’t feel the cold as you rise high over the city and take in stunning panoramic views of famous landmarks.
At 196ft (60m), the Wheel has 42 capsules seating up to eight people, including a luxury VIP capsule with glass floor, leather interior and DVD player (with the option of champagne) but if like us, you just want to gasp at the views, then you probably won’t be interested in a VIP capsule!
There’s in-capsule commentary included explaining all about the city with some interesting facts and figures, as well as pin-pointing some of the most famous landmarks. We found the staff efficient and friendly and the whole operation was near-silent. It took about 10-12 minutes in total and the Wheel did three revolutions.
We pre-booked so didn’t have to queue but then again, it was the first weekend in January so pre-booking is probably advisable at peak times.
- Useful info: Wheel of Liverpool, Keel Wharf, Liverpool L3 4FN. Bookings & General Enquiries, call 0151 709 8651. www.freijwheels.com
- Tickets: Adults £7, Concessions, £6, Child (11-16 yrs) £5, Child (3-10yrs) £3, Under 3yrs - £1, Infants free, Family Ticket (2 adults 2 children) £18.
- There is full disabled access with ramps and extra wide capsule doors on two capsules.
- Opening times: Mon-Thurs, Noon-9pm; Friday Noon-11pm; Sat 10am-11pm; Sun 10am-9pm.
- Closed Christmas Day
The Beatles Story
This was one of the best parts of our trip, a fabulous tribute to the City’s most famous sons where we spent a thoroughly enjoyable few hours.
Highlight of the exhibition was the replica Cavern Club that beautifully recreated the sight (but thankfully not the smell!) of the club, which was so pivotal in launching the Beatles’ career.
There’s the bar where Cilla Black was once a barmaid, the tiny stage where the Fab Four played, and the tables and chairs packed into what was essentially a set of warehouse cellars originally used as air raid shelters, entered via a very narrow dark entranceway, just as you did in the Sixties.
The exhibition is very well laid-out with huge poster boards of information if you choose not to have the individual audio guide, which is available in a selection of languages. The guide includes memories and recollections from members of the Beatles’ families as well as a narrator, so it did add a more authentic, personal touch.
The room devoted to their psychedelic Magical Mystery Tour phase, which spawned the ground-breaking album, was both fascinating and colourful and highlighted just how much the Beatles developed in their career as a group.
There were lots of artefacts to see and read about, plus a fantastic area made over to look like Brian Epstein’s record shop from the Sixties (NEM) where you can choose a record and have it played for you! My teenagers loved rummaging through the stacks of singles to see what was on offer!
The music to complement the exhibition also adds to the atmosphere and you can’t help but join in with the singing and harmonies as you go round (not sure what some of the overseas visitors thought of us)!
Going on through their time in Hamburg, America and the rise and rise of Beatlemania, the exhibition ends with a summary of what each Beatle did with their solo careers after they spilt up.
The White Room is said to be an exact replica of John and Yoko’s famous ‘White Room’ at their Tittenhurst Park home, where the famous Imagine video was shot. Looking at it while listening to the strains of Imagine playing out, it was a very touching and fitting tribute.
Aimed at children but open to all visitors, The Discovery Zone (part of the Beatles Story) uses interactive technology to teach children about the music of the Beatles, the times they lived in and the influence they had.
We finished off our visit with a browse round the Fab4Store, housing the ‘largest collection of official Beatles merchandise and souvenirs’. It certainly was a large collection and offered something for everyone. Impressively enough, much of what was on offer was really good quality.
- Useful info: The Beatles Story, Britannia Vaults, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 3AD
- Call 0151 709 1963, visit www.beatlesstory.com
- Open every day, Monday-Sunday (excluding December 25 & 26).
- Tickets can be pre-purchased online (up to midnight the day prior to your visit). This option is recommended as pre-booked tickets offer visitors access to the fast-track queue and it can get very busy at peak tourist times. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of your visit.
- Tickets include entry to The Beatles Story Exhibition, Discovery Zone, The British Invasion exhibition and Fab 4D Experience.
- Adults, £14.95, Children (5-16 years) £9, Concessions (senior citizens 60+/students) £11.50.
- Carers can get in free of charge with production of valid ID.
Albert Dock has a wide range of places to eat, from Indian to Italian, or if you just fancy a coffee and a slice of cake, there are plenty of cafes to choose from.
Gustos overlooks the waterfront and the Tate Liverpool and was the perfect place for a family Sunday lunch. It prides itself on providing classic Italian food in a contemporary setting, using the freshest ingredients and offering fabulous service. Their mission statement is ‘con amici’ table (roughly ‘eating with friends’) and they can accommodate parties of up to 40, perfect for family gatherings.
Being a more modest family of four, we were escorted to an intimate table with a lovely view of the waterfront, with sun shining across the water (yes, the sun shone on our trip!).
The menu was varied, but not so that it made it impossible to choose, and there was something to suit even the most fussy of eaters. There’s a wide range of cocktails (which we declined, it being Sunday afternoon!) and the staff were pleasant and attentive, eager to make your experience a good one. The food well presented and it was nice to see they had an open kitchen, where you could see (and smell!) the food being prepared.
There’s a great family atmosphere in Gustos, ideal if you’re eating out with children. It’s very reasonably priced and the ideal choice for a relaxed Sunday lunch.
A good restaurant really needs atmosphere, friendly staff and most of all, good food. Gustos has all three. We were really impressed with the standard of service, food, and my teenagers really like the décor as well as the views. And they ate all their food…
- Useful info: Location: Edward Pavilion, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AF. Call 0151 708 6969, visit
- Opening times: Mon-Thurs 12pm-11pm; Fri & Sat 12pm-11.30pm; Sun 12pm-10.30pm
For further info on all that Albert Dock and the Liverpool Waterfront has to offer, visit www.albertdock.com or www.liverpoolwaterfront.org
NOTE: PRICE QUOTED IN 'YOURS VERDICT' BOX REFERS TO A FAMILY ROOM FOR FOUR IN EARLY JANUARY. RATES SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND AVAILABILITY