Don't worry about looking like a tourist in Liverpool: this is a city with architecture worth gawping at. Don sensible shoes and hit the streets. Come evening and it's time to scrub up: you need to be in full Rio Carnival garb to look overdressed here.

 

Explore high and low

Be prepared to veer off the straight and narrow, too. It might have one of the world's most celebrated waterfronts, but Liverpool demands that you climb to its eyries and sink below its surface.

Start your day at the centre of things. Linking the commercial core with the university and cultural quarters, Bold Street is a perfect spot to breakfast and get a feel for the city's morning vibe.

At number 89, Bold Street Coffee gave the city's coffee scene a much- needed (espresso) shot in the arm when it opened in 2010, and its high standards endure. Its gallery of work by local artists is an alternative distraction to the comings and goings outside.

But what a road to gaze out on. Bold Street is part of the city's Ropewalks district, named after the long, narrow stretches of ground where ships' ropes were crafted in the early maritime boom years. Later, it became Liverpool's answer to London's Bond Street: look to the building tops for a sense of how grand the road once was.

Nowadays, Ropewalks, found between Duke Street and Bold Street, is a hub of independent shopping. Try the two Utility stores for design-led products and gifts, News from Nowhere for books, and the Music Consortium for vinyl records. 69A is an attic-like trove of bric-a-brac and antiques, and surely the city's most atmospheric shop.

Next up, culture. Also in Ropewalks, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT) is a cinema and digital arts centre. Even if the exhibitions leave you nonplussed, the building is a contemporary treat.

 

Cafés and crypts

Time for lunch. For veggies there's Mello Mello or The Egg. Alternatively, The Brink does a fine line in bargain specials and has excellent interior design. Leaf's art deco front looks good enough to eat, but opt for the cake that this 'punk tea shop' does so well.

Walk it off with an uphill stroll to the city's most beautiful road, Hope Street, stoppered at its ends by the two cathedrals. Outside the Anglican, look for Tracey Emin's tiny Liver Bird. Then climb to the roof for wonderful views. In the modern Catholic cathedral, head into Lutyens' crypt after admiring the building's colour-shifting interior.

This area, known as the Georgian or Cultural Quarter, is wonderful for pubs. Try The Philharmonic, The Belvedere Arms, Ye Cracke or Peter Kavanagh's. The cultural institutions here have given rise to a bountiful crop of restaurants. Try London Carriage Works and 60 Hope Street for fine dining. The Quarter, Host and The Side Door are more casual.


Mersey paradise

After Saturday's imbibing, head out for some salty air. Why not start things off with a ferry 'cross the Mersey? It's still the best way to see the waterfront.

On the Wirral side of the river, try Home at the Woodside ferry terminal for breakfast with a classic postcard view of Liverpool for company. Notice how the Pier Head's 'Three Graces' have plenty of contemporary architecture for company these days. It's the subject of much debate, and not only among locals. In mid-2012, UNESCO put the waterfront's World Heritage status on its 'in danger' list.

 

Visit the Museum of Liverpool once you step back off the ferry or try the esoteric Open Eye photography gallery. The city's character is defined by its port status so it's appropriate that so many cultural institutions cluster at the Mersey's banks.

For lunch, it's time to climb, to Panoramic 34, a high-end bar/restaurant 100 metres above sea level. The food's almost as good as the view. For something edgier, head to hipster hangout Camp and Furnace, a huge warehouse with quirky interior design and the city's finest Sunday roast.

 

Visit now

liverpoolconfidential.co.uk

sevenstreets.com

visitliverpool.com

thedoublenegative.co.uk

 

Places to stay

 

Hope Street Hotel (from £80)

A 19th-century conversion merged with a handsome new build, Hope Street Hotel rises to the challenge of being located on the city's most beautiful street.

Info:hopestreethotel.co.uk

 

Base2Stay (from £49)

It's in the budget bracket, but you wouldn't think so as you approach this beautifully restored warehouse. Base2Stay is an independently run bargain.

 

Podzzz (from £39)

Describing a budget hotel as having 'character' can be shorthand for 'calamitous'. But not so here. Part of a recording studio complex, you'll be tucked up at the heart of one of the city's sites of musical pilgrimage. It's snug, mind, very snug.

Info:parrstreet.co.uk/parr street studios podzzz.html

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