Even if you’re only in town for the night, it would be criminal not to sample some of Liverpool’s legendary nightlife. Although there’s plenty of places to go for a traditional hen or stag do, there’s a hipster side to the scene, too, with uber-arty whiskey joints, secret clubs and craft beer bars popping up all over the place. And the best thing? If you feel like hitting a club afterwards, you’ll find all the best late night spots clustered together in Concert Square, the heart of the city’s nightlife.
An architectural gem from the outside, step through the doors of the Grade-II listed Philharmonic and you’ll feel like you’ve walked back in time to Victorian Liverpool. One of the most ornate pubs in the UK, this Hope Street favourite is full of charm and original features. The décor has a musical theme, to reflect the pub’s connection to the nearby Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. So richly decorated is the pub that the gents’ toilets have become a tourist attraction in themselves - and they don’t mind you having a look even if you’re not actually male. If you can stop gawping at the marble long enough to get a drink, the pub serves quality real ale.
For the freshest beers in town, and maybe even a sea shanty or two, head dockside to the Baltic Fleet. There’s something so romantic about drinking beer that’s brewed in a microbrewery right beneath your feet and the pub is chock full of history, too. Originally built in the 1850s to meet the needs of thirsty sailors, there are two secret tunnels in the cellars, one leading to the dockside and the other to the old red light district – now used for storing casks. Inside, the Baltic Fleet is as traditional as it gets, with plates of scouse served by roaring log fires and a sea shanty crew performing there once a month.
Full of character (and characters), Peter Kavanagh’s is named after the pub’s former landlord, who pulled pints here for 53 years. Famously politically incorrect, his eccentric spirit lives on in the pub’s décor. Despite a recent facelift, memorabilia still covers every available flat surface and is even hung from the ceiling. Don’t miss the urns full of ashes of former patrons who chose the pub as their final resting place. Décor aside, there are two cosy snugs, a piano for impromptu sing-alongs and a great range of real ale to go with the convivial atmosphere.
Close to the Everyman Theatre (pictured above) is the Pen Factory. Yes, it has all the trendy features you’d expect in such a hipster-ish bar, such as exposed bricked walls and bare bulbs, but it’s also surprisingly cosy, thanks to the flickering candlelight and roaring fire in the corner.
With a fantastic selection of beer and a lovely garden for the summer, it’s a great place to come for your first drink of the night. They even serve crisp butties – a great way to line your stomach.
This family-run bar is the brain child of husband and wife team Gareth and Vicky Morgan who were inspired by the craft beer breweries they discovered whilst on holiday in the US. They brought the idea of a beer tasting bar back to Liverpool, and the locals are very glad they did, too. There’s a fantastic range of beers on offer at the Dead Crafty Beer Bar, both on draught and by the bottle. Working your way through all of them will keep you busy most of the night.
You’re in for a good night at Berry and Rye – if you can find the place, that is. There’s no sign and the door sticks a bit, so you have to knock until someone opens. The air of secret speakeasy continues inside – it’s so dark in there, it’s like being in a cave. The décor is a laid-back mix of worn leather, old wood and exposed brick – there’s even an old piano. And the cocktails are just as good as the atmosphere – go for whatever the bartender recommends!
Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s hot, sweaty and crowded. But, just like taking a ferry cross the Mersey, a trip to the Cavern Club really just has to be done. Make your way down the winding steps and pretend it’s the Swinging Sixties.
This is clubbing how it used to be in the Beatles’ day, with live music taking the place of superstar DJs. But despite being a major tourist attraction, the bands are good and drinks are reasonably priced.
Just around the corner from the Cavern Club, but a world away when it comes to clientele, is the seriously upmarket Mansion. With both a VIP balcony and a terrace, plus a super stylish crowd, this is clubbing at its most glam. Located right in the city centre, Mansion’s resident DJs play dance and house anthems while partygoers enjoy drinking cocktails and dancing on the very springy dancefloor. Dress to impress though or you won’t get in – they’re not shy to turn people away.
Although now more mixed, this remains one of the most famous gay clubs in Liverpool. In fact, people from all over the UK travel to come here, and it attracts a very loyal local following, too. They’re drawn by the atmosphere - glam, crazy but always entertaining, and almost everyone is in fancy dress. After a night in Garlands it’s normal to wake up with glitter or pink feathers in your hair. The music can be decidedly cheesy, but it’s silly, happy and above all, fun.
Liverpool is one of England’s most cosmopolitan cities and was the 2008 European capital of culture. Whether you’re passing through, looking for heritage, pop culture and entertainment, checking out the universities, or planning a weekend break, there are plenty of reasons to book a hotel room in Liverpool. And with quaint fishing villages and market towns on its doorstep, there's so much to see and do in the surrounding area of Merseyside.