Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds form the central corridor of England. On our way to the Lake District National Park and Scotland, we visited these three megacities, together home to over five million people. Further north, we visited the largest city on the east coast: Newcastle, population 800,000.
After a long drive in from London, we spent the night near Liverpool, and decided to explore the city the next morning. We started early, parked our car near the St. Johns Shopping Center, and exited the parking lot towards the St. George’s Hall. This Neoclassical building houses concert halls and law courts.
We walked through the St. John’s Garden, alongside St. George’s Hall, towards the Central Library. We paused in the gardens for a minute, enjoying the view of the St. John’s Beacon radio and observation tower. The St. John’s Garden also contains the Hillsborough Monument Memorial, commemorating the 96 people who died during the Hillsborough football tragedy in 1989.
The Central Library, with the World Museum on the west and Walker Art Gallery on the east, is another example of Neoclassical architecture in Liverpool. The libraries’ Picton Reading Room stands out because of its remarkable circular architecture.
Inside, the library is quite modern, with plenty of public computers, meeting rooms, and free Wi-Fi. The Picton Reading Room stands out yet again: inside you can find hundreds of old books, on three levels accessible only by wooden stairwell.
As mentioned above, the Walker Art Gallery is located just east of the library. This gallery is home to one of the largest art collections in the United Kingdom, exhibiting collections of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and decorative art. As most museums in Liverpool, there is no entrance fee.
After visiting the library, we moved on to the main sight of Liverpool: The Beatles, the famous English rock band from the 60s. Their first performances were held in the Cavern Club in Mathew Street in downtown Liverpool. Today, the Cavern Club still exists, and statues of all Beatles can be seen in Mathew Street.
Apart from the statue of John Lennon in Mathew Street, you can find countless statues all throughout Liverpool. One of the latest additions is the Fab Four statue at the Quayside, erected 50 years after the Beatles’ last show in Liverpool.
Apart from the statue, the Quayside is definitely worth the visit. It is home to a number of museums (Tate Liverpool, Maritime Museum, and Museum of Liverpool). Also, the Quayside docks serve as departing point for ferries to Isle of Man and Northern Ireland.
The drive from Liverpool to Manchester takes about an hour, and you’ll end up in England’s second biggest city. We started our walking tour on the northwestern side of the city center, where you can find the Manchester Cathedral. The cathedral is about 600 years old, although reconstructed throughout the centuries. You can visit the cathedral for free, so worth a short visit.
From the cathedral we walked south, deeper into the city. Most of the center consists of pedestrian shopping streets, and plenty of larger shopping malls.
One of the most special buildings in Manchester is the John Rylands Library. It has a totally different style than Liverpool’s Central Library we visited earlier that day, but is equally beautiful. The library was built in Victorian Gothic style, and has the appearance of a church. As with the Manchester Cathedral, entry is free.
Our last stop in Manchester was the Town Hall on Albert Square. As many buildings in the city, it is also built in Victorian Gothic style, in the mid-19th century. In front of the Town Hall you can see the Albert Memorial, commemorating Prince Albert who died of typhoid in 1861. There are several Albert Memorials around the United Kingdom, the most famous one being located in Kensington Gardens in London.
After visiting nearby Liverpool and Manchester, we expected Leeds to offer more of the same. However, presumably because of the many international students studying in Leeds, we found the city more diverse. Also, the city center is littered with shopping malls, making Leeds the ultimate shopping destination.
Due to British weather, most of the shopping malls are partly or fully covered. Trinity Leeds is the biggest shopping mall in the city, home to over 120 stores, welcoming over 5 million customers every year.
Between all the shopping, it is hard to find any historical buildings in Leeds. One of them, however, is the Leeds Corn Exchange, a building constructed in the mid-19th century. Before being remodeled as a, you guessed it, shopping center, the building welcomed farmers and merchants for trading grains.
Across from the Leeds Corn Exchange, you can find the Kirkgate Market. We stopped here to look for some small refreshments, and found cheap and local strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Apart from fruits and vegetables, market stalls sell anything from bread to clothing, and from cheese to electronics. A good place to get a bargain!
Newcastle, the northernmost city of England, is very comparably in style to Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds. In Newcastle, Neoclassical architecture also dominates the city center. Right in the heart of the city, you can find Grey’s Monument, dedicated to Earl Grey for introducing the Reform Act of 1832, which introduced the electoral system to England and Wales.
Like Leeds, most of the city center consists of shopping malls. The Central Arcade, dating back to the 1900s, is the nicest one, with beautiful decorations and many boutique shops.
For fresh produce, Newcastlers head to the Grainger Market, a covered market hall. Here, you can also sample many foods, or get a meal at one of many restaurants.
A bit outside the center, towards the River Tyne, you can find the tall Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas. It was built in the 11th century, at the same time as the nearby castle, although fire destroyed the church only 200 years later. After being rebuilt, it was reconstructed a number of times over the centuries.
Just south of the church, you can find the Newcastle Castle. In the 12th century, the castle was built on the site of where previous stood a fortress, hence the cities’ name of New Castle, or Newcastle. Unfortunately, in the mid-19th century, a railroad was constructed right through the castle grounds, causing part of the castle to be demolished.
The most picturesque area of Newcastle is the Newcastle Quayside. The area is full of boutique shops and coffee shops, as well as the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian tilt bridge. Every Sunday, the Quayside hosts a market right next to the River Tyne, where craftsmen sell their products, and local musicians perform.
We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.Read Mark & Herta’s full story.