Stuart Forster visits places associated with the Fab Four during a Beatles tour in Liverpool.
The Beatles became a global phenomenon in the 1960s. Members of the pop group grew up in Liverpool and Beatles-themed tours enable visitors to see locations associated with their early lives.
This post looks at some of the best Beatles tours of Liverpool and Beatles-themed tourist attractions in the city in north-west England.
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The Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool
Music plays over the bus’s PA system as we growl away from the brickwork buildings of Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock. Jay, our guide for the next two hours, welcomes us aboard the Magical Mystery Tour then begins discussing the key moments in the early careers of the John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
As we roll through Liverpool’s streets, Jay pauses his music-related commentary to point out landmarks such as Liverpool Cathedral and the memorial to Florence Nightingale on Princes Road.
We pass 9 Madryn Street, the birthplace of Richard Starkey, who would become the drummer better known by his stage name, Ringo Starr. For a time he lived at The Empress pub, which features on the cover of Starr’s Sentimental Journey solo album.
On our way through Sefton Park Jay peppers his commentary with insights into the characters mentioned in the song Penny Lane. Under grey suburban skies snow tumbles as we disembark to snap selfies by the iconic street sign.
Jay explains that George Harrison’s birthplace at Arnold Grove became the pseudonym used by the guitarist when checking into hotels at the peak of his fame.
Beatles tourism in Liverpool
In Woolton we see the churchyard where Eleanor Rigby is buried. Jay explains that it was at the Woolton village fete of 1957 that John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met.
Strawberry Field, formerly a Salvation Army children’s home, now hosts an interactive exhibition about the childhood of John Lennon. He lived nearby, at 251 Menlove Avenue, with his Aunt Mimi, aged from five to 23.
We idle outside of the house while Jay recounts one of the many anecdotes told during the Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool. He explains it was in the porch of the house that Mimi talked to John about music not being a way of making money — a conversation that the Beatle brought up years later when giving his aunt the keys to a house in Dorset.
Before returning to the city centre we pass Forthlin Street. Number 20 was once the McCartney family home and it was here that John and Paul practised their guitars and wrote songs together.
The tour proves an insightful way of seeing locations associated with the lives of members of The Beatles. (So as not to give away too many spoilers I’ve mentioned only some of the highlights of Liverpool’s Magical Mystery Tour.)
Liverpool City and Beatles Tour
Tommy greets me and welcomes me onto a red, open-topped bus for Liverpool City Sights’ 90-minute City and Beatles Tour.
As we head away from the city centre Tommy points out the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, a Victorian pub known to Liverpudlians as ‘The Phil’. He urges us to pop back later to view the pub’s ornate interiors.
In Sefton Park Tommy points out a Gaelic football pitch and explains how Penny Lane was pretty much equidistant to the childhood homes of three Beatles. At the famous street sign he snaps photos of tour guests using their smartphones.
“This is the closest thing we’ve got to a ritual Beatles site,” comments our guide outside of Strawberry Field.
During interludes between commentary music plays over the PA system. As Lily the Pink plays Tommy informs us that The Scaffold’s Mike McGear was the younger brother of Paul McCartney.
We return to the heart of Liverpool singing along to songs by The Beatles.
Beatles-themed bus tours of Liverpool
The two-hour Magical Mystery Tour of Liverpool starts at the Royal Albert Dock’s Anchor Courtyard. The tour visits places associated with the lives of members of The Beatles plus locations such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. The Magical Mystery Tour ends at the Cavern Club — the tour ticket price includes entry to the club.
Liverpool City Sights’ City and Beatles Tour last 90 minutes. The tours take in places of interest along the waterfront, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, plus the childhood homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The tour tickets are valid for 48 hours from their first use.
Inevitably, there’s an element of overlap in the places visited along the routes of Liverpool’s two Beatles-themed bus tours. I found that the delivery and anecdotes of my two guides differed markedly. Ultimately, what your rate as the best Beatles tour of Liverpool will come down to your personal preferences.
The Beatles Story
Visit The Beatles Story at the Royal Albert Dock to get an accessible overview of the band’s formation, rise to fame and eventual break up in 1970.
This popular attraction conveys how life in post-war Liverpool influenced the band. Ships bringing transatlantic freight into Liverpool imported records from America. Sold at the likes of Hessey’s Music Shop, rock and roll music was a factor in influencing a style of music known as the Merseybeat.
The Beatles Story explains how the band started to build a reputation at the Casbah coffee house before going on to playing at the Cavern Club in the early 1960s. It’s an insightful and detailed attraction. Allow at least a couple of hours if you want to read all of the captions.
Liverpool Beatles Museum
On Mathew Street in the city centre, Liverpool Beatles Museum displays more than 500 items of band memorabilia over four storeys.
The Museum of Liverpool
The Museum of Liverpool, at Pier Head, is a modern, interactive museum that tells the story of the city in an engaging, entertaining way.
The Beatles and the wider Merseybeat story are part of that history. So too is city’s passion for football. Entry to the museum is free (donations are welcomed).
Beatles childhood homes
John Lennon’s childhood home at 251 Menlove Avenue and Paul McCartney’s childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road are now owned by the National Trust. Book in advance to join a guided tour of the houses, which are decorated to represent the style of homes when John and Paul were lads.
Beatles-themed Liverpool taxi tours
Prefer the idea of a private Beatles tour to travelling with a group?
Fab Four Taxi Tours range in duration from two-hour express tours, through three-hour classic tours to the five-hour Beatles History Day Tour of Liverpool.
Mad Day Out Beatles Taxi Tours operates three-, five- and seven-hour tours to sites associated with the lives of members of The Beatles.
BeatLes-themed food and drink in Liverpool
There’s no shortage of places to eat and drink in central Liverpool. As you might expect, a handful of businesses have Beatles-related themes.
Famously, The Cavern Club (10 Mathew Street) hosted 292 performances by The Beatles between 1961 and 1963. On 9 November 1961 Brian Epstein saw the band playing at the club and subsequently became their manager.
The Cavern Club displays rock memorabilia and hosts live music. It’s a good spot for a drink while listening to music. There’s a small cover charge for entering the club (Magical Mystery Tour tickets include entry). There’s also a Cavern Pub.
Nearby, the Rubber Soul pub (9 Mathew Street) takes its name from the Beatles album released in December 1965. Sgt Peppers (4-6 Mathew Street) is another nightspot named after one of the band’s albums.
Blakes Restaurant, in the Hard Days Night Hotel (North John Street), is named after Peter Blake. The pop artist designed the sleeve art on the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Blake’s work is displayed on the hotel’s ground floor.
Liverpool has two Fab4 Cafés. One is in The Beatles Story at the Royal Albert Dock. The other is at the Pier Head, just a few paces from the Beatles’ statue sculpted by Andrew Edwards. It depicts Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon casually strolling together.
Getting to Liverpool
Flying to Liverpool John Lennon Airport seems a fitting way for any Beatles fan to arrive on Merseyside. The all-day Airport Flyer (500) and 86A bus services run to the city centre. The 86D and 80A bus also run along the route.
Many more international flights arrive into Manchester Airport. Trains takes about 90 minutes to travel the 29 miles between the airport’s railway station and Liverpool Lime Street.
Liverpool Lime Street is the city’s main railway station. A bronze statue of comedian Ken Dodd stands on the station concourse.
City centre car parking is available at Q-Park Liverpool One, within walking distance on the Royal Albert Dock. If you don’t mind walking for a few minutes more, you can save a few pounds by parking in the NCP Liverpool Pall Mall car park.
Hotels in central Liverpool
Central Liverpool offers a good selection of accommodation, including hotels, guesthouses and aparthotels.
If you’re keen to experience a full Beatles-themed weekend, you could opt for one of the 110 bedrooms at the four-star Hard Day’s Night Hotel. Opt for either the McCartney Suite or the Lennon Suite if it’s a special occasion.
Football fans may appreciate staying at The Shankly Hotel. The four-star hotel is named after Bill Shankly, the Scot who managed Liverpool FC between 1959 and 1974. Shankly-themed memorabilia is displayed in the hotel bar and restaurant, and in the reception area.
The Pullman Liverpool Hotel is another four-star property. Located at Kings Dock, the hotel is well-placed for visiting the Albert Dock, five minutes’ walk away, and city centre attractions.
Search for accommodation in Liverpool via Booking.com:
When to visit Liverpool
Liverpool is a year-round travel destination.
If you’re a fan of The Beatles (is there anyone who isn’t?), you could plan your trip to coincide with the International Beatleweek Festival in late-August. The seven-day music festival is held at venues across Liverpool city centre. [Due to the impact of the coronavirus on travel and tourism the 2020 International Beatleweek Festival has been cancelled.]
Did you know that July 10 is celebrated as Beatles Day? Why not mark that occasion with a trip to the city where the band members grew up.
The Visit England website has information about Liverpool and elsewhere in the country.
Enjoyed this post about Beatles tours and attractions in Liverpool? If you’re heading to the city and enjoy history you may enjoy visiting the Western Approaches Museum, located in a bunker that was once top secret.
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Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel writer based in the north of England. Stuart was named Travel Writer of the Decade at the Netherlands Press Awards of 2020.