In 2004 Liverpool’s docks area was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, ranking the city alongside such historic gems as Bath and Edinburgh. UNESCO has described it as a “supreme example of a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence”. Indeed, Liverpool played a leading role in the development of dock construction, port management and international trading systems in the 18th and 19th centuries and its great legacy of Grade I listed buildings (Albert Dock alone has the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in Britain) are a testimony to mercantile culture.
The World Heritage Site stretches from Albert Dock along the Pier Head and up to Stanley Dock, taking in the historic commercial districts and the Rope Walks area. Albert Dock is where you will find the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum and the award-winning The Beatles Story, where you can see a recreation of the Cavern Club and John Lennon’s white grand piano. Last year, the dock acquired a new neighbour in the controversial and modernist shape of the new Museum of Liverpool on Pier Head.
But the thousands of tourists who visit Liverpool’s waterfront every day don’t just come here for a history lesson, they come for the buzz, the nightlife and the culture. Albert Dock is the home of Tate Liverpool, which, at any one time is hosting a wide range of exhibitions and events. Currently on show are nine works by the Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed (until 27 July 2012) and Turner Monet Twombly (22 June – 28 October 2012), which brings together works by JMW Turner, Claude Monet and Cy Twombly.
In films and television programmes, establishing shots of Liverpool invariably focus on the waterfront at Pier Head and its three majestic icons, the Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building. Known as the Three Graces, they were all built in the early 20th century as symbols of Liverpool’s international prestige, proud emblems of its commercial prowess. The best way to see them is from the River Mersey on one of the city’s boat tours. So-called duck tours, which make use of yellow, modified Second World War landing vehicles to cruise rivers in great cities, have become popular around the world. Inevitably, Liverpool’s version is called The Yellow Duckmarine. But there is always the traditional ferry as celebrated in the 60s pop song.
Liverpool World Heritage Site, Liverpool L1.