Praise be for the humble pub – and high praise indeed to Liverpool for not having bulldozed, as is custom nowadays, so many glorious old-school boozers to make way for yet more luxury apartments. While rival cities have gone all modern at the expense of their more old-fashioned venues, Liverpool has had the good grace to know a good thing when it sees it and has left many of its tremendous traditional pubs intact.
Of course, this is a city where beautiful listed buildings come along more regularly than the Mersey ferry – just check out these magical museums, attractions and things to do – but it’s true testament to Liverpool’s character, history and fondness for community that the good ol’ boozer remains at the heart of the city’s sense of self. Many retain their traditional look of dark wood, stained glass above the bar, and warm and welcoming fireplaces. And when you think that your great-great-grandparents may have enjoyed a pint in some of them, you do get a sense that these pubs might be filled with spirits in more ways than one.
Best pubs in Liverpool
Built on the site of an old tavern, the Grapes has been around since 1804 – making it one of Liverpool’s oldest surviving pubs. It may be known for its dizzying selection of rums, but there are plenty of beers and gins on offer, too. The Grapes hosts regular music nights, with a slant towards jazz, while a beer garden makes for a thoroughly pleasant drink outdoors come summer.
If you like your pubs traditional, then this beautiful listed building is one for you. Serving an excellent range of ales, including locals brews, the Baltic Fleet also offers fine selection of gins and to-die-for pub food (plus hearty bowls of the local speciality, scouse). There’s a terrace ideal for when it’s sunny out, and a stove burning indoors when it isn’t – so this place is a year-round keeper.
In Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter you’ll find one of the city’s most storied watering holes. The owner, one Peter Kavanagh, has been a painter, an inventor and a city councillor – and his venue is as eclectic as his CV. So beloved is it that several punters long since gone remain in urns displayed in the dark interior. There’s occasional live music, you can take your dog, and the ales are great, too.
When is a pub a bar, and when is a bar a music venue? Ostensibly all three, the Shipping Forecast has the laid-back feel of a pub (and drinks menu to match) so, despite having hosted nights by the likes of Mark Ronson and Disclosure, that’s why it’s made it on here. Expect a wide array of beers and cocktails, served by friendly and knowledgeable staff in the heart of the RopeWorks neighbourhood.
This corner pub may not look like much from the outside but step inside the Caledonia and you’ll find a traditional pub where community really matters. Not only does it serve top-notch drinks, this old-fashioned spot has gone modern with its 100 percent vegan menu and community library (well, bookshelf for now). It also puts on so many gigs you could come here every night and never get bored.
A proper old-school Victorian boozer, the Lisbon is tucked down a flight of stairs and comes with all the dated design features you’d expect: tiled floors, sticky carpet, wood panelling and a glorious ceiling. It’s been huge part of Liverpool’s (quite limited) LGBTQ+ scene for decades and hasn’t changed to accommodate fads and tastes. Good on it! The crowd’s mixed, so don’t think you’ve wandered in to the wrong place on a Saturday if it looks a bit, well, straight. It isn’t.
If you want your pub old, your drink cheap and your crowd mixed, the Poste House should be right up your Danny La Rue. This is the sort of drinking hole you’d expect to see in an old black and white film, the kind of place where ‘theatrical types’ gather. And they still do, with a young gay/mixed clientele upstairs, passers-by downstairs. You might be drawn in by the old-fashioned look and old-fashioned prices, but you’ll stay for the buzz.
As the name suggests, Ma Egerton’s Stage Door is ideal for a pre- or post-theatre drink if you’re heading to the Empire. Built in 1846 and named after its longest-serving landlady, Mary Egerton, this beautiful traditional pub, all dark wood and stunning stained glass, hosts regular karaoke and quiz nights. It also serves very decent food.
Take a quick trip across the water to the Wirral, walk a few minutes to the Egremont Ferry, and you’ll be rewarded with absolutely fantastic views of Liverpool’s waterfront. But the panoramas aren’t the only reason to visit, as this historic pub also serves locally sourced food and a brilliant selection of cask and craft ales. In warmer weather, grab one of the glorious pub-front tables.
If a taste of Victorian grandeur is what you’re after, the former First National Bank of Liverpool is one of many architectural jewels along James Street – and now it’s got a pub in it. Head to the veranda level to the cocktail bar, where you can dine with views over the throng below. It’s a beautiful building and just across from Queen Victoria’s cock, should you fancy a childish giggle on your way home.
Famous for its tremendous ice cream and fish and chip shops, Parkgate is a Wirral tourist hot spot that’s also home to the Boat House, a wonderful old pub at the start of what’s known as Parkgate’s Parade. It overlooks the Dee estuary, which is an RSBP nature reserve, so if a laid-back afternoon of seafood, beer and twitching takes your fancy, you’re in for a Tudor treat.
A 19th-century gem tucked away in the Georgian Quarter, Ye Cracke is as old-school a pub as you can hope to find, with its multitude of small seating areas, including a war room and a proper ‘snug’, and without a TV screen in sight. It has a rich history, of course, and though it trades on its links to some famous Scouse band perhaps a little too much, it’s still very a cool place to be.
Fancy cooling off with a massage?
We’ve all been there: you’re visiting a new city, and you’re desperate to make the most of it. Six hours later, cue aching legs and a brain frazzled by the sheer number of attractions it’s possible to see in one day. Sound familiar? Next time you’ve tourist-ed a little too hard, hotfoot it to one of these spas.