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EITW Liverpool
Photograph: Terry bouch / Liverpool

The 9 best museums in Liverpool

Feeling cultured? You can learn about everything from the Fab Four to maritime history at the best museums in Liverpool

By Rob Martin

It may be better known for its thriving independent arts and music scene, but Liverpool’s museums offer is unrivalled up north. Thanks largely to investment stemming from its tenure as European Capital of Culture more than a decade ago, this city brims with world-class galleries and cultural centres that sit naturally alongside their grand, illustrious Victorian predecessors.

So if you’re looking for some cracking things to do before you head to one of the city’s many first-rate restaurants, these excellent Liverpool museums, new and established, are well worth a look-in. From an immersive experience that tells the story of the Fab Four to deep dives into this port city’s maritime history – not forgetting the Tate’s northern outpost, which now pulls in a blinding 600,000 visitors a year – your itinerary’s practically mapped out already.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Liverpool

Best museums in Liverpool

Open Eye Gallery
Photograph: Rob Battersby

1. Open Eye Gallery

What is it? Hugely influential photography museum and gallery that has championed the art form since the 1970s. Exhibitions come and go, but the extraordinary archive, dating from the 1930s, is permanent.

Why go? Even a passing interest should be enough to get you to Open Eye. Come here to get to know the very best talent working in photography today.

Tate Liverpool
Photograph: Rachel Ryan

2. Tate Liverpool

What is it? The regional branch of Tate, set in Liverpool’s historic Albert Dock, brings touring exhibitions of international significance to the north, as well as displaying works from Tate’s extensive fine art collection.

Why go? This gargantuan gallery boasts one of the most impressive collections this side of the Thames.

The Beatles Story
Photograph: The Beatles Story

3. The Beatles Story

What is it? A museum dedicated to the lives of the most famous band of all time, the Liverpool foursome who changed music – and the world – for ever.

Why go? Even a day-tripper shouldn’t miss out on this long-standing magical history tour. Get a ticket to ride and come together for its permanent collection that will let you board the Yellow Submarine, hang out in the Cavern Club and go behind the scenes at Abbey Road.

Bluecoat, Liverpool
Photograph: Brian Roberts

4. Bluecoat

What is it? Tucked inside a handsome historic building, Liverpool’s centre for contemporary arts exhibits works that couldn’t be further removed from the old-school setting.

Why go? Bluecoat was built in 1716, so it’s been at the heart of Liverpool’s cultural landscape for a very long time. The oldest surviving building in the city is worth a mooch itself, but don’t overlook the excellent programme of cutting-edge exhibitions and dance, music and literature events inside.

International Slavery Museum
Photograph: Lee Garland

5. International Slavery Museum

What is it? A museum focusing on the history and legacy of the transatlantic slave trade and its huge impact on the city of Liverpool. Its exhibits also address modern-day slavery and human rights issues.

Why go? It’s a bold city that puts part of the shameful reason for its own success at the heart of its visitor economy, but this vital museum is as much about the future as the past.

Walker Art Gallery
Photograph: Dave Jones

6. Walker Art Gallery

What is it? The national gallery for the north that brings together eight centuries-worth of painting, sculpture and decorative art. That means you can take in both Renaissance masterpieces and the likes of Lucian Freud in one visit.

Why go? The Walker houses what is probably the most important collection of art outside the capital. Its architecture is also impressive.

Spaceport, Liverpool
Photograph: Spaceport

7. Spaceport

What is it? You’ll find this domed planetarium in Wallasey, across the Mersey in the Wirral. As well as space and the universe, visitors can explore rooms dedicated to science, extreme weather and sci-fi icons.

Why go? Who isn’t fascinated by a planetarium? There have also been temporary displays bringing the likes of Star Wars and Dr Who to life, and you can even have a go on a cosmic ’coaster.

Museum of Liverpool
Photograph: Dave Jones

8. Museum of Liverpool

What is it? The largest purpose-built museum in the UK for more than 100 years. This astonishing building tells the story of Liverpool and the global significance of its location, culture, sporting heritage and people.

Why go? The impressive building is an attraction in itself, and inside you’ll find out about Liverpool during the war, local LGBTQ+ history, archaeological finds and, inevitably, the Beatles.

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool
Photograph: National Museums Liverpool

9. Lady Lever Art Gallery

What is it? A fine collection of decorative art housed inside a grand building. This gallery was founded in 1922 by the industrialist and philanthropist William Hesketh Lever (Lord Leverhulme) in memory of his wife Elizabeth.

Why go? Out in the picturesque village of Port Sunlight, this striking gallery hosts a vast array of sculpture, fine art and relics, plus replicas of rooms from Lever’s time.

Still after tip-top recommendations?

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Things to do

The Beatles and the Mersey are probably the first things to pop into your head when you think of Liverpool. But did you know that it’s also a Unesco World Heritage City, home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe, and that Liverpool FC is the only British football club to win five European Cups? Find all the best things to do in Liverpool.


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