Lovable Liverpool always welcomes visitors with open arms, whether they’re splashing the cash or embarking on a cheap and cheerful weekend away. If it’s the latter, you’ll be astounded by the sheer range of free activities on offer.
We’re talking about award-winning museums, monumental landmarks and some seriously cool art. Top that all off with a few elegant parks and you’ll have a full – and very affordable – itinerary on your hands.
Enjoy free culture at Liverpool's many free museums
As in many UK cities, museums are mostly free to enter in Liverpool. Among the best are the Museum of Liverpool, which provides a comprehensive history of the city, and the Walker Art Gallery, which is packed with Pre-Raphelite masterpieces. A visit to the latter is easily one of the top free things to do for families, and the entire ground floor is an interactive space for budding young artists.
Stroll along the historic Liverpool Waterfront
Liverpool was one of the most important port cities in the UK during the 19th century, at the height of the British Empire. Today, the vast Mersey riverfront stands testament to the city's former global prestige. At its heart lies the Royal Albert Docks, a complex of red-brick warehouses officially opened by Prince Albert – Queen Victoria’s beloved husband – in 1846.
Today it's one of Liverpool’s most popular dining and entertainment districts, but it’s not hard to imagine sailors running around and unloading ships onto the cobbled docks. There are plenty of free things to do at Albert Dock, too. Discover more about the port’s role in the trade of enslaved people at the International Slavery Museum or admire marvelous modern art at Tate Liverpool.
Stroll a few minutes north of the docks and you’ll reach Pier Head. It’s the jumping-off point for ferries across to Birkenhead and the location of the Three Graces – the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.
Admire the aesthetics at Liverpool Central Library
Old meets new at the Liverpool Central Library. A trip to this architectural gem is easily one of the most underrated free things to do in the city – especially for fans of cool architecture and rare literary works. The building sits steps away from the World Museum and it’s instantly recognizable, with its contemporary frontage and huge glass roof.
Inside, the Grade II-listed Picton Reading Room is a must-see. A circular, wood-paneled space lined with dozens of bookshelves, it's a book-lovers dream. Also check in on the handsome Hornby Library, stacked with rare books, and the Oak Room where a priceless, illustrated copy of Birds of America by Victorian naturalist, James John Audubon, sits beneath protective glass.
Go for a sunset stroll along Otterspool Promenade
With a west-facing waterfront, the city is blessed with some amazing sunsets on clearer days. A great free thing to do in Liverpool is to hop on a bus to Aigburth, just south of the city center, and walk along the Otterspool Promenade.
It's particularly popular with families thanks to its adjoining park and epic vistas of the River Mersey. Feeling energetic? The prom merges into a smaller footpath that cuts a straight line back to the Albert Docks.
Take a tour of not one, but two landmark cathedrals
Liverpool really lucked out in the cathedral lottery! There are two amazing – and incredibly different – cathedrals to explore. Liverpool Cathedral is free to visit and perhaps the more iconic of the two, partly because it dominates the city’s skyline from its elevated position on St James’s Mount. It’s also the largest cathedral in Britain and home to some truly amazing artwork, including a neon sign installation by Tracy Emin.
Not to be outdone, the weird and wonderful Metropolitan Cathedral (also free to enter) sits less than a mile away on Mount Pleasant. Its unusual conical design was chosen during an architectural competition in 1959, and it sits atop a crypt designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect who created New Delhi in India.
Hit the beach – there are several just a short bus ride away
On a warm summer’s day, few things are better than heading to a local beach. Liverpool is surrounded by sandy beaches, many of which can be reached in less than half an hour from the city center. While you’ll have to pay for a train or bus ticket, the cost will be minimal, and traipsing along the sand or taking a dip in the sea is always free of charge.
Explore Liverpool’s oldest still-standing building
Liverpool has no shortage of outstandingly beautiful old buildings – just wander through the Georgian Quarter and you’ll see what we mean. Among the best, though, has to be the Bluecoat Building. Dating back to 1716, this former school now houses an arts center and a handful of creative independent stores. It’s handily located in the Liverpool ONE shopping district and hosts numerous free activities for kids throughout the summer.
Enjoy the outdoors at a local park
The city’s suburbs are inundated with gorgeous green spaces where couples can stroll hand in hand and kids can let off some steam. Sefton Park and its small but no less pretty neighbor, Princes Park, are always popular places to unwind.
You could also make your way to Calderstones Park in Allerton to view its ancient oak tree or hop across the Mersey to explore Birkenhead Park. This was one of the first landscaped parks in the UK and it was supposedly the inspiration for New York’s Central Park.
Check out the oldest Chinatown in Europe
At the summit of Duke Street, en route to Liverpool Cathedral, Liverpool’s Chinatown is home to Europe’s oldest Chinese community. The area is instantly recognizable for its massive decorative arch, a 15m-high (49ft), dragon-encrusted structure, gifted by the citizens of Shanghai – one of Liverpool’s twin cities – back in 2000.
Appreciate the pride of Liverpool – St George’s Hall
Descend the steps from Liverpool Lime Street station and you’ll immediately spot the towering columns that make up the regal facade of St George’s Hall. When it first opened in 1854, the hall was one of the most ambitious neoclassical buildings on the planet. Half law court and half events venue, it’s seen plenty of action and adventure in the intervening decades.
Entry to the grand ballroom – arguably the building's crowning glory – is currently restricted due to structural problems. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to admire the monumental exterior and spot the huge air vents that once formed part of the world’s first-ever air conditioning system. Have some cash to spare? St George's hosts a regular program of ticketed classical concerts, plus the odd guided tour.
Walk in the Beatles’ footsteps on Merseyside
The Beatles are without doubt Liverpool's most famous former residents. While it may be over 50 years since the Fab Four launched their musical careers at the Cavern Club on Mathew Street, their legacy is very much alive and well in Liverpool.
Booking a Beatles-themed tour is always recommended. If you’re visiting on a stricter budget though, there are a few key Beatles sites you can visit for free. Why not take a walk down Penny Lane in Mossley Hill or seek out the red gates of Strawberry Fields in Allerton? If you’re down by Liverpool’s waterfront, pause to snap a selfie with the bronze Beatles Statue that was donated to the city by the Cavern Club in 2015.
Attend a free Liverpool festival
Scousers sure know how to celebrate. Lively Liverpool Pride is one of Liverpool's best free festivals and it takes place in July, in and around the city’s Pride Quarter. There’s also the Liverpool Irish Festival in October, which combines free educational events and tours with music, dancing, and, of course, Guinness.
Beyond the city center, Sefton Park plays host to the Africa Oye Festival every June. This free event offers a flurry of vibrant music and dance shows by performers of African and Caribbean heritage. Fancy a full day out? Hop on the train to the seaside town of Southport for the annual free Food and Drinks Festival, held in leafy Victoria Park every summer.
Explore the city below the city in the Williamson Tunnels
Perhaps one of the city’s most unusual free attractions is the network of passageways known as the Williamson Tunnels. These eerie subterranean passageways in Edge Hill were constructed by the eccentric 19th-century philanthropist, Joseph Williamson, and their exact purpose remains a mystery to this day. They’re being restored by two charity-run organizations that also, conveniently, run free guided tours.