Your next port of call is Liver­pool

With buzzing restau­rants and bou­tique ho­tels, the 800-year-old City of Liver­pool feels de­cid­edly cool, says Anthea Ger­rie

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel -

It is still nearly a year away from its stint as Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture, but al­ready the buzz around Liver­pool is deaf­en­ing. Four years ago, the city did not have a sin­gle bou­tique ho­tel. Now there are two or three — and you of­ten can­not get a room.

The fact is that with an 800th birth­day to cel­e­brate this year, Liver­pool has smartened up its act well ahead of sched­ule, and there is al­most as much to see this year as there will be next.

More than £2 bil­lion is cur­rently be­ing pumped into the econ­omy of this, un­til re­cently, pretty rav­aged and run­down port city. It is com­ing to Mersey­side through a range of projects, start­ing with a £23-mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment of St Ge­orge’s Hall, con­sid­ered one of the world’s finest ex­am­ples of neo-classical ar­chi­tec­ture.

Its or­na­men­tal con­cert room will be­come a venue for recitals for the first time in 65 years and a gala open­ing of the build­ing is set for April 23.

An­other re­fur­bish­ment is of the Blue­coats Arts Cen­tre, which com­bines a gallery and per­for­mance ar­eas with shops and a café.

Mean­while, the Univer­sity of Liver­pool’s fa­mous red brick Vic­to­ria build­ing is be­ing trans­formed into an­other pur­pose-built art space.

Per­haps the most ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments are those which hark back to Liver­pool’s glory days, when the city was once a ma­jor em­barka­tion point for New York.

A new cruise liner fa­cil­ity at Princes Dock is de­signed to at­tract back the big ships; 25 a year are ex­pected to make Princes Dock a port of call, start­ing this year. And quite right, for the re­de­vel­oped wa­ter­front has so much to of­fer, with its ex­tra­or­di­nary Liver build­ings, ex­cel­lent Bea­tles mu­seum, am­phibi­ous Duck tours that run round the city be­fore plung­ing into the wa­ter. Plus the buzzy shops, cafés and restau­rants of re­de­vel­oped Al­bert Dock, which is now a World Her­itage Site.

It is down here that the darker side of Liver­pool’s rise to pros­per­ity is be­ing marked with an In­ter­na­tional Slav­ery Mu­seum due to open on Au­gust 23, the bi-cen­te­nary of the abo­li­tion of the Bri­tish slave trade.

The site — only a few yards away from the dry dock where 18th-cen­tury slave trad­ing ships were re­paired and fit­ted out — will in­cor­po­rate nu­mer­ous ex­hibits from the Transat­lantic Slave Gallery which has at­tracted huge vis­i­tor num­bers since open­ing in one of the city’s mu­se­ums in 1994.

Slav­ery will also be re­mem­bered in a mar­itime her­itage fes­ti­val which pre­cedes the open­ing of the mu­seum. On June 16-17 there will be a whole

sale cel­e­bra­tion of the Port of Liver­pool, with Tall Ships and Naval ves­sels.

The city will mark its ac­tual 800th birth­day on Au­gust 28 with pro­ces­sions, street par­ties and — al­legedly — the largest fire­work dis­play Europe has ever seen. One won­ders what on earth is planned to kick off the Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture cel­e­bra­tions if all the big guns are go­ing off now!

Given all th­ese events, it will be par­tic­u­larly hard to get into the brand new Mal­mai­son Ho­tel which opens in less than two weeks, mark­ing the surest sign that the city has ac­quired mea­sur­able chic. There will be river views, along with he­do­nis­tic in-room com­forts and the sig­na­ture decor of rich colours which dis­tin­guish the brand.

The Princes Dock lo­ca­tion will give the Mal­mai­son one up on Hope Street, the bou­tique ho­tel which has, un­til now, had the smartest busi­ness since open­ing in 2003.

At the heart of this city cen­tre hostelry — dubbed “the place where Brunel meets Car­rie Brad­shaw (of Sex and the City fame)” by a wag from the Sun­day Times — is a fab­u­lously buzzy ground-floor brasserie, the Lon­don Car­riage Works. It has be­come one of the city’s favourite meet­ing points and vies with 60 Hope Street down the road, which has won many plau­dits, while — closer to the wa­ter­front — Sim­ply Heath­cotes of­fers mod­ern bistro-style fare.

A spe­cial project ded­i­cated to fam­ily trees in the city this au­tumn is bound to draw the spot­light onto Liver­pool’s Chi­nese com­mu­nity — one of the old­est in Europe, which will host a spec­tac­u­lar new year cel­e­bra­tion on Fe­bru­ary 18 — and its well-es­tab­lished Jewish com­mu­nity. The first Jews ar­rived in the 18th cen­tury, when a small group of Sephardim crossed the Ir­ish Sea from Dublin. That com­mu­nity did not sur­vive, but a new Ashke­nazi set­tle­ment in 1780 flour­ished and was swelled by fall­out from the one mil­lion Jews who passed through the port be­tween 1880 and 1920 en route to the USA. To­day’s pop­u­la­tion has spread be­yond the city into out­ly­ing ar­eas, no­tably Child­wall, Aller­ton and the nicer Mersey­side port towns reached across the Mersey — though you don’t have to be Jewish to en­joy one of the sight­see­ing high­lights, a ferry across the Mersey.

The city’s orig­i­nal Sephardim are cel­e­brat­ing, al­beit amid the splen­did Moor­ish ar­chi­tec­ture of the Ashke­nazi Princes Road syn­a­gogue, built in 1874. With its colon­nades, minarets and rose win­dow, it may be the most beau­ti­ful syn­a­gogue in the coun­try, and its ex­cel­lent choir makes a Shab­bat visit one of the finest week­end at­trac­tions in a city mov­ing fast into the 21st cen­tury.

Liver­pool’s ren­o­vated wa­ter­front at the heart of the city’s £2 bil­lion re­newal

Liver­pool’s fu­tur­is­tic Mal­mai­son Ho­tel, due to open on Jan­uary 29

His­toric and mod­ern blend at the wa­ter­front, il­lu­mi­nated by night in readi­ness for the city’s birth­day cel­e­bra­tions

A spec­tac­u­lar bath­room at Hope Street, the city’s first bou­tique ho­tel

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