As the birthplace of The Beatles, Liverpool is never shy of showing off its musical prowess. But this year it has even more to shout about, with landmark anniversaries, glossy new attractions and a medley of festivals making this vibrant city by the River Mersey a must for music lovers.
British Music Experience
David Bowie's flamboyant Ziggy Stardust costumes, the Spice Girls' classic outfits and Noel Gallagher's Union Jack guitar. Just some of the 600-plus artefacts to go on display at this much-vaunted exhibition, which opens on March 9 in the historic Cunard building on Liverpool's UNESCO World Heritage listed waterfront. As well as celebrating Britain's illustrious rock, pop and dance heritage, BME will feature interactive activities that let visitors play instruments, try dancefloor-busting moves from various eras and compile their own mix in a studio simulation.
The Beatles Trail
You'll struggle to walk anywhere in Liverpool without hearing a Beatles song, whether it's street buskers strumming 'Yesterday' or tunes bouncing from bars and clubs like the Cavern, a reconstruction of the establishment in which the Fab Four used to play. The multi-media Beatles Story, on Albert Dock, traces the band's highs and lows with exhibits now including Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band suits (their arrival coincides with the 50th anniversary of this seminal album's release). Outside, hop on the Magical Mystery Tour bus, which takes in the real Strawberry Field and Penny Lane and other places where John, Paul, Ringo and George grew up, then bed down at the Fab Four-themed Hard Days Night Hotel.
Liverpool Sound City
Beatlemania reaches a crescendo in the last week of August, when Liverpool's International Beatleweek Festival hosts tribute performances by 70 bands from over 20 countries. In recent years, however, the Sound City festival has been making equally loud noises. Staged at the end of May, it attracts local and international acts, and thousands of spectators, to the abandoned riverside docks and warehouses north of the city centre. This year's headliners are The Human League, The Kooks and John Cale of The Velvet Underground.
Some Liverpudlians say the most hummable tune to come out of the city is Ferry Cross the Mersey by Gerry and the Pacemakers. You'll hear this 1964 song, drifting from speakers, on ferry services across the river. Carrying both tourists and commuters, the ferries offer fantastic views of Liverpool's skyline and link the city with the Wirral Peninsula, where the legendary late DJ, John Peel, was born. One ferry, Snowdrop, sports a dazzlingly colourful makeover by Sir Peter Blake, the artist behind the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's album cover.
The Lightning Seeds, Cast, The Zutons, Space, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and The LA's are among other bands to hail from Liverpool and while no-one has emerged to rival the Fab Four's supremacy, the city is still a fertile breeding ground for musical talent. You might find yourself listening to the stars of the future at Camp and Furnace, a quirky cafe-bar in the hip and happening Baltic Triangle. Also in this district is Hangar 34, a new 750-capacity venue that showcases touring bands, up-and-coming Liverpudlians and retro nights.
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
If you think Liverpool's all about rock, pop and dance - the hedonistic Creamfields festival is, incidentally, held outside the city each August - an evening at this art deco venue on Hope Street should put you right. It's home to the esteemed Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and also stages contemporary and classical music from guest performers. Pre - or post-show - pop across the road to its 'sister' pub, the Philharmonic Dining Rooms. Known as 'The Phil', this ornate Victorian joint, with its ensemble of wood panels, stained glass and ceramic tiling, is good for a leisurely pint or two and serves pub grub as well.