They've long had a cathedral to spare but now Liverpudlians are proving they've art to spare too: next month Liverpool begins its reign as a European City of Culture, with events unrolling throughout 2008 (www.liverpool08.com). The city has been preparing for five years by sprucing up its waterfront and museums, it has the most of any city apart from London (www.visitliverpool.com). The definition of culture is wide: Visible Viruses will surprise visitors in the parks and on the buses; the arrival of the Tall Ships' Race (July 18-21) will spark a big waterfront festival; visitors can join in the Brouhaha procession on Carnival Weekend (August 1-2); the Tate is showing the biggest Klimt exhibition seen in this country (May 30-August 31) and the Liverpool Streets Ahead Weekend (May 24-26) will showcase dancers, puppeteers and musicians.
As a curtain raiser, the Turner Prize exhibition has moved to Tate Liverpool (until January 13, www.tate.org.uk), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on May 3 and 4. But Liverpool's year of culture kicks off properly on the weekend of January 11-13, with an open-air spectacular on the Friday night at St George's Plateau. Ringo and other stars will be joining in a performance of Liverpool - The Musical at the Liverpool Echo Arena on the Saturday.
Where to stay? It has to be the Hard Day's Night (0151 236 1964, www.harddaysnighthotel.com, from pound;145 a night for a double room), a four-star boutique hotel in a grade II listed building almost next door to the Cavern Club, which opens on February 1, in time for half-term. And don't forget the Beatles Story at Albert Dock, which plans special events and new exhibits (0151 709 1963, www.beatlesstory.com). For free entry to this and many other city atractions, with free bus travel, buy a three-day mini break card (pound;19.99 adults, pound;11.99 children, 0870 055 3471).
WHERE TO GO
Liverpool is great for designer shopping. Visit Cricket, the WAGs' favourite boutique, in the Cavern Walks, Matthew Street. Vivienne Westwood, Armani and Hilfiger also have stores.
A tour around the Anfield football stadium is a must for any football fan, and you can visit Melwood Park, the training ground, too.
Take the famous Mersey ferry and see the changing face of Liverpool's riverside. See www.merseyferries.co.uk.
For another side of Liverpool, the Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre will guide you through the intricate maze of tunnels built under the city by Joseph Williamson, the eccentric Victorian philanthropist.
WHERE TO EAT
Alma de Cuba is an amazing Cuban bar and cantina on Seel Street, housed in an old church, with brilliant salsa music, drinks and food.
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Coming up: Rochester, Kent, and the Dickens experience, British spas and Andorra.