Manchester vs Liverpool: The Iconic Cities of The North

A huge stone building with domes and a clock tower. White and red English flags fly from ledges of the roof.
Liverpool via Pixabay.
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Manchester vs Liverpool – the classic debate between two of the most iconic cities in the UK’s North. Only 34 miles apart, the cities make up for their geographical similarities with polar opposite dialects and a strong sense of civic pride.

Both have fierce identities and a wealth of attractions to entertain tourists, so, how do you choose between them? Whether you want to watch football, experience UK nightlife, or indulge in some delicious cuisine, both cities have a lot on offer. It can be difficult to choose one over the other, especially if you are visiting the UK on a time limit.

To help you choose the best city for you, we have compiled a quick comparison between Manchester and Liverpool. This guide will include seven key points to consider when choosing a base for your stay, rounded off with an overall summary to finish.

Manchester vs Liverpool : Culture

If you are debating Manchester vs Liverpool, The Beatles might sway you. The picture shows a street statue of four band members, portrayed chatting casually.
The Beatles via Pixabay.

In terms of music, art, and literature, Manchester and Liverpool are neck and neck. And, for music history, the cities boast some big names. Manchester brought Oasis, The Smiths, and The Stone Roses to the global eye. While Liverpool is marked as a historic musical destination thanks to The Beatles’ Liverpudlian roots. The Beatles fans can enjoy hundreds of attractions in Liverpool. You can visit permanent exhibitions, the band’s childhood homes, Penny Lane, and the many different statues around the city center.

Aside from its Beatles claim-to-fame, Liverpool also hosts an active concert scene. However, The O2 Liverpool has a smaller capacity than Manchester’s O2 Apollo – seating 1,200 as opposed to 3,500. Perhaps for this reason, Liverpool is often skipped over by touring artists in favor of Manchester.

Both cities have an impressive array of art galleries and theatres, with plenty of museums for those wishing to indulge in a little history. In addition to university libraries, Manchester and Liverpool also have major public libraries, which run cultural events and free book loaning services.

While the cultural scene is strong in both of the two, Liverpool wins this round. Manchester offers lots of live music opportunities, galleries, and theatres. However, Liverpool offers more attractions related to its music history, alongside abundant art, history, and theatre venues.

Winner: Liverpool wins the culture round, as it has an edge over Manchester with its music history attractions.

Manchester vs Liverpool : Nightlife

A pink, neon cocktail sign against a dark background.
A cocktail sign via Pexels.

Neither Manchester nor Liverpool are known for dull nightlife, although the Liverpool locals (‘Scousers’) are stereotyped as the perfect, friendly hosts. The Scouser stereotype often gives Liverpool the edge for those considering where to visit for nightlife, however, don’t rule Manchester out straight away.

Manchester does it all – trendy, studenty, classy, and inclusive. The city is known for its warehouse parties and raves, yet also attracts visitors to its upmarket bars, such as the famed rooftop venue 20 Stories. Its nightlife hotspots are dotted across the city center, including The Northern Quarter, Oxford Road, The Village, and Deansgate Locks. Manchester’s approach to nightlife is akin to a child in a sweetshop, clutching something from every shelf.

For partying in Liverpool, Albert Docks is a popular cocktail spot. The areas surrounding Fleet and Victoria streets then hold the majority of nightclubs and dance-friendly drinking venues. Liverpool benefits from its venues being densely concentrated in fewer areas, whereas Manchester’s nightlife districts are spread further apart.

Choosing a single winner for nightlife is difficult, with lots of venues and similar drink prices in both cities. However, for its raving opportunities and sheer diversity of venue options, Manchester is our winner for this round.

Winner: It’s a tough decision but Manchester takes this round’s title.

Manchester vs Liverpool : Things to do

If you are debating Manchester vs Liverpool, consider which football ground you'd like to visit. The photograph shows an illuminated green football pitch and an open-air stadium with a black night sky.
A football stadium via Pexels.

As we previously discussed, you will find bucketloads of cultural attractions in Manchester and Liverpool. Some attractions, like the World Museum in Liverpool and the Manchester Museum, also offer visitors free entry – which you may wish to factor into your itinerary.

In Manchester, football fans may wish to tour the Ethiad or Old Trafford. Alternatively, for a taste of architecture, visit the Manchester Cathedral or 1906-built Victoria Baths. Tourists exploring Manchester will have plenty of attractions to fill their visit and, after a busy day of sightseeing, you can enjoy a deliciously multi-cultural dining scene. Sample Argentinian cuisine at Gaucho, Turkish at Kai, French at 63 Degrees, or Vietnamese at Pho Manchester.

Of course, Liverpool fans may wish to skip the Manchester stadiums in favor of Anfield, which you can also book tours of online. While visitors to Liverpool can explore similarly interesting examples of architecture such as the Liverpool Cathedral, a highlight of the city its dock region. Whether you want to take a Mersey Ferry and explore the city by river, or catch a ferry to Dublin or Belfast, Liverpool’s port location massively increases your entertainment opportunities.

Both cities make great destinations for those who value a packed itinerary. However, Liverpool is our winner for this section, as its port city location means visitors can explore further afield or simply enjoy the coast and riverside.

Winner: Liverpool wins this round, as its ferry services create lots of recreational opportunities.

Manchester vs Liverpool : Nature

A stag stands in the center of the frame, looking to the left. If nature and wildlife is your thing, consider the fact that Manchester is closer to the Peak District when debating Manchester vs Liverpool.
A deer via Pexels.

Both cities have large parks, such as Everton Park in Liverpool and Heaton Park in Manchester. But, for a richer experience of nature in the countryside, visitors will have to leave the city centers behind.

The Northwest of the UK has many accessible National Parks for visitors looking to get closer to nature, including the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, and Snowdonia National Park. Out of Manchester and Liverpool, Manchester is closest to a National Park.

Those who enjoy outdoor activities will value the Peak District being only an hour’s drive away from Manchester. Stand in the Thor’s Cave 60ft entrance overlooking the valley or canoe the rapids of the River Derwent. Or, for animal lovers, spot wild deer, beavers, badgers, and otters. You can book plenty of Peak District tours on websites such as Get Your Guide, so there is no need to feel overwhelmed visiting independently. Although, renting a car to explore the Peak District from Manchester means that you can visit the traditional villages around its edges, giving you a different impression of UK living.

Liverpool is approximately 50 miles from the Peak District National Park, around 30 miles further than Manchester. So, if you want to experience rural nature in the Peak District, we recommend that you choose to stay in Manchester over Liverpool.

Winner: Manchester is our winner for nature, as it is closer to the Peak District National Park than Liverpool.

Manchester vs Liverpool : Price

A woman in jeans with nude nailpolish holds a wad of hundred dollar notes.
A wad of dollars via Pexels.

If you are traveling North from London, the good news is that you can expect a friendlier welcome for your wallet in Manchester and Liverpool. The price of living is much lower in these cities than visitors will find in the capital.

Numbeo rates Manchester and Liverpool living costs as almost parallel, with Liverpool a little cheaper in some respects like restaurants, groceries, and rent. To put pricing into perspective, the average cost for a domestic beer in Liverpool is $4.80, while the same averages at $5.48 in Manchester. In London, you would expect to pay an average of $6.85 for a domestic beer.

Living costs do vary for visitors though. For example, while rent is cheaper in Liverpool, visitors to the cities will likely not notice a difference in accommodation pricing. The variety of Airbnb, hotel, and hostel options in Manchester and Liverpool means that you can stick to most budgets.

Overall, we recommend Liverpool for lower prices but Manchester is very budget-friendly too.

Winner: For cheaper prices, Liverpool wins this round – just.

Manchester vs Liverpool: Beach

For a beach, Liverpool wins the Manchester vs Liverpool debate. The aerial image shows frothing waves washing onto rocks and sand.
A beach via Pexels.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the UK can experience some fantastic beach weather. While sunshine and clear skies are less predictable than for its European neighbors, if your trip coincides with good weather you will want to visit a UK beaches.

In this aspect, Liverpool is a clear winner, since its coastal location means it’s home to many beaches. Popular spots include Crosby, Formby, and Wallasey Beach. Crosby Beach is the most accessible from central Liverpool, with the 53 bus running every 15 minutes from Queen Square Bus Station to the beach. Bus tickets are budget-friendly and cost between $2 and $4.

A beach day is still feasible from Manchester; however, the city’s landlocked location means visitors don’t benefit from having beaches on the city doorstep. If easy access to a beach is important to you, we recommend Liverpool over Manchester.

Winner: Liverpool wins this round too, for its proximity to multiple beaches.

Manchester vs Liverpool: To Conclude

To simplify things, for live music, multicultural dining, and proximity to the Peak District, you should choose Manchester in your Manchester vs Liverpool debate. Expect a metropolitan, city-feel, with lots of hospitality and attractions to keep you entertained at all hours of day and night.

However, for music history, beach and port access, and cheaper living prices, Liverpool should be your pick. In Liverpool, you will appreciate the vibrant Liverpudlian character and the benefits of a waterfront city. If you are planning to travel onwards to the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, Liverpool can also make an interesting stop before catching a ferry over the channel.

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Eibhlis Gale – Coleman is a freelance writer from the UK who is driven by a fierce love of adventure, unique cultural experiences, native animals, and good coffee. She is a passionate traveller and has explored Europe, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and Australia.