Essential to Liverpool's resilient and acid-tongued character is its dramatic situation on the broad estuary of the River Mersey, with its shifting light, fogs, gulls and poignant emptiness. Despite its miserable side - decrepit tenements, boarded-up shops - it also has grandeur and history.
It will be forever synonymous with the Fab Four, two football clubs and a famously testing steeplechase, but these days the city is hoping to re-create itself as a premier European city, riding on the back not only of its pop cultre cred but of its glorious past as the mercantile hub of an empire.
For 200 years the city ruled the seas as a world-beating port and cornerstone of the British Empire, built on slavery, commerce and emigration. It entered an extended period of decline when container shipping killed off the docks in the 1960s, and signs of degradation are still sadly evident. But Liverpool's sense of identity is as fierce as ever, the grand public buildings are still standing, the Beatles legend grows stronger every year and pride in 'the Pool' remains stubbornly strong.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track