Liverpool is a city of surprises.
Most of them pleasant, I was pleased to discover during a visit in August.
Disembarking at Liverpool Lime Street Station it’s quickly apparent the city is nothing like the dated stereotypes would have you believe.
Just over two hours from London on Virgin’s Pendolino tilting trains, the streets are lined with contemporary eateries, sleek restaurants and independent pubs.
I will confess, it’s not at all like I had imagined.
Sure, Liverpool trades heavily on its heritage, with everything from the Beatles to Liverpool Football Club drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Indeed, last year the city welcomed 32 million day trippers, who between them spent £2.3 billion - a mightily impressive figure.
The booming destination also welcomed 560,000 overnight stays from international visitors, while 1.47 million UK travellers called in for the night.
But away from the Cavern Club heritage circuit this is a modern, thriving metropolis.
Along the banks for the Mersey River, amid the revitalised docks, visitors will find the Tate Liverpool and Liverpool Museum, while the Echo Arena Liverpool will host everything from the Chinese National Peking Opera to WWF Wrestling in the coming months.
Owing to its maritime heritage, the whole areas is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, with all the protections that entails.
Right in the heart of all this sits the Staybridge Suites Liverpool, the long-stay property from InterContinental Hotels Group.
A growing part of the hospitality market, the 132-key studio and one-bedroom suite hotel offers spacious apartment-style living with modern amenities and hotel services.
The ambition is to create a home-like environment for extended stay guests, and arriving on a Saturday morning Staybridge certainly comes close.
Walking up to reception I’m greeted with the sound of children playing in the Staybridge Living Room, the main feature of which is an open fireplace which adds to the room’s contemporary feel.
Nearby, the Staybridge Den provides a quiet space where guests are able to meet and relax.
Check in is quick and informal, and within a few moments I’m in my suite with a fabulous view over the river.
All Staybridge Suites offer apartment style accommodation, with each containing a fully equipped kitchen where guests are able to prepare their own meals and an ergonomically designed workspace with high-speed wireless internet.
LCD TVs with cable or satellite connections complete the look.
The feel is sleek, modern and fresh – everything is to hand as it would be at home, but with the added advantage of a hotel-style maid service thrown in.
What’s more, guests also have use of the fitness room, business centre, laundry room and the brand’s own convenience store - The Pantry - which is open around the clock.
Craig Patterson, hotel manager of Staybridge Suites Liverpool explains: “This is a hotel where you come to live temporarily, rather than simply stay for night or two.
“Guests are encouraged to settle in and unwind by the fireplace in the lounge.
“Mingle over complimentary drinks and snacks at The Social held three times a week.
“Even the complimentary breakfast is a ‘make yourself at home’ experience served daily in The Kitchen.”
For those in need of business services, not only are copying and courier services made easily available, but the Staybridge Guest Services Team is available to assist with any business centre requirements, including photocopying, printing and faxing.
Visiting for just one night, I’m keen to check out the breakfast after a night on the tiles.
It’s everything I hoped.
Served in the Hub kitchen, the beating heart of the hotel, the complimentary continental and buffet breakfast provides the perfect start to the day.
This the perfect compromise between a traditional hotel and a homestay in the style of Airbnb – with the long-stay apartment sector set to grow ever more important to the hospitality industry.
Staybridge Suites Liverpool is located on the Kings Waterfront, opposite the Albert Docks, the largest collection of Grade 1 listed buildings in the UK.
Rates, starting at £74, vary based on how long you want to stay.
The longer you stay, the less you pay.
From London, visitors can reach Liverpool in a little over two hours with Virgin Trains from London Euston, with single fares starting at £20.00 in standard class and rising to £40.00 in first.
Booking in advance and travelling off-peak is the best way to get great deals, while business travellers will be able to carry on with business as usual with power points, Wi-Fi and enhanced mobile phone reception on board all trains.
Find out more at the official website.