Things to do:

The Walker Art Gallery may be the National Gallery of the North with a history as rich as much of its collection – over 20,000 pieces, covering six centuries – but its strong programme of special exhibitions reveals a gallery confident enough not to rest on its considerable, and delicately painted, laurels.

The Walker’s chief draw is its exhibitions of Medieval, Renaissance, Romantic, pre-Raphaelite, Victorian and Impressionist art – with masterpieces by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Gainsborough, Rubens and Turner. But there are also striking contemporary pieces from the likes of Freud, Hockney and Liverpool polymath Adrian Henri. It’s this clash of styles (and centuries) that makes the Walker such a treat.

The John Moores Prize collection is an instructive insight into the development of contemporary art from the 50s to the modern day and contains works from Peter Blake, David Hockney and Bridget Riley. The prize continues today – valiantly keeping the art of painting alive in a world of conceptual installation-based art. Talking of which, check out the Banksy sculpture of a pixellated priest (Cardinal Sin). And the sculpture gallery may be the single most incredible room in the whole of Liverpool.

Smaller collections on Liverpool artists change regularly, but have featured works by Edward Chambre Hardman and equine master, George Stubbs. Meanwhile special exhibitions featured the likes of Bridget Riley, Anish Kapoor and Yoko Ono. Not to mention Rolf Harris back in 2011 – a bold move that appeared exciting and inventive at the time.

Families will enjoy the effort to highlight and explain Big Art at the gallery – there’s an excellent hands-on kid’s room, for example. And the Walker’s creative programme of free talks, tours and community-based initiatives really does help bring this sublime gallery to life.

The Walker has a lovely cafe on the ground floor that really makes the most of its stunning surroundings. It’s also a good place to pick up a Liverpool-related gift with a bit of class.