Liège is often overlooked, but Wallonia’s most populous city rewards those who stay with enchanting streets, delicious Belgian cuisine and, best of all, extremely hospitable locals.
Liège has all the ingredients for an ideal city break. It’s a walkable, leafy, charming city that’s rich in history and straddles the River Meuse. Meander down narrow cobbled streets looking out for quirky ancient architecture and park-based art galleries. Mix with relaxed locals enjoying the best in Belgium’s beer and indulge in delicious bites from waffles to meatballs and beyond.
There’s something inescapably romantic about an art gallery nestled in a beautiful lush park. La Boverie sits just a few steps away from Liège station, inside Parc de la Boverie, and is both an international exhibition centre and a fine art museum. Browse historical collections about the City of Liège or explore contemporary cultural projects. Popular past exhibitions have been curated by the likes of the Louvre. The permanent collection includes works of art by Lambert Lombard, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte.
This neighbourhood is popular with Liège’s student population, and its small network of narrow streets are lined with bars selling cheap Belgian beer, snug little restaurants and a decent mix of independent shops selling everything from chocolate and waffles to souvenirs. At night, expect lively crowds to spill out of bars onto the alleyways. Be careful of the uneven cobblestones, more likely wet from sloshing beer rather than the rain.
This beautiful red and white sandstone church was founded between 1010 and 1015 outside the city walls and is the oldest building in Liège. It boasts characteristic Rheno-Mosan architecture, and inside you’ll see remarkable and rare Liège Baroque furniture sitting against shiny marble floors and whitewashed walls. In 2006, the church emerged from a seven-year restoration involving 10,000 replaced stones.
Taste traditional Liège meatballs, aka boulets à la liégeoise, at least once. Café Lequet, near the River Meuse, serves the best version in the city: two hearty meatballs (half pork and half beef) in a thick dark syrupy rabbit sauce with frites. The sauce is not made from rabbits, but mainly apples, pears, onions and vinegar. It gets its name because rabbit is commonly served in it. The café is a favourite with locals and always busy.
With a 30-degree slope and 374 steps, the so-called Mountain of Bueren (Montagne de Bueren) has been nominated as the most extreme stairway in the world. This “mountain” is truly a sight to behold, especially on the first Saturday of October. During the Night of the Hills – La Nocturne des Coteaux – candles are placed along the stairs to create a truly beautiful display. Make sure to arrive no later than 10pm, as the event leaves a trail of mess – candles overturned, plastic and beer cans scattered every which way.
This inner courtyard is just as surreal as Dalí’s painting depicting Saint Anthony. The central sculpture, which dominates the courtyard, contains a stream which lazes through a channel drain connecting a Mayan pyramid to an Egyptian obelisk. One row of buildings has thresholds with a column in the middle of each, forcing inhabitants to encircle it in order to arrive at the door. The full effect of this mish-mash of an Egyptian/Mayan-influenced sculpture and postmodern architecture is quite something, especially when the court stands silent, monastery-like.
The alcoholic drink peket is made from juniper berries. It can be drunk straight but is typically mixed with fruit flavours, usually lemon. Boasting roughly 30 flavours and conveniently located near the Place du Marché, La Maison du Peket is the place to go for this local drink.
Don’t let the Carré’s quaint shops and restaurants during daylight hours fool you. At night, the Carré swarms with droves of giddy bar-hoppers. For those of you who want to hit the dance floor, Le Point de Vue arguably plays the best music, offering a heady mix of hip hop and pop, while Notger, the chicest bar in the Carré, caters exclusively to 30+ers.
This article was originally written by Thomas Van Denburgh and has since been updated.
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