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Palace of the Prince-bishops, Liège (© Eupedia.com)
Palace of the Prince-bishops, Liège
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Introduction

Town Hall, Liège (© Eupedia.com)

Liège (Leodium, Leudicus, Legia or other variants in Latin, Lüttich in German, Luik in Dutch, Luick in Older English, Lîdje in Walloon; pop. 195,000, with suburbs 620,000) is Wallonia's largest city and the third largest municipality in Belgium after Brussels and Antwerp. It is one of the world's rare cities to have developed on large river islands (another example is Paris), at the confluence of the Meuse and Ourthe Rivers.

Liège has one of the longest continuous history of any Belgian cities and some fine examples of 17th- and 18th-century Mosan architecture. It is a vibrant and friendly city known in French as the Citée ardente, due to the warmth and enthusiasm of the local folk. But Liège is also a city of contrast, one that visitors either love or loathe, or perhaps a bit of both at the same time.

Birthplace of Charlemagne, home to Belgium's biggest palace, many of its oldest churches, Wallonia's only opera house, and an array of fine museums, Liège would have everything to please had it not been partly defaced by real estate speculations in the 1960's and 70's and the progressive dereliction caused by the abandonment of the historical centre to impoverished immigrants. More than anywhere else in the Benelux, Liège is a place where luxury meets deprivation in the next street.

Every Sunday, the banks of the Meuse host Europe's biggest market, the Marché de la Batte (from 8am to 2:30pm). On sunny days it can draw up to 100,000 visitors.

Some local brands are ubiquitous in Belgium and often well-known abroad too, like Galler chocolate, Chaudfontaine mineral water, and Belgium's most popular beer, Jupiler, brewed in the suburb of Jupille. The city's local football club, the Royal Standard de Liège, is one of the country's most enthusiatically supported teams.


History

Liège in the 18th century

History of Liège

From the Merovingian city, cradle of the Carolingian dynasty, to the blood-thirsty Renaissance prince-bishops, Liège's special role in the French Revolution, and the World Fair of 1905.

Attractions

Top 5 tourist attractions in Liège
  1. The Palace of the Prince-Bishops

  2. The Archeoforum

  3. The Old Town & Medieval Churches

  4. The Grand Curtius Museum*

  5. The new TGV station*

Like Namur and Maastricht, the architectural style of Liège is characterised by traditional 16th- and 17th-century 'brick and greystone' buildings (the so-called "Mosan style"), as well as handsome maisons de maitre (townhouses) from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Unfortunately, a lot ugly concrete apartment and office buildings spoil the city's harmony on the big boulevards (that used to be waterways) and along the Meuse River. The suburbs are mostly made of unattractive, industrial-age, working-class houses.

The old political and religious heart of the city was Saint Lambert Square, to the north of the modern commercial centre. It is prolongated by Market Square (Place du Marché), where stands the town hall (completed in 1718) and the Perron (literally "front steps"), a column symbolising the municipal liberties. Most of the old houses are to be found east of St Lambert Square, between Hors Château and Quai de Maastricht.

To the east of St. Lambert Square is the so-called Ilot Saint Michel ("St Michael's Isle"), now a modern shopping centre. South-east, we find Opera Square (where stand the neoclassical Royal Opera of Wallonia and the statue of Grétry) and the Square of the French Republic. This latter reminds us that 14th July (France's National Day) is also celebrated in Liège and that quite a few locals wouldn't mind if Wallonia split from Flanders to join France. This is ironic considering the city's historical link with Germany, and the fact that the French (the Burgundians, Louis XIV) destroyed Liège several times.

Palace of the Prince-bishops, Liège

Historical Centre

The Palace of the Prince-bishops, Saint Lambert Square, the stone-and-timber houses of Hors-Château and Feronstrée, the Grand Curtius Museum, the Ansembourg Museum and St Bartholomew's Church.
Statue of the Bull Tamer, Parc d'Avroy, Liège

Island Quarter & Upper Town

The downtown shopping and entertainment district, home to the Royal Opera of Wallonia, the University of Liège, a few old churches and countless restaurants.
Festival in Outremeuse

Outremeuse

A traditional working-class downtown neighbourhood located on Liège's biggest island on the River Meuse. Outremeuse is famous for its Tchantchès festival.
Val-Saint-Lambert crystal (photo by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license)

Outside the city centre

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the abbey and crystal factory of Val Saint Lambert, the Blegny coal mines and the prehistoric caves of Ramioul.

Shopping & Entertainment

Most of the shops, restaurants and cinemas are located between Boulevard de la Sauvenière, St Lambert Square and St Paul Cathedral.

The Galeries St Lambert, between St Lambert Square and St Denis Square, is the city's most modern shopping centre. The galleries spread on 40,000 m2. They have a branch of Mediamarkt and a Inno Department Store.

The area known as Le Carré ("the square"), comprised between the Boulevard de la Sauvenière, Rue Pont d'Avroy, Rue Vinave d'Ile and Rue de la Casquette and well known for its (mostly Italian) restaurants, cafés, pubs and nightlife. The pedestrian Vinâve d'Île, between St Paul Square and Opera Square, is the main shopping street in the city centre. The narrow Rue St Gilles and the broad Boulevard d'Avroy are other notable busy streets, with a lot of restaurants.

On the music and spectacle scene, the Forum (on Rue Pont d'Avroy, 14) is Liège's most famous venue. Created in 1922, it has welcomed some of the greatest French-speaking singers (Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Henri Salvador, Joe Dassin, Johnny Haliday...) and comedians (Fernandel, Coluche, Pierre Richard, Les Inconnus...).

For classical music, the Royal Opera of Wallonia is the most prestigious venue, not only in Liège but in all Francophone Belgium. It is home to the Liège Philarmonic Orchestra.

Recommended Restaurants

N.B. : the stars indicate the Michelin Guide rating, the score on a scale of 1 to 20 indicates the Gault Millau Guide rating.

How to get there

Liège-Guillemins Railway Station (photo by Le Cointois - Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license)
Liège-Guillemins Railway Station

By car

Liège sits at the junction of 4 major motorways (E25, E313, E40, and E42) linking it to the rest of Belgium as well as Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany.

By train

There are two bullet-train lines passing through Liège: the Thalys running between Paris and Cologne, via Brussels, and the ICE to Cologne and Frankfurt.

There are frequent regular trains to most Belgian cities. Here is a summary of the main lines :

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