Together with Belgium, Uniquely Phenomenal I visited Liege, the off the beaten track town in Belgium's Far East. From the 3 cities that we visited that weekend (among Brussels & Antwerp), it was the one that I knew the least. Even though it is sooo close to Luxembourg, I only passed a few times through when travelling by one of my favorite means of transport: by train.
Remembering thus only its epic train station, I couldn't wait to discover what Liège is holding for avid travellers.
Before visiting Liège, a very fundamental question rises: how should you name Liège?
Indeed the city in Eastern Belgium has 7 names that don't have much in common: Liège, Liege, Luke, Luik, Liége, Liejas, Léck, Lüttich...(probably there are even more?)
And 3 of them are official languages in Belgium! Intriguing, isn't it? Depending on the region where you're travelling in Belgium, people will not understand about which town you're talking if you don't name the town in the local language.
Well, let's agree on calling the baby "Liège" as the town is set in a French-speaking area.
Although it isn't necessarily on most "To-Do"/ "Must Visit" / "Travel Bucket Lists" of travellers visiting Belgium, Liège has definitely got several sights that make it a very "Belgian" town that shouldn't be left out when visiting this little kingdom in Western Europe. Be it as a day-trip from Brussels or for a weekend city-trip.
And of course this post will feature some typical Belgian food.
Geographic situation: Major Walloon city in Eastern Belgium and municipality and the capital of the Belgian province of Liège. Liège ranks as
the third most populous urban area in Belgium, after Brussels and Antwerp.
Language: French. English is spoken as well.
How to get there: By airplane to Airport Brussels Zaventem or Brussels South Charleroi Airport. Liege has an airport connecting it to a few main holiday destinations.
Where to stay in Liège
|Hotel Hors Chateau|
|B&B Street Lodge|
|penta Hotel Liege|
|Les Comtes de Mean|
1. An epic Train Station
One of my favourite ways to travel is definitely by train. It's eco-friendly and goes with my love for slow traveling.
Nothing gives you more calm, space and punctuality. On top train traveling allows you to work on your tasks or just let your mind wander while gazing at the landscapes rolling by.
Travellers arriving in Liège by train will get a very special reward: Liège's railway station named "Liège-Guillemins" is probably one of the most avant-garde and awe-inspiring ones in Europe.
Designed by the renown Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and officially opened in 2009, it quickly became a major reason for architecture lovers to visit Liège. When the former train station became too small, the Belgium railway society decided to built a new one. And how well thought, was the idea of creating a new city symbol, a sight that would attract visitors from all over the globe?
Nowadays the train station of Liège became a very popular photo motive for photographers, bloggers, journalists and instagrammers from around the world.
Can you guess what inspired Santiago Calatrava when designing this building? He, who calls himself an artist and not an architect?
Let me give you a little hint: women's hips...
2. Belgian Waffles. Of Course.
Belgian Waffles are a must! If you're visiting Liege or not, they are a must-do, must-eat whatever when travelling to Belgium.
There are 2 types of waffles in Belgium. As you see, besides chocolate and beer, Belgians are experts when it comes to elaborate delicious, probably not so healthy treats. And apparently they like to offer as much variation as possible. That's the only way how you can explain almost 1600 kinds of beer and an almost infinite number of chocolate creations.
But there are only (!) 2 kinds of waffles.
"Gaufres de Bruxelles" (Brussels' Waffles) are made with a yeast-leavened, thin dough which makes them lighter. Their edges are smooth and they have a rectangular form with deep holes. "Gaufre de Liège" (Liege's Waffles) are made with a thicker, bread-like dough. The batter contains chunks of sugar that caramelize with the heat and give the waffle a golden, crunchy coating. The edges of the Liege waffle are more uneven, its form is more round and the taste is sweeter than the Brussels' waffle.
Whereas you can can get waffles at almost every corner, there are always a few secret spots in town which do a particularly good job.
In Liege this has to be the be the Une Gaufrette, Saperlipopette shop. The window of the fairy tale bakery is already all too pretty: piles of golden waffles, mountains of delicious pastries and pancakes. This window will certainly make you veeery hungry. They have several kinds of waffles and one was more delicious than the other. All the ingredients are natural and only traditional recipes are used. A bite of their waffles and you just gonna melt away.
You can't leave Liège without trying a waffle at Une Gaufrette, Saperlipopette!
Where: Rue des Mineurs 7, 4000 Liège, Belgium
3. Peket - Belgian Gin
Even though its geographical origins, Liege, are so close to my home country Luxembourg, I've never heard of Peket before.
Many regions ins Belgium have their very own alcoholic spirits. Whereas Flanders is mostly famous for Jenever, the juniper-flavored traditional liquor from which gin evolved, Peket is the juniper-favored booze that is particularly popular in Liège.
It is said that Peket was born when miners in Liège region decided to add juniper berries to their eaux de vie in order to make it more aromatic. Nowadays it comes in more than 30 different flavors like cinnamon, strawberry or violette. All with different levels of sweetness.
It's even used in the regional gastronomy when preparing local delicacies like duck or quail.
I had my first Peket experience in "Maison du Peket", probably the most ancient place to get this gin version while in Liège. It's set in the charming historic quarter of the town and its rustic interior design respects the construction style of the 18th century.
I don't have to mention that food was delicious too. As a starter we got the typical cheese from Liège, Herve and as a main meatballs prepared Belgian way. The portions were huuge and I couldn't finish it all.
That's probably when Peket comes in. Following tradition, a good eau de vie is supposed to facilitate digestion. I had the strawberry peket and it reminded me my childhood when I was chewing pink bubble gum all day long. That's just to give you an idea how sweet it was.
I also had a try on the violette Peket, but that one did not only smell like a granny's perfume, but it was even sweeter than the previous one. With that sugar rush I finally had enough zeal and energy to continue the Liège city tour.
Maison du Peket
Where: Rue de l’Epée 2, 4000 Liège
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org - www.maisondupeket.be
4. The Citadel of Liège
Liège's Citadelle was probably the most surprising place that we visited during our tour through Belgium's largest town in the East. Whereas the contrast between the light white, filigrane architecture of the train station and the town's bit stolid, obscure brick houses was already striking, the citadel enthroning the top of the city, left me totally mesmerized.
The citadel shows yet another side of Liege that isn't reflected nor in its rail station or its city center: its medieval past.
The Citadelle de Liège is located 110 meters above the valley of the Meuse and its origins go back to 1255. Its massive walls made the fortress a coveted target for foreign powers. That's how it ended up being seriously damaged during Liège's tumultuous past. Destroyed by the French and rebuilt by the Dutch, the citadel continued in use as a barracks post. Nowadays only the southern walls remain which were used as a prison during WW2. There's also an impressive cemetery honoring the victims of the Nazi regime.
The views on Liège will be the best that you can find.
One of Liège's most eye-catching sights, the Montagne de Bueren, a 374-step staircase was supposed to connect the new neighborhoods behind the citadel with the old town's city center. And obviously to shorten the way to the soldiers.
I particularly enjoyed strolling through its narrow streets. Every now and then a hidden corner opens up which gives you furtive glances at lush green patios and private gardens.
It's definitely a place where I enjoyed to get lost. Both in time and in enchanting streets.
5. A River Cruise on the Meuse
For coronation of this little trip to Liège, this pretty hidden gem in Belgium's East, we had a little cruise on the river that goes through Liege: the Meuse.
Although we were not very lucky with the weather, it allowed us to discover some of Liège's most pretty sights from a different perspective. You'll cruise along impressive, historic buildings like the Aquarium-Museum and modernist architecture near Pont Albert 1er.
The cruise takes of at the before mentioned Aquarium-Museum and the ride will cost you 8€ per person. It will leave you at the Pont Albert 1er from where I recommend you to visit one of Liège's most enchanting parks: La Boverie Park. You shouldn't miss its rose garden and the pergola.
Little ponds with ducks surrounded by weeping willows created an almost fairytale-like atmosphere. In the middle of the park, you'll see a rather monumental building: the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.The snow white building dating back to 1905 stands in contrast with the modern art works it hosts.
The river cruise on the Meuse is definitely a lovely way to spend your afternoon in Liège irrespective from any season.
6. Eye-Catching Historic Buildings
As you might have already acknowledged, Liège is a candy especially for architecture lovers.
The already mentioned examples of the Santiago Calatrava's filigrane architecture at Liège-Guillemins rail station and Liege's citadel from the 19th century, I don't want to withhold you some of the prettiest buildings in Liège's city center.
There's Liège's town hall, called "La Violette" referring to the colorful facade of the previous building. It's dating back to the 18th century and it's located at the central Place du Marché.
The Palace of the Prince Bishops is another eye candy that shouldn't be missed when visiting Liège. The original palace was built about 900 years ago. Unfortunately it couldn't be preserved but it contains a stunning interior patio inspired by the Italian Renaissance. Victor Hugo said about its interior patio: "Nowhere have I seen a construction so remarkable, serious and grandiose at the same time". This should be reasons enough to include the palace in your Liège city tour. ;-)
In case you still didn't get enough of remarkable architectural gems, you'd need to visit the bright red/white church Eglise Saint-Barthélemy and the Cour Saint-Antoine, an inner courtyard with houses from the 17th - 19th century standing next to postmodern buildings.
These buildings are not only lovely phot shoot locations, but also have a remarkable symbolic and historic value for the city.
I am sure that those are not Liege's only architecture gems, so if you've got some, please share them with me in the comment form.
7. Enormous Staircases!
The huuuge staircase in the city center of Liege, the Montage de Bueren was probably the most striking sight.
Unsuspectingly you'll just turn at the corner and then you end up standing in front of an ENORMOUS staircase! With 374 steps, to be precise.
The versions of its origins defer. I've been told that the staircase was supposed to shorten the way from the citadel to the town center so that the soldiers living in the citadel didn't have to pass along dangerous alleys... On the other hand there's the version that the staircase had been built in 1881 in order to remember the 600 soldiers that died in a battle during the 15th century by naming the staircase after their commander Vincent de Bueren. Finally it was also supposed to connect the new neighborhoods behind the citadel with the city center of Liège.
Today it became not only one of the town's main tourist curiosities, but also an emblematic place where festivities or sport events are being held throughout the year.
In 2013 the staircase at Montagne de Bueren even ranked #1 at Huffington Post's Most Extreme Staircases.
I am still grateful to the guide that we didn't have to get all these stairs up. ;-)
I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my visit to Liège, could convince you to include this surprising town in your travel plans when visiting Belgium.
It will definitely be worth it... I only mention Wafffffles... ;-)
Have you been in Liege? What was your impression? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form.
Map: Highlights of Liège, Belgium
You'd like to visit Belgium, but don't know where to start? Well, here are 99 reasons more why you should consider traveling to Belgium: Belgium, Uniquely Phenomenal
In order to get more information on tourism in Liège, Belgium, I recommend the site of Tourism Board of Liège.
Disclaimer: I have been a guest of the Tourism Board of Belgium. All my opinions, as always, are my own. This posts contains affiliate links. In case you purchase one of the items, I'll receive a small commission. The price remains the same for you.
Some of these pictures have been taken by the talented Laurie Dieffembacq.