Liege is the third largest city in Belgium and the largest city in the French-Speaking region of Wallonia. At first glance the city can seem reserved and almost shy, compared to other, more lively Belgium city’s, but it will not take long for you to discover the truth. The people here are friendly and love life and so they should, the food, drink and nightlife in Liege are as good as anywhere in the country.
The wealth of churches and other medieval buildings as well as top class museums and art galleries are also enough to rival Europe’s top cities and will keep you busy for a week with ease. It may sound like a cliche (especially in Europe) but there really is a sight around each corner in Liege and lovers of architecture and art will be in heaven. Combine all this with the city’s beautiful setting on the tranquil Meuse River and you are onto a winner. The many festivals throughout the year mean that one trip to Liege can be very different from another during different seasons and may well tempt you back time and again.
These are the best things to do in Liege:
1. Learn About Art at the Grand Curtius
The Grand Curtuis, or Curtuis Museum, is an archeology and art museum set in a restored mansion from the 17th Century. All those years ago, the building belonged to a wealthy entrepreneur from the city and it was his idea to bring together four small museum collections in order to form the large collection you can see today. The sheer amount of objects here mean you need to dedicate a full day to the museum and grab yourself an audio guide in order to fully appreciate this vast museum.
2. Climb the Montagne de Bueren
The Stairs of Mount Bueren are well worth climbing but it is also worth exploring the passageways around the Montagne and marveling at the hidden treasures you find along the way. You will mainly discover private gardens but they are still worth seeing. Continue on along the winding staircase to the summit of Montagne de Bueren and you wild find a war memorial as well as some of the best panoramic views in the entire city of Liege.
3. Marvel at the Liege-Guillemins Station
This iconic building will certainly take your breath away. The building is both a vital hub for transport in the country and a stunning example of modern architecture. It was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is mainly made of steel. Its curved, sweeping design is reminiscent of something from a sci-fi film. If you want to take one of Belgium’s impressive high speed trains, then this station is one of the three stations in the country that you can catch one from.
4. Witness Beauty on the Inside of the Musee Des Beaux Arts de Liege
As you approach this museum in the Feronstree district of Liege, you will be shocked by how unattractive the building it is. The museum is housed in an unflattering concrete building that was constructed in the 1980s. Allow yourself to get past this though and venture into the museum and you will be rewarded. The art collections within are displayed beautifully and range from medieval works to more contemporary pieces.
5. Dig Deep at the Archeoforum of Liege
Located on Place St Lambert this archeological site measures almost 4,000 square metres and is home to 9,000 years worth of Liege history. The cathedral that formerly stood here was demolished in 1793 and all that now remains are the foundation blocks. There are also foundations of a Roman Villa which stood here many years ago. A video tour allows you to explore a computer generated model of the cathedral that was once here and explains the site in English.
6. Go Gothic at the St Paul Cathedral
The St Paul Cathedral, or Liege Cathedral as it is also known, was built in the 15th Century and restored to how it is now in the 19th Century. The building is a tremendous example of Gothic architecture especially the pulpit, vaults and ceiling. Several treasures were brought to the cathedral from the nearby St Lambert Cathedral when it was demolished including a gold and silver ornament of St Lambert himself. Inside the ornament, if legend is to believed, is part of Lambert’s skull.
7. Learn about the Walloons
The Walloons, if you didn’t already know, are a French speaking people that live mainly in Belgium, although there are also significant populations in Brazil, USA and Argentina. The museum in Liege is set in a former Franciscan monastery and has a large collection of objects that explore the past and present lives of the Walloon people. Highlights include metalwork dating back as far as the 12th Century and a genuine guillotine and even the head of its last victim.
8. Enjoy Mosan Art at the Church of St Bartholomew
Mosan art is a style of art that originated from the Meuse Valley in what is now Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Most people will agree that one of the best examples of Mosan art can be found at the Church of St Bartholomew in Liege. The famous baptismal font that is found within the church was crafted at the beginning of the 12th century and came from the cathedral of St Lambert when it was demolished. The font shows several baptism scenes and rests on small ox figures that appear to be holding its weight. Entry to see the font will cost you 2 euros or you can have a sneaky glance through the nearby church window.
9. See More Mosan Art
Speaking of Mosan Art, very nearby to the Museum of Walloon Life is the Musee d’Art Religieux Et D’art Mosan, which as the name suggests explores some of the greatest art from the regions past. It is best to begin a tour on the 3rd floor of the building where you will see many statues of the saint of hunting St Hubert. After this, work your way down through the building and admire the many wonderful pieces on the way. One of the most notable is a wood carving of the Virgin Mary which dates back to the very beginning of the 11th Century.
10. Take a Nighttime Stroll to the City Hall
The Liege City Hall or Hotel de Ville, is always worth looking it. It is an imposing but elegant building on the city’s main square. If you really want to see the building in all its glory however then you should visit at night when it is gloriously lit up by red spotlights. The square here, Place du Marche, is home to a few good cafes as well as two fountains hidden away by the surrounding trees. The Place du Marche is as good a place as any to drink a coffee and people watch in true European style.
11. Find Treasure
The Tresor De Liege, or Treasure House of Liege, is situated close to the cathedral’s cloisters and has been renovated to a very high standard. Inside the Treasure House, you will find many works of art that tell the tale of Liege and its history. The Treasury is open between 2pm and 5pm on everyday except for Mondays. It is best explored as part of a trip to the Liege Cathedral itself.
12. Arm Yourself at the Arms Museum
The Musee D’Armes was opened in 1885 and is actually a part of the Grand Curtuis museum but it deserves a mention of its own. The collection is made up of around 11,000 objects, making it the second largest collection in the continent. The weapons here are often beautiful as well as interesting and the museum even explains the process of manufacturing the armaments throughout the years. The oldest piece in the museum is a prehistoric axe.
13. See the Former Palace of the Prince-Bishops
The Former Palace of the Prince-Bishops is a stunning building located right in the centre of Liege. It used to overlook the St Lambert Cathedral before it was destroyed. The first palace was built here over 1,000 years ago but was destroyed by fire in the 12th Century. The palace is now largely as it was in the 18th Century and is a great blend of “seriousness and grandiose” as Victor Hugo once described it. The building is presently used as a courthouse.
14. Witness Walloon Life
Cross the River Meuse to the island of Outremeuse and celebrate the unique culture there. The island is home to Walloon people who class themselves as a free republic and celebrate their status every August in a lively and often chaotic festival. The festival takes place on the 15th August each year and is a great time to be on the island. The frivolities that ensue include a folk parade, shooting and blessing lovers.
15. Enter a Mansion
The Musee d’Ansembourg is a beautifully restored and refurbished mansion that dates back to the mid 18th Century. Within the building are four original 18th Century tapestries that have spent their entire lifetime in the building. Despite the buildings large size, the explanations given for each room are rather brief and, as such, you can be in and out within half an hour. Entrance costs 5 Euros and visits are only possible Thursday through to Sunday between the hours of 10am and 6pm.