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Summer city trips in Belgium #9: Liège
It’s nicknamed the ardent city in honour of its fierce independent spirit. For 800 years, the once industrial powerhouse of Belgium was a separate principality, ruled by a prince-bishop until the end of the 18th century. Today, the largest city in Wallonia is a beacon of art, shopping, contemporary architecture and gastronomy.
Liège is home to numerous folklore traditions. Don’t miss the Museum of Walloon Life, near Place Saint-Lambert. If you’re feeling energetic, climb the narrow steps of the Montagne de Bueren behind the museum to the slopes of the Citadel above. The city’s emblem is the character Tchatchès and the puppet has pride of place in the four-day festivities that take place in mid-August.
Overlooking Place Saint-Lambert in the heart of Liège is the sumptuous prince-bishops’ palace, housing provincial offices and the law courts. Guided tours are available, or you can walk through the main entrance to marvel at the medieval courtyard. Heading east, the museum quarter includes the refurbished Curtius museum, dedicated to history and art. Cross the river by Pont des Arches, the favoured bridge of local crime writer Georges Simenon, and explore the Outremeuse area. The commercial centre of Liège, known as the Carré, is a warren of shops, and its bars are popular student haunts at night. Shopaholics can head to the Médiacité complex, which includes an ice rink that’s open all year round. Take a tourist train from the centre to see all the city sights. Liège Aquarium has a remarkable collection of interest to all the family.
Eat, drink & sleep
A local speciality is boulets de Liège, savoury meatballs in a sauce made with Liège syrup; try them at Chez Lequet. For an introduction to pèkèt, the local genever made from juniper berries, go to La Maison du peket. Other regional favourites are boudin sausages and sugar-encrusted Liège waffles (try Maison Massin). Italian immigration has influenced local cuisine, so pizza and pasta joints abound. In the foyer of the Wallonia Royal Opera House, enjoy a quick self-service lunch in a grandiose setting. Equally fabulous is the five-star Les Comtes de Méan, a modern complex created out of two elegant townhouses. Smaller but still stylish is the Hotel Neuvice, near the Place du Marché. The 18th-century building is in a street that dates from the 12th century and today has an excellent choice of food shops.
Lying on the river Meuse, Liège prides itself as a major international transport hub. Liège Airport is just outside the city and the Santiago Calatrava-designed Guillemins station places Liège at the centre of a European high-speed network. From the station, a breathtaking glass and steel structure, walk or cycle across the new La Belle Liègoise pathway to the Boverie park, a landscaped green space housing La Boverie, the city’s newly renovated modern and contemporary art museum.