Located on the Meuse River in Belgium’s French speaking Wallonia, Liege doesn’t attract as much attention as some other Belgium cities, but perhaps it should. With intriguing architecture, enticing historical sites, a contender for the world’s most extreme staircase and irresistible waffles, Liege has much to offer. Here are five reasons you should add Liege to your European itinerary.
If you visit Belgium, you’re going to indulge in waffles—it’s just what you do. But what sets Liege waffles apart from those you’ll find in other Belgian destinations are the delicious exploding sugar crystals. Unlike other Belgian waffles, Liege waffles are made with a thicker batter resembling bread dough making them richer and chewier. Combine that with the caramelized pearl sugar and you’ve got a party in your mouth.
Montagne de Bueren
Feeling guilty about all those Liege waffles you’ve eaten? Head over to Montagne de Bueren—the Mountain of Bueren. This daunting 374 step staircase with a 30 degree slope was nominated as the world’s most extreme staircase. Standing at the bottom looking up it’s easy to see why. Montage de Bueren connects the tiny medieval passageways beneath the house fronts of Rue Hors Chateau to the former citadel hall. Your arduous climb to the top will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city—and possibly another waffle.
Old Town Architecture
Liege is a bustling urban city brimming with shops and cafes at every turn. But it is also a city filled with captivating historical architecture. The St. Paul Cathedral with its 13th-century Gothic style edifice is a prime example with an elaborate neo-Gothic pulpit, treasured stained glass windows and an exceptional collection of religious artwork. The cathedral’s tower houses a set of 49 bells that come to life from April to September on Wednesday afternoons with a weekly themed concert that lures passersby into the square for a listen.
As you’re strolling the city in your continued efforts to walk off those waffles, be sure to see the historic Prince-Bishops’ Palace on Place St. Lambert in the city center. Originally constructed over 1,000 years ago, the palace has been destroyed by fire more than once and now combines a number of varying architectural styles: Gothic, Italian Renaissance and French Regency. Victor Hugo even wrote about the palace's inner court "Nowhere have I seen a construction so remarkable, serious and grandiose at the same time.”
Liège-Guillemins Train Station
In stark contrast to the historic architecture of Liege, the Liège-Guillemins Train Station is an ultra-modern structure of vaulted glass and steel canopies. Designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava and constructed 2009, the station positions Liege at the heart of the North European high speed rail network. It’s a monumental structure that will impress even a non-architecture buff. The stations is representative of the city’s renewal. Be sure to see what’s on exhibit at the station’s dedicated exhibition space. I was fortunate to catch the works of Salvador Dali. If you’ve been to New York’s new World Trade Center Station Complex, the Oculus, the station style will seem very familiar as it was designed by the same architect.
As the oldest and largest market in Belgium, La Batte is a Sunday institution. Staged along the Meuse River, La Batte is the ideal place to witness the warm welcoming nature of the residents of Liege while sampling local products. Stalls filled with local wares, fruits, vegetables, cheese and regional foods attract thousands of visitors each week. It’s a must do in the warmer weather months and is open every Sunday from 8:00am until 2:30pm. If you haven’t tried a Liege waffle before you arrive, this would be a good place to sample one. Already tried one? You can always indulge in another one and head back to Montagne de Bueren for another climb!
Have you been to Liege? What were your favorite experiences?
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