Nightlife, art and history in the beer city

TEXT: MALIN NORMAN | PHOTOS © OFFICE DU TOURISME DE LIÈGE

Liège is a destination in its own right, worth staying for a couple of days. Visitors can explore the historic centre and museums, check out the many events in autumn and winter, and, of course, try the local beers – or perhaps the beer marathon. After all, this is the beer lovers’ city.

“I didn’t know that Liège is so beautiful,” is what many tourists say, according to Office du Tourisme de Liège. Visitors can check out the many museums and there are a lot of shopping opportunities and fun events. What surprises many is the quality of the historical centre and the many buildings. When walking around, you can really sense the heritage. Plus, the narrow streets and hidden places make you travel in time.

Arriving by train is a nice way to take in the city when visiting for the first time. Gare des Guillemins was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, famous in particular for his bridges, railway stations and stadiums. With its enormous glass roof that lets the light in, it is often called a ‘cathedral of the modern age’.

Discoveries in autumn and winter

One of the highlights is La Nocturne des coteaux de la Citadelle on 6 October, when the city reveals its alleyways, courtyards, staircases, terraces, paths, fields and meadows in the Citadelle with around 22,000 candles. Every year, some 30,000 visitors come to see the candlelit city centre, enjoy the festive atmosphere and perhaps also make their way up the 374 steps of the famous stairway of the Montagne de Bueren.

Another festive event is the Christmas market, the first in Belgium and still one of the biggest with around 200 stalls. Visitors can also try ice-skating on Place de la Cathédrale, the toboggan run on Place Saint-Lambert, check out the sound and light show at Cathedral Saint Paul or the European Circus Festival in the d’Avroy park. Also worth visiting is La Boverie, the city’s fine arts museum and centre for international exhibitions in partnership with Le Louvre Museum. Similarly, Le Grand Curtius is a unique gem with more than 5,200 regional and international artefacts to discover, covering 7,000 years of art and history.

And not to miss, is La Cité Miroir, the former thermal baths of la Sauvenière. The exceptional venue is dedicated to education, citizenship and culture right in the centre of Liège. From 10 November, it hosts World Press Photo 2018, a prominent photojournalism competition. The city is also home to no less than three international cultural institutions; Royal Opera of Wallonia, Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Théâtre de Liège.

A city for beer lovers

The city is also brimming with beer venues. Brasseries, specialist shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, and courses in the study of beer. There certainly is a lot to explore when it comes to that particular beverage. To help guide beer lovers, the label Liège Beer Lovers’ City has created a series of events and quality certifications for products and establishments. As proof of its status, Liège hosted Brussels Beer Challenge in 2013, the first time the competition left the capital.

A highlight amongst events is the Beer Lovers’ Marathon. In addition to conventional water and energy supplies, runners have the opportunity to discover and taste 16 different Belgian beers along the way. The race understandably ranks as one of the seven most fun marathons in the world. This year, it had around 1,600 participants and many of them came from abroad. The next edition will be held on 9 June 2019.

In April, Musée de la vie Wallonne hosts La Cité de la Bière, a festival with local microbreweries. And in May, Liège transforms into the capital of Walloon craft beers. In the heart of the city, craft breweries present their know-how and the fruit of their work. This annual festival is a fantastic opportunity to discover the diversity of the brewing heritage. And if visiting in autumn, check out Hoppy Days: Fête de la Bière de Liège, with beery celebrations on 26-28 October. It offers bars serving the best beers in the world, live music and a great vibe.

Good quality of life

In addition to its fantastic beer adventures, the city is famous for another treat; the waffle. It has been the delight of food lovers worldwide for many generations, and nowhere more so than in Liège. If you ask the question “where is the best place to taste a Liège waffle?”, then the obvious answer is “in Liège!”

Liège is also known for the good quality of life and the friendly character of the people who live here. The locals are considered very sympathetic and also welcoming towards the many tourists. According to Office du Tourisme de Liège, “if you arrive here alone, you will go home with ten new friends.”

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