When visiting Belgium, most tourists are sticking to the well-known cities: Brussels, Bruges, maybe Antwerp and Ghent… And let’s be very clear about this, you are totally right to visit those spots. They are beautiful indeed. They do deserve some of your time. Yet there is more to Belgium than just those four cities. Although pretty small, the country has a lot on offer. Take the exquisite nature, for example. Or the oh-so-typical coastline. Or, and here it comes, Liège, one of Wallonia’s pretty cities that are so often overlooked.
Even though I am telling all this with what seems to be the biggest conviction, I definitely could do with some of my own advice. Since a couple of years, I am trying to discover my own country a little more yet for some reason, living in Brussels, I prefer to go hiking or blow off some steam at the coastline rather than going on a city trip. It had been a very long time since I last visited Liège so when my boyfriend and I were considering where to go for a little getaway in Belgium, we decided to spend some time in this lovely Walloon city. The weather definitely was not on our side – it is still Belgium, after all – but all in all, we were pleasantly surprised. If you are thinking of paying the city a visit yourself, let me give you some inspo.
1. 12 o’clock
One of the easiest ways to get to Liège is without a doubt by train. Although a train station may seem a bit boring for most of us, this is definitely not the case for Liège-Guillemins. The building was inaugurated in 2009 and designed by the famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. If you have never visited the station before, the glass with steel structure might catch you by surprise – in a good way, that is. Even in gloomy Belgium the rails always bathe in light and you could easily spend an hour over here, discovering the building and getting to know all its details.
2. 1 o’clock
As it is around midday, you of course want to fill your belly with something yummy before embarking on your journey. The Belgians amongst you will most certainly be acquainted with the gaufres de Liège or waffles from Liège, so a trip to the city would not be complete without trying some. Head over to Une Gaufrette Saperlipopette, wait in line until it is your turn and savor one of the best waffles in town. The gooey pastries speckled with big sugar chunks are world-famous and not without reason.
3. 2 o’clock
I am assuming you will be visiting Liège during a weekend, so let’s say it is Saturday today. The best day to go for a shopping trip and the city will not disappoint you on this subject. On a 2-minute walk from Une Gaufrette Saperlipopette, you will find a street called En Neuvice: a true hipster heaven. Some of the shops that immediately caught my attention were JANGALA – an urban jungle in the most literal kind of way – and Les Petits Producteurs, where you can find regional and organic produce. Maybe the ideal occasion to pick up some apples for an autumnal apple cake? Just a suggestion… The best shopping trips are a bit spontaneous, so just wander around, keep your eyes open and do not forget your wallet.
4. 4 o’clock
Done shopping? Time to discover the city! You might already have noticed this when arriving by train (or by car) but Liège is located in some kind of valley. Which means that as soon as you leave the very city center, you will have to climb up up up. If you want to make the most out of this little geography fact, pay a visit to the Montagne de Bueren. Be warned, you will feel overwhelmed at first but once you have climbed all 374 steps, the view is straight-up breathtaking (pun intended). All kidding aside, this staircase dating back to 1881 is a sight you simply cannot miss when visiting Liège and after climbing it all the way, you will feel as if you can do anything at all. If you want to take things even a little further, take some more steps and have a look at the citadel. From there, follow the Les Coteaux de la Citadelle-walking path and enjoy a stunning piece of nature right there on the edge of the city. Once you have made your way downwards again, make a little detour and visit some of the typical impasses. These little alleyways date back to centuries ago and when discovering them, you get an image of how it must have been to live in historical Liège.
5. 6 o’clock
The moment you have all been waiting for: apéro! Because yes, you are on a mini holiday and yes, it is totally okay to have a glass of wine (or a beer) at 6PM. Maybe it is even a little late to be honest. If you do like your daily dose of hipster, Chez Lou! will be just your cup of tea. Terrazzo, high ceilings, a bit of pink, Monsteras… Honestly, they have it all. And their drinks menu is not bad either. So take your time, sit back and enjoy your well-deserved apéro. And take a second round if you are feeling like it.
6. 8 o’clock
The most important thing to know when visiting Liège is that making a reservation is mandatory. Otherways, you will find yourself calling around for ages whilst you are already getting a bit hangry – been there, done that. So make sure to book in advance. Liège has a lot of restaurants which seem worthy of a visit, yet my boyfriend and I tested Bistrot d’en Face and were completely sold. The menu mainly consists of Belgian classics, yet as they are prepared with a lot of finesse, you will not walk out of there telling yourself off for stuffing your face with mediocre food. No, you will roll out of there with a very satisfied feeling. It is all in the details.
7. 11 o’clock
You have had a long day, so chances are you will not stay up very long. If you do: congrats, you are better at this than me! No matter what time you dive into bed, you will be thankful for a comfortable room though. Having stayed at the Van der Valk Sélys, I can safely say that you cannot go wrong with this one. The rooms are cozy, generous and comfortable. I myself was very very pleased with the big bath we had: no better way to relax after a long rainy day than by plunging yourself in a hot tub. If you want to relax even more, you can do so in the hotel’s spa. Sleep tight!
8. 7 o’clock
Just kidding! It is Sunday, enjoy your lay-in!
9. 11 o’clock
Once you have managed to get yourself out of bed and taken the time to get ready for the day, it is time for a big brunch. Again, booking in advance is kind of mandatory in Liège, so do not make the mistake of showing up spontaneously at 11 AM. There will be no spots left and you will be hungry. As you may be able to guess, that is exactly what happened to us, so I am not really able to give you my recommendations. I did however do some research on said Sunday morning and two spots that caught my attention were Grand Maison (located right next to the Sunday market) and Quebec Café (a bit out of the way but it all just seems yum). Hopefully you will have more luck than me!
10. 12 o’clock
A city trip is not complete without a museum so that is why we decided to go to La Boverie, the Liège museum of fine arts. They often organize some really interesting exhibitions (Warhol is coming up in October) but when we were there, we just got to see the permanent collection. Which was great, actually. They have some famous works on show – think Picasso and Monet – yet also lesser-known artists. Even though I am not usually a big fan of sixteenth-century art, the ones they were showing were actually very refreshing and even modern-looking. La Boverie is definitely the perfect ending to a stay in Liège and located right next to the station, so you can jump straight on the train afterwards!