A weekend in Liège
Not many people think of Liège as a city trip destination, meaning they miss out on the variety of things the ‘Cité ardente’ has to offer! Admittedly the city’s skyline isn’t the most picturesque with its chaotic mix of random architectural styles, but this shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying Liège’s many attractive spots, as well as its charming historic center. And let’s not forget the Liégeois themselves! Known for their festive spirit, the people from Liège have a distinct warmth and kindness that you’ll surely feel in shops and restaurants.
Lunch at En Ville | Rue Soeurs de Hasque 1B, 4000 Liège
By now you all know I’m a vegetarian (who eats fish from time to time, I admit it) so I’m always on the look out for spots that made the effort to make their offer entirely meat-free. En Ville is such a spot that proves that eating veggie can obviously be delicious and doesn’t reduce your diet to lettuce. In their cozy little interior, Lena, Marilou & Elisa prepare all the dishes themselves, using local and organic products. On the menu you’ll find pain perdu, eggs, a veggie burger, but also a changing ‘lunch du jour’ and buddha bowl. And if you still haven’t found exactly what you’re looking for, the ladies are more than willing to listen to your cravings. Tasty and healthy, it’s everything I love!
Liège counts many inventive entrepreneurs that followed their dreams. The result is an eclectic landscape of unique shopping venues of which I’d like to highlight my favorites, taking you for a stroll through the city center along the way. Starting with Miscellany (Rue Charles Magnette 3C), not your average vintage boutique for women. Shop owner Ornella puts a lot of effort into her selection and cleans and repairs all the pieces before presenting them in her cocoon. The items on display feel brand new and contemporary, so you’d almost not believe they’re vintage. Yet they are, meaning they’re one of a kind, and prices are very decent! Next stop is Clarisses68 (Rue des Clarisses 68) a concept store that’s packed with gorgeous pieces. Here you can shop beautiful vintage couches and sideboards, as well as the latest fashion. For fall/winter 2018-2019 that means lots of checks and corduroy. Again this is one for the ladies, but there’s plenty of deco as well! Different kind of atmosphere at Ginette (Rue Saint Adalbert 7) where you’re served hard to find brands in a crisp white interior. Fashionista Floriane gathers the most on trend pieces from international brands you might have come across on social media and complements them with a fine selection of cosmetics.
Alinéa (Place Xavier-Neujean 13D) is a small concept store for women that brings together an eclectic mix of influences. The young Alicia, who’s from Liège herself, offers a fun selection of clothes for affordable prices that speaks to a variety of fashionistas. Velvet (Quai sur Meuse 17B) is another vintage venue but very different because it’s more of a thrift shop, meaning it has a lot of items that fit into the street wear aesthetic favored by hipsters. Prices are gentle and you might stumble into a few very original pieces! Shopping is cardio so you’ll surely be in need of some drinks by now and that’s why you should head to Darius (Rue Charles Magnette 1C)! They have all the hot drinks you might crave for and you can have delicious brownies or cookies to go with them. Although the place is rather small, there are lots of seats available and with its terrazzo floors and tables it fits right into the current interior trends. Last shopping stop of the day is Wattitude (Rue Souverain Pont 7), the quintessentially Walloon shop. Books, jewelry, tableware, food, … Everything here is made in Wallonia. A great venue if you’re looking for a gift!
Contemplating the Saint Bartholomew's Collegiate Church | Place St Barthélémy 8, 4000 Liège
Liège has multiple churches but the Saint Bartholomew’s Collegiate Church is special in more than one regard. It dates back to the 11th century and is the oldest religious building of the city. It is very memorable for its distinctive, colorful architecture that belongs to the Roman Mosan style. The term ‘Mosan’ comes from the Meuse River and is used to describe the eclectic style that was popular in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in the Middle Ages. The church houses one of the seven wonders of Belgium, namely a brass baptismal font that’s considered a masterpiece of roman sculpture. However, if you want to see it for yourself, you need to book a visit since you can only enter the church by appointment.
The area around the church is very peaceful and picturesque. For example, the Cour Saint-Antoine (accessible via Rue des Brasseurs or 114 rue Hors-Château) is an inner courtyard that brings together a Mayan pyramid and an Egyptian obelisk in the middle of a postmodern house complex, which is quite a surprising mix. There are also a few narrow alleys in this part of town that look as if they came straight out of a fairy tale book, such as the Impasse de la Vignette and the Impasse de l’Ange.
Climbing the Montagne de Bueren
The Montagne de Bueren is famous in Liège and beyond because it is considered one of the most extreme stairways in the world! With its 374 steps, it links the city to the old citadel. Standing at the bottom of the stairway, the view is quite impressive because it appears very upright, almost like a wall. Still, the view from the top is even more breathtaking, overlooking the entire city. Up there you can go explore the beautiful hills of the citadel which are an exceptional piece of nature, or you can simply return to the city by going straight to the left after the stairway. You’ll pass by quiet, cobbled streets until eventually reaching the Liège-Palais train station and Les Comtes de Méan…
Stay at Les Comtes de Méan | Rue du Mont St Martin 11, 4000 Liège
Les Comtes de Méan isn’t just any hotel… It is the only 5 star hotel of the city and it offers an unforgettable experience. Composed of two vast mansions and new extensions, it is actually a huge complex that brings together more than 100 rooms, an authentic ball room, a restaurant, a bar, … Plenty of spaces that form a beautiful mix of ancient grandeur and contemporary design. The hotel also boasts 8 suites that are sumptuous in their classic appeal. For example, Suite 15 (in which we stayed) is housed in the ancient chapel of the Sélys Longchamps mansion and features a bathroom of which the walls, ceiling and windows look straight out of a royal castle. You guessed it, although it is very conveniently located near the city center, you’ll want to stay in at this hotel, enjoying your comfortable room or going to the spa center with swimming pool!
Dinner at Brasserie Riva | Esplanade Albert 1er 7, 4000 Liège
For dinner, take your car and head to Brasserie Riva, located on the banks of the Meuse River (and offering a convenient, free parking). The views over the river are the best and explain why the restaurant’s terrace is considered among the most beautiful of Liège. The interior is really minimal and modern, with big windows to enjoy the unique setting, and subtle references to the maritime world. Unsurprisingly you’ll find lots of fish on the menu, but that’s not all. There’s really something for everyone and the service is most charming and mindful, meaning they can even foresee a vegetarian dish when asked to. Bonus point: their cocktails are very qualitative, as exemplified by their ‘apéritif maison’ made with Prosecco, mint, lime and violet syrup. A brasserie experience that’s slightly more chic but still at a fair price!
Visit of the exhibition space inside the Liège-Guillemins train station
On Sunday, no need to get out of bed early, the breakfast buffet of Les Comtes de Méan is open until 11:30! You’ve had the chance to discover the city and do some shopping on Saturday, so let’s take in some culture now, heading to the Liège-Guillemins train station. With its outstanding modern architecture made out of glass and steel, the train station of Liège is among the most spectacular of Europe. It was inaugurated in 2009 and took nearly ten years to complete. The man behind this project is Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect of worldwide fame, and with its glass roof the station is often referred to as a cathedral of the modern age. Housed inside the train station, you’ll find an extensive exhibition space where every year Europa Expo presents a theme in all its aspects, themes such as the Golden Sixties and Salvador Dali. Each time, the complete scenography is made from scratch, making the journey of visitors as immersive as possible.
Should you be looking for an alternative, you could also visit the museum La Boverie. Originally built as the museum of fine arts of the city in 1905 for the world exhibition, it has been completely renovated and enhanced with glass extensions in order to display the best of Liège’s permanent collection (with works from Gauguin, Picasso, Delvaux and Magritte) and host international exhibitions in partnership with Le Louvre. A third option is a visit of La Cité Miroir which I told you about before here on the blog.
The train will take you from Brussels to Liège in 1 hour. It will take you approximately the same time to do so by car. Hotel Les Comtes de Méan offers a valet parking (20€/night).