Tuesday, 15 May 2012



Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. The city is situated in the valley of the Meuse River, near Belgium's eastern borders with the Netherlands and Germany, where the Meuse meets the Ourthe. It is in the former sillon industriel, the industrial backbone of Wallonia.

Although settlements already existed in Roman times, the first references to Liège are from 558, when it was known as Vicus Leudicus. Around 705, Saint Lambert of Maastricht is credited with completing the Christianization of the region, indicating that up to the early 8th-century the religious practices of antiquity had survived in some form. Christian conversion may still not have been quite universal, since Lambert was murdered in Liège and thereafter regarded as a martyr for his faith. To enshrine St. Lambert's relics, his successor, Hubertus (later to become St. Hubert), built a basilica near the bishop's residence which became the true nucleus of the city. A few centuries later, the city became the capital of a prince-bishopric, which lasted from 985 till 1794. The first prince-bishop, Notger, transformed the city into a major intellectual and ecclesiastical centre, which maintained its cultural importance during the Middle Ages. Pope Clement VI recruited several musicians from Liège to perform in the Papal court at Avignon, thereby sanctioning the practice of polyphony in the religious realm. The city was renowned for its many churches, the oldest of which, St Martin's, dates from 682. Although nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire, in practice it possessed a large degree of independence. 

373 steps leading from 
Hors-Château to the Citadel
The strategic position of Liège has made it a frequent target of armies and insurgencies over the centuries. It was fortified early on with a castle on the steep hill that overlooks the city's western side. In 1345, the citizens of Liège rebelled against Prince-Bishop Engelbert III de la Marck, their ruler at the time, and defeated him in battle near the city. Shortly after, a unique political system formed in Liège, whereby the city's 32 guilds shared sole political control of the municipal government. Each person on the register of each guild was eligible to participate, and each guild's voice was equal, making it the most democratic system that the Low Countries had ever known. The system spread to Utrecht, and left a democratic spirit in Liège that survived the Middle Ages.

Liège's fortifications were redesigned by Henri Alexis Brialmont in the 1880s and a chain of twelve forts was constructed around the city to provide defence in depth. This presented a major obstacle to Germany's army in 1914, whose Schlieffen Plan relied on being able to quickly pass through the Meuse valley and the Ardennes en route to France. The German invasion on August 5, 1914 soon reached Liège, which was defended by 30,000 troops under General Gérard Leman. The forts initially held off an attacking force of about 100,000 men but were pulverised into submission by a five-day bombardment by the Germans' 42 cm Big Bertha howitzers. Due to faulty planning of the protection of the underground defense tunnels beneath the main citadel, one direct artillery hit caused a huge explosion, which eventually led to the surrender of the Belgian forces. The Belgian resistance was shorter than had been intended, but the twelve days of delay caused by the siege nonetheless contributed to the eventual failure of the German invasion of France. The city was subsequently occupied by the Germans until the end of the war. Liège received the Légion d'Honneur for its resistance in 1914. 

The Germans returned in 1940, this time taking the forts in only three days. Most Jews were saved, with the help of the sympathising population, as many Jewish children and refugees were hidden in the numerous monasteries. The German occupiers were expelled by the Allies of World War II in September 1944 but Liège was subsequently subjected to intense aerial bombardment, with more than 1,500 V1 and V2 missiles landing in the city between its liberation and the end of the war.

After the war ended, the Royal Question came to the fore, since many saw king Leopold III as collaborating with the Germans during the war. In July 1950, André Renard, leader of the Liégeois FGTB launched the General strike against Leopold III of Belgium and "seized control over the city of Liège". The strike ultimately led to Leopold's abdication. 
 Liège has shown some signs of economic recovery in recent years with the opening up of borders within the European Union, surging steel prices, and improved administration. Several new shopping centres have been built, and numerous repairs carried out.

The city is well known for its very crowded folk festivals. The 15 August festival ("Le 15 août") is maybe the best known. The population gathers in a quarter named Outre-Meuse with plenty of tiny pedestrian streets and old yards. Many people come to see the procession but also to drink alcohol and beer, eat cabbage, sausages or pancakes or simply enjoy the atmosphere until the early hours. The Saint Nicholas festival around the 6 December is organized by and for the students of the University; for 24 hours, the students (wearing very dirty lab-coats) are allowed to beg for money for drinking.

Liège is renowned for its significant nightlife. Within the pedestrian zone, there is an area (a 100 × 100 m (328.08 ft × 328.08 ft) square called Le Carré) with many lively pubs which are reputed to remain open until the last customer leaves (typically around 6 am). Another active area is the Place du Marché.

The "Batte" market is where most locals visit on Sundays. The outdoor market goes along the Meuse River and also attracts many visitors to Liège. S
tretching over a mile with colorful stalls offering fruit, cheeses, clothes, flower and local products (every Sunday from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm). After visiting "La Batte", time to eat the famous Boulets à la Liégeoise (meatballs with fries) in a typical Belgian café.

Batte Market
With so many great restaurants in Belgium, the hardest part of dinner is to deciding where to go. From a small, inexpensive meal to a multi-course luxurious dinner, local Belgian specialities or dishes inspired by more exotic lands, you will always be able to find cuisine to suit your taste. For those looking to fully emerge in Belgian culture and discover something new, you can enjoy the traditional cuisine of Liege. The menu includes: boulets-frites (meatballs and chip/fries), salade liegeoise (green beans, potatoes, diced bacon), fricassee (omelette with bacon or sausage), rognons de veau (veal kidneys), gauffres (waffles), peket (gin/juniper spirit), cafe liegeois (liege coffee), etc.

The Liège Christmas Market has become one of Belgium’s most famous Christmas Markets with more than 2 million visitors per year from the end of November to the last day of December. Set in Place St Lambert and Place du Marche, 200 wooden chalets offers gastronomic specialties, handicrafts and souvenirs. The ice rink is surrounded by stands where you can shop, eat and drink.

The people of Liège have a reputation for partying… Both in summer and winter, the various districts of the town come alive in the evenings. Discotheques, private clubs, cabaret cafés, bars with beer, student bistros or jazz clubs, these places, many of which are open through the first light of dawn, are ideal places for imbibing the true spirit of the people of Liège.

The market square (Place du Marché) is another centre for nocturnal activity. The pedestrian part of the square is exclusively occupied by lounge bars with large, lively terraces. The Carré district is an original concept not to be missed : a set of very busy pedestrian streets where there is also a concentration of dozens of cafés, pubs and restaurants... Students come here to celebrate the numerous folklore festivals including the one of St. Nicolas at the beginning of December.

The Prince-Bishops' Palace

                                                        Liege’s Top 5:
  1. St Paul's Cathedral.  During the French Revolution the ancient cathedral of Liège, St. Lambert's Cathedral, was destroyed systematically, from 1794 onwards. After the revolutionary fervour had evaporated a new cathedral was needed. The ancient collegiate church of St. Paul's was thought suitable for the purpose and was elevated in rank, before 1812. This is the present Liège Cathedral. The present cathedral of Liège was originally one among the seven collegiate churches of the city. It was founded in the 10th century, reconstructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, and restored in the mid-19th century. In 1812, further to a request from Napoléon Bonaparte, the tower, with its ogival windows, was raised by a storey and the belltower installed
  2. The Prince-Bishops' Palace of Liège is on place Saint-Lambert in the centre of the City. It was the residence of the former Prince-Bishops of Liège. It once faced St. Lambert's Cathedral. Its imposing facade dominates the end of the place St-Lambert, centre of commercial life in Liège, where St Lambert's Cathedral formerly stood. Two buildings preceded the present palace, a first palace integrated with the fortifications was built about 1000 AD by Bishop Notger, but it was destroyed in the fire of 1185. The palace was reconstructed under Rudolf of Zähringen. This building was much damaged in the sack of the city by the Burgundians and was also burnt in 1505. On mounting the episcopal throne in 1505 Bishop Érard de La Marck found the palace in ruins and entrusted the construction of a new one to the master builder Arnold van Mulken in 1526. It was finished at the end of the 16th century. The principal facade on the south was completely rebuilt after the fire of 1734 in the Louis XIV-Regency style under the direction of the Brussels architect Jean-André Anneessens, son of François Anneessens. In 1849, a new west wing was built by the architect Jean-Charles Delsaux, in the same style as the old palace to accommodate the provincial government.
  3. The Curtius Museum (Musée Curtius) is a museum of archaeology and decorative arts, located on the bank of the Meuse River in Liège, classified as a Major Heritage of Wallonia. It was built sometime between 1597 and 1610 as a private mansion for Jean Curtius, industrialist and munitions supplier to the Spanish army. With its alternating layers of red brick and natural stone, and its cross-mullioned windows, the building typifies the regional style known as the Mosan (or Meuse) Renaissance. After a 50 million euro redevelopment the museum reopened as the Grand Curtius (Le Grand Curtius) in March 2009, now housing the merged collections of four former museums: themuseum of archeology, the museum of weaponry, the museum of decorative arts, and themuseum of religious art and Mosan art. Highlights in the collections include treasures of Mosan art such as a twelfth century gilded reliquary tryptich, formerly in the church of Sainte-Croix, the Evangelarium of Notger, sculptures by Jean Del Cour, and a portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte painted by Ingres in 1804: Bonaparte, First Consul.
  4. Le Perron. The Perron is a piece of living history in Liège, situated in the Place du Marché. This pillar originally served as a symbol of the prince-bishop of Liège, and its image has been found on money used in the region, dated as early as the 12th Century. In the 15th Century the Perron was placed on Lièges coat-of-arms, and the image of it has stayed there to this day.
  5. The Mountain of Bueren and the slopes of the Citadel. Climb the imposing staircase of 373 steps  leading from Hors-Château to the Citadel, or opt for the smaller streets and stairways leading up to the Citadel's slopes. From the top, you'll have a lovely view of the city, from the Palace rooves to the ancient watchtower.

    Le Perron

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