If you choose a river cruise along the Dutch and Belgian Waterways which includes an exploration of the network of canals that is known as the Flemish Waterways, it’s likely you’ll call at one of Belgium’s most historic city’s Liege. Sitting on the banks of the Meuse River, it’s the capital of the province of the same name and home to a number of historical sites. In the manner of many European towns and cities which are popular river cruise ports, it was first settled by the Romans, though it first went by its name from 558 onwards. Throughout its history its strategic riverside location has ensured its on-going role in conflicts and battles, most recently in the Second World War, when it suffered heavy bombardment but today it survives as a fascinating and peaceful port to explore.
Elegant and architecturally impressive places of worship are in abundance in Liege and it’s a great place to visit if you’re an aficionado of religious architecture. Dating back to the 12th century, the Church of St Bartholomew is a Romanesque delight, immediately recognisable by its twin towers and famed for its ornate brass font. The work of celebrated metal worker Renier de Huy, it features reliefs of the 12 apostles and is regarded by many as one of the world’s finest examples of the art. The Church Of St Jacques is another architectural high point, with its fantastic and ornate gothic ceiling, which is one of the finest examples of its kind to be found anywhere. Rounding out the trio of must-see faith buildings is Liege Cathedral itself, which has been masterfully reworked following extensive damage during the Napoleonic era.
An architectural attraction at the other end of the scales of both time and culture is the city’s modern masterpiece of a train station, which with its striking curved structure is worth a look if you are interested in architecture in any way. Another more modern landmark is the Pont de Fragnee – the city’s most famous bridge, which offers some fantastic views of both the river and the city.
The Chateau de Jehay is also a popular choice and regarded by many of one of Belgium’s most beautiful castles. In classic castle style it’s surrounded by a moat but of course these days you don’t have to scale its walls to enter and inside you’ll find a wealth of history concerning the families who owned and lived in the castle over the years. The exterior of the castle presents some perfect photo opportunities, as do its splendid gardens – the star attraction for many visitors.
The Curtius Museum is another historic building, dating back to the 17th century. This distinctive red brick edifice once belonged to one of the city’s industrial pioneers and is home to an extensive collection of exhibits, many of which date back to the Middle Ages. Fans of glassware should certainly pay the museum a visit, as it’s home to one of the most extensive collections to be found in Europe.
Liege is an especially rewarding and atmospheric place to visit as part of festive river cruise as it holds one of Belgium’s largest Christmas markets and features on a number of Christmas market river cruise itineraries.