Bonjour from Liege, the Belgian Capital of Christmas
Photos by Worldwide Scott
"Liege: Cite de Noel" is French for "Liege: City of Christmas," and that's the phrase that appears in a string of bright blue and white bulbs welcoming you to this town on the banks of the Muese River.
Bold talk this time of year, no doubt. Does Liege back it up? Well that depends.
It depends if you like great Christmas markets, because Liege is home to a couple of them. The center of Liege is transformed to the Village de Noel this time of year, and once inside, charmingly decorated wooden chalets whisk you away to a wintry place.
A Christmas tree adorned in blue and white stars is the centerpiece of the Village de Noel, surrounded by stately buildings like the Palace of Justice and even a fun toboggan run thrown in for good measure. There's also a second cluster of Christmas stalls located by the gorgeous Liege Cathedral, where you can ice skate and shop in the shadow of the cathedral's enchanting stained glass windows.
It depends if you're the type who likes gourmet food at your Christmas markets. Because some people are totally fine with only having basic bratwursts, but in Liege, the specialties available were the most diverse — and delicious — I've ever had at a Christmas market. Oysters, tapas and forest mushrooms were just a few of the delicacies being served up piping hot on the cold night I was there.
It also depends if you like gooey and warm waffles for dessert. Liege is well known as the home of the finest versions of waffles in Belgium, and local waffle hero Massin has a stand set up in the Village de Noel dishing up little hot handfuls of holiday cheer.
It too depends if you enjoy trying regional Trappist beer and local liquor. This being Belgium, the Liege Christmas market offered Trappist beer on tap at what I nicknamed the Chimay Chalet. Peket, the traditional juniper-based liquor of the city, was also widely available in all its festive flavors, and a couple shots of this is a fun way to shoo away the shivers.
It depends again if you like unique European cultures rich in folklore, because Wallonia — where Liege is located — is as special as they come. The Village de Noel puts a real focus on this by selling hand-blown ornaments inspired by characters from Wallonia's rich world of folklore, like the Gilles of Binche and Tchantches. Whether you buy one of these ornaments or just learn a bit more about Wallonia like I did, you leave feeling that you are truly in a unique spot in Europe, with a history like nowhere else on the continent.
Oh, last but not least, it depends if you like luxurious and historic hilltop hotels with sweeping views. The Crowne Plaza in Liege is a beacon of warmth and luxury, perched in a prime position above the town on Mont St. Martin. The hotel is seamlessly blended with centuries-old castle-esque residences, and is the perfect place to get cozy after a chilly night in the city of Christmas.
I think you get the idea.
If you like Christmas, you'll love Liege.
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