Monumental place St-Lambert and neighboring place du Marché, surrounded by buildings in the Mosan Renaissance style, are the hub of Liège's daily life. This is where you find the 1698-vintage Perron Fountain, the city's symbol of freedom, and the 18th-century Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). French-inspired local revolutionaries in 1795 destroyed the sumptuous Gothic Cathédrale St-Lambert (St. Lambert's Cathedral) on place St-Lambert, a symbol of the prince-bishopric's hated ancien régime. Only its outline is preserved in modern paving. Excavations on the square have revealed the foundations of a Roman villa, and traces of the early medieval city dating from the 7th century.
The prince-bishops, who ruled the city and the surrounding territory from 980 to 1794, constructed the world's largest secular Gothic building: the Palais des Prince-Evêques (Prince-Bishops Palace), on place St-Lambert. Of primary interest are the two inner courtyards, one lined with 60 carved columns depicting the follies of human nature, and the other occupied by an ornamental garden. Today, this historic building is Liège's Palais de Justice (Palace of Justice), housing courtrooms and lawyers' offices. The chambers, hung with antique Brussels tapestries, are not normally open to visitors, but it's sometimes possible to arrange a guided tour through the tourist office. Visit the courtyards Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm; admission is free.
The Citadel -- For superb views of the city and the broad, curving Meuse, climb the 353 steps of the Montagne de Beuren, a street that ascends from rue Hors-Château. At the top of the hill, commanding even finer panoramic views, is the site of the Citadelle (Citadel), which has been a setting for more than its share of the bloodier side of Liège's history. It was here in 1468 that 600 citizens made a heroic but ill-considered assault on Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy, who had sparked a revolt by installing one of his cousins as prince-bishop, and was encamped with his Burgundian troops. They penetrated almost to Charles's tent before being beaten off and massacred to the man. In retaliation, Charles ordered the city's complete destruction, a task that continued for several weeks and left only the churches standing.
A decisive battle in Belgium's fight for independence took place here in 1830. In 1914, locals held German forces at bay long enough for the French to regroup and go on to a vitally important victory at the Battle of the Marne. German troops again met with typically stubborn resistance from the city's defenders in 1940. The Citadel Hospital now occupies the site.
A Unique Château
The Château de Jehay (tel. 085/82-44-00; www.chateaujehay.be), at Jehay-Bodegnée, 18km (11 miles) southwest of Liège, dates from the 15th century and houses a remarkable museum of humankind's past in the Meuse Valley. Its lawns and gardens are beautified with sculptures and Italian fountains. Moats reflect a checkerboard pattern of light and dark stone, and round towers at each end/corner of a central rectangular block. Inside, the rooms are filled with paintings, tapestries, lace from the private collections of Liège prince-bishops, silver and gold pieces, jewels, porcelain and glass, antique furniture, and family heirlooms. A chapel adorns a small islet.
The château is open weekends and holidays in April to September from 11am (or 2pm) to 6pm. Admission is 5€ ($8) for adults, 2.50€ ($4) for students and children ages 6 to 18, and free for children 5 and under. To get there, take N167 along the Meuse toward Huy, and go right at Amay toward Tongeren (Tongres).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.