Liège has a population of about 200,000, while its agglomeration – which is also home to the towns of Ans, Herstal, Seraing and Saint-Nicolas – has a population of about 750,000, making it the third largest in Belgium, after Brussels and Antwerp. Liège is not far from the border, and the Dutch city of Maastricht and the German city of Aachen are about half an hour away.
The city, Liege has been an important city since the early Middle Ages, when it was the capital of the Prince-bishopric of Liège, which was to remain an independent state until the French Revolution in 1789. Liège grew to be the center of one of the world’s first industrialised (coal and steel) regions outside the U.K. in the early 19th century, which led to the immigration of many Italians – who make up 5% of the population today – in the 20th century. Nowadays, Liège is home to numerous nationalities.
The central area of Liège is rather an interesting combination of a historic neighbourhoods (dotted with a few extremely brutalist buildings from the 1960s and 70s), rather elegant 19th century ones with wide boulevards, tall apartment buildings (including Art Deco ones), the Meuse river and a few pretty parks. The outskirts of Liège can be divided into three distinct areas: large, sprawling industrial complexes on the river’s bank around Herstal in the north and Seraing in the south, working class areas to the east of the river, and leafy neighbourhoods on the hills to the west and south-east.
Liège has a dramatic natural setting at the meeting point of the Ardennes, Condroz, Land of Herve and Hesbaye regions. Part of Liège University is located at Sart-Tilman, which lies on a forested hill on the edge of the latter. The Ourthe flow into the Meuse in Liège, while the Vesdre flows into the former in the neighbourhood of Chênnée.
Liège might not be the typical tourist destination, but many will be surprised to find a city with a special character and friendly, open inhabitants who enjoy their lives there. As is the case in the rest of Belgium, finding a good meal is no problem in Liège, and the 44,000 students who live there make sure that there is a significant nightlife, even on weekdays!
French is the native language of most people in Liège, and there are more Italian and Spanish speakers than there are speakers of Dutch, Belgium’s other major language. Some students are native German speakers, as a small part in the east of the Province of Liège is German speaking. English is not widely spoken, but understood by some.