My guidebook describes Liège somewhat unflatteringly, honestly—as a city straining to overcome its gritty past, and its Christmas market as an important part of that effort. This was our first visit to the city (and we didn’t read that snippet until after), but what we saw in our afternoon jaunt was actually an engaging city spread across rolling hills, with glimpses of interesting historic architecture flashing by on our quick and easy drive to park in the town center. Liège was recommended by Vero’s visits, and the Christmas market itself by the ever-reliable CheeseWeb, so we weren’t surprised that it was appealing. Just as we spotted the market, we also spotted a large parking garage (Parking Saint Lambert) under an adjacent mall.
The market stretches down the Place St Lambert and Place du Marché. Unlike several other Wallonian markets we’ve visited, it is certainly geared toward shopping as well as the usual hanging out, chatting, eating, and drinking. As we emerged from the main mall entrance straight into the market, we were confronted with purchasing choices like: do we want a puffy vest or a rain coat for our dog? Churros or elaborate candy? Candles or incense? Models of southern French towns or your name inserted as a D.B. character on a mug—possibly the most Belgian thing I’ve seen at a Christmas market? Or perhaps glass ornaments of figures representing important Wallonian town symbols? (We walked with Saint George and the dragon, for Mons.)
Along with a smattering of kids’ rides, there is also a ferris wheel, a giant slide which looked a little extreme for our young kids, and—unusually—a Père Noël Mini-Golf, which had yet to be set up when we visited in early December. We were hungry when we arrived and so made a beeline for a tent selling the Alsatian specialty le flamme au küche, which was utterly delectable. Of course then we were full as we wandered through aisle after aisle of diverse and delicious-smelling food tents, but our noses still feasted.
The market is in two parts, and we embarked down the pedestrian shopping street Pont D’Ile towards the place de la cathédral and part two, called La Patinoire in honor of the ice rink it surrounds. It was a little bit of a walk but doable for our 3 and 6-year-olds. The ice rink is large, covered, and renting push-props for kids who were learning to skate—and, of course, surrounded by many more heated tents for warming, resting, and snacking. On our trip back to the car we enjoyed a warmer stroll through the covered shopping street Passage Lemmonier. Within, we were treated to the sight of a busy marzipan boutique, bustling with white-clad artists hard at work slamming (yes, slamming!) dough into molds and creating all sorts of confections. Le Massepain Du Traiteur Jean-Marie will be in that space until December 29th this year.
Especially for being located in a bigger city, Liège’s Christmas market is remarkably kid-friendly due to its mostly enclosed nature, the options for pedestrian-only streets—read: kid-runs—in between its two areas, and convenient parking. (There is also an hourly historic-area mini train which would be worth checking out for sightseeing with kids.) I would certainly recommend it for a multifaceted holiday market experience.