Liège, Wallonia’s firecracker city knows how to party and has long been famous throughout Belgium for its hedonistic nightlife. Take a Friday evening stroll around Le Carré, the city’s pulsating entertainment district and even before the shops close, bars and clubs throw open their doors, thumping music spills out onto the street and the city seems to be straining at the leash to get the party started. It’s an irresistible atmosphere and with a huge selection of cool lounge bars and traditional Liègois tavernes to choose from, there’s something for everyone and regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation everybody is welcome in this most egalitarian of cities. For the gay traveller, this tradition of tolerance and effervescent nightlife make Liège one of the most gay friendly cities in Europe. With a good sprinkling of gay cafes, clubs and cabaret bars, the city has long been a popular gay nightlife destination, especially for those living in the more sedate regional towns of nearby Holland, Germany and Luxembourg.
Liège is one of the spiritual homes of the mec, that swarthy, gitane smoking macho man who has achieved almost mythical status in the French speaking gay world. The city’s working class roots partly explain this but also the surprising fact that almost 50% of the population is of Italian descent. This gives Liège a distinctly Latin flavour and nowhere is this more evident than in the street style where classic lines and la bella figura reign supreme. It’s no coincidence that G Star chose Liège as the location for its first overseas store and dotted around the elegant shopping streets of Le Carré and the Old Town you’ll find dozens of funky boutiques where you can smarten up for a night out on the tiles. Collector and Duck are favourites with Liège’s gay community. Here you can perfect that masculine, slimline Latino look and once kitted out, grab a seat in a swish pavement café and indulge in that most Latin of passions, people watching.
Collector Boutique: Place de la Cathedrale 7, 4000 Liège, Tel: +32 4 221 21 55
Duck: Rue Saint Adalbert 18, 4000 Liège, Tel: +32 4 250 93 93
Whether you’re meeting friends for an after work coffee or kicking off the weekend with a pre clubbing cocktail, Le Petit Paris is the most popular gay rendez vous in town and as its name suggests is located in the most Parisian corner of Liège, the Place du Marché. Here you’ll find a dozen or so chic restaurants and brasseries huddled together, all with wide sunny pavement terraces overlooking the elegant tree lined boulevard. It’s an excellent spot to pick up a copy of Tribu, the northern French and Belgian gay listings magazine and find out what’s happening in town. It’s also one of the friendliest gay nightspots in Liège and on Friday and Saturday nights has a great weekend buzz. It’s here that the party really kicks off and with beer swigging mecs dancing on the tables to the hits of Mylène Farmer, France’s answer to Madonna, the atmosphere is unforgettable.
Le Petit Paris: 31 Place du Marché, 4000 Liège, Tue-Sun 11.00-late
Across town in Le Carré’s pedestrianized shopping zone, Le Relax Café is a Liege institution and with no less than 5 huge rainbow flags fluttering above the entrance it’s an out and proud landmark in the heart of the city. Inside, the décor is uncompromisingly camp with a sea of scarlet 1970s style lampshades straight out of Abigail’s Party and a Betty Boop disco bar at the back. Grab a deliciously crisp, caramelized Liège waffle from one of the stalls by the cathedral and order a café au lait for a relaxing afternoon pit stop. At night there’s a touch of Rio to the atmosphere with the barmen doing a brisk line in maracuja cocktails and a young, raucous crowd singing along to hilarious transvestite and karaoke shows. In September, the carnival atmosphere spills out onto the streets when Relax Café and the shops along Rue Pont d’Avroy play host to the annual Gay Street Party, Liège’s fun packed gay pride celebrations where the whole city joins in to enjoy the city’s vibrant gay culture.
Le Relax Café: Rue Pont d’Avroy 22, Liège. Tel + 32 4 223 54 01, http://www.lerelaxcafe.be/ Mon-Thu 08.00-02.00, Fri 08.00-03.00, Sat 10.00-0300, Sun 12.00-02.00
True to its Latin roots, Liège has a passion for fine food with the forests and hills of the nearby Ardennes supplying an endless variety of fabulously fresh ingredients. No evening out is complete without a lingering meal and Liège’s gritty industrial heritage and grand French style townhouses lend themselves well to cutting edge restaurant design. The moody brickwork and cavernous arches are a designers dream and provide wonderful backdrops to some of Belgium’s finest cuisine. Nun’s has the most fabulous location in town and is housed in a rambling 18th Century priory on the hillside above the Old Town. A half timbered courtyard and classical lily pond set the scene for the most romantic al fresco dining spot in Liège while inside, giant poinsettia wall prints and sleek angular leather furnishings provide a cool and laid back ambience where you can enjoy exquisitely presented continental and Thai classics.
Across town close to Le Carré, Histoire Sans Faims is the most popular gay owned restaurant in town and is ideally located close to a whole cluster of gay venues. The décor has a warm, laid back, colonial feel with cosy wicker chairs, soft jazz background music and Oriental screens creating an intimate, chilled out atmosphere. Specializing in hot stone cooking, grill your own deliciously fresh scampi, butterfly prawns and locally sourced steaks. Accompanied by a giant salad it’s the perfect sizzling start to a night out on the tiles.
Nun’s: Impasse des Ursulines, 18 — 4000 Liège, Tel + 32 4 222 10 69 http://www.nuns.be/
Histoire Sans Faims: Rue Sebastien Laruelle 3, 4000 Liège, Tel + 32 4 222 00 34
For the last two years, Open Bar has swept everything before it and is currently one of the most popular gay night spots in Belgium. Located in Liège’s most trendy neighbourhood the Coeur Historique, this once neglected part of town has recently undergone a remarkable transformation. The beautiful brick and half timbered townhouses have all been lovingly spruced up and are now home to the coolest hotels, galleries and designer boutiques in town. In the heart of it all lies Open Bar whose doormen in dark suits and the pink chromatic spotlighting add a touch of Manhattan sparkle to the Old Town’s narrow maze of streets. Attracting a smart, sassy, arty crowd of all ages, this is the place to be seen in Liège. Upstairs, enjoy mojitos and go go boys in the buzzing cocktail bar and as the night heats up head downstairs to the steamy cellar club where you can bop the night away under the brick vaults to the latest Eurotrash hits. If you’re lucky, Open Bar will be hosting one of its regular themed party nights with beach and foam parties all the rage right now in Belgium!
Open Bar: 19 Rue des Mineurs, 4000 Liège, Tel: + 32 (0) 475 40.22.66
http://www.openbar.be/Tue-Thu 20.00-late, Fri/Sat 22.00-late, first Sun of the month 16:00-late. Disco Fri/Sat only.
Drag artistes hold a very special place in Liège’s affections and are an essential ingredient of the city’s cabaret circuit. Their crackling, self deprecating wit epitomises the city’s feisty, fun loving character and you’ll often find them setting the night ablaze with raucous stand up routines in straight and gay bars alike. Mama Roma is Belgium’s premier drag club and its Sunday night extravaganzas are the traditional weekend wind down for Liège’s gay community. The small sparkling stage is located in a fittingly OTT downstairs bar with whimsical nude frescoes behind the bar and a winged victory on a plinth providing a suitably regal setting for Josephine XIV, Marie Rose Clapette and their crew of thirty or so creatively eclectic performance artists. Expect shoulder pads galore, nuns on roller skates and plenty of audience humiliation!
Mama Roma: Rue des Celestines 16, 4000 Liège, Tel: +32 4 223 47 69. map.
Liège’s hedonistic nightlife has a steamier edge with a sprinkling of hot leather and cruise bars to spice up the gay nightlife. The Chaps is the most well known of Liège’s gay fetish clubs and often teams up with top Amsterdam and Berlin venues to host a packed calendar of leather and uniform parties attracting sleaze aficionados from all over western Europe. With a mean black and chrome décor and fully equipped playrooms and showers, Chaps is always packed and in common with nearby Moustache Club, Liège’s buzzing main bear venue, enforces a strict dress code. If Liège’s gorgeous mecs are making you sweat under the collar then head straight over to Spartacus Club for a spot of late night rough and tumble in this down to earth cruise joint in the heart of Le Carré. If you prefer saunas to men’s clubs then cross the river to Aquari-hom Sauna in Outremeuse. Look out for the entrance which is covered in kitsch Brazilian beach murals. Inside, the décor is far more stylish with giant tropical aquariums and a sleek wave shaped glass bar. The spacious facilities include a Finnish sauna, aromatherapy steam bath, hydrotherapy pool and a wide choice of relaxation rooms.
The Chaps: Rue Bonne Femme 68, 4030 Liège http://www.thechaps.be/ Fri/Sat 22.30-04.30
Moustache Club: Rue de la Casquette 31, 4000 Liège, Tel +32 479 52 42 82
Spartacus Club: Rue Saint-Jean en Isle 12, 4000 Liège Tel: +32 4 223 12 59
Mon-Fri 16.00-06.00 Sat/Sun 22.00-06.00
Aquari-hom Sauna: Rue d’Harscamp 20 4020 Liège Tel: + 32 4 222 47 41 http://www.aquarihom.be/ Mon/Wed/Thu 13.00-22.00, Tue/Fri 13.00-00.00 Sat/Sun 14.00-22.30
No matter how long Liège’s gay boys and girls stay out on a Saturday night, they always make time on Sunday morning to take a stroll through La Batte, one of Europe’s largest street markets which is beautifully located along the banks of the Meuse. Whether you want to stock up on delicious Ardennes hams, cheeses and truffles or just rummage around for quirky fashion accessories, La Batte has it all. Sunday brunch is an essential ingredient to the La Batte experience and several of Lièges most characterful bars and cafes throw open their doors to cater for the hordes of hungry shoppers. Café Lequet is a popular gay lunch spot and serves up deliciously hearty plates of boulets a la Liègoises (meatballs) and shrimp croquettes, ideal hangover recovery fodder for bleary eyed clubbers. From here it’s just a short stroll to Les Olivettes a beautiful old fashioned Liège taverne where long into the afternoon old, young, straight and gay amateur chanteurs take it in turns on the piano to sing traditional French chansons. The atmosphere is wonderfully democratic and epitomises the spirit of equality and community that pervades this down to earth city in the heart of the Ardennes.
La Batte: Quai de Maestricht, 4000 Liège Sun 08.00-02:00
Lequet: Quai sur Meuse 17 4000 Liege Tue-Sun
Les Olivettes: Pied du Pont des Arches 6, 4000 Liege, Tel: +32 4 221 12 51 http://www.lesolivettes.be