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Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the administrative capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium. The city is situated in the valley of the Meuse River, near Belgium's eastern borders with the Netherlands and Germany, where the Meuse meets the Ourthe. It is in the former sillon industriel, the industrial backbone of Wallonia. The Liège municipality includes the former communes of Angleur, Bressoux, Chênée, Glain, Grivegnée, Jupille-sur-Meuse, Rocourt, and Wandre. The city is the principal economic and cultural centre of Wallonia. Liège is the second most populous city in Wallonia, after Charleroi. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,879 km2 and this includes a total of 52 municipalities, a.o. Herstal and Seraing, and ranks as the third most populous in Belgium, after Brussels and Antwerp. Liège also has a particular Walloon dialect, sometimes said to be one of Belgium's most distinctive. There is a large Italian community, and Italian can be heard in many places. Liège is called 'La cité ardente' - the fiery city - A city at the crossroads of Northern and Southern European culture.
The city is well-known for its very crowded folk festivals. The 15 August festival - "Le 15 août" is maybe the best known. The population gathers in a quarter named Outre-Meuse with plenty of tiny pedestrian streets and old yards. Many people come to see the procession but also to drink alcohol and beer, eat cabbage, sausages or pancakes or simply enjoy the atmosphere until the early hours. The Saint Nicholas festival around the 6 December is organized by and for the students of the University and for 24 hours the students - wearing very dirty lab-coats are allowed to beg for money for drinking. Liège is renowned for its significant nightlife. Within the pedestrian zone, there is an area or square called Le Carré with many lively bars which are reputed to remain open until the last customer leaves - typically around 6 am. Another active area is the Place du Marché.
The "Batte" market is where most locals visit on Sundays. The outdoor market goes along the Meuse River and also attracts many visitors to Liège. The market typically runs from early morning to 2 o'clock in the afternoon every weekend year around. Produce, clothing, and snack vendors are the main concentration of the market. The city annually hosts a significant jazz festival called Jazz à Liège. In Spring Liège also hosts the Liège–Bastogne–Liège cycle race, the oldest of the classic cycle races. The circuit starts from the city of Liège, goes to the city of Bastogne and returns to finish in the Liège suburb of Ans. The second half contains most of the climbs in the race, such as the Stockeu, Haute-Levée, La Redoute, Saint-Nicolas and the Col de Forges. With the 2009 Vuelta a España visiting Liège after four stages in the Netherlands, Liège is the only city that can boast having hosted stages of all three cycling Grand Tours.
Liège is also a very important transport and logistics centre. The city possesses the third largest river port in Europe directly connected to Antwerp, Rotterdam and Germany via the Meuse River and the Albert Canal. In 2006 Liège Airport was the 8th most important cargo airport in Europe. A new passenger terminal was opened in 2005. It is also the main hub and the headquarter of TNT Airways. Trains from Liège-Guillemins provide direct railway connections with Brussels, Antwerp, Namur and Charleroi, Luxembourg, including Maastricht in the Netherlands and Aachen in Germany. The city is also connected to the high-speed network. Train times are 40 minutes to Brussels and 2 hours 13 minutes to Paris with the Thalys train. The German ICE links Liège with Aachen, Cologne and Frankfurt. Two new high-speed lines (HSL 2 and HSL 3) have been built to connect Liège to the high-speed network. The highway network around Liège has 7 branches and is very important for national and international traffic.
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