Introduction

If you thought Charleroi was Belgium’s ugliest city, you haven’t seen Seraing. Once at the forefront of Belgium’s industrial revolution, its rusty steel plants and time-warp brick tenements now have a fascinating ghastliness amid which the former summer palace of the prince-bishops still stands most incongruously. This became the headquarters of the region’s original steelworks, founded in 1817 by English entrepreneur John Cockerill, whose statue now fronts the nearby Georgian-style town hall. Some 4km west along the quay, the Seraing’s one compelling attraction is the world-famous Val St-Lambert Glassworks, which has occupied a former monastery site since 1826. Once the planet’s leading glassmaker, its workforce has dwindled from 5000 in 1900 to a few dozen today, but it still manages to create lead-crystal masterpieces with almost 19th-century tools. Visits start in the former abbot’s 1751 ‘chateau’ with a 20-minute film. You can peruse some extraordinary glass sculptures and learn about the history of glass-making. It’s well worth experiencing while the opportunity lasts. Access is by bus 9 from Liège-Opéra bus stands via Liège-Guillemins train station.