Let’s be honest: Lier is not the most obvious city for those looking for a city trip destination in Belgium. Large cities such as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels and Ghent can count on much more interest from the Netherlands. And maybe that’s exactly why you should consider Lier. This Flemish city is considerably smaller, less crowded and definitely worth a visit. In terms of charm, this city of approximately forty thousand inhabitants can compete with the more famous cities. Here you will find yourself in a compact city with medieval roots. This is clearly visible in sights such as the town hall, the Zimmertoren and the thirteenth-century beguinage.
The nice thing about Lier is that you will find everything you need in a nice city for a day trip, without having to walk many kilometers. There’s plenty to see and do to keep you entertained, without being overkill. This way, you still have time for shopping or to enjoy the Burgundian life that certainly applies in Lier. To visit Lier you don’t have to drive much further than to Antwerp. Lier is less than twenty kilometers away from Antwerp. The great thing is that Lier can also be easily reached by train from the Netherlands.
Top 10 things to do in Lier
#1. Zimmer Tower
According to Paradisdachat, the Zimmertoren is without a doubt the most characteristic building of Lier. This tower was once built as part of the fortifications. At that time he was still called Corneliustoren. The tower was then part of the first wall around the city. The moment the tower had lost its function as a defensive mark, it was close to falling prey to the demolition hammer. The city council put a stop to that. Not much later, the Belgian watchmaker and amateur astronomer Louis Zimmer donated a unique clock mechanism to the city: the Jubelklok. After the official unveiling, the tower’s name was changed to Zimmertoren.
If you want, you can visit the pavilion next to the tower. This is where the Zimmer Museum is located. In the museum you can admire the Wonder Clock built by Louis Zimmer. You can also see a number of other smaller clocks from this clockwork master.
The Lier beguinage is a rather unique beguinage. Instead of one court, the Beguinage of Lier consists of several streets. The various buildings within the beguinage do not have a uniform appearance. Within a street or a block you often see that the houses have the same appearance. Although the beguinage of Lier probably originated around the beginning of the thirteenth century, most of the houses are from the seventeenth century or date from the early eighteenth century. A striking element is that you do not see house numbers next to the doors, but names on the doors. The Saint Margarita Church is a striking building between the 92 beguines’ houses.
Together with a dozen other Flemish beguinages, the Beguinage of Lier is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Rightly so. This oasis of tranquility should be preserved as long as possible in its original state for generations to come.
#3. Large market
The Grote Markt has been the center of Lier for centuries. During the Middle Ages, the main roads led from the city gates to the Grote Markt. That street pattern can still be seen in contemporary Lier. The First World War has ensured that not all old buildings have survived time. Some have disappeared for good, a number of buildings have been rebuilt and some historic buildings are still proudly standing. Thanks to the ample catering facilities, the Grote Markt is a cozy place in Lier, especially in the summer months.
If you visit the Grote Markt (and you will undoubtedly do so when you are in Lier), there are a number of properties that will catch your eye. That is mainly the town hall, which we will discuss further on. Behind it to the left is the Vleeshuis, which dates from 1418. The facade was reconstructed in 1920. There is no church on the Grote Markt. There is, however, a chapel: the Chapel of St. James. This Gothic chapel dates from the fourteenth century and is located to the right of the town hall. Our favorite building on the Grote Markt is “d’Eycken Boom”. It is the typical baroque facade in light tones that attracts the attention.
#4. indoor network
If you ask us, a piece of the Binnennete is the most picturesque spot in Lier. Especially the part where you look west over this closed river from the Werf. You will then see De Fortuin, among other things. This is a historic building with a striking design. Especially the combination of a white facade, the red tiled roof and the many green shutters with red and white paintings provide a beautiful appearance. If you stand here in the morning, you can see the reflection in the water in sunny weather.
A boat trip is a wonderful way to further discover the Binnennete. From the water you have a different view of the environment. The Courageous Boat Fishermen, who provide the round trips, will tell you everything about Lier, the history of Lier and a number of fun anecdotes along the way.
#5. town hall
Lovers of the increasingly less represented Brabant Rococo style should pay attention: the medieval town hall of Lier is one of the few examples of buildings built in this beautiful architectural style. The decorative Rococo was mainly used in the mid-eighteenth century. We write the year 1742 as the moment when the former cloth hall, which had been serving as town hall for some time now, was given the beautiful facade.
The turret on the left is a so-called belfry. This dates from the year 1369 and is therefore older than the town hall that was built against it later. The belfry has a height of 42.5 meters. Together with the other belfries, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under registration 943-013. The tower symbolizes freedom and independence. Unfortunately, the Lierse belfry is not allowed to be climbed.
#6. Saint Gummarus Church
The Sint-Gummaruskerk is the largest church in Lier. If you come from outside the center, you will almost certainly be able to see the 83 meter high church tower at some point. The Saint Gummarus Church is a medieval church built in the Brabant Gothic style. It took them quite a few years to build that. Because the Saint Gummarus Church was built in phases, the total construction period is no less than 162 years. Construction began in 1378 and was completed in 1540. In the church you can see various sights, such as beautiful paintings and beautifully decorated altarpieces.
#7. Prison Gate
The first ramparts of Lier once had no fewer than five city gates. Only one of these remains: the Prison Gate. Today it is no longer on the outskirts of the city. Due to the growth of Lier, the Gevangenpoort, built in 1375, is now quite central in the center of the city. The name says everything about its function: the Gevangenpoort has served as a prison for several centuries. That was not immediately after construction. It was not until the sixteenth century that prisoners were locked up in this building.
#8. sluice house
The Spuihuis has been in Lier for more than five centuries. To be exact, Het Spui, as the locals often call it, was built in the year 1516. The purpose of the Spuihuis was to regulate the level of the inland waterways in Lier. A discharge sluice or floodgate sprays excess inland water and diverts the outside water. The building on the lock was initially used to house the lock keeper. If you want to see the Spuihuis, it is best to walk over the Vesten. These are the fortifications that surround the historic center of Lier. In the summer you can walk here pleasantly sheltered from the sun and therefore also from the heat.
#9. Saint Anna and Saint Joachim Almshouse
The Sint-Anna and Sint-Joachim Godshuis, located on the Begijnhofstraat, looks a lot like a beguinage. It just isn’t. The little houses built in a courtyard were not intended for beguines, but for the sick, the elderly and the needy. The Sint-Anna and Sint-Joachim Almshouse is one of the few Almshouses in Lier. At least it’s the oldest. It has been here since 1588. The entrance has been located at Begijnhofstraat 24 since 1613. You can enter the court free of charge, but you are asked for peace and respect for privacy. Visiting a cottage is only possible during the open days organized from time to time.
#10. Sheep Heads Monument
Lierenaars are also called sheep heads. According to the legend, this is due to the fact that in the fourteenth century Duke Jan II wanted to thank the inhabitants for their contribution in the fight against the Mechelen. They were allowed to choose between a university and a cattle market. It became the last. In those days, the staple right to livestock was a lot more lucrative than opening a university. That right went to the nearby city of Leuven in 1425. Based on that choice, the duke would have said something along the lines of “Oh, those sheep’s heads”.
Today, the sheep’s head is the nickname of the inhabitants of Lieren. Once meant to be mocking, now worn proudly. The Lier logo even shows a sheep’s head. In the Schapenkoppenstraat (how do you come up with it) there is a monument that refers to the legend. There is a sculpture group designed by the Lier artist Bertro, depicting a shepherd with his sheep.