Lier (fr. Lierre) is a small Belgian
city near Antwerp
. It's situated in the Flemish
part of Belgium, where the two branches of the Nethe river merge.
The inhabitants are nicknamed sheepheads ('schapenkoppen' in dutch). In the middle-ages, cities were given privileges. The citizens preferred a sheep market over a university !
And yes, there's some truth in the old story, the inhabitants are pragmatic people, thinking more in economical terms. They have a tendency to be stubborn too ;-). To compensate, they just love to throw in a good party, so whenever they can find an occasion... The local soccer team Lierse SK preformed rather well the past 5 years, so we had plenty of fun.
Lier has a well preserved 'begijnhof' (Flemish Béguinage) This is a small middle-age part of a town where Béguins lived from the 13th century until the seventies. UNESCO declared it (together with other Flemish Béguinages) a World Heritage Site in 1998. Walking in it makes you feel like you travelled in time. Almost like Disneyworld, only this is authentic.
Lier is also known for its handmade lace. Experts say the quality is better than lace of Brugge or Brussels (experts from Brussels will claim the opposite I suppose ;)).
Authentic Lier food: Caves (lager beer, like so many local beers not brewed in Lier anymore) and a Liers Vlaaike, a cake (a bit of an acquired taste, I'm afraid). A friend from Leuven asked me to give him such a vlaaike for his birthday. He had invited another three people to taste it, but they left quite hungry since the damn thing is only two inches big...
The St. Gummmarus -church is another well preserved monument, although most statues didn't survive the reformation. Building started in 1387 and was finished two centuries later. It's nickname is peppercan ('peperbus' in Dutch). The sheepheads changed the construction plans -mainly for economical reasons- a few times during the building phase which resulted in a mix of late gothic, renaissance and roccoco elements. The churchtower (which was meant to be a lot higher) was adjusted in a peculiar way after budget-cuts, hence its name.
After you've vistited this church, make sure to give in to sin again in 't sterk water, a small cafe which is specialized in Belgian jenever, but if jenever is the reason for a visit, you should go to Hasselt, jenevercapital of Belgium.
The beautiful old marketplace (most facades were renovated after the devastation of World War I) is worth a visit too. On this location one of the most important pigeon markets in the world is organized. Believe it or not but Japanese people cross the world to buy these little suckers in Lier.
Then there's the tower of Louis Zimmer (inaugurated in 1930, to honour a century of Belgian independance), which contains a very advanced mechanical chronograph (the jubelklok) with 13 dials (one in the center, 12 around it, you get the picture).
It is not only very accurate in giving the time, but is also an astronomic clockwork, it calculates eg. the position of the moon and constellations and has some pretty advanced calendar functionality like tidal information (it can do a bit more than your average Japanese wristwatch ...). This clock was first shown at the World's Fair in New York (1939).
By the way: Zimmer square, where the tower is situated, is a great place to go out at night.
A few years ago, people began to realize the touristic potential of the city, which is great because the town and its musea are well worth a visit :-)
By the way, Lier is known in techno-loving Belgium (and Europe) for its clubs La Rocca and Illusion.
In Koningshooikt (in the suburbs), lies Van Hool, one of the biggest bus/truck assemblers of Europe. It's by far the biggest source of employment in the region.