Get inspired to explore Europe's 2015 joint Capital of Culture
This year Belgium's gem and a place of wonder, the city of Mons, was given joint European City of Culture status with Pilsen,
making it one of the most exciting cities to visit in 2015. To help you make the most of your visit to this fascinating
Belgian city, we've put together a full city guide, from where to eat to what to explore.
History and culture
Once known as the city's Museum of Fine Arts, the Beaux-Arts Mons (or BAM) was refurbished in 2007 by Parisian architect,
Christian Menu. The gallery now includes an impressive 80-seat auditorium, a charming garden, and three levels of display
space. Exhibitions past and present include the works of old and new artists, such as Van Gogh's paintings, letters and
drawings from his time in Borinage, and pieces by Andy Warhol and Serge Vandercam.
Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes
A part of Mons' municipality, the small village of Spiennes is home to a great piece of Belgian history. The Mons Neolithic
Flint Mines are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that cover more than 100-hectares of land, and are the earliest and largest
concentration of mines in Europe. As flint was once used as one of the main components in human history's first weaponry,
these mines reveal a lot about our past and development.
A key icon of the city, Mons Belfry stands at 87-metres tall, and can be seen from most points in Mons. Originally erected
in the 17th century, after the collapse of the original tower, this baroque style belfry, built from bray sandstone,
is now a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Set to reopen in 2015, visitors can look forward to learning more about the city's history and culture at the onsite exhibitions.
And, via a swift escalator journey, or a walk up 365 steps, you'll also get to enjoy panoramic views of the city below.
Mons' belfry tower
La Maison Van Gogh
Located in the village of Cuesmes, close to Mons, is the house that Vincent Van Gogh lived in between August 1879 and October
1880, at the beginning of his career. Inside the house, you can watch short films on his life, admire reproductions of
his work, and even be witness to an original copy of one of his sketches, The Diggers. Bought by the city of Mons in
1979, this picture hangs proudly within Van Gogh's old home, so be sure to stop by for a glimpse of art history.
Fun things to do
After a morning spent exploring the city's fascinating culture and history, a great way to have fun with your family is by
visiting the Piscine de Mons du Grand Large. There are outdoor pools for when the sun is out, and indoor pools that include
a paddling area for your little ones. For those of you looking for some excitement, enjoy a ride on the River Wild, which
rushes you along with its speeding rapids.
If relaxation is more your thing, enjoy some time in the centre's Finnish Sauna, which reaches high temperatures with low
humidity, or retreat to the Hammam, where you can soothe any tight muscles in the 45°c heat and 100% humidity. To hydrate
and cool down, make your way to the sun loungers in the Relaxation Room, where you can sit back and rest with a drink.
Visit Le Pass
If you and your kids love science, a visit to Mons' Le Pass will provide you with a day of endless fun. Le Pass is a museum
that's bursting with interactive exhibitions, which get your kids involved with all sorts of science and technology.
From learning all about 3D printing and laboratories, to working with robots and DNA, your kids will get to be involved
with some of the world's most mind-blowing science. On top of the learning experiences, your family can also make the
most of the outdoor playground, or while away the afternoon climbing and swinging in the indoor Acro'Bât! adventure zone.
Get to grips with science in Le Pass
Where to eat
L'Art des Mets
For somewhere modern, but with a cosy atmosphere, enjoy an evening meal or relaxed lunch at L'Art des Mets. Choose from a
luxury range of starters, which range from freshly caught oysters served with sea urchins, to candied bacon with caviar.
For mains, we recommend trying the guinea fowl and blue lobster that's served with ginger and lemongrass, followed by
the chestnut mousse for dessert.
La Cinquiéme Saison
For a modern take on traditional Belgian cuisine, La Cinquième Saison is a great place to enjoy a romantic dinner for two.
Start with fried scallops with shavings of truffle, and finish with buttered vegetables and quality cuts of meat that
have been cooked to perfection. On top of the charming interiors, you can dine outside too, which makes for a pleasant
way to end your day.
For a family friendly venue, that allows dogs too, head over to Twenty Buns for an American-themed evening out. Juicy burgers
sandwiched between golden sesame buns, are served with a range of mouth-watering extras, including crispy bacon and fried
eggs, as well as seasoned hand cut chips.
In the mood for something quick, easy and perfect for a family lunch? Take yourself and your kids along to Le Paysan, a wonderful
little café that serves up crêpes and sandwiches. Enjoy your lunchtime treat with a pint of your favourite Belgian beer,
or a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
Mons Town Hall
Places to stay
If you're looking to save when it comes to accommodation, a great place to book a room is Les Auberges de Jeunesse de Mons,
a wonderful youth hostel that's perfect for families and groups. For around €18, you can have a bed or your own private
room, making it a fantastic place for those of you wanting to see more of Mons and spend less.
For somewhere that suits your needs and doesn't break the bank, book a room in
Infotel, a mid-range hotel that's close
to Le Pass and the city's railway station. On top of comfortable, spacious rooms, you can also look forward to a delicious,
European buffet breakfast of pastries, yoghurts and cereals, which is perfect for those of you travelling as a family.
For a luxurious experience in the city of Mons, book a stay in
Dream, a 4-star hotel that's located inside
a renovated 19th century Neo-Gothic style building, which was once a chapel. After a busy day exploring the city, enjoy
a relaxing stay in the chic and modern rooms that have been styled to complement the archaic architecture. Enjoy a light
snack or meal in the onsite restaurant, or unwind in the evening with a glass of wine or two in the hotel's bar.
Getting there and around
The journey across the Channel with
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle takes just 35-minutes,
and with Belgium being only a short distance from the Calais terminus, the drive there is generally quick and easy. So,
you'll be exploring the streets of Mons in no time at all.
Book your journey