15 Things to Do in Mons, Belgium in 2024

Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Mons, a picturesque city in Belgium, beckons travelers with its unique blend of rich history and vibrant cultural life. Nestled in the province of Hainaut, Mons is a place where every cobblestone street, ancient building, and lively square tells a story of centuries past.

This city, a European Capital of Culture, is a testament to the resilience and creativity of its people, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a world where tradition meets contemporary life. From the stunning belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the modern art installations scattered throughout the city, Mons is a canvas of artistic expression and historical significance.

ActivityDescription
Visit the Mons Memorial MuseumExplore the history of World War I and Mons’ role in it.
Discover the Belfry of MonsUNESCO-listed tower with panoramic city views.
Explore the Grand PlaceHistoric square with colorful houses and cafes.
Take a Stroll in Parc du Waux-HallPark with a lake, walking paths, and greenery.
Collegiate Church of Sainte-WaudruGothic church with beautiful stained glass windows.
Beaux-Arts MuseumArt museum featuring European paintings and sculptures.
Explore the MundaneumFascinating museum dedicated to universal knowledge.
Mons Doudou FestivalTraditional festival with processions and folklore.
Experience the ArtothèqueContemporary art center showcasing local artists.
Saint-Denis FairAnnual fair with amusements, food, and entertainment.
Mons Street ArtDiscover street art and murals around the city.
Maison LosseauArt Nouveau house museum with a unique design.
Enjoy Local CuisineSavor Belgian dishes and waffles in local restaurants.
Mons Military CemeteryPay respects at this World War II cemetery.
The Mons DragonIconic dragon sculpture symbolizing the city.

The city’s festivals, museums, and galleries celebrate its heritage and innovation, making it a perfect destination for those who seek to experience the soul of Belgium beyond its larger cities.

This guide will explore 15 must-visit attractions in Mons, ensuring that your journey through this enchanting city is as captivating as the tales it holds.

Explore Historic Mons on Foot

Name and Location: Explore Historic Mons on Foot

Mons is located in the Wallonia region of Belgium, about 45 miles southwest of Brussels. The city center features impressive architecture and sights from its days as a prosperous medieval trading hub and later under Spanish rule in the 16th-17th centuries.

History and Significance

Mons has over 1,000 years of history with events like one of the first battles of WWI putting it on the world stage. As the first European Capital of Culture, historic preservation and celebrating its past remains key to Mons’ identity today.

What to Expect

Visitors can explore the UNESCO recognized historic heart of Mons on foot to appreciate mansions, museums, towers, the ornate Grand Place main square, and get a flavor for local life. Guided walking tours make it easy to hit the highlights.

Visitor Information

The city center is compact and walkable. The Mons Tourist Office offers maps and good walking routes to key landmarks like the belfry, city hall, and Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church.

As the first official European Capital of Culture in 2015, historic Mons made efforts to spotlight its charm and heritage for visitors. Exploring atmospheric pedestrian areas around the magnificent Grand Place lined with guildhalls and cafés lets you appreciate Mons up close. Don’t miss landmarks like the belfry, city hall and 15th century chapel as you wander.

See the Sublime Artwork of St. Waltrude Collegiate Church

Name and Location: See the Sublime Artwork of St. Waltrude Collegiate Church

The Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church is a beautiful Gothic church located on the main square in central Mons, Belgium. It is dedicated to Waltrude, the patron saint of Mons.

History and Significance

Built from 1450–1540, St. Waltrude is an architectural wonder merging Gothic and Renaissance styles. The church houses exceptional works of art plus the reliquary shrine to Mons’ beloved patron, Saint Waltrude. It continues to host religious celebrations central to the city’s identity.

What to Expect

Visitors flock to admire St. Waltrude’s soaring ceilings, ornate altars, carved choir stalls, 16th century stained glass windows, and paintings by Flemish master Van Dyck. The treasure room’s religious art and tiny relic room shouldn’t be missed either.

Visitor Information

The church is centrally located downtown on the Grand Place square. Admission is free although donations are welcome. Visitors must be respectfully dressed. Guided tours run on summer weekends for a small fee.

Name and Location: Take in Colorful Street Spectacles

In addition to Mons’ beautiful architecture and museums, the city has become known for its colorful and creative costumed street performances and parades – especially during festivals.

History and Significance

Pageantry and spectacle have long been part of Mons’ medieval heritage. As a global culture capital, the city embraced groundbreaking groups like Giant Royal de Luxe to reinvent beloved local stories through magical modern street theater on an epic scale to delight residents and tourists alike.

What to Expect

Visitors may encounter giants roaming the city, birds fluttering down buildings, dancers in light suits performing at night, dancers parading on stilts, circus shows, and other festive performances year-round celebrating Mons’ innovative artistic spirit and cultural history reimagined.

Visitor Information

Performance times/locations vary but often occur on Sunday afternoons or during street festivals like the Doudou celebration. Check the tourism site or just watch the wonder unfold before your eyes!

Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church captivates visitors with its ornate Brabantine Gothic architecture and sheer scale. The soaring pillars, ceiling vaults and abundance of interior art create a powerful yet serene space for contemplation and prayer. Of particular note is the richly carved wooden pulpit from the 1600s and excellent early 16th century stained glass windows also not to be missed.

Take in Colorful Street Spectacles

As a city with a long cultural tradition, Mons appeals to creative spirits with its calendar filled with lively street festivities. Catch the madcap medieval vibes, costumes and giants parades of the Doudou festival or La Ducasse. Every few years, Mons hosts innovative Décrocher la Lune art installations and immersive Illumi Mons light projections illuminating historic architecture after dark. Festive fun for all!

Journey to the Past at Mons Memorial Museum

Name and Location: Journey to the Past at Mons Memorial Museum

Mons Memorial Museum is a history and war museum located underground beneath the main square of central Mons, using multimedia displays to share the Battle of Mons – the first clash between Allied and German armies in World War I.

History and Significance

The Battle of Mons in August 1914 was of key importance to the course of WWI. Occupied for over 4 years under the Germans, this museum lets visitors understand Mons’ experience of wartime and the liberation through immersive, emotive recreations of sights and sounds from a century ago.

What to Expect

The museum experience begins with a short film on Europe in 1914 then chronicles Mons from those optimistic early weeks through its battered aftermath. Sound effects, audio recordings, artifacts, photos, and multimedia displays engage visitors as history unfolds around them in the atmospheric galleries.

Visitor Information

The museum is located underground below Mons’ Grand Place, open year-round except Mondays. Admission is €9. English guides are available for rent. Allow 1-2 hours to fully experience all exhibits.

Gain vivid insights into Mons’ involvement during the First World War at Mons Memorial Museum through sensitively curated exhibits outlining pre and post-war Mons, plus interactive displays recreating everything from supply lines to ambulances via aerial photos, maps, documents and relics uncovered onsite. The memorial crypt and contemplative courtyard with fields beyond provide additional solemn perspective on events.

Panorama Views from City Hall’s Belfry

Name and Location: Panorama Views from City Hall’s Belfry

The belfry tower adjacent to Mons’ Grand Place city hall offers visitors stunning 360° views over the historic city center and surrounding Mons valley from its viewing platform 65 meters high.

History and Significance

Mons’ original medieval tower was destroyed in 17th century battles. The current Baroque belfry built 1692-1723 houses both the town hall and the UNESCO recognized carillon bells. The tower physically and symbolically protects the city.

What to Expect

Reached via a somewhat claustrophobic spiral stone staircase, the belfry rewards climbers with panoramic views across Mons and the Borinage countryside. On clear days even the belfry of Brussels is visible. The bells still chime on special occasions.

Visitor Information

The belfry is located next to the Grand Place. Tours run Saturdays only: 1pm/3pm, €5 entry. Only 15 visitors allowed at one time for safety so book tickets via the Mons tourism website to guarantee access. The narrow stairs are unsuitable for young children or the unfit.

The belfry of Mons’s Flemish Gothic city hall cuts an impressive figure above the Grand Place and offers even better views following a steep 366 step climb! Gaze out from 60 meters high over Mons’ patchwork cityscape comprising historic buildings, green parks and the canal. Cool off afterward with refreshing Belgian beers at one of the atmospheric bars lining the square below.

Cruise Along the Canal

Name and Location: Cruise Along the Canal

The Canal du Centre runs directly through the heart of Mons for visitors to appreciate the city and valley from a unique water level perspective aboard canal barges offering relaxing sightseeing cruises.

History and Significance

For over 200 years, canals facilitated Mons’ industry and trade connectivity. Restored historic barges now allow tourists to glimpse the rural tranquility past generations also enjoyed gliding upon the timeless water route that remains a recreational asset enhancing Mons’ livability.

What to Expect

Canal cruise passengers enjoy slow sightseeing past landmarks like the castle ruins, engineering marvels like an ascending lock staircase, and lush green parks. Most boats have indoor and outdoor seating for appreciating canal-side cafes, wildlife, boats, and rowers along this idyllic valley passage.

Visitor Information

Cruises are offered Easter through October leaving from the Grand Large wharf downtown. Trips last 1-2 hours from €9. Online reservations are recommended. Bring a blanket, snacks, and your camera to capture timeless Mons from the water.

Mons grew prosperous thanks to the industries flanking its canal which today offers a pleasant way to see the attractive architecture and verdant spaces lining the waterway threading through the heart of the city. Leisurely La P’tite Louise boat trips last 45 minutes while L’Archiduc hotel’s restaurant boats serve meals and drinks for memorable dining with a difference as you gently sail past sights.

Explore Contemporary Art at the BAM

Name and Location: Explore Contemporary Art at the BAM

BAM or the Museum of Fine Arts is Mons’ contemporary art museum located downtown in an iconic modernist building featuring challenging, thought-provoking works by international cutting-edge artists through frequently changing exhibits.

History and Significance

BAM opened in 2002 to expand Mons cultural scene beyond traditional fine arts, emphasizing maximum creative freedom instead. Its unusual spaces were custom-designed to support innovative exhibits engaging all the senses that redefine visitors’ concept of what constitutes meaningful, impactful 21st century art.

What to Expect

The experience starts with the unusual ovoid museum layout. Inside, immerse yourself in sounds, smells, textures and visuals combining traditional media like painting and sculpture with modern video and light installations from leading contemporary artists that urge reflection on the world around us.

Visitor Information

BAM is a 5 minute walk from Grand Place downtown at Rue Neuve 8. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. Admission ranges €7-10 depending on exhibits. Enjoy the cafe and museum shop too.

Lovers of modern art will be wowed by Mons’ acclaimed art museum, BAM or Beaux Arts Mons. This architectural stunner unites an iconic arched façade from the 1930s with a contemporary gallery addition incorporating vast light-filled halls to perfectly showcase constantly changing exhibitions of renowned 20th and 21st century international artists’ works spanning all media – paintings to video art and installations.

Learn the Craft of Lace Making

Name and Location: Learn the Craft of Lace Making

Mons and the surrounding region has been renowned for its exquisite handmade lace for over 400 years. At the Mons Lace Museum centrally located near the Grand Place downtown, visitors can learn about the history and craft of lacemaking.

History and Significance

Lace gained prestige when wealthy women like Marie Antoinette wore stunning Mons lace gowns in the 1700s. meticulously handmade on bobbins and pins, Mons Filet lace is considered some of the finest in Europe thanks to devoted local lacemakers who passed their skills and secrets across generations.

What to Expect

The museum collection displays gorgeous historic lace garments, tapestries, collars, and undergarments plus the tools used creating them. Visitors can watch demonstrations of lace being made, appreciate the complexity up close, try their hand at the craft, and support keeping the tradition alive by purchasing handmade lace items.

Visitor Information

The Lace Museum is located just off the Grand Place at 29 Rue des Fripiers. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-6pm. Guided demos run weekends at 3:30pm. Admission is only €2.

From the 16th century, Mons became renowned for the quality of handcrafted floral lace designs bearing its name created by skilled local women. Today visitors can learn about the intricate process firsthand during demonstrations at Van Mons-Delcommune House. See rare exhibits like antique bobbins and lace artifacts or buy some delicate Mons lace to take home. Classes are even available!

Find Peaceful Nature at the Abbey of Saint-Denis Chapel

Name and Location: Find Peaceful Nature at the Abbey of Saint-Denis Chapel

In north Mons beyond the city hustle, the feudal ruins of the Abbey of Saint-Denis with its adjoining chapel set amidst walking trails offer a serene, picturesque natural area to decompress surrounded by the rolling countryside.

History and Significance

Founded circa 1096, the influential Saint-Denis Abbey shaped Mons history for nearly 800 years until it was dissolved in 1797 after the French Revolution. Now a protected heritage site, vestiges of multiple eras from Romanesque to Gothic await discovery by visitors.

What to Expect

Guests encounter extensive remains like partial walls and foundations hinting at the abbey’s former scale interwoven with nature. The late 15th century abbots’ residence houses a heritage center while the abbey church is perfect for peaceful contemplation surrounded by gardens, a cemetery, and walking paths under the trees.

Visitor Information

The Abbey and Chapel grounds at Rue de la Chapelle 4 near the village of Casteau are freely open daily. The heritage center and chapel interiors keep more limited hours. Bus routes 2a/1252 service the area.

Escape Mons’ bustling urban energy within the secluded Abbaye Saint-Denis site, today dominated by the imposing ruins of a 15th century Benedictine abbey church and soaring late-Gothic chapel featuring a rare stone vault and series of vibrant stained glass windows. Wander through the extensive abbey grounds now rewilded as woody parkland with paths, ponds and ruins adding romantic atmosphere.

Taste Innovative Local Beers in Former Industrial Settings

Name and Location: Taste Innovative Local Beers in Former Industrial Settings

Mons’ industrial past is now home to unique microbreweries and brewpubs housed in transformed factories, coal mining sites and other historic buildings providing an alternative beer tasting experience.

History and Significance

The Borinage coal and glassworks region surrounding Mons birthed small experimental brewers putting Belgian beer ingenuity on display. Brewmasters now apply modern flavors on heritage equipment amidst Mons’ repurposed post-industrial landscape – part of reanimating its blue-collar neighborhoods.

What to Expect

Craft beer lovers can tour facilities like the knodel brewery in a 1916 coal washery or the Trappistenbier abbey-affiliated Cazeau nestled in Parc du Bois du Grand Bon Dieu. Afterwards, savor innovative fruit lambics, IPAs, stouts, and Mons region-inspired concoctions on tap in their cozy tasting rooms.

Visitor Information

Breweries are scattered across former mining and factory sites outside central Mons, requiring a rideshare or car. Schedules vary – check individual websites. Most offer weekend tours and tastings ranging €7-12.

Beer has been brewed in Mons for centuries. Experience how microbrewing thrives today thanks to creative artisans launching experimental breweries within surprising industrial spaces across Mons. Top picks for sampling unique brews include La Mineuse (a former public bath house), Cherreux (a former garage) and St. Martin (a former veterinary clinic). À votre santé!

Admire Art Nouveau Architecture

Name and Location: Admire Art Nouveau Architecture

Art Nouveau architecture softly flowing with nature inspires is plentiful across Belgium. In central Mons, a self-guided walking route showcases some of the city’s most exceptional historicist and Art Nouveau buildings from the period 1880-1910.

History and Significance

Art Nouveau developed in Europe as an artistic reaction against mass industrialization. Mons architects embraced the style highlighting skilled traditional craftsmanship through sinuous ironwork, stained glass, carved doors and ornate facades, evidenced in many surviving buildings downtown.

What to Expect

The route has 20 highlighted stops like the ornate Old University Library, the Plantin Bookstore, and the Grey House. Architectural flourishes to appreciate include decorative mosaics, floral designs, rounded balconies, and colorful stained glass windows complementing Mons’ older structures.

Visitor Information

The route starts from the tourist information office on Grand Place. Maps are available online. The route takes 1-2 hours to leisurely admire Mons’ Belle Époque-era beauties up close.

Thanks to Mons’ industrial heritage as a mining town, wealthy merchants built their townhouses here in the late 19th and early 20th century, resulting in exceptional Art Nouveau and early Art Deco architectural gems scattered along the town’s boulevards and around the Grand Place. Go on guided walking tours or simply look up to notice exquisite stained glass, ironwork and carved flourishes adorning proud historic facades.

Ride the Authentic Steam Train Through Countryside

Name and Location: Ride the Authentic Steam Train Through Countryside

The steam trains of the Borinage line offer visitors scenic 70-minute rides through the verdant pastures and valleys surrounding Mons from the historic railway station downtown while learning about Belgium’s industrial rail history.

History and Significance

In operation for over 100 years, the railway was critical for Mons’ mining and glassmaking infrastructure circa the early 1900s. The heritage railway experience transports passengers back to the sights, smells, and sensations of historic rail combined with gorgeous panoramas of southwestern Belgium.

What to Expect

Passengers can opt to ride comfortably inside vintage wood-paneled train cars or outside in open-air carriages for maximum viewing opportunities through large picture windows. Photo run-bys with billowing steam make this a hit for trainspotters and families alike.

Visitor Information

The Chemin du Rail heritage trains operate select weekends April-October out of Mons Station downtown. Various ticket classes from €18. Advance booking recommended – these popular trains sell out fast!

Travel back in time aboard the steam train Chemin de Fer du Borinage which transports passengers on nostalgic rides through picturesque countryside between Saint-Ghislain to Cuesmes. Enjoy watching smoke puffing from the engine’s chimney, hearing the whistle blow and even visiting the depot to see preserved steam locos. An unforgettable journey perfect for train buffs and kids conducted by passionately devoted volunteers.

Experience the Magic of Pairi Daiza Gardens

Name and Location: Experience the Magic of Pairi Daiza Gardens

Pairi Daiza is an elaborately themed 55 acre botanical garden and wildlife park located 20 miles south of Mons promising visitors dazzling garden landscapes fused with exotic animals from pandas to penguins across various recreated continental realms.

History and Significance

Continually expanding since 1993 on the historic grounds of Cistercian monks from the 13th century, Paira Daiza attracts over a million visitors annually to its fanciful, still growing collection of ornate gardens, conservation/breeding centers, animal exhibits, and family activities.

What to Expect

This all-ages attraction offers pan-Asian temples, tropical greenhouses, formal European-style gardens, and cave networks linked by pathways past habitats for rare and endangered wildlife like giant pandas, Amur tigers, and South American condors in thoughtfully designed naturalistic enclosures.

Visitor Information

Pairi Daiza is located off the E42 near Brugelette, Belgium. It’s open April – October daily 8:30am-6pm. Book advance tickets online starting at €34. The massive scale means most guests stay 5+ hours – wear comfy shoes!

Just 15km from central Mons, these ornately landscaped gardens dotted with breathtaking architecture transports visitors into fantastical worlds that could rival those found in fairy tales and historic Chinese paintings. At Pairi Daiza, discover meticulously created vignettes around every corner from tropical hothouses and Islamic-inspired water features to majestic peacock filled grounds and an amazing floating terrace atop a former abbey’s ruins. Utterly exquisite!

Uncover Hidden Art Gems at the Castle of Havré Estate

Name and Location: Uncover Hidden Art Gems at the Castle of Havré Estate

Just north of Mons city center, this historic aristocratic estate dating from the 1800s encompasses lovely English gardens, green spaces, and an impressive private collection of fine artworks inside the stately neoclassical chateau.

History and Significance

Commissioned by the Dukes of Havré, the castle remained in the prominent noble family for over 200 years before Mons acquired it 1980.

Nestled in woods on Mons’ outskirts, this grand estate offers both regal architecture and a superb private art collection spanning medieval to modern works carefully assembled by the noble owners across generations. Must-sees include Flemish Primitive paintings, Goya sketches, sculptures by Rodin, canvases by Toulouse-Lautrec plus contemporary installations displayed within the historic family rooms and carefully curated gallery spaces of this unexpected cultural gem.

Revel in Mons’ Creative Summer Music Festival Scene

As an arts minded city, Mons draws huge crowds to seasonal music festivities showcasing popular Belgian and international acts in energetic open-air settings. Top summer music festivals include Les Ardentes rock festival held right downtown, the intimate Francofolies focusing on French music and the multi-stage RED Festival spotlighting today’s pop artists against the mines and slag heaps comprising the post-industrial landscape surrounding Mons – a uniquely evocative concert backdrop!

Conclusion

Boasting exceptional heritage architecture plus contemporary art and cultural attractions galore, the underrated city of Mons extends warm Belgian hospitality to visitors. Use our carefully curated list of top 15 things to see and do Mons in 2024 as your guide to making the most of this historic yet outward looking city ready to charm you with its dynamism. Come and discover Mons’ creative Mons’ spirit!

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