Charleroi, Belgium Tourist Attractions
The modern industrial city of Charleroi and its environs lie at the heart of one of Europe's oldest industrial regions. This part of southern Belgium is almost synonymous with coal and steel production, both of which industries have been in crisis in recent years but now show signs of recovery.
Such is the scale of industrialization hereabouts that the area is known as the Pays Noir (the Black Country). More than 450,000 people live in the conurbation around Charleroi, a pool of skilled labor for the 200 companies engaged in iron and steel (Cockerill-Sambre) or chemical production, various types of manufacturing (farm machinery, electrical goods, medical appliances), aircraft assembly and publishing (Dupois). Charleroi is famous too for its glassworks, carrying on a tradition going back more than 400 years. The city is an important crossroads served by the Charleroi-Bruxelles Canal which forms a vital link between the Sambre and the Scheldt. It has a technological university (Université de Travail) and a number of other scientific institutes. Even though separated from the industry dominated lower town, the upper town with its pedestrian zone has little in the way of sights apart from one or two interesting museums. Charleroi however is a big, lively, enterprising city. Every year thousands of visitors are attracted to its various trade fairs, one of which, the Salon de la Bande Dessinée (Comic Strips), is unique in Europe.Charleroi began as an ordinary medieval rural village called Charnoy, the inhabitants of which also engaged in a little mining. This changed in 1659 when much of Hainaut was captured by the French and Charnoy suddenly found itself a Spanish frontier post. As a check on the ambitions of the French King Louis XIV, Charles II of Spain expanded the village into a fortress, renaming it at the same time. For the next 30 years Charleroi lay at the center of a battlefield, being taken by the French in 1667 - after which Vauban strengthened the fortications - and recovered by Spain in 1679. The Peace of Rujswijk in 1697 brought a period of respite, which ended when hostilities were renewed following the French Revolution. Industrialization proper began in the first half of the 19th C., accompanied by the construction of a canal link with Brussels in 1832. The old walls were demolished in 1868, being replaced by boulevards which can still be seen today. In the First World War, after heavy fighting, German troops occupied the city in August 1914.Some notable attractions in Charleroi include the belfry, now listed on the World Heritage sites, The Maison Dorée built in 1899 as well as several museums.
Every year thousands of visitors are attracted to Charleroi's various trade fairs, one of which, the Salon de la Bande Dessinée (Comic Strips), is unique in Europe.
The region around Charleroi is unique in Belgium for its tradition of "marches militaires", a form of religious cum military festival in which the members of various local societies and brotherhoods don colorful military uniforms and parade to the music of brass bands and the noise of guns.
Marche de la Madeleine
One of the best-known of Belgium's military festivals is the Marche de la Madeleine (end of July) when 1,500 "infantry", 150 horsemen and 30 bands set off from Jumet on a 20km/12mile "march".
The heart of Charleroi's upper town is the Place Charles II, dominated by the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall; 1936) and its towering 70m/230ft-high belfry with a carillon of 47 bells.The tower is a UNESCO site.
Museum of Fine Arts
Housed in the Hôtel de Ville the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) consists primarily of a collection of works by Hainaut artists. Another whole section (Musée Jules Destrée) is devoted to the lawyer, statesman and writer Jules Destrée (1863-1936).
Across the square from the Hôtel de Ville can be seen the cupola of the Basilique Sainte- Christophe (1801; fine mosaic in the choir).
Palais des Beaux-Arts
The Musée du Verre (Glass Museum) occupies part of the Institut National du Verre on the Boulevard Defontaine to the east of the Hôtel de Ville. The museum comprises two large departments, one concerned with the history and production of glass throughout the world, the other with the development of the Belgium glass industry in particular. On display are some quite exceptional examples of the glass-maker's art from Antiquity to the present day. A permanent exhibition on the ground floor provides a showcase for the glassware manufactured in Belgium today.
Address: Boulevarde Defontaine 10, B-6001 Marcinelle, Belgium
Opening hours: 9am-12:30pm, 1:15pm-5pm; Closed: Sun, Mon
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €4.00, Students €2.50, Senior €2.50, Child 12 & under FREE
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Rodin and Belgium
The exhibition displays the works of Rodin in Charleroi on September 7 and December 14.
Social Center of Relaxation
Map of Charleroi Attractions