Mons, or ‘Bergen’ in Flemish, is the hillside city and capital of the Belgian province of Hainaut. Like many Belgium cities, Mons is full of history. In fact the city was first founded as a settlement built around a monastery. A castle was built on the hill to defend the monastery and the city has been growing and developing ever since.
During the First World War a major battle took place in Mons, now referred to as ‘The Battle of Mons’. Mons was later liberated in 1918. The city is visited by many to pay their respects and to remember some of the historical events of the First World War.
Mons was also an inspiration for the renowned novelist Victor Hugo, who came to Mons in the 19th century. Its beauty and magic continues to inspire visitors to this day.
What to see and do
Whilst visiting Mons it would be a shame not to sample their specialty dish, Côte de porc al’berdouille. This is a pork dish in a mustard sauce and it is served in many restaurants in the city, perfect to enjoy with a Belgium beer. Visitors to Mons should go and see the famous statue of a medieval monkey. The little monkey is at the entrance of the town hall and it is said to bring good luck to anyone who strokes it with their left hand.
Mons has many interesting places to visit as well. It is a city with a long history and there is plenty to keep visitors occupied including the Collegiate Church Sainte Waudru. This 15th to 17th century church was built in the Gothic style of Brabant, and has some interesting features including the treasury of the Collegiate Church with its collection of relics and gold and silver works. Inside the church visitors can view the Car d’Or, a gilded wooden carriage. Every year on Trinity Sunday the carriage is paraded through the city.
Other attractions in Mons include Van Gogh’s House – Van Gogh actually resided at number 3 Rue du Pavillon in Mons in 1879 to 1880, before he lived in Provence. The house was restored in the 1970s and now has a permanent exhibition dedicated to Van Gogh with an audio visual show. For six centuries Beloeil Castle has been the home to the Princes of Ligne and as such it contains some wonderful collections of artwork and antique furniture, as well as an impressive library with over 20,000 books and manuscripts. The remarkable chateau is surrounded by beautiful grounds and gardens, including the French garden which incorporates water and greenery with shadow and light.
There are a few exceptional museums in Mons including the François Duesberg museum. It is located in the old National Bank of Belgium building and the museum displays some unique decorative arts. Other museums to visit include the fine arts museum and the museum of military history.
Taking the Ferry to Mons
You have many options for taking the ferry over to Belgium and visiting Mons, if you use any of the UK to Belgium ferries you’ll only have a 90 mile drive to Mons. With it’s location quite close to the border of France, the three Dover to France ferries will get you almost as close.