Mons, Belgium

A Day in Mons: History, Culture and a Cast-Iron Monkey

Located in the predominately French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium, Mons is renowned as a cultural centre, especially after receiving the title of European Capital of Culture in 2015. UK visitors, however, might know it best for the momentous Battle of Mons during World War 1. Though a small city with only 100,000 inhabitants, Mons is a fascinating place to visit, full of art, architecture and history – with a side reputation as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Belgium thanks to the nearby Google headquarters. Check out our guide to visiting the delights of Mons in 24 hours.

Morning Meandering

Chateau DeBeloeil
Image by J.P.Remy

Start your day by visiting the outstanding Château de Belœil, which is a half-hour drive from the city centre. This staggeringly beautiful country home once functioned as the residence of nobility from nearby Ligne, and is simply bursting at the seams with history. Nicknamed ‘the Belgian Versailles’, the elegant paintings, vast library and sculpture sprinkled gardens make it a must see in Mons.

City Centre Exploring

Mons Monkey

Once back in the city, the Grand Place is an excellent spot to break for lunch. Enjoy a meal of mussels and frites with a view of the city’s greatest architectural marvel, the ornate gothic Town Hall with its iconic cast-iron monkey guarding the entranceway. Locals insist that petting the monkey’s head will bring you good luck, so be sure to give it a good rub before leaving the Grand Place.

Bell Tower Mons

A short walk away, the UNESCO World Heritage listed baroque belfry is one of the city’s most treasured attractions. Though once described by Les Misérables author Victor Hugo as “a huge coffee pot surrounded by four smaller tea pots,” it’s actually Belgium’s only baroque bell tower. Climb the stairs of this 87-metre structure for some incredible views of the surrounding area. Directly opposite the tower you’ll also stumble upon Sainte Waudru Collegiate Church, which features some stunning stained glass windows.

Afternoon Entertainment

Mons Grand Place

If there is one last attraction you can fit into your day, the Beaux Arts de Mons should be it. Housed in a light and contemporary building, you can peruse the top quality selection of modern watercolours, wood sculptures and engravings here. Finish your day by winding down with a cocktail in the bar-lined Place du Marché aux Herbes, where the wide terraces are ideal for a spot of people watching.

If this has inspired your own trip to Belgium, check out our Hull to Zeebrugge crossing today.