When you think of Hainaut, you probably first think of the capital Mons or perhaps Pairi Daiza. But this province has much more to offer. Culture, history, and nature: Hainaut has it all. Are you coming along to explore it?
Le Grand Hornu
Le Grand Hornu is a historic industrial mining complex a few km from Mons. It has been listed as a World Heritage Site of Humanity since 2012. The complex in neoclassical style was conceived during construction as an urban project with not only the workshops and offices of the coal mine but also workers’ houses, a school, a library, …
Le Grand Hornu remained in operation until 1954, after which it slowly deteriorated. After a thorough renovation, this beautiful site now includes the CID and MACS.
CID (Centre d’Innovation et de Design)
The CID organizes 3-4 thematic exhibitions per year on current topics. The exhibition “Serial Eater, food design stories” will run until November 29, 2020. Here we look back on 30 years of experimenting and reflecting on the topic ‘food’. How do we look at food? How do we experience eating it? How do we assess our impact? And what about the future? Designers from Belgium and abroad will take you along to determine what kind of consumers we are. I found this a really interesting exhibition. You will indeed start thinking about the impact of us, the consumer, on the entire food event and its future. This exhibition has given me more interest in the world of food and eating design.
The following exhibitions are ‘Plant Fever’ (October 18, 2020, to February 14, 2021), about the hidden potential of plants, and ‘In the age of post-drought’ (March 7, 2021 to July 25, 2021), about the different methods that can contribute to the global water problem. These 2 exhibitions also appeal to me and are already on our agenda.
MACS (Musée des arts Contemporains)
The MACS doesn’t really have 1 room devoted to a permanent exhibition but organizes exhibitions by artists with a focus on the connection between memory, place, and poetry. It focuses not only on traditional forms of art (painting, sculpture, …) but also modern (photography, installations) and contemporary art (video, multimedia). There is currently an exhibition by Matt Mullican (until October 18, 2020) followed by Johan Muylle.
I think fans of the genre are sure to enjoy it. I thought Matt Mullican’s exhibition was quite special ?.
Plugstraat 1418 offers a unique view of the lives of soldiers and civilians during the First World War. A film briefly and interactively explains the main events: from the causes to the armistice on November 11, 1918. A relief map with animations along with a screen shows how the different fronts evolved during the 4-year war. Finally, you can learn more about the lives of the soldiers and the civilian population during this trench war through interactive screens.
Starting from the interpretation center, there are also a few walks around Ploegsteert. The walks range from 2 to 8 km and take you through the Flemish landscapes past various monuments and cemeteries. The walks are unfortunately not signposted, so it is often a bit of a search for the right way.
Plugstreet1418 is very nicely built and definitely worth a visit. Unfortunately, I had to admit that outside of the cause, I didn’t really know much about the first world war. The film and the interactive screens briefly and succinctly show all important facts.
This beautiful castle in the neoclassical architectural style is not far from Pairi Daiza and was built in 1752 on the remains of a medieval castle. Inside you can marvel at the beautiful interior in French classic style with the still original furniture and wallpaper. The large windows, the beautiful wallpaper, the beautiful paintings. Everything here radiates luxury. Currently, the castle is owned by a family who is also very happy to give you a tour.
Outside is a beautiful park of 17ha in the English style crossed by the Dender. The eye-catcher is the immense artificial rock that was built at the request of Maria Christina of Austria, who visited the castle a few times during the hunting period. There is also a dilapidated observation tower, a dovecote, a Swiss chalet, and a bathhouse. It is wonderful to stroll!
It was very nice to visit the castle. That it are the people who live there that give the tour makes it a lot more interesting. The salons and halls that you see are no longer used by them, yet it is more than just a museum.
This small Hainaut town on the Dender is best known for its annual Giant procession or Ducasse of Ath (4th Sunday of August). A city walk through the compact city center will take you to the main sights in no time.
As a city of the giants, a museum about these giants cannot be missed. The house of the giants lets you discover all the aspects of the giant world: where do they come from? How did they evolve? How are they made? And how are they carried? You will find it all out all in this small museum housed in a beautiful classic mansion. The museum is spread over 2 floors, a winter garden, and an orangery. Due to the current measures, only the ground floor was opened.
In Ath you can also visit the Gallo-Roman museum where you can admire 2 Gallo-Roman boats.
A tip for good food and beer in Ath: have lunch at Trolls & Bush on the market. And enjoy a nice beer from the Dubuisson brewery.
Folklore museum Mouscron
In the folklore museum of Mouscron (MUSEF) you go back in time. The permanent collection shows various objects of the time at the border between 1850 and 1950. The museum is divided into different parts, from what life looked like in people’s homes to various professions. At the home weavers there is an authentic loom and you can look inside the people and admire, for example, an old television set or camera. At different objects, you can see videos, eg how lace or clogs were made.
There are also regular temporary exhibitions. At the moment there is an exhibition on folklore in Wallonia and food traditions. This way you can learn about the different types of pastries that are traditionally made and eaten on certain days, such as ‘driekoningentaart’ or pancakes on ‘lichtmis’. They also give a recipe with every dish. Very nice! It is not an extensive exhibition, but I found it especially interesting to read about food and the tradition around it.
The natural park of Les Plaines de L’Escaut is located in the south of Picardy Wallonia, a stone’s throw from Tournai and close to the French-Belgian border. There is a wide variety of elements: forest and meadows alternate, often surrounded by pollard willows. Hikers can enjoy 500km of marked trails. The gateway to all this natural beauty is Escale Forestière where you can find all information about the region. The Forest Halt (Forest stop) and the walk through the treetops that start here are also worth doing. The latter is a walking path at 16m height between oak, ash, and beech trees.
Grand Large de Pèronnes
A fifteen-minute drive from Tournai and you can enjoy the Grand Large de Pèronnes, an artificially created lake. It is a true paradise for sailors and fishermen, but also for hikers and cyclists. A lap around the lake is about 6.8km. Take your picnic with you for a lovely afternoon.
A visit to one of the oldest cities in Belgium is a must anyway when you are in Hainaut. Tournai has a lot to offer: a rich history, beautiful buildings, and no fewer than 7 museums. And all in a compact city center, perfect for exploring on foot. Read more about what you can do in Tournai and where you can eat and drink.
Hotels in Hainaut
Hotel Alcantara in Tournai is within walking distance of the oldest belfry in Belgium. It is a beautiful combination of authentic elements combined with modern rooms. The breakfast is nice but not very extensive. Perfect hotel to explore Tournai and the rest of Hainaut.
Do you prefer a personal touch? Then you are at the right place at La Demeure du Papillon. This B&B in the center of Mouscron is housed in a beautiful building. The owners are both deaf but do everything to make you happy. We had a very nice room completely decorated in pink. So much attention to detail! Breakfast is served in the dining room in the morning with a view of the garden. There is also a swimming pool.
Did you already visit Hainaut?
This article is the result of a nice collaboration with Hainaut Tourism.
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