The largest city in the region of Wallonia, Charleroi is often overlooked as a tourist destination.
It certainly does not have as much to offer as widely visited Brussels and Bruges but what it lacks in mass appeal, Charleroi makes up for with its character.
An industrial city with an interesting and honest history, Charleroi will intrigue anyone looking for more than just glitz and glamour in their travel destinations.
You will find plenty to keep you interested here for a week but any longer and you may well run out of ideas.
Here are some of our tips on the best things to do in Charleroi:
1. Jules Destree Museum
The Jules Destree building is home to a collection of documents and works of the city’s former Minister of Arts and Science.
The collection, which spans from the end of the 19th Century into the 20th Century, shows the cultural value of the man’s work and how it is still relevant in the modern day.
If you consider yourself a “culture vulture”; this is a must see.
2. Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts houses an impressive collection of art work from the most prestigious art schools in the city.
The art work on display here includes work from both the 19th and 20th Century and includes pieces from the neo-classical genre as well as social-realism, impressionism and abstract art.
The Museum of Fine Arts is a must visit for art aficionados in Charleroi.
3. Town Hall
The town hall building (or the Hotel de Ville) in Charleroi is arguably the city’s most charming building.
The building features a mix of Classical architecture and Art Deco and stands out from a distance.
Get yourself a few snaps of the building both in daylight and at night time and make sure you listen to the 47 bells which play the tune “Land of Charleroi – It is you I Love Best” each and every hour.
4. Photography Museum
The Photography Museum in Charleroi aka Musee De La Photographie is a very impressive one.
It is the largest photography museum in the whole of Europe and covers the history of the art form from its inception right up until contemporary methods and works.
The museum is well worth a visit for anyone with even a fleeting interest in the world of photographs but if you are a student of the arts, the adjoining library and research centre is a great learning tool.
5. The Glass Museum
The Glass Museum in Charleroi delves into the history of the glassmaking process in both its industrial form and in a more artistic manner.
The museum explains how it is possible to work with glass and the methods involved as well as showing off some pieces of art from all over Europe.
The exhibits here range from physical objects to audio visual displays.
You will certainly learn a lot about this fascinating process at the museum.
6. Tour de Gosselies
The Tour de Gosselies is the only remaining structure of the Bousies Chateau and serves as a reminder of the historical fortress and area of Gosselies before it merged with Charleroi.
The Bousie family occupied the building in the 15th and 16th Century and there coat of arms remains on the tower here to this day.
A visit to the site now includes some stunning architecture and excavation works remain ongoing with new original brickwork, dating back to the 16th century, only recently being discovered.
7. Bois du Cazier miners
The Boiz du Cazier museums offer a wealth of information on the mining disaster that took place in Charleroi in 1956 as well as a museum dedicated to mining technology and advancements through the ages.
The museum explores the events of the mining disaster through photographs, testimonials and accurate timeline depictions.
Mining has certainly played an important part in Charlerois history and therefore a visit to the museum is a great way to learn more about the city’s industrial past.
8. Skydiving (indoors)
This is one to tick off the bucket list.
The Airspace indoor skydiving centre is great fun and offers visitors a chance to experience Europe’s highest indoor skydiving wind tunnel.
Airspace is a hit with beginners, tourists and experienced skydivers equally and many skydivers travel from around the continent, and even the world, to hone their skills in the indoor tunnel.
No prior training is needed for beginners and anyone over the age of 3 can give it a go.
9. The Church of St Christopher
Quite possibly the most beautiful building in all of Charleroi is the Church of St Christopher.
The church is built in stunning baroque style with a domed roof and fountains at its entrance making for a great photo opportunity.
The interior of the church is slightly different than you may expect.
It is more modern than other baroque church interiors and reflects the industrial past of Charleroi with its dark and tough concrete walls.
You will find the church on the city’s main square.
10. The Belfry
It would be silly to visit Charleroi and not visit the city’s UNESCO heritage site.
The tower is actually part of the city hall but the World Heritage Site status is given in particular to the Belfry tower.
The tower is great to look at from the main square but it is also possible to undertake a tour of the tower and make it all the way to the top for a great view of the city and its streets.
A tour of the building requires advance booking and, of course, costs money.
11. Sample the city’s nightlife
As in the rest of Belgium, Charleroi offers good, hearty food and fantastic beers in the many bars dotted around the city’s streets.
The intriguingly name Cuve A Biére is one of the city’s liveliest bars with many greet Belgian beers on the menu as well as some decent food.
The nearby Rockerill bar is a great place to experience up and coming music on the country’s alternative and underground music scene.
The bar itself is quirky and attracts some of the city’s more vibrant characters.
12. Venture off the beaten track
For those looking to explore Charleroi’s less visited spots, the city’s canal offers a great walking route.
Along the canal, you will see sites (many derelict and abandoned) from the industrial past of Charleroi.
This is a somewhat acquired taste, but for me it is very interesting to explore the remains of an industry that has helped to build the city that you can see today.
Avoid walking the route at night as there are some unsavoury characters who may ask you for money.
13. Relax in some green space
The Leisure Centre of Marcinelle is a peaceful woodland area consisting of 150 hectares of trees and greenery.
Explore the wood fully and you will discover the remains of a building thought to date back to the 13th Century known as the “Bois De Prince”. Although the exact origins of the building are debatable, legend has it that the ruins were once the scene of a great battle.
The woods are home to a variety of learning resources and also host sports competitions during the year.
14. The Belgian Parthenon
Styled on the Parthenon in Athens, the Saint Antoine de Padua, is a neo classical building with an intimidating exterior.
The building was built in 1830 and does a good job of recreating the staggering façade of its Athenian counterpart.
Inside the building, you will find many paintings, sculptures and other works of art.
The church is named after Saint Anthony who is buried in Padua.
15. La Bouche de Gouts
To experience the best food in the city, you should visit the restaurant of La Bouche de Gouts.
The classy venue has a relaxed but busy atmosphere and some stunning dishes with a French and European background.
Expect frog’s legs, foie gras and great beer and wine.
The restaurant is regarded as the best in the city and has an almost cult following.
If you consider yourself a gourmet and love all things food, you would be mad to miss this culinary gem.