The city of Charleroi stands in the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium, 30 miles south of Brussels and about 10 miles from the French border. It's a former centre of heavy industry, now being re-invented as a modern city standing on the River Sambre, a tributary of the Meuse. Brussels Charleroi airport is a busy international airport three miles to the north of the city, specializing in budget short-haul flights. If you're hiring a car in Charleroi, you'll find there are excellent road links. The city has an inner and outer ring-road and good connections to neighboring cities like Mons, Brussels and Namur, and the surrounding Ardennes countryside.
During your visit, rent a car from Charleroi, and you'll soon spot evidence of its industrial heritage of coal, steel and glass making. There are old factories and waste tips around the outskirts. But gradually this capital of Belgium's ‘Black Country' is becoming green. Some of the slag-heaps have even become parks. The city centre has been redesigned and its landmarks restored. Look out for monumental public squares, lively pedestrianized shopping areas and historic buildings, like the huge copper-domed St Christopher Church and grand neo-classical City Hall, which houses two art museums. The City Hall's art deco Belfry Tower, which is now a World Heritage Site, houses 47 bells that play a tune every 15 minutes. Charleroi's weekly Sunday market in the tree-lined Charles II Square beneath the Belfry is a long-standing attraction for thousands of visitors across a wide area. Other highlights of the city include museums celebrating the heritage of glass making and industrial architecture. On the edge of the city, look out for the Marcinelle Centre – a large wooded estate with lakes, restaurants, playgrounds and sports. Symbolically, it stands on the site of an old coal mine.
Opening hours: Mo-Fr 0800-1700, Sa-Su closed
Address: Rue des Freres Wright 8 bte 14