Top Things to do in Mons (Wallonia - Belgium)

As I mentioned earlier, Mons surprised me like no other place had! It is a cultural hub! It is a cultural capital. It is the place with the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium! It is just awesome!!!! Within the city of Mons, there are 4 sites that are associated with UNESCO and in its outskirts are 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Now, what do I mean by, 'associated with UNESCO' and not directly 'UNESCO sites'? Well... Read on...

Mons Belfry UNESCO Belgium

Mons Belfry UNESCO Belgium

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN MONS

MONS BELFRY - UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN MONS
One of the 4 sites within the city of Mons is of course the Belfry. You might have already read in this blog about the Belfries in GhentBruges and Tournai. There are a total of 56 belfries in France and Belgium that have been listed under UNESCO and one of them is here! First things first, this is perhaps the narrowest step width that I've ever laid my foot on, that too in a belfry tower! See my shoes in the below pic? So yeah, very very very narrow!
This is one of the oldest belfries in Wallonia, originally set up in 17th C but was kept on improvised in 1845, 1866, 1976 etc till 1999 with 49 bells today.
I was there in the morning, as soon as it opened. It consists of 5 floors and the upwards trip is by lift, followed by a walk down seeing the clock, carillon, exhibits etc. The view of its park and St.Waudru church from atop is exquisite. This is the only belfry built in Baroque architecture. Quite interestingly, it was admired by a poet.... as he wrote a letter to his wife stating that this Belfry is nothing like anything they've seen before as it looks like an 'onion'!!!

Where is Mons Belfry (on Google Maps): Mons Belfry
How to reach Mons Belfry: 750m (8 mins walk) from Mons railway station
Mons Belfry tickets: €9 (Inclusive in Mons Card & Museumpassmusees)
Mons Belfry timings: Tue-Sun 10:00AM to 6:00PM

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES AROUND MONS
I've written separate articles about these 4 places. Click to know read all about these 4 places.

Mons Mundaneum UNESCO Memory of the World Register Belgium

Mons Mundaneum UNESCO Memory of the World Register Belgium

Mons Mundaneum UNESCO Memory of the World Register Belgium

UNESCO MOW REGISTER SITE IN MONS

MUNDANEUM, MONS - UNESCO MOW REGISTER
The 2nd site is Mundaneum which is not a World Heritage Site, but is still associated with UNESCO. How? It is protected in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. The Memory of the World Register is an initiative by UNESCO to protect certain knowledge before it is forgotten collectively (like Rig Veda, Siddha medicine etc)! Why is Mundaneum important in this category, that's so precious to be preserved? Well, it is the original concept of 'Search Engine' much much before Google came into existence. Well, not really 'engine', but that concept, fondly called 'Paper Google'!!!
This concept was developed by Henry La Fontaine. With his passion for Bibliography, he founded the International Office of Bibliography in 1895 with Paul Otlet. Paul Otlet anticipated the coming of the Internet and was called the 'Father of Modern Documentation'. He developed the concept of documenting every page of every book ever published and made it searchable with a unique 10 part code and he began his works towards it. His ultimate goal was to create a World City which would become a hub of knowledge from across the world with people from all over the world learning and sharing knowledge. 
Their efforts began to bear fruit at the International Office of Bibliography in 1895, for which they developed the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), a concept which won accolades in the 1900 Paris Fair. In 1906, Paul Otlet wrote a journal in which he described that, in future, telephones would become wireless like telegraph which people could carry in the pockets which could be tuned for different wavelengths....... what much later became mobile phone! Today the entire archives of books classified with UDC during the lifetime of its 2 founders have been kept in Mons and since 2012, it is been supported by what its founders anticipated - Google itself!

Where is Mons Mundaneum (on Google Maps): Mundaneum
How to reach Mons Mundaneum: 1.2km (15 mins walk) from Mons railway station; 750m (8 mins walk) from Mons Belfry
Mons Mundaneum tickets: €9 (€2 with Mons Card & free with Museumpassmusees)
Mons Mundaneum timings: Tue-Sun 10:00AM to 6:00PM

Mons Belfry UNESCO Belgium

St.Waudru Church Mons

St.Waudru Church Mons

St.Waudru Church Mons Doudou Festival Chariot

St.Waudru Church Mons Doudou Festival Chariot Relics

UNESCO INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE EVENTS IN MONS

CARNIVAL OF BINCHE & DOUDOU FESTIVAL - UNESCO ICH
The 3rd & 4th sites are not sites but are events that are protected in UNESCO's Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Yes, the Beer Culture of Belgium comes under this concept. One is the Carnival of Binche which is very close to La Louviere where the Four Historical Lifts are located. 
Another is listed as Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France. Under this are 9 events (5 in Belgium and 4 in France) one of which is the Doudou festival which happens in Mons. The dragon event here happens in 2 part - the procession of St.Waudru's Relic followed by the combat between the dragon and St.George.
Quite unusually, the patron saint of Mons City is a woman, St.Waltrude (aka St.Waudru). She was married, had 4 children and after her husband retired to an Abbey, she became a nun in 656 CE. The church in her name was built in 1450 CE in Brabant Gothic style. There is a relic of her in this church, which is taken as a procession every year.
The story here is exactly the same as Tournai. During the plague, the procession happened for the first time and then the plague stopped. Since then, every year, the procession happens! The present chariot was made in the 1770s by the Montois Ghienne and Midavaine and is drawn by 6 horses. The final stretch of the car is an upward slope which had to be crossed in a single go without moving back an inch and the entire city pushes the car to make sure that this happens! I could see the wheel marks of the car from where it is parked in the church as well as the upward slope! It is indeed an event that has to be experienced...
Several of the sculptures and reliefs in this church are by Jacques du Brœucq, who is considered the Michelangelo of the north. The most fascinating are the stand-alone statues of 7 virtues depicted as women - 2nd pic below is of Temperance and Force.
The relic of St.Waudru's body is a golden case that is taken in a procession which on other days is hung atop at altar. The relics of her head is in another golden case shaped like a head, which is also in a chapel within this church.
After this procession, the fight between the dragon and St.George along with White Men, Men of leaves, Policemen etc. People dressed up as all these, enact all these at the Grand Place. The Doudou museum is located in City Hall to give an overview of the event for those who visit the city throughout the year.  If the Doudou Museum could come up with a 4D experience like London Eye which helps a visitor to 'experience' Doudou, as if they were present there - it would be the best..... Anyone listening?

Where is St.Waudru Church (on Google Maps): St.Waudru Church
How to reach St.Waudru Church Mons: 450m (5 mins walk) from Mons Railway Station
St.Waudru Church timings: Free
St.Waudru Church timings: All days 9:00AM to 6:00PM

Where is Doudou Museum (on Google Maps):  Doudou Museum
How to reach Doudou Museum: 850m (10 mins walk) from Mons railway station. 450m (7mins walk) from Mons Belfry. Located in Grand Place, Mons. 
Doudou Museum tickets: €9
Doudou Museum timings: Tue-Sun 10:00AM to 6:00PM

UPCOMING EVENTS IN MONS:
When is Doudou Festival 2021? Cancelled
When is Doudou Festival 2022? June 12, 2022
When is Carnaval Binche 2021? Cancelled
When is Carnaval Binche 2022? Feb 27, 2022 to Mar 01, 2022

St.Waudru Church Mons Doudou Festival

St.Waudru Relics Church Mons Doudou Festival

Mons Doudou Festival Museum UNESCO Processions ICH

Mons Doudou Festival Museum UNESCO Processions ICH

UNUSUAL PLACES TO SEE & THINGS TO DO IN MONS

MONS TOWN HALL
Our first stop was the Town Hall. Though when compared to the Brussels Town Hall, nothing else brings that majestic awesomeness, this one is small and has its own charm. This was built in 1458-77 but the watchtower was completed only in 1717-18. That charm begins right at the entrance - the door handle and outer wall. On the outer wall is a super cute iron monkey. It is doesn't originally belong here and has been brought here and been attached here. No one actually knows the origins of this monkey. Its believed that it was once used as a 'Dunce' corner for kids who did petty crimes! Nowadays, it is believed to bring luck when you touch its head with your left hand! Today, its head is so corroded and polished, thanks to the constant swiping!
The door handle of the Town Hall is a miniature version of the Town Hall entrance itself, complete with a watchtower and a guard atop the watchtower and a dog at the entrance symbolizing fidelity! Today a few rooms of the town hall are accessible through a guided tour. One of the rooms is called the Wedding hall which has a painted ceiling of 1682 and getting married here is considered special and I came across 2 weddings that weekend! Every year, during the Doudou festival, the balcony of the Townhall would become the viewing area for the VIP guests & Mayor.
Another hidden special spot in Mons is the Mayor's Garden, located inside the Town Hall premises and should be accessed through an 'underground' street! This was built in the 1930s and the view of the Belfry from here is rather interesting. Don't miss it, if you're here in Spring. We saw some gorgeous tulips too! That underground pathway is called the 'Luftschutzraum' which is German means Bomb shelter... a reminiscence of World War! 

Where is Mons Town Hall (on Google Maps): Town Hall (Monkey is located close to its door to its right and the Jardin du Mayeur is inside through Luftschutzraum)
How to reach Mons Town Hall: 800m (9 mins walk) from Mons railway station. It is in the Grand Place.
Mons Town Hall tickets & Timings: Town Hall is accessible only through a guided tour through official city guides. Contact of our city-guide Ms.Alice Abels: aliceabels@gmail.com; +32 4855 71338

Mons Unique places to visit in belgium

Mons Town hall

Mons top things to do Town Hall

Unusual things to do in Mons Mayor's Garden

Unusual things to do in Mons Mayors Garden

ST.ELIZABETH CHURCH, MONS
From there my next stop was the St.Elizabeth Church. The weekend I went seemed to be a wedding special weekend! That church was also getting ready to host a wedding. The current church was built in 1715-32 at the site of an older church. Today it is unmissable thanks to the contemporary art made of 30000 wooden planks, in front of it, by Arne Quinze called Passenger. Its quite a stark difference when compared to the historical charm of the locality. 

Where is St.Elizabeth Church Mons (on Google Maps):  Eglise Sainte-Elisabeth de Mons
How to reach St.Elizabeth Church Mons: 1km (12 mins walk) from Mons railway station. Just beside Town Hall in the Grand Place.
St.Elizabeth Church Mons tickets: Free
St.Elizabeth Church Mons timings: 10:00AM to 6:00PM

Don't miss to spot this graffiti in the last photo below - they all are looking at the Mayor's house!!! There are some tiny little streets here that are so well decorated with graffiti & murals, thanks to the efforts in 2015 for the Cultural Capital of Europe Title! That wraps up Mons in My Travelogue. 

Arne Quinze Passenger Mons things to do

Eglise Sainte-Elisabeth de Mons

Eglise Sainte-Elisabeth de Mons

Eglise Sainte-Elisabeth de Mons

Unusual things to do in Mons Belgium

WHERE TO STAY IN MONS? - MONS HOTELS:
Mons Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in Mons Town Centre.
Here’s my review of Martin's Dream Hotel where I stayed.

MONS ITINERARY
Day 1 - Grand Hornu, Neolithic Splint mines at Spiennes
Day 2 - Bois du Luc, Ancient boat lifts & Strepy Theiu
Day 3 - City of Mons - Belfry, Mundaneum, Doudou Museum, Beaux-Arts Mons etc

P.S: I was invited by Visit Mons and Wallonia Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however, the opinions are my own and this post does not advertise the product/service.

UNESCO Sites Events Mons Belgium UNESCO Sites Events Mons Belgium

Things to do in Mons Belgium Pinterest Things to do in Mons Belgium Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

11 comments:

  1. The concept of the original search engines is quite interesting. Do they have those ancient text references -rig veda and stuff? I am quite intrigued by this as I had not heard of this place earlier. The cathedrals here are quite lovely with those stained glass windows and lovely arches. I can see that you are having a time of your life in Belgium. "Envy"

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  2. I'd love to see the Mons Belfry where you can see the workings of the clock, amazing! Love that the beer culture of Belgium is also protected under a special scheme for intangible heritage. We came across a specialist choral singing style in Portugal that was protected in the same way.

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  3. I've never heard of this town and it has more UNESCO Heritage sites than Bruges! Looks fascinating and love that the patron saint is a woman. I've been wanting to see the belfries around the country and this seems like a good place to start!

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  4. Great read and love the history lessons or how it all came to be. I am always fascinated by origins as it just makes the destination or attraction that much more interesting. I had no idea UNESCO's Memory of the World Register existed! How cool is that?

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  5. I've been to Belgium a few times but have never been here. Though the church looks fascinating, and I love the story behind it too. UNESCO never failes to surprise me either, who knew there was a Memory of the World Register?! Mons looks like a great place to see!

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  6. I got kinda interested in the clock construction. Almost always the mechanisms are hidden behind the walls, but here you can actually see them! Would love to see how it works :)

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  7. Wow this makes me excited to fo to Belgium. Will try to see these wonderful spots and unesco sites. The church is my fav of it all!

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  8. Mons seems like a very interesting town especially for history lovers. The steps of the bell tower are quite scary, it will be taxing while getting down I think. And its so amazing about the mobile phone prediction, who could have thought back then.

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  9. Belgium overall is a beautiful country to visit but your post shows a place which is not so popular as bruge and Antwerp so very interesting. The Belfry like most other towns in a Belgium would be my favourite. The lovely churches and sculptures are another thing which are very interesting and must visits. Beautiful photos must say. Thanks for sharing a great post. Amar Singh

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  10. Beautiful photos...... however i never been to that place.... your article made me to plan to trip to this place...

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