things to do in Charleroi

Best things to do in Charleroi: a weekend getaway in the Black Land

Recently, I got an invite from the tourist office of Wallonia to check out Charleroi. And why not? I mostly knew the city for its industrial past and coal mines, but a city trip… never crossed my mind! So, I was incredibly curious to visit the city but also a tad worried. What if a weekend in Charleroi would turn out to be a disappointment?

Fortunately, the city surprised me big time. Besides the evident industrial history that immerses you, you also discover a vibrant art scene, delightful Italian cuisine, and the region boasts quite a few historical gems. Below, I’ll share with you the highlights of Charleroi and what you must see during a weekend getaway!

what to do in Charleroi

8 best things to do in Charleroi

Visit the Photography Museum

Charleroi’s Photography Museum is just a bit outside the city center, housed in an old Carmelite monastery. It’s hard to believe, but this is the largest photography museum in Europe, with a collection of 100,000 works, of which about 800 are on display.

Apart from the permanent collection, taking you through the history of photography, there are also numerous temporary exhibitions showcasing photographers from both Belgium and abroad. During my visit, I was blown away by an exhibition called “Seeing Animals,” where photographer Elliot Ross captured various animals with compelling, penetrating gazes. Also, the intriguing exhibition by Swiss photographer Peter Knapp, who served as artistic director for Elle magazine for many years. Just so you know, these exhibitions run until May 26, 2024.

Explore Contemporary Art at BPS22

BPS22 is a project that transformed an old industrial warehouse into a massive exhibition hall for contemporary art. The owners aim to make art as accessible as possible to everyone. Every first Saturday of the month, you can visit for free.

They change the exhibition every 3 to 4 months. During my visit, there was an exhibition by Banks Violette titled “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull (2005-2023).” Banks is an American artist who creates contemporary black-and-white installations, primarily using salt, LED lights, and a kind of black stone. An exceptionally interesting exhibition running until May 5, 2024.

Discover the Mining History at Le Bois du Cazier

Charleroi is undoubtedly best known for its coal mines. Until 1984, coal was mined here daily. One of these mine sites was Le Bois du Cazier, dating back to the 18th century when Willem van Oranje granted permission to extract coal. Older generations might remember the catastrophic disaster on August 8, 1956, when 262 miners lost their lives in a mine shaft fire.

Today, the old mine site has become a museum and memorial. You’ll learn about the mining conditions and the lives of the miners. After World War II, many Italians (around 70,000!) migrated to Belgium to work in the mines, sometimes with overly optimistic expectations of the work. They lived in barracks on the mine site, and a significant number of Italians were among the victims in the mine disaster.

Did you know that horses also worked in the mines? They pulled coal carts and were allowed to come up only once a year.

At Le Bois du Cazier, you not only learn about the coal mine but also visit the glass museum and the industry museum. Every first Saturday of the month, you can attend a blacksmith initiation workshop. Admission to both the industry museum and the glass museum is included in a visit to the mine site. Don’t miss out on this!

Walk the Street Art Trail

What do you do with all those dilapidated industrial sites in Charleroi? You turn them into works of art! In and around the city, you’ll find a lot of graffiti and street art. The tourist office offers two different walking tours leading you to these artworks.

The Carolo Street Art Tour guides you through the city center of Charleroi along the most beautiful artworks. There are about 19 pieces to see. The whole tour is approximately 5 km long, so plan at least 2 hours if you want to see them all.

Outside the city center, along the banks of the Samber River, there’s a second trail. To start this one, take the metro to the “Moulin” station, where the route begins. If you sit on the right side of the metro, you’ll have the best view of the industrial sites and some attractions you pass. From the metro station, it’s about a 5 km walk back to Charleroi, following the river Samber and passing a chapel ship, the village of Marchienne-au-Pont, and a large graffiti artwork.

Honestly? I found the second route a bit lacking in street art. You mainly walk through the industrial area, which is interesting in its own way!

Hike around the Terrils of Charleroi

Terrils are large hills formed by the waste from the mines. Everything excavated that wasn’t coal was dumped on these hills. Nowadays, most of these hills are reclaimed by nature and are often turned into nature reserves.

Charleroi is surrounded by quite a few of these terrils. When you take a walk over these hills, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the region. I did the 5 km long “Promenade entre fer, charbon et eau des terrils.” Just outside the city center, you walk for about 2 hours over four different terrils. The walk is perfect for beginners, but there’s some climbing up and down occasionally. Sturdy walking shoes are a must.

The best view is at the end of the walk, on the Saint-Théodore terril. This is also the steepest climb, but with a beautiful reward at the end: a 360-degree view of the iron and steel factories around Charleroi. Follow the red rectangles starting at Rue du Chemin de Fer 29. You can easily get there by bus.

Tip: If you’re in the mood for a really big hike, consider the Boucle Noire. This walk takes you all around the city over all the terrils. So, you’ll be occupied for a whole day.

Take a look inside the Saint-Christophe Church

The main church of Charleroi is undoubtedly the Saint-Christophe Church. You can’t miss it when you walk by, as the church looks quite impressive from the outside with its huge dome. Inside, it’s not what you would expect. The church is mainly made of concrete. The golden altar, on the other hand, dazzles you with its grandeur. A beautiful mix of the industrial city of Charleroi and the bombastic adornments of the Church.

Saint-Christophe church in Charleroi

Admire the City Hall of Charleroi

Next to the Saint-Christophe Church is the City Hall of Charleroi. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the city. Behind the City Hall is also the belfry of the city, an imposing tower that somewhat pales in comparison to its counterparts in Flanders and other Walloon cities. As far as I know, unfortunately, it’s not possible to climb the belfry. Otherwise, you would probably enjoy a beautiful view.

City hall of Charleroi

Visit the Museum of Fine Arts

Yes indeed, Charleroi is the city of art museums! Another one that belongs on the list is the Museum of Fine Arts. Unlike art museums in other cities, this one in Charleroi is mainly focused on art related to the region. The permanent collection works with three different themes: Connection to the Earth, Openness to the World, and Universal Scope of the Word. Sounds abstract? Some artworks are too! In addition to the permanent collection, there are always several temporary exhibitions that change themes every few months.

things to do in Charleroi

What to do in the surroundings of Charleroi

If you have a car and don’t mind leaving the city, you shouldn’t miss these attractions nearby!

Visit the Ruins of Aulne Abbey

I consider the ruins of Aulne Abbey as the little brother of Villers-la-Ville. They are smaller, less well-maintained, and could definitely use a makeover, but they are no less spectacular! At the entrance, you pay a small fee for your visit, and in return, you get an information booklet to guide you through the ruins.

You won’t need more than an hour for your visit. Afterward, you can head to the abbey’s brasserie, where you can taste a delicious local beer. Every Sunday, something is organized in the brasserie. During my visit, I enjoyed freshly made flammkuchen and folk music.

Aulne Abbey

Walk around the Hanging Gardens of Thuin

Not far from Charleroi, you’ll find the town of Thuin. This town is mainly known for its hanging gardens. What does that look like? A series of terraced steps filled with plants and even some mini vineyards. You have a beautiful view from there, and you can also walk through them. At the tourist office, you’ll find a brochure with three different city walks, all passing through the hanging gardens. Be aware, walking through the gardens involves some serious climbing up and down.

hanging gardens of Thuin

Stroll through the Old Abbey of Villers

Founded in 1146, the Villers site was once a thriving Cistercian abbey. The monks were forced to flee during the French Revolution, and the abbey fell into disrepair. Today, you can still find the impressive remains of the abbey where you can freely wander. An audio guide tells you more about the history and the different buildings. The highlight is undoubtedly the old church, providing the perfect backdrop for an impressive photo!

Tip: Make sure to plan your visit when it’s not raining, as the tour takes place outdoors.

How to travel to Charleroi

Charleroi is easily accessible by both car and train. If you’re coming by car, park in the city center in the underground parking garage Rive Gauche. The city is also easily reachable by train. It’s about a 50-minute journey from Bruxelles-Midi, and there’s at least one direct train every hour.

The city center of Charleroi is easy to explore on foot. If you plan to visit something outside the city, a car is definitely the easiest option. However, there are also good bus connections. I did all the activities in Charleroi by bus and tram!

Where to Stay in Charleroi

I spent my weekend at the Novotel Charleroi Centrum, a modern hotel in the city center, right next to the large shopping center and close to the station. Very convenient! The hotel is a bit on the business side, so it’s not for you if you’re looking for a charming B&B. The rooms are definitely fine and spacious enough, the breakfast is great (with even freshly squeezed orange juice!), and the staff is friendly.

More accommodation options can be found below:

Great Restaurants in Charleroi

Le Luxembourg

This unique restaurant catapults you 100 years back in time. Not only does the facade look like it comes straight out of a movie, but the interior with its fabric-covered benches, golden railings, and cozy atmosphere is also noteworthy. On the menu, they serve simple Belgian dishes at a very reasonable price, beautifully presented and delicious! Very nice for lunch or dinner.


Bistro Quai10 is located in the same building as the Charleroi cinema. So, you can easily combine a delicious meal with a night out at the movies. In French, though. I didn’t find the bistro particularly cozy personally, but the food was excellent, and the tiramisu was homemade.

L’Atelier de la Manufacture Urbaine

This brasserie not only offers delicious meals, but you can also taste one of the many homemade beers. On weekdays, they offer a lunch menu for only €20 (a steal!), but the regular menu and the weekly specials are all delicious. I ordered the cod of the week with fish eggs and steamed vegetables, delicious!


The tastiest Italian restaurant in Charleroi? Without a doubt, Socio-Pâtes. Here, you can indulge in a delicious portion of pasta (yes, only pasta!). Beforehand, you can treat yourself to delicious antipasti, and the dessert menu is also noteworthy! Tip: the cannoli are delicious! Afterward, we were even offered a limoncello on the house. It can’t get any better, right? I would happily go back here!

Brasserie de la Digue

Need a quick lunch? You’ll find it at Brasserie de la Digue. The kitchen is simple, but the dishes are definitely tasty. The waiter even speaks Flemish! And that’s a remarkable thing in Charleroi.

Have you been to Charleroi and have more tips? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top