Urban tour, Charleroi
‘I discovered the view of Charleroi from the top of a slagheap. It’s impressive to see former steelworks, very green natural sites and a vibrant city all at the same time’, explains Alix, 25 years old, from Arras. Urbex, urban exploration, allows you to find hidden gems where you don’t expect. It’s growing in Charleroi Métropole.
Themed tours of Charleroi are a major success. They focus on comic books, street art or the wealth of architecture, in particular. Today, the history tour of the city marked by its industrial past, presented in an unusual way, is in high demand from tourists and day-trippers. These tours, organised by different Charleroi personalities, take them to completely unusual corners.
Strolls in unexplored corners
‘Urbex’ strolls cross a number of very different landscapes. They pass through the Charleroi city centre discovering new and old architecture, green spaces, such as woodland and slagheaps, abandoned sites, the banks of the Sambre and even through historic districts marked by the arrival of foreign workers, in particular Italian workers, who came to help the Belgians with the work in the mines and factories.
‘I was passing through Belgium for two days, I was looking for an unusual tour. We were familiar with Charleroi’s reputation. So we decided to visit it to see for ourselves’, says Alix, on a visit to Charleroi for the day. ’I find the city very interesting now, I am impressed by some architectural buildings that I wouldn’t have seen if I had been walking around by myself’.
You discover buildings that you don’t generally take the time to look at without a guide
A green city, despite its industrial activity
For a few years, the Office du Tourisme du Pays de Charleroi a has signed 4 slagheaps, located next to the city centre. Visitors can explore them along a Grande Randonnée (GR) path, in a group or with a guide. ‘The climb is quite tough, it’s slippery, you’re not used to it, but once you’re at the top, the view is worth it. You don’t realise that there are so many green spaces in Charleroi’, explains Maud, a new resident of Charleroi on discovering her city.
The view from the slagheap allows you to see the city from another perspective
‘It’s really close to the shops. 20 minutes ago, we were just next to the shopping centre and now we’re looking out over the city’, she continues. In general, the image of the city, completely different seen from above, leaves a mark on participants.
A city marked by history
Charleroi stands out primarily thanks to its particular raw, concrete architecture, as well as its industrial heritage. Tourists quickly discover these traces of history along the quays of the Sambre and in the different districts around the railway station. ‘I work in the industrial sector, I was interested in seeing the city with this past and its transformation which is so close to my daily life’, says Alix.
The city centre is currently undergoing a transformation. Downtown has been transformed with the arrival of the Rive Gauche shopping centre, youth hostel, restaurants and the development of the quays. Other development projects, uptown as well as the length of the ring road, are planned for the coming years.
Anecdotes about the residents of Charleroi Métropole
In addition to the atypical views and the unique architecture enjoyed by visitors, stories about the Charleroi people captivate explorers. ‘I explain what has happened in the city, unusual encounters, anecdotes, traces of the past that you can still see today if you pay attention’, explains Nicolas Buissart, artist guide of Safari Urbain his tour delights with its originality: “I haven’t made anything up: I just tell stories and make a few jokes in unusual places in the town and its surrounding area’.
Visitors really enjoy anecdotes about the past of Charleroi
These urbex tours attract all types of people. Both tourists passing through and residents of Charleroi Métropole or Belgians looking for a change of scenery. There are around 11,000 visitors per year, a figure which should grow in the coming years
These themed tours are evolving more and more. They enable you to explore Charleroi Métropole in an unusual way.
Maison du tourisme du Pays de Charleroi
Place Charles II 20
+32 (0)71 86 14 14
+32 (0)494 98 26 43
©Video/Reed & Leslie Artamonow