Mike Knell

photo: Mike Knell

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Overview

In the heart of the French-speaking province of Hainaut, Mons is known for its military connections. It was the site of one of the larger battles of World War I and the location of one of the most important American victories in World War II. Plus, since 1967, it has been the headquarters of NATO’s Supreme Command – SHAPE – who occupy a low-slung compound just outside the town at Camp Casteau. As a result, Mons’ pleasant small-town feel is supplemented by a distinctly cosmopolitan air, due to the large numbers of American and other expats who live here. It’s not a town with a lot of compelling sights, but you could do worse than enjoy a ...

In the heart of the French-speaking province of Hainaut, Mons is known for its military connections. It was the site of one of the larger battles of World War I and the location of one of the most important American victories in World War II. Plus, since 1967, it has been the headquarters of NATO’s Supreme Command – SHAPE – who occupy a low-slung compound just outside the town at Camp Casteau. As a result, Mons’ pleasant small-town feel is supplemented by a distinctly cosmopolitan air, due to the large numbers of American and other expats who live here. It’s not a town with a lot of compelling sights, but you could do worse than enjoy a coffee on its central Grande-Place before making a tour of the fifteenth-century Hotel-de-Ville (be sure to stroke the monkey on the tower here – with your left hand! – as this will bring a whole year of good luck). There’s a lovely church too, and there are lots of attractions in the countryside around. On the outskirts of town you can visit the house where Vincent Van Gogh lodged in the late-1870s, and only a few miles away is Binche, which explodes into life every February with one of Europe’s – indeed the world’s – most colorful, noisy, and downright bizarre annual carnivals: not to be missed if you’re here at the right time.

Martin Dunford
About the Expert

Martin Dunford is the author or coauthor of eight Rough Guides: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Brussels, Belgium & Luxembourg, Italy, Rome, Naples & the Amalfi Coast, and New York City.

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Martin Dunford for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in northern Belgium, approximately 40 miles from the capitol city of Brussels.
  • Language: Flemish and French
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, summer, early fall, Carnival