Things to see and do in Charleroi, Belgium

  • City Breaks
  • Belgium
  • 4 min read
Things to see and do in Charleroi, Belgium

Discover the largest city in Wallonia with LeShuttle. Charleroi has a rich industrial heritage and is a great base to explore the region.

Charleroi may not be as well known as Ghent, Bruges or Brussels, but it is a Belgian city well worth investigating. Boasting two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it has turned its industrial history into major tourist attractions, and holds plenty of interest for urban explorers, fans of photography and those looking for an authentic Belgian experience.

Charleroi is also an ideal base to explore the rest of Wallonia, which is full of cultural highlights and beautiful landscapes.

Where is Charleroi?

Charleroi is in the Belgian province of Hainault in Wallonia, about 60 km south of Brussels.

Driving to Charleroi from Calais

It takes just under three hours to drive to Charleroi from our Calais terminal (toll-free). 

Sightseeing and activities in Charleroi

A church or cathedral and other buildings around a city square

Visit the Church of St Christopher

With a prominent position on the Place Charles II in the centre of the old town, the Église Saint-Christophe de Charleroi is a church built in the Baroque style. It has a distinctive and large cupola, but its main attraction inside is an incredible gold mosaic behind the choir, created as part of the post-war renovations in the church.

Other significant features added in this period are the tall, narrow stained glass windows, frescoes depicting the Beatitudes, a splendid rose window and organ renovated in the early 21st century.

The Bois du Cazier museums

Colliery building set amid a wooded area with a city scape in the background

Charleroi sits in a coal mining basin and was known for its heavy industries of coal, metal and glass. The former coal mine of Bois du Cazier has UNESCO World Heritage status as one of the major mining sites of Wallonia, and its museums are fascinating for anyone with an interest in industrial heritage and history.

The museums of Industry and Glass show how mining, glass-making, metal-working and other industrial activity developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, and another tells the story of the 1956 disaster at the mine, when 262 miners were killed in a fire in one of Belgium’s worst peacetime tragedies.

Workshops and a forge demonstrate how metal and glass was made, and there are guided nature walks on the famous slag heaps now home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The Bois du Cazier is open every day to the public except Mondays all year round.

The world-famous photography museum

Housed in a former Carmelite convent on the outskirts of the city, the Musée de la Photographie is perhaps Charleroi’s most renowned attraction. It is the largest photography museum in Europe, with more than a thousand photos on display at any one time, showcasing the technical diversity and development of the medium over nearly two hundred years.

You will find the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, René Magritte and Edward Weston here, among hundreds of other photographers, along with collections of vintage cameras, interactive features for children and a recreation of a 19th-century photo studio and darkroom. Headline exhibitions by established and new photographers are held throughout the year.  

Museum of Fine Arts

Charleroi’s Musée des Beaux Arts houses a large collection of visual artworks from Charleroi and the Hainault area from the last two hundred years, ranging across painting, ceramics, photography and sculpture. Significant items from the museum’s collections include works by Magritte and Pierre Paulus, both of whom were born locally or were inspired by the region.

The charming town hall building

A circular city square showing a church, town hall, belfry and city streets

The Art Deco exterior of the Hôtel de Ville promises much, and the inside does not disappoint. From the marble staircases to the splendid murals and wood-panelled council chamber, Charleroi’s town hall reflects the wealth and power of the city as it was in the 1930s, still in its industrial heyday. There are some charming curios, like the effigies of the giants of Charleroi. The building is usually open to the public.

Tour de Gosselies

To the north of the city centre in the Gosselies district is the Tower of Gosselies, the only remnant of a fortress that existed here in the 15th century. It seems rather incongruous amongst the modern buildings that surround it, but is worth a look. The tower has been restored and it is possible for visitors to view the original vaults of the tower and some original features.

The Airspace indoor skydiving centre

For pure, unadulterated fun there is one place in Charleroi you really must visit. Not just for adrenaline junkies, the AIRSPACE indoor skydiving centre near the airport gives the experience of a freefall ride. Whether you are a skydiving enthusiast, in training for a skydive or just want to know what jumping from a plane flying at 4,000 metres actually feels like, step into the centre’s wind tunnel! It is a really fun thing to do for children and the whole family.

The Belfry

Top of a belfry with a modern clock on two sides of the tower

The belfry is part of the town hall and shares its Art Deco look. It was built in 1936 and is the most modern of the Belfries of Belgium and France included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Every hour the 47 bells of the Belfry chime a Belgian folk song!  Guided tours are available by appointment and there are limited public opening hours, so it is worth checking with the Charleroi tourist office (also on the Place Charles II).

Drive to Charleroi with LeShuttle

Your journey to Charleroi starts with LeShuttle and a crossing from Folkestone to Calais in only 35 minutes. Find out more about the other Belgian cities you can visit, all of which are within easy reach of our Calais terminal.

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