Mons’ year of celebrations to mark its status as Capital of Culture involves 300 events, ranging from a major Van Gogh exhibition to a maze of 8,000 sunflowers. We look at the highlights, plus the best lunch in town, the quirkiest hotel and a bar with 170 brews on the menu
The first thing you should do is climb a hill. In the town centre, an ancient hidden alley called ruelle César winds up behind old houses to emerge on a summit where you can look down on the old rooftops of Mons. This picturesque southern Belgian town has a population of just 93,000, but numbers are boosted in term time by students attending Mons university and the music conservatory.
It’s easy to forget that Mons was once a mining town, because it’s now more like Silicon Hill. Internet search giant Google has built a huge data centre outside the town, creating a digital community among the abandoned pits. The locals have responded in their own way by creating mock Google street views of Mons, including one with two people paddling canoes down a Mons street pursued by police officers (launches 24 January at mons2015.eu/en/mons-street-review).