I was invited to experience Mons by the province of Hainaut. All opinion are my own.
Have you heard of Mons, Belgium? I hadn’t until recently, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if you hadn’t, either.
If you’re like me, you’ve mostly only heard of Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges in Belgium…all of which are in the northern part of Belgium where they speak Flemish (the Belgian version of Dutch). The southern part, Hainaut, is the French speaking part and was completely unknown to me until we traveled there ourselves.
We partnered up with Visit Hainaut to explore their province in Wallonia and was hit with a big ping of guilt and confusion when we left. Why aren’t more people visiting Mons? It was so easy to get to from Amsterdam (and other well-connected cities in Europe). We took the Thalys train to Brussels and then the Intercity train straight to Mons. The downtown area is postcard perfect, has great food, is walkable, and full of kind people. Not to mention, the food and drink scene is definitely up our alley!
I couldn’t wait to get home and write about our adventure because I want you to go here. I want to go back there and spend more time. If you live in Amsterdam, this is a great long weekend trip to get out of the city and enjoy a lively but not exhausting place that will help you reset.
Things to do in Mons
Get up early and wander the streets.
The downtown area is so beautiful. I’d be happy to get lost in them for a whole day. It’s not *that* big, but you know what I mean. It’s just relaxing to take it all in without the sounds of the city, the soft morning light, and not having to watch too closely where you are going.
Outside the city center, but easy to get to by bus or bike, this lake is surrounded with things to do. You can take a lovely walk around the lake or rent bikes to explore the area. Surrounding the lake you’ll find indoor mini-golf, a small water park, and go-karting for the little adventure-seekers.
Take a street art tour
This was one thing that surprised us about Belgium, is that the towns all seem to appreciate street art. From sculptures, to paintings and installations, various works of art come together to make the city even more inviting. There’s more to look at, more places to explore, and makes art accessible to all.
Book a city Greeter and tour the city
Yes, really, really. I know a lot of you are probably thinking, “Why bother?” First of all, the older I get (gahhhh, I hate saying that) the more I understand that to know a city and to experience a city, some backstory is needed. Besides, we had THE BEST guide. His name is Filip and he was so great. I’m hoping he comes to Amsterdam, so we can show him around! Also, take some time to visit the Belfry, it’s also full of history and worth a quick walk-through.
Buy a gift or souvenir at Mons Où Venir
We always try to find a shop like this when we travel. Mons Où Venir specializes in all things Mons, so you’ll find art from local artists. We’re all about that art and support small local artisans and shops.
Rent a car for a day and take a chocolate-making class at A-Chocola
Not far from Mons you’ll find Ann in her chocolate shop. If there’s one thing you do that you should go out of your way for, it’s this. Ann is a true gem and having a workshop with her was the highlight of our trip. She’s a fellow traveler who loves chocolate and gin…so much so that they have their own small batch gin brand inspired by their travels to different continents. You know we bought some! But we also made our own chocolates with a filling also made with gin. Yeah, it was a good day.
Go to Domaine du Chant d’Eole for lunch in the vineyards and a winery tour
Since you have a car, let’s make the most of it! Head to Domaine du Chant d’Eole to have a memorable lunch among the vineyards. How magical! Their focus is sparkling wine and a rather unique aperitif made from local gin with kumquats. So, I suggest having lunch with the aperitif and some of their sparkling wine (definitely ask for recommendations as to what to pair with). Then take a tour of the property with a final tasting after.
Places to eat in Mons
Not in the old center but worth a visit, this brewery next to a movie theater is more than what it appears to be. The food is phenomenal, and the drinks are awesome at Brasse Temps. If you like beer, you’ll love it and you should get a flight. If you don’t, I’d encourage you to try the cherry beer and/or one of the beer cocktails. That’s what I did and loved it.
If you’re looking for quirky, simple with a touch of gourmet, plus local ingredients, then Re Belge is your place. Don’t expect anything. Be excited to be surprised by whatever you get. It’s a different kind of restaurant and I think you’ll love it.
Masu Restaurant was awarded Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide, so you know it’s good. It’s modern and tad fancy while still being chill. If you like colorful places, this will certainly catch your eye.
La Table du Boucher
We wandered around the street looking for a place that looked good. We ende up finding La Table du Boucher and checked Google ratings (we all do that, right?). People love it. We went in and it felt a bit old fashioned and the main clientele were older men. I felt a bit odd, but was put at ease by the server. The wine is pricey and this place (as we were later told) makes it easy to rack up quite the bill, but somehow we were fine. We got 2 bottles of water, a starter and 2 main dishes and it was about €60. It was plenty of food for us. I must recommend the croquette as a starter. If you are from the Netherlands, let me assure you that this is nothing like what is served here.
What a treat! You’ll find L’Envers on a lively street in the old town. It’s super charming, has great food, and perfect people watching spots. When here, get a G&T with the Gin d’Mons, order the Filet pur de porc a l’Berdouille and end your meal with Eau De Villée. It’s a Mons foodie event in one spot!
Craving Italian? Order take-away from Chez Theo for slow Italian food. Kind of drooling just thinking about it. It’s right across from L’Envers, so you could grab lunch there, and order Italian to take back to your accommodation for dinner if you have a little kitchen.
Bars in Mons recommended by locals
When you’re given recommendations by locals, you take them seriously! And while I didn’t have time to go to a bar, I want to pass these recommendations to you so you can have a good time out with a good drink. They do have terraces, so a sunny day would be perfect…but then again, any day is a good day for a good bar!
Places to stay
We stayed in two different places in Mons because we arrived in the evening and left the next morning to explore the countryside. When we came back, we stayed in the center and it was amazing. So, depending on your needs, either of these two might be just right for you.
Van der Valk hôtel Mons Congress
If you’re looking for a spot right next to the train station, or you are going for a conference, Van der Valk hotel Mons Congress is the spot. From here you can walk into the city center or outside the center to Grand Large.
Martin’s Dream Hotel
Right in the center and down the street from all the lovely restaurants and bars, the placement of Martin’s Dream Hotel could not be beat. While we had a nice and spacious room, we didn’t get one with all the details from it being a former church. Maybe you will if you stay there! But we did have a view of the Belfry which was pretty amazing.
Top foodie things to do in Mons
Try the Gin d’Mons
Try this gin at many restaurants and bars in the city. We enjoyed ours at lunch when we were at L’Envers
Enjoy Eau De Villée
This is a local lemon liqueur that’s delicious and perfect for after a good meal.
Obviously! I went into more depth earlier, but this workshop was the highlight of our trip. I highly recommend you make your own chocolates in this little shop from A-Chocola.
Eat chocolate if you can’t make chocolates
The first company to make the praline type of chocolates has a shop in Mons and it is a must-visit. Head to Neuhaus immediately.
Eat Filet pur de porc a l’Berdouille
It’s the local dish and is oh so delicious. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up loving pork, then I eat dishes like this and I feel like I missed out for most of my life.
Now that you have your Mons city guide, I hope you enjoy it! Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram at @awanderlustforlife if you visit so I can see which tips you used!
Wishing you joy and travels.