Charleroi was once a prosperous mining town. This “golden age” ended when the last coal mine closed in the 1960s. The industrial and commercial metropolis of the past had to find a new life. Today, this transformation is in full swing. Numerous innovative and unusual initiatives gracefully harness the inexhaustible energy of citizens and local associations. Urban renewal sites that have been brought to a complete metamorphosis have already earned Charleroi the nickname “the new Berlin”. Whole neighborhoods are rising from the ashes, and the range of stores and markets is flourishing. Emphasis is being placed on expanding the educational offerings, and the cultural sector is also doing well. The people of Charleroi have an enthusiastic, pragmatic vision of their city of the future. It will be green, with a new vision of mobility. A place where people live well and which attracts new residents, visitors , tourists, developers and investors. The future for Charleroi is bright. It is time to discover its assets and move to Charleroi.
The reputation and prosperity of “Le Pays de Charleroi” was based on coal, iron and glass. As the main coal basin of the country, Charleroi was the center of the industrial revolution in Belgium. In the 19th century, it was world-renowned for its highly skilled craftsmen and the many technical innovations that were born there, especially in the steel, machinery, glass and chemical industries. Today, Charleroi still bears traces of this glorious past. Numerous slag heaps give the whole area a distinctive look, as do the typical neighborhoods of small workers’ houses or beautiful residences. In 2012, Charleroi was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the most important mining sites in Wallonia. It also received the European Heritage label. Today it is a museum dedicated to the glass industry and production, with a special focus on the mining disaster at the Marcinelle mine, the largest in Belgian history, in which 262 miners died on August 8, 1956. The three slag heaps on the site lie quietly to this day, now the perfect backdrop for nature walks.
Charleroi is now the greenest city in the region and is known as the “Pays Noir” or “Black Country” of Wallonia. You only have to walk into one of the more than thirty cinder heaps to find out. Nature has regained the upper hand. From a bird’s eye view, you can see that there is much more green space in Charleroi than you might think at first glance. There are 17 parks, 37 kilometers of hedges, 65 hectares of flowerbeds, numerous private gardens and various agricultural areas. A lot of flora and fauna for such an urban environment.
Charleroi is in full bloom. Innovation, technology, education and culture are at the heart of this impressive transformation and the associated economic development. Few cities in Europe have changed as radically as this city. This has earned Charleroi the nickname “the new Berlin“, and its mining past is an endless source of inspiration. Abandoned slag heaps, which are unmistakably associated with the identity of “Carolos”, have been given a new purpose. The lush vegetation that now prevails attracts walkers of all kinds. Fashionable gatherings are taking place there, and new ecological estates will soon be built. Some former factories have been renovated as cultural temples. Rockerill, for example, an “urban center” for popular and alternative art genres, is housed in the old factory buildings of the former steel manufacturer Cockerill-Sambre, to which the name refers. The BPS 22 contemporary art center, which also serves as an exhibition space, occupies an impressive old glass and steel industrial hall that was the fine arts pavilion at the 1911 Charleroi International Industrial and Commercial Exhibition. The new business parks welcome internationally renowned companies from various advanced sectors (biotechnology, information and communication technologies, environmental protection, manufacturing, etc.) They create thousands of jobs at the same time.
Charleroi has a rich heritage of inestimable value. The remarkable bell tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, impresses with its combination of classical and art deco styles. The Passage de la Bourse is a magnificent covered arcade of iron and glass in neoclassical style, dating from the belle époque period. Charleroi-South station has a palatial atmosphere and evokes the old Parisian train stations. Then there is the stunning Art Nouveau architecture that can be admired on Léon Bernus Street with its beautiful residences. In addition to these magnificent buildings, just walk the streets to discover many other hidden gems and surprising architectural gems.
Lovers of theatre, dance, music, photography and urban art will be in their element in the cultural epicentre of Charleroi. There are many activities, from the more classical to the more unusual, and depending on the case, well-known in Wallonia, Belgium, Europe alr also worldwide. The contemporary theatre Théâtre de l’Ancre, the regional cultural centre Eden, the choreographic centre Charleroi Danse and the cultural platform Vecteur are just some of the well-known names. The city has countless creative spaces and cultural centres, too numerous to list here. Common to all the excellent projects that spring up there “like mushrooms after the rain” is an often unusual and innovative approach. One example is Quai10, a space unique in Belgium that includes a cinema, a games room and a pub in an ultra-modern building. The city is also home to several high-quality museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Glass and Marble and Europe’s largest photography museum.
The old mining town with its many contrasts is an attractive mix of historic heritage and industrial buildings, combined with more fashionable and contemporary buildings and facilities. Along with numerous urban renewal projects, the appearance of the metropolis is also evolving. The focus was previously on the Lower Town, but is now shifting to the Upper Town. The quays of the Sambre River were renovated a few years ago and now form a pleasant open space for walking along the water. Place Verte has been redesigned to accommodate the new Rive Gauche shopping centre. Place de la Digue has also undergone a metamorphosis and is now a place for pedestrians, cyclists and vendors.