Discover Benelux, Issue 27, March 2016

Page 12

Discover Benelux | Mons, European Capital of Culture | See, Do and Discover


If you are planning a visit to Hainaut, consider staying at the Auberges de Jeunesse in Mons. This top-notch hostel is centrally located, just 100 metres from the main square. It provides easy access to major events, including the St George festival with its Doudou procession. This UNESCO-listed event on Trinity Sunday involves a staging of the legendary battle between St. George and the dragon. According to Alessandro Rastelli, marketing and communications executive at the Auberge, the hostel attracts people of “all ages and origins, looking for pleasant, reasonably priced accommodation and a place to meet people”. As well

as hosting guests, they can organise touristic and educational activities. There are also themed evenings and trips in the surrounding region. The best thing about staying here, says Rastelli, is meeting people of all nationalities. The Auberge has a restaurant as well as kitchens for guests to prepare food in. Fully-equipped meeting rooms for seminars and workshops are also available. Furthermore, the hostel organises frequent events for guests, such as quizzes and vintage clothing sales. In total there are 115 beds in 29 rooms. Prices start at 18 euros for a bed in a shared room, going up to 46 euros for a private room. A daily organic breakfast is included for all guests. Special rates are offered to those under 26, and there is a ten per cent reduction for members of the Auberges de Jeunesse network, which has nine hostels in total in Belgium. Children under 16 stay for half price.

Millennial city in a dreamy land TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: SOIGNIES

With its fantastically well-preserved city centre, Roman collegiate church and unique blue limestone, extracted for over a century and found at every corner of the city, Soignies is a spectacular destination to visit in Wallonia. Located in western Belgium, Soignies is rich in castles, farms and beautiful rural landscapes, making it a perfect place for hiking enthusiasts.

On top of this, its local produce, authentic restaurants and family-owned shops ensure it is an exciting culinary and cultural adventure. One of Soignies’ highlights is its thousandyear-old collegiate church of Saint-Vincent, built in a primitive Roman style and distinguished by its two imposing towers. Entirely furnished in a baroque style, a visit to admire its interior is a must (group visits are organised on request). While initially surrounded by thick city walls that were dismantled in 1677, the city centre is worth a thorough exploration. Start at the magnificent Hotel de Ville, built at the end of the 19th century by a rich industrialist, pass by the gothic-style Spanish house and end in the old cemetery, transformed today into a public park. Make sure you cross the Rue de Mons for souvenirs and local delicacies (think Belgian chocolate).

12 | Issue 27 | March 2016

What makes Soignies truly special is its evolution alongside the extraction of the worldfamous bluestone. For over 125 years, this stone has been the pride of the region, making Soignies the European centre of the bluestone. Wait no more to explore this fascinating city and its surroundings.