Wonderful Wallonia

If you’re a wannabe wanderer or greenhorn globetrotter, then the Take 12 Trips Challenge is the perfect initiative for you.

The Take 12 Trips Challenge actively encourages those with a wanderlust to take a trip away each month. Now, these trips don’t necessarily mean a holiday or short break, or even a day trip away; in fact, you don’t even need to leave your hometown. Perhaps your trip could be paying a visit to the museum around the corner that you’ve never made time for, or hitting a local park that you haven’t visited before.

However, we’re focussing on European getaways on our blog, and have already suggested a number of prime destinations so far. This week, we’re looking at Wallonia, the francophone region of southern Belgium, with its Gallic charms and wonderful cities to discover.

So let’s get to know Wallonia, and discover what Belgium’s hidden gem has to offer.

(Header image credit: WBT JPRemy)


Perched atop a large mount, Mons is a city which remains rooted in the past, but also casts an eye to the future too. It was named one of two European Capitals of Culture in 2015 (the other being Pilsen in the Czech Republic) and the city’s slogan, “where technology meets culture”, reflects its dedication to moving forwards without neglecting its heritage.

Speaking of heritage, Mons’ most famous resident was a certain Mr Vincent Van Gogh, who lived in Mons while attempting to become a teacher. These days you can still see his old house, Maison Van Gogh, and gain a fascinating glimpse into his life at the time.

Each year, the Ducasse Rituelle parade celebrates the story of St George and the dragon. The parade features the ceremonial slaying of a model dragon, as well as a huge fight in the street with cows’ bladders. Legend has it that the city was suffering from an outbreak of the Plague, and after the first ever Ducasse Rituelle, the Plague disappeared!

Art fans can take in the Beaux Arts du Mons (BAM) museum, with a range of temporary and ever-changing exhibits detailing fine art from all over the world, but primarily Belgium, Holland and France.

Mons also has a wartime heritage, and one which will particularly interest British travellers, as the Battle of Mons was the site of the first British casualty in World War I. To this day, Private John Parr is buried in St Symphorien Military Cemetery, just outside of the city.

Once you’ve explored the city, settle down in a Grand Place café for some hearty Belgian food, or take your pick from La Pompe Benoit’s unrivalled choice of Trappist beers.

(Image credit: Gregory Mathelot)


Liege is a university city, and one of the biggest in the Wallonia region. Like most classic European university cities, Liege maintains a strong, conservative hold of its heritage and culture, but is also home to vivacious, vibrant nightlife from its student population.

What better way to discover Wallonia than with a trip to the Musée de la Vie Wallonne, a museum dedicated to life in the region?

The museum takes an amble through Wallonia’s past, including exhibits where you can see living and working spaces from different eras of history, plus old photos which show how Liege has changed over the years. The highlight of the museum is particularly gruesome, with a real guillotine and the embalmed head of the last man to be executed by it.

Don’t be put off by the ugly architecture of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège, as the real beauty lies on the inside, including famous paintings from French artists and more, as well as images of Wallonia from over a hundred years ago. Art fans will also enjoy the Grand Curtius, which attempts to explain the whole history of art from stone paintings to modern art.

For an unforgettable view of the city, climb the 373 steps to the top of Montagne de Bueren, where you can find a war memorial. Alternatively, make a day of it and climb the less-strenuous stairway that leads past Terrace des Minimes, where you can stop for a bite to eat at a bar or restaurant on the way.

(Image credit: Alain Janssens)


Naumur is a town with a great deal of military history, as the home of what was once one of Europe’s most important military citadels. The striking citadel survives to this day, and Naumur is one of the most impressive walled towns in Europe.

While the town’s military heritage is still undeniably present, things are a little bit more peaceful in Naumur these days, and its naturally beautiful location, set among valleys and greenery, makes it an ideal destination for a relaxing trip.

One of Naumur’s main attractions is the Church of Saint Loup which was once described as “a sinister and gallant marvel” by Baudelaire. It’s easy to understand why once you’ve seen the deep purple marble columns and black stone arches; it’s an imposing figure for sure.

The main square, Place d’Armes, was lovingly restored after the Germans destroyed it in World War I and features a small throne where each year the King of the Liars is named as part of the Fêtes de Wallonie festival.

If you’re looking for food for thought, as well as just food, head to the Fraise Museum, which is dedicated to strawberry foodstuffs. Whether that’s strawberry jams, beers, liquors or other produce, they’re sure to make great gifts and souvenirs of your trip.

(Image credit: Stephane Mignon)


One of Belgium’s best-kept secrets, Tournai’s wonderful architecture has seen it grow in recent years to become more and more popular with tourists. As you explore the centre of Tournai, you won’t be surprised to discover that this is Belgium’s oldest city. Head to the tourism office and you can take a trip through time, with a multimedia film about the history of the city.

The city’s main attraction is the Notre Dame Cathedral, with its five imposing towers looming in the skyline, visible from almost anywhere in the city. In 2000 this was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, showcasing its importance to the city.

Alternatively, climb the 300+ steps up to the top of the city’s belfry and you can enjoy a stunning vista of the entirety of Tournai, including the cathedral.

And in the end, relax with a beer and some hearty Belgian grub in Grand Place, with a selection of cafés, restaurants and bars for you to enjoy.

(Image credit: J. Jeanmart)

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