Mons, Belgium, Capital of Culture 2015

February 3, 2015

Mons’ year of celebrations to mark its status as joint Capital of Culture (with Pilsen in the Czech Republic) 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

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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.

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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).

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