In this article we are exploring the activities available in the province of Hainaut, the Westernmost province of Wallonia.
Belgium is a country known well for its culture, tradition, food and beer. At least for me it is anyway. And we’ll be covering all of these in other articles and videos, so watch out for those.
But first, we start with the…
Activities in Hainaut, Belgium:
From the UK, Hainaut is easiest reached by plane to Brussels, or overland by car from the neighbouring countries. Most of the cities and towns in Hainaut, such as Mons, Charleroi and Chimay are connected by regular trains running direct from Brussels Airport. For this trip, we were based in Mons, which is the most central town for exploring Hainaut, and we hired a car.
It certainly wasn’t something I had associated with Belgium, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of activities on offer in this region, and we weren’t even exploring in summer! I’ve focused on just a few, all of which are featured in the video above.
We headed to the Ice Mountain Adventure Park, where the first activity we’d be trying is Indoor Skiing, on real snow! Yes, that’s right, I thought you could only find that in the mountains. The snow is made from the process of water being sprayed and cooled at lightning speeds, meaning there’s always a thick layer of snow. You don’t have to travel over to the mountains to ski on real snow, brilliant.
Ice Mountain has two slopes to chose from, one for beginners and one for the more experienced, with the beginner’s slope having an easy roll carpet to get you to the top. There’s even small jumps and a rail grind to try on the more advanced slope. Prices for adults start from €17 for an hour or €42 for the day, and there are monthly subscriptions and weekend offers (such as 2 hours for €25 plus spaghetti Bolognese) available too. Lessons are available from €55 and you have the choice of private of group lessons, with all the equipment available to hire too. For me, I love to ski so to have this available for a quick hit of skiing is brilliant, and after you can enjoy a Belgian beer and a bite to eat in the restaurant, which overlooks the slopes.
I’ve never tried indoor skydiving, and if I’m completely honest it’s never been high on my list. That’s because on paper, it doesn’t look like that much of a thrill, and I’m a real adrenaline junkie! I was so wrong. As I casually sat in the briefing listening to the safety precautions, I realised that this is pretty crazy, and I had to pay attention. Don’t get me wrong, the instructor is always there to make sure you don’t get blown away, and there is a second person controlling the fan speed.
I watched the others before me, and honestly my heart was racing. Especially after you see a couple of people struggling to keep their balance, and let’s face it, mine was being filmed for our video! It was then my turn and before I knew it, I was flying! Now I guess a weightless hovering is a more accurate description, but it was brilliant. I found you really must focus on only making subtle movements otherwise your balance is off, and you’ll crash into the side. So, once you master the skill it’s a real buzz to be effectively floating in the air whilst people watch on with a coffee in their hand! Then the most fun part is when the instructor grips you and whizzes you around and up and down. Far more of an adrenaline rush than I expected.
Prices start at €59 for two flights (children €49) and up to €119 for 5. This price includes all the safety equipment and your detailed lesson before you head to the wind tunnel.
Battle Karting can only be described as a cross between regular go-karting and the video game Super Mario Kart! It all takes place in electric karts controlled by sensors linked to the game, you race around a track that’s projected onto the floor from above. Your position on the track, in the race and in respect to other karts it determined by the software behind the game. It should prevent you from crashing! Sounds intriguing right? Well it is, and it’s also a lot of fun.
After a briefing and introduction to the different games and rules, you jump in the karts and away you go. Our first race was a typical circuit format, where you race each other around the track, but with a twist! There are several bonuses to pick up along the way, such as turbo boosts, rockets to shoot down opponents, and even a bonus to leave a puddle of oil to slow down your opponents. My next favourite mode was Battle Snake, where you pick up fruits to lengthen your tail, a bit like the old game of snake on your phone. You can’t cross anyone else’s snake and the winner is the person with the longest tail! Other games involve a virtual football pitch where you hit the ball in the oppositions net and covering the grid in your teams’ colour.
Each game has points allocated to the winner, and an overall winner is crowned. I can honestly say, as a keen go-karter, I wasn’t expecting this to be such great fun! Prices start at €6 for 5 minutes up to €36 for 30 minutes, it’s located close to the town of Mouscron and only 20 minutes from Lille.
We passed a lot of open countryside and beautiful forest begging to be explored. But from the village of Ellezelle, you can walk the inviting 6km starting at the Maison du Pays des Colline. “Le Sentier de l’Etrange” is a really enjoyable and not challenging walk, which passes art sculptures by the artist Watkyne, all in the breathtaking surroundings of the green Hainaut countryside. These sculptures make for a great photo and add a new element of enjoyment, ensuring you take in each one. Apparently, every year there are more added, meaning it’s worth coming back to find the new ones.
PASS Science Park
Our next activity was exploring PASS Science Park, which has a number of interactive exhibitions for old and young to discover science and learn something new. It’s located in Wallonia, just a short journey from Mons. Interestingly, PASS is also a regeneration project built in an area of Hainaut known for its coal mines, in fact there used to be hundreds of coal mines here. Some of the coal mining history is recognised inside, and it still represents the shape of the old coal mining building.
You’ll also find several special exhibitions and workshops, mostly put on for education or art purposes. I was impressed with the outside, you can learn about how the landscape was formed from the “slag heap”, which has now been colonised by plants! Finally, there’s a network of tracks and studded paths to explore by bike, with a variety of interesting artwork along the way.
You can buy tickets to PASS online, and they are a reasonable €15 for adults, €10 for 6-18 year olds and free for children under 5 years.
Triobalade tour of Mons
For a unique way to explore the city of Mons, I really recommend you try the Triobalade. It’s basically a tour for 1, 2 or 3 people on a three wheeling Tuk Tuk! You can choose a tour length from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Our driver Ludo gave us a fantastic tour which included the Grande Place, information about the Legend of the DouDou, and myths about the city, including why you should rub the bald monkey’s head with your left hand. For more information about the culture of Hainaut, make sure you watch our other video and article.
So tell me, were you expecting that there was this much to do in Hainaut? I know I certainly wasn’t.
It was a pleasant surprise, that on top of the things I was expecting, such as the amazing culture and beer, there was something more. Something to please us adrenaline junkies, somewhere to escape to go skiing, on real snow, some beautiful nature and a place to let out the inner child in you (on the Battle Kart field!).