The region immediately southwest of Mons is known as the Borinage, a poor, densely populated working-class area that, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, was one of Belgium’s three main coalfields, an ugly jigsaw of slag heaps and mining villages. The mining is finished, but the cramped terraced housing remains, a postindustrial sprawl that extends toward the French frontier. There are, however, a couple of attractions that may tempt you out here, specifically a house that was once lived in by the painter Vincent van Gogh, and the Grand Hornu, a very real remnant of the region’s industrial past.



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