Hidden Belgium: Passage de la Bourse

Hidden Belgium: Passage de la Bourse

Charleroi has been named the ugliest city in Europe. But don’t let that put you off.

The industrial city has some remarkable buildings like the Passage de la Bourse. This beautiful curved arcade is hidden down a side street near Charleroi Sud station. It was built in 1891 in a striking neo-classical style with elegant shops on the ground floor and apartments above. Following an eight-year restoration, it relaunched in 2017 as part of the new Rive Gauche shopping centre.

Most of the old shops have gone, including the cluttered second hand bookstore Fafouille, which stubbornly survived here for more than 30 years before the owner finally gave up in 2019. But the arcade is coming back to life under Charleroi’s dynamic mayor Paul Magnette who last year launched a major plan to restore the building.

So maybe there is hope for the ugliest city in Europe.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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