Charleroi: A visit to the ugliest city in Europe

I’ve recently read that Charleroi was voted as the ugliest and most depressing city of Europe from the readers of dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant. This town is just 40 miles south of Brussels, having 200,000 residents and struggling with a 30% unemployment rate and worrying levels of crime. When I visited Charleroi, I had no idea for any of these facts but from the moment I stepped my foot there I felt a lot of negativity and depression in the atmosphere. Maybe you can blame it on the dreary housing complexes and defunct industries…

The reason I came to Charleroi

My trip had a purpose: to visit Bruges in holiday season. My flight had arrived few minutes before midnight on Brussels South Charleroi airport. So I decided to spend the night in Charleroi to a hotel next to the station and the morning after I would hop on a train and go to Bruges. This whole plan was just to avoid inconvenience at the night of my flight.


After the experience I had, I think it would be better if I had took the bus from the airport and go straight to Bruges. My hours on Charleroi were  a waste of time. Nothing there to see, nothing to do, nothing to admire. The night there was scary and insecure and the day was boring. But I didn’t let all of these to get me down or change my mood cause generally I’m a positive person. So, I’m presenting you below, the experience I had in my short visit in Charleroi in a positive mood.

Short description of the city

Charleroi has two parts, Ville Haute (upper town) and Ville Basse (down town). The area I stayed is Ville Basse. The most picturesque part of this area is the point where Sambre river passes through. On the one side there are beautiful tree lines and from the other side is the building of the central train station, which is a very beautiful building from 1874 and renovated in 2011.





I stayed for 1 night at the hotel Hotel Ibis Charleroi Centre Gare. It cost me 70 for 1 night, 2 persons without breakfast. I chose it for its ideal location next to the train station. The room was small, but for 1 night it was bearable. But personally I liked the view from the window when I woke up. That was the only beautiful thing I saw in Charleroi, my room’s view. The elegant bridge above the river with the combination of the train station building and the background of the sunset. It made my day that morning.

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I didn’t got the change to eat an appropriate meal in this city, so I cannot have an opinion if they have a good food option. The only meal I had the chance and the time to enjoy  in Charleroi is the breakfast in one of the most widely known chain-brand coffee shop in Belgium, Panos café.

So in conclusion, this town is not for tourists, not for travelers. I’m not gonna say it’s the ugliest city of Europe but definitely one of the worst. Just imagine that I went there during holiday season and all I felt there was not joy, but misery, insecurity and other negative emotions. So if you happen to get there because of the low-cost fare airport, don’t visit the city. Just hop onto a train or a bus and go to a city more beautiful and interesting. That’s the honest truth and I had to tell it!

Au revoir!



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