51km (32 miles) SW of Brussels; 66km (41 miles) W of Namur; 43km (27 miles) SE of Tournai

Hainaut's provincial capital (pop. 91,000) started out as a fortified camp constructed by Julius Caesar's Roman legions. Today, it's home to SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). Between those military bookends, it saw a rich and eventful history. The Roman camp, set in a landscape of rolling hills (mons means "mount" in Latin), became a town when St. Waudru, daughter of a local nobleman, founded a convent here in the 600s. Mons was fortified in the 12th century by Count Baldwin IV of Flanders, and again by the Dutch in the early 1800s.

Its present character reflects its more recent history as a center of industrialization and coal mining. The Old Town, on and around the central Grand-Place, contains civic and religious buildings and homes that date from the 11th century onward.