Ath is a French-speaking town of about 29,000 inhabitants (2019) in the center of western Hainaut, mid-way between Brussels and Lille in France.
- 1 Tourism Office of Ath, Rue de Pintamont 18 (opposite the church of Saint-Julien), ☏ +32 68 26-51-70, fax: +32 68 26-51-79, email@example.com. Tuesday-Friday: 10:00 to 17:00 (open till 18:00 from 1st June-30th September); Weekends and holiday: 14:00-18:00.
Ath is at the confluence of the Eastern and Western Dender rivers, where they form the Dender River. Together with the Blaton-Ath canal, the town core is in practice surrounded by water, connected to the peripheral districts by about a dozen bridges. It's in the middle of an agricultural region with low hills, with an altitude of about 50 m. Two natural reserves are nearby: Le pays des collines and Le parc naturel des plaines de l’Escaut.
Baudoiun IV, Count of Hainaut, had a keep built here in the 1160s to protect his lands - the Burbant tower. A "new town" grew up around it with privileges and a big market, attracting merchants and customers from far away. Tradesmen from tailors to goldsmiths and cabinetmakers settled in Ath, and in the 14th century two fortifications were built to protect the town. The army of Louis XIV conquered Ath in 1667, and he ordered Vauban - the foremost fortification architect of that time - to design a new fortification. It wouldn't stand for a century, after a siege in 1745 during the War of the Austrian Succession it was dismantled.
The industrial revolution in the 19th century brought prosperity to Ath once again. Wood, rock, textile and agricultural industries were established and the town and it became a railway node. Nevertheless, as in much of Europe, industrial activities declined during the 20th century. Industries still remain in the peripheries of Ath, and the town today is a place for commerce, artisans, and "liberal professions". In 2008 Ath was awarded the European Destinations of Excellence award by the European Commission, an award given to lesser known destinations to promote sustainable tourism.
As western Belgium in general, Ath has a temperate oceanic climate, influenced by the wet and mild currents from the Atlantic, occasionally also by continental dry winds bringing warmer weather in the summer and colder in the winter.
There are trains from other Belgian cities including Brussels, Mons, Tournai and Antwerp. Consult the website of the Belgian Railways SNCF for schedules and routes.
- 1 Ath Train Station (Gare d'Ath), Rue de la Station. The railway station is disability friendly, and has a ticket office open every day, as well as a restaurant. There's a passage below the tracks providing access to the platforms.
Regional buses operated by TEC connect from nearby towns.
The nearby motorway A8-E429 between Lille and Brussels passes next to Ath, take exit 30 and drive the N56 to get to Ath.
The Ath-Blaton canal is navigable by small boats, and the Dendre and Scheldt rivers connect to the sea.
Biking route RAVeL 4 follows the Ath-Blaton canal from the south, passes through Ath and continues along the Dendre from the north.
Long distance walking path GR 1218 between Brussels and Boulogne-sur-Mer on the English channel passes through Ath.
The central part of Ath inside the rivers and canal is small enough to be walked, it's just about 1 km across.
The rural part of the municipality is better explored by car. Parking is free at the outskirts of town, payable in the central parts. Even if it's a small town, there are inspectors placing parking tickets on windscreens of vehicles whose parking hasn't been paid for.
As mentioned in the Get in section, local buses go to nearby cities and towns with stops along the roads.
Taxis are also available:
- Taxis Jean Sprl, Rue de France 26 (taxi station in the front of the railway station), ☏ +32 68 28 17 47, fax: +32 68 28 77 52.
Ath, also called the City of Giants, affirms its medieval past loud and proud. As a city of art and history, Ath has several cultural treasures that testify to its past:
- 1 Burbant Tower (Tour Burbant), Rue du Gouvernement (Near the Grand-Place), ☏ +32 68 26-51-70, firstname.lastname@example.org. Guided tour every 3rd Sunday of the month at 15:00, from April to the end of September. The Burbant Tower is an imposing Anglo-Normand dungeon, built around 1166 by the Count of Hainaut, Baudouin IV, called "The Builder." It also served as a base for defending the northern frontier of Hainaut against Flanders and for surveying his realm. 3 €.
- 2 Church of Saint-Julien (L'église Saint Julien), Rue de Pintamont. The church was constructed starting in 1394 and consecrated in 1415. The left-hand tower was finished in 1462 and crowned with a high steeple in 1465. The church was hit by lightning and burned in 1817. The apse of the choir, the tower, and the western portal escaped destruction. The carillon has 41 bells with a range of 3 octaves.
- 3 Church of Saint Martin (L'église Saint Martin), Rue Saint-Martin. Built in 1585 and consecrated in 1603 as a replacement of an old parish church that was destroyed in 1578. On the outside you can see a 16th century oak calvary. On the inside is a 16th century Gothic and Renaissance stone tomb.
- 4 La Grand-Place. The main square is surrounded by buildings from many eras and architectonical styles. The oldest is the Maison espagnole, dating from 1564 that has been restored (however clumsily) and is used by a bank. There are many 18th century houses built during French rule in different styles, and they host different businesses. At the corner of the square and rue aux Gades is the Grand-garde, a butcher's hall that was built by the Dutch in 1821 to replace an older hall. Le Palace, also known as salle des fêtes is a beautiful Art Nouveau building from 1919.
- 5 City hall (L'hôtel de ville). Built between 1614 and 1624 in Baroque style, the city hall was modified several times over the centuries before being completely restored between 1980 and 1983.
- Old abbey refuges reveal the former wealth of the city; once many religious communities set up abbeys here. On Place Ernest Cambier there's the Saint-Martin abbey, built around 1780 in the style of Louis XVI. On Rue Haute there's the Gothic abbey of Ghislenghien, though it was damaged during WWII. The Liessies abbey on Rue des Récollets now serves as an educational institute, and was visited by Louis XIV several times. He liked it so much that he called Ath "his little Paris". Finally the Notre-Dame abbey is on Rue de Gand.
- 6 Espace gallo-romain, Rue de Nazareth, 2 - 7800 ATH (Ancienne Académie de dessin), ☏ + 32 68 26 92 33, +32 68 26 92 35, fax: +32 68 28 27 63, email@example.com. The highlight of the "Gallo-Roman space" are three restored 2nd century Celtic riverboats excavated from an archaeological site. They are the only ones of their kind on display in Belgium and are encased in a huge display box. The other floors display life during antiquity, from the viewpoint of different professions: fishermen, potters, shoemakers etc.
- 7 La Maison des Géants, rue de Pintamont, 18 (facing Saint-Julien church), ☏ +32 68 26 51 70, firstname.lastname@example.org. Opened in 2000, this interpretional centre presents real and fictional giants throughout history.
- 8 National palm games museum (Le musée national des jeux de paume), Grand-Place 45 (attic of the town hall), ☏ +32 475 47 40 19 ou +32 479 95 02 96 , email@example.com. Museum presenting different games from historical, sociological, ethnographical and economical points of view. It has a great collection of items and documents and a cinema with educational films.
- 9 History and folklore museum (Le Musée d’Histoire et Folklore), Rue de Bouchain 16, ☏ +32 68 26 51 70, fax: +32 68 26 51 79, firstname.lastname@example.org. The place to learn about the history of the town and region, with documents and objects from prehistory to the 20th century. There's a section for archaeology presenting objects from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. A medieval artwork and one of the museum's highlights is the Mainvault entombment, a sculpture of the burial of Jesus Christ. There are scale models of Ath, showing how it looked like in different points of time. There's also a rich collection of gold and copper objects crafted here, and local traditional culture such as songs, sports and games.
- 10 Maffle stone museum (Le musée de la pierre à Maffle), Chaussée de Mons 419, Maffle (towards Mons), ☏ +32 68 26 92 36, email@example.com. The museum is all about the stone industry, once a large employer in the region. You can learn about mining and extracton as well as transportation and processing of minerals. There are tools and documents, and tha daily life of quarry workers is also presented.
In the surroundingsEdit
- 11 Moulbaix windmill (Le moulin de Moulbaix, Moulin de la Marquise). samedis après-midi. Built in 1747 and still grinding grain by wind power.
- 12 Ostiches windmill (Le moulin d’Ostiches). A windmill with a movable upper part built in 1789, and renovated in the 2000s. On the first Tuesday in July, the Fête au moulin, the fest of the mill is celebrated. On that day bread is made the traditional way, you can ride a horse-drawn carriage, watch a horse pulling competition and see blacksmiths at work.
- 1 L'Écran cinema, Rue du gouvernement, ☏ +32 68 26 99 99, firstname.lastname@example.org. Cinema. Cinema..
- 2 Le Palace, Rue de Brantignies 4. Performance hall with performances of theatres (classic and modern), variety shows, operettas.
- 3 Ath Snooker, Quai de l'Entrepôt 22 (at Taverne L'Entrepôt), ☏ +32 68 28 26 10. Pool and snooker room.
- 4 Municipal Swimming Pool (Piscine Communale), Rue de Gand 1, ☏ +32 68 28 31 41. Indoor swimming pool, here you can swim around the year. € 3,50.
- 5 Dynamic Center, Chemin des Primevères 34, ☏ +32 68 28 00 94, fax: +32 68 28 60 65, email@example.com. Gym with weightlifting and cardiovascular training.
The Ducasse festival, dating back to the Middle Ages, is the most famous event of Ath. It takes place for 10 days in late August with the main event on the fourth Sunday of the month. This is a celebration of the victory of David over Goliath, and different statues of giants are paraded through the streets. These giants depict important figures in local history. The festival was inscribed on the UNESCO list of Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity from 2008 to 2022. It was delisted as one of the figures in the parade - a white person with face painted black - was perceived as racist and as such the event was considered inappropriate for the list.
- RAVeL 4 (Saint-Aybert - Overboelare). Route 4 of the Wallonian light traffic route network passes through Ath, following the Ath-Blaton canal and Dendre river.
There are a few official walking routes in the municipality. They aren't signposted but you can get maps from the tourist office.
- Le circuit des lumières (departure from the tourist office, rue de Pintamont, 18). The "circuit of lights" is a night walk of 2 km (45 min) in the central part of town, along the Dendre river which is lined by blue LEDs lighting up the night.
- Sur les traces des tailleurs de pierre. A 3.5 km long walk (1 h 30 min), this walk follows the "footsteps of the stonemasons" on the site of the former quarry and the stone museum on Maffle. In addition to these, you can see a Baroque chapel, workers' houses and an old brewery.
- La ronde du Blanc Moulin. Starting from the Ostiches windmill, it's a walk of 6.5 km (1h 45 min). It's a circular route around the windmill among hills and valleys, and you can see it from different angles during the walk.
- Le circuit des arbres mystérieux. A walk of 2 km (45 min), starting from the Calvaire du Mont de Mainvault. It's a nature walk, part of the long-distance walking trail GR129.
- Le circuit des Chapelles. Starting from Place de Meslin-l'Evêque, going towards Brussels for a distance of 11 km (2 h 45 min). On this trip you will see several chapels built in different styles as well as the villages of Meslin-l’Evêque, Isières and Lanquesaint.
- 1 Market. There's a market every Thursday with traditions going back to Medieval times. It takes place at the square in the front of Saint-Julien church.
- 1 L'Apérityf, Chaussée de Tournai 162 (2 km towards Tournai), ☏ +32 478 42 68 71. Friterie kiosk with different types of fast food. Large servings. €3-15.
- 2 La Trattoria, Grand'Place 1, ☏ +32 68 28 73 39. Italian cuisine - pizza and pasta. €7-20.
- 3 Le Jardin d’Italie, Rue aux Gades 18, ☏ +32 68 28 78 75. Italian restaurant. €9-25, dish of the day €10-12.
- 4 La Chine, Rue aux Gades 26, ☏ +32 68 28 33 63, fax: +32 68 84 18 88. Chinese restaurant. menus from €16.
- 5 Le Café des Délices, Grand'Place 8, ☏ +32 496 18 98 00, fax: +32 68 66 53 26. BBQ meat, paella, salads, pastas. €11-17, lunch specials €7-10..
- 6 Au fil de l'Eau, Chemin de Tenre 77, ☏ +32 68 28 33 38. Belgian and French cuisine. There's outdoor seating. On the menu there's among other things red meat, mussels during season and payelles (tartiflettes in a pan). €10-30.
If you want to prepare your own meals, grocery stores are readily available - smaller ones in the city core and larger in the outskirts. The Thursday market is also a good place to pick up fresh produce.
- 7 Don Giovanni, Chaussée de Mons, 421 (in Maffle), ☏ +32 68 28 48 42, firstname.lastname@example.org. Italian restaurant. around €17, cheaper lunch specials.
- 8 Le Florentin, Rue de la Brassierie 18 (6 km southwest, in Ligne), ☏ +32 68 84 0008, email@example.com. Italian restaurant with pizzas out of a wood-fired oven as well as steaks. around €25.
- 9 Sidi Bou, Rue de France 17, ☏ +32 68 84 17 74. Tunisian restaurant. around €25.
- 10 Les Saveurs orientales, Rue de France 34-36, ☏ +32 68 66 55 05. Mainly Chinese but also Malaysian and Thai dishes. €13-45.
- 11 Le Pékin, Rue de Pintamont 44, ☏ +32 68 28 19 47, fax: +32 68 28 19 47. Chinese cuisine. around €25.
- 12 Chez Pino, Grand'Place 19, ☏ +32 68 28 33 52, firstname.lastname@example.org. Italian trattoria. around €25.
- 13 Le Cinquième Péché, Rue de Bouchain 3, ☏ +32 68 30 19 86. French cuisine. around €25, cheaper lunch specials.
- 14 Le Pirée, Chaussée de Mons 422 (3 km towards Mons), ☏ +32 68 84 06 34, email@example.com. Greek and French cuisine. €30.
- 15 Le Coin Quotidien (former Le Relais de la Diligence), Chaussée de Bruxelles 401 (In Ghislenghien, 8 km towards Brussels), ☏ +32 68 44 59 99 ou +32 475 44 59 99 , fax: +32 68 44 59 98. French cuisine. On the menu there are dishes with meat, mussels, shrimp, fish. €25-50.
- 16 Aux Mets Encore, Chaussée de Bruxelles 431 (In Ghislenghien, 8 km towards Brussels), ☏ +32 68 55 16 07, firstname.lastname@example.org. Classic cuisine with a modern twist. They use ingredients from local farms, from poultry to foie gras, and the desserts and bread are made in-house. menus €28-85.
- 17 Zorba, Rue aux Gâdes 9, ☏ +32 68 28 75 60. Greek and Mediterranean cuisine; grilled meat and meze. €30-50.
Cafés along Grand Place have outdoor seating in the summer and you have a beer with locals; why not try the local brand Gouyasse?
- 1 Hôtel du Parc, Rue de l'Esplanade 12, ☏ +32 68 28 54 85, email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00.
- 2 Hôtel Horizon, Avenue des Artisans 1, Ghislenghien (near the Ath-Enghien route), ☏ +32 68 44 51 11, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Gîte du Gravillon : Narcisse (M. André Gillet Beeclmans), rue du Croquet 17 (5 km towards Lessines), ☏ +32 68 84 28 57, +32 473 916 430, fax: +32 68 84 28 59.
- 4 Chambres d'hôte "La Petite Rosière" (Gîte à la ferme M. Vercruysse), Chaussée de Valenciennes 516 (8 km towards Quevaucamps), ☏ +32 69 68 84 34.
- 5 La maison verte, Rue des Frères Descamps 18 (near the railway station), ☏ +32 68 28 09 09, email@example.com.
- 2 La Poste (bpost), Rue du Moulin 33 (near the Grand-Place), ☏ +32 22 01 23 45. Post office.
All Belgian operators have 4G coverage in and around Ath.
- 3 Hôpital de La Madeleine, R.H.M.S (Réseau Hospitalier Médecine Sociale), Rue Maria Thomée 1, ☏ +32 68 26 21 11. Hospital.
- 4 Pompiers, Boulevard du Château 19, ☏ +32 28 28 01 40, firstname.lastname@example.org. Fire station.
- 5 Police locale, Rue de la Station, 2, ☏ +32 68 26 62 66. Police station.
- 2 Belœil (12 km southwest). Castle and park and the Archéosite (archaeological site turned theme park). The town has a guest house.
- 3 Brugelette (8 km southeast). Pairi Daiza, a major zoo (more than a million visitors every year), and the Attre castle.
- 4 Chièvres (7 km south). Air base museum and a museum presenting rural life. Farm lodging.
- 5 Enghien (20 km east). A park listed as a "major patrimony of Wallonia" (Patrimoine Majeur de Wallonie)
- 6 Lessines (13 km northeast). Hôpital Notre-Dame à la Rose, an example of an independent Medieval hospital.
- 7 Leuze-en-Hainaut (13 km west). Collégiale Saint-Pierre and the automobile museum Mahymobiles with a permanent exhibition of over 300 vehicles.