La Louvière is a city known for its La Louvière is a city known for its feats of industrial ingenuity. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites along these lines.
La Louvière is a relatively new city, but has an entrenched carnival heritage, bringing lots of whimsy and craziness on the days leading up to Shrove Tuesday.
One is a set of four century-old hydraulic boat elevators on the Canal du Centre, on epic metal frames and lifting vessels as high as 17 metres each.
1. Strépy-Thieu Boatlift
The Canal du Centre was widened in a long-term modern project, completed in 2002.
This bypassed the old boatlifts, putting all their work on the shoulders of one record-breaking megastructure.
Unsurprisingly the boat lift is a tourist attraction, and you can take a ride aboard a barge for a small fee.
2. Hydraulic Boat Lifts
Bestriding the Canal du Centre close to La Louvière are four century-old technological marvels that look like they might have been dreamed up by H.G. Wells.
These are hydraulic boat lifts, erected between 1888 and 1917 and designed to compensate for an elevation difference of more than 66 metres along just seven kilometres of the canal.
In east- to-west order, they are found at Houdeng-Goegnies, Houdeng-Aimeries, Strépy-Bracquegnies and Thieu.
3. Keramis-Centre de la Ceramique
The Boch Collection is an extraordinary assemblage of 19th and 20th-century earthenware produced by this manufactory.
With pieces by master craftsmen and feted industrial designers like Charles Catteau (1880-1966) who designed exquisite Art Deco vases.
The exhibition also recounts the lifespan of the company and explains the manufactory’s techniques.
4. Canal du Centre
More on the actual waterway, which is just over 20 kilometres and links the Meuse with the Scheldt.
This piece of infrastructure had been centuries in the pipeline as a means of transporting coal.
But the almost 100-metre difference in elevation between the two rivers was prohibitive until human technology could catch up at the turn of the 20th century.
5. Musée Royal de Mariemont
The industrialist and philanthropist Raoul Warocqué (1870-1917) bequeathed his sizeable and very eclectic collection of art and antiquities to the Belgian state when he passed away during the First World War.
This initially came inside Warocqué’s lavish Neoclassical mansion, which burnt down in 1960, although its contents were saved.
The current building opened on the same estate in 1975 and is replete with Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and East Asian antiquities, also recently bolstered by a donation of pieces from the Pre-Columbian Americas.
6. Mining Site Bois-du-Luc
Contributing to the Major Mining Sites of Wallonia UNESCO World Heritage Site is this coalmine just outside La Louvière that shut down in the 70s.
Bois-du-Luc has a history going back 1685 but it’s the activity during the 19th century and the mine’s role during the Industrial Revolution that garners so much interest.
What’s really compelling is the intact miners’ village around it, which is a monument to social paternalism and comes with homes, offices, a performance space that can still be visited.
7. Centre de la Gravure et de l’Image Imprimée
This museum is devoted to engraving and contemporary printed art and has put together a hefty collection spanning the second half of the 20th century to the present.
There are 10,000 individual prints, some 2,000 posters and 1,000 books and portfolios by 1,640 contemporary artists from Belgium and abroad.
A whole spectrum of media is represented, from traditional prints to new technology, via graphic art, typography, illustration comics and a lot more.
La Louvière’s Neoclassical former courthouse (1900) is the repository for the city’s art collection.
MiLL opened here in 1987 and was given a renovation in the 2000s, with cartoon characters helping youngsters navigate the exhibits.
The museum holds the largest number of works by Romanian-born 20th-century sculptor Idel Ianchelevici (1909-1994) of any museum in the world.
9. Domaine de la Louve
For fresh air and greenery you need only travel a couple of kilometres south-west to this well-looked after public park.
A large swathe of Domaine de la Louve has been allowed to grow out, and these flowery meadows are a haven for butterflies in the summer.
There are more than 80 species of trees and shrubs in the park, and if you keep your eyes peeled you may spot a kestrel overhead, while feral parakeets are plentiful.
10. La Louve
A name like La Louvière fires the imagination and at some point led to a Rome-like legend of a wolf nursing a human child.
So greeting you on the roundabout at Place de la Louve is a reimagining of Rome’s medieval Capitoline Wolf sculpture, only minus Romulus and Remus.
Inaugurated in 1953, the monument was a collaboration between architect Marcel Depelsenaire and sculptor Alphonse Darville.