Stage town for the second time. Municipality of the Province of Hainaut (Belgium)
Population: 33,500 (Binchois, Binchoises)
Personalities: Gilles de Binche (composer, 15th century), André Joseph Boussart (Major General and Baron of the Empire), Germaine Maria Degueldre-Degueldre (Supercentenary and former dean of Belgium), Clément Lhotellerie, Ludwig De Winter (cycling).
Specialities: Binche doubles (small buckwheat pancakes filled with cheese), La Binchoise beer, Ruffus sparkling wines, Binche Gin, Binche lace.
Sport: 60 associations including 5 amateur cycling clubs, Wanty-Gobert Matériaux professional team. Events: Half marathon, Urban Heroes Challenge (trail with obstacles), Binche-Chimay-Binche Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke semi-classic, Belgian cycling time trial championships in 2024 and road championships in 2025 and 2030.
Economy: construction, public works and civil engineering sector (Wanty group), tourism, lace. Events: Carnival (since the 14th century and listed as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO), free concerts twice a year in the Grand-Place, Un Soir au Parc (concerts)
Label: City of history and folklore
Websites / FB / Twitter: www.binche.be / www.binchetourisme.be / @villedebincheofficial / @Ville_de_Binche
BINCHE, A STORY
A listed carnival
The Binche Carnival is an exceptional living heritage, an extraordinary popular, human and social event. It was listed as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003. This folk event, which is the result of a long oral tradition, is a real rite that gives participants the feeling of being unique. For the people of Binche and according to the traditional expression, "There is only one Binche in the world"... For several months, the population and the town prepare their carnival, a true communion, undoubtedly the most important moment in the life of the city of Binche. The last carnival took place from February 27 to March 1 in 2022 with the culmination of nearly 1,000 Gilles for Mardi Gras. The origins of the Binche Carnival are difficult to establish with certainty. The most successful legend is that of the Gille descended from the Incas, imagined by the journalist Adolphe Delmée in the 19th century. These Incas are said to have appeared in costume during the celebrations organised by Mary of Hungary in 1549 to welcome her brother, Charles V, and her nephew, Philip II. The people of Binche appreciated their colourful and exotic costumes and perpetuated this parade in the city. This far-fetched hypothesis still appeals to those involved in the Binche Carnival because it gives them a rather flattering historical character.
BINCHE AND CYCLING
In 2019, Julian Alaphilippe celebrated with champagne in Épernay at the end of a stage from Binche and wore the Yellow Jersey for the first time. Since then, the French rider has worn it for 18 days and at least once in each of the last three editions. Binche was also the venue for the 2018 Belgian road championships, which saw Julian Alaphilippe's loyal team-mate Yves Lampaert win and wear the national jersey on the roads of the Tour de France for the whole month of July. Lampaert also finished second in the Binche-Chimay-Binche semi-classic that same season, which was won by Danny van Poppel, who did it again in 2021. This event, created in 1911, has had a chequered history and was relaunched in 2010 under the name of Mémorial Franck Vandenbroucke in honour of the man who won the 1996 edition. In 2013, the city of Hainaut was also the starting point for an edition of Flèche Wallonne won by Daniel Moreno. Among the riders born in Binche, we can mention Albert Dubuisson, a professional from 1938 to 1951, who took part in the Tour de France in 1950, the year he won the Tour of Belgium.
The medieval ramparts
This jewel of medieval military architecture is magnificently preserved. Built in stone in the 12th century, the fortification was enlarged in the 14th century and extended over 2,126 metres. It has almost 30 towers and six gates. No wonder Binche is known as the “Belgian Carcassonne”. Also not to be missed is the refuge of Bonne Espérance.
International Carnival and Mask Museum
The International Carnival and Mask Museum, a former Augustinian college dating from the 18th century, invites the visitor on a fascinating journey to the heart of festivals and rituals from around the world. From the carnival of Binche to the winter festivals of Europe, from the masked ceremonies of the Eskimos to the Indians of North America, not forgetting Africa, Oceania and Asia, the universality of the mask and its many uses are on display. The museum exhibits hundreds of masks, disguises and accessories of all shapes and materials. http://www.museedumasque.be
Belfry of Binche
Characteristics: The Binche town hall is a late Gothic building with two levels, built in Bray sandstone for the main side towards the square, and in brick and sandstone towards the rue des Boucheries. It has three moulded Gothic arches on the ground floor. A belfry with five unequal brick registers emerges from the body of the building. It houses three clock dials set into the bays of the upper level.
History: the Belfry of Binche is an integral part of the town hall built in the 14th century. The monument was rebuilt in Renaissance style by architect Du Broeucq after the sack of the town by the French armies in 1554. In the 17th century, architect Dewelz added a neo-classical façade to the building. After a major restoration completed in 1901, the town hall has regained its Renaissance appearance.
Special features: a baroque bulb tops the belfry, which contains a carillon with several bells dating back to the 16th century. The coat of arms of Charles V and his sister Mary of Hungary adorn the building.
Listing: listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
Le Fuseau Arts Crafts and Lace Centre
Originally, Binche laces were not different from the laces made in Valenciennes. They have the same origin and were imported from French Hainaut at the beginning of the 17th century. The differences were established over the years. Binche lace is characterised by the extreme fineness of the thread (never cut) used by the lacemakers. The “snow background” thus gives the works a fairytale appearance. Particularly fashionable before the French Revolution, its fame went beyond the borders and Victor Hugo himself made a large echo of it in Les Misérables. It is said that the “Binche point” is the most difficult in the world to knit.
Remains of the Palace of Mary of Hungary
No less than 5 million bricks were needed to build this palace, which was commissioned from architect Jacques Du Broeucq by Mary of Hungary, ruler of the Netherlands and sister of Emperor Charles V. Construction began in 1545 and was completed in 1549 for the visit of Charles V, but the palace did not survive the passage of the troops of the French king, Henry II. It was rebuilt immediately afterwards, but the building was too expensive to maintain and was demolished in 1704.
La Binchoise Brewery
The history of the brewery dates back to 1847. In 1929, the site was bought by Oscar Roulez, a maltster, who had the old brewery demolished to rebuild the current buildings. In 1979, André Graux set up the La Binchoise brewery. Since 2000, the premises have been open to the public. This brewery with its authentic character welcomes visitors for guided tours and beer tasting. www.brasserielabinchoise.be
While it is commonly said that the Good Lord is a binchou (Binche inhabitant), there is one recipe that is sure to please him: the Doubles of Binche. These special pancakes already existed in the first half of the 19th century and continue to delight the taste buds in a few establishments in the city. A little white buckwheat flour, a good bottle of Binchoise blonde (or brown for the more adventurous), salt, pepper, fresh yeast, peanut oil and, what will give the dish its flavour: a good strong cheese such as Herve, which is generally the most commonly used (a good Maroilles will also do) and that's it! All that's left to do is to make two small pancakes (hence the name "Double") and fill them with the strong cheese, to discover that, despite its rough appearance, the emotion and tradition will drip out of each bite. Don't forget the little knob of butter to prevent the pancakes from drying out and, above all, a chilled bottle of Binchoise to accompany them.