This is actually the only place in which I like to have a drink in Charleroi. One of the few places in which you are not disturbed by some "losers" thinking that they might have a chance with you.:-)
Music can be quite (too) loud, but the best time to come is when almost everyone left the pub, and they start playing genuine Irish songs.
On Friday and Saturday evening, the place is fully packed! They often have live music.
The Luxembourg is an old place opposite the Parc Astrid, and is a little more stylish than most Carolo drinkeries. Right outside is this brand new spinning dial thing, which appeared while I was gone..
Here's what La Cuve looks like from the outside. I went back in Oct 2003 for the first time in three years and they remembered me! They serve a good Charles Quint in here still, always with nice cheese.
I used to come here at the very end of the night, with local rockers, cos it was open andplayed music (and they let me play their piano, even though i can't play). The place is grimy and they play very eighties music, but it's friendly and the drinks are cheap. It is however a haunt of Hells Angels, who even when it is hot and sweaty will always wear their thick leather jackets. Still they give the place a lot of character, lacking in places such as the now long-gone La Nova.
Dress Code: Dress code? Ha ha ha ha ha!
A couple of doors down from La Cuve is El Gringo, a Mex-themed bar which is very popular with the young Carolos. They do a pretty good range of beers, Kwak et al, but also a nice selection of cocktails. The atmosphere is young and fun.
Charleroi isn't necessarily the centre of culture and entertainment, but a few good local bands can always be seen at the intimate Blues Bar. Open late (of course - it's Belgium), and generally quite grungy at times, it's a nice place to go on a Saturday evening. Students flock here, and although the range of beers is not quite as extensive as in most bars, you can always just refresh youreself with a Maes. and get it spillt all over you by a bloody over-hyper dancer.
UPDATE: (Oct 03) The Blues Bar is no more! It has been replaced with a very trendy looking club, the 'Polyphonic Café'. Times change, eh! I cannot comment on the place as I never went in there.
If you're reading this, I can only assume you're under obligation to attend some distant relative's funeral in Charleroi, because honestly, why else would you be going there? So, you're wondering how to escape your great aunty or whatever? Here's how...
If you can, flee to Liege. It's only about an hour's drive away, maybe not even that. The train service is ok, but they stop running about midnight, and that's if you're lucky. I've seen loads of people saying, "run to Antwerp or Brussels!"... In the opinion of someone dragged kicking and screaming to the depressed little town of Charleroi too many times, I seriously recommend Liege. It's not great, nothing in Belgium is (apart from the chocolate). There is a weird, well-developed karaoke scene there that the locals go mad for. It's worth a look for a laugh. There's plenty of clubs and bars, and it's where everyone in the know in Charleroi escapes.
If you're really trapped, then console yourself with the fact that beer is dirt-cheap. Ask for a "blanche"... They're pretty good. Every bar serves them. The one place worth visiting in Charleroi is "La Cour des Miracles"... It does have to be seen to be believed. It's an old shop converted into a cocktail bar. There are strange looking shop manikins flailed around the place holding glasses and dressed in costume jewellery. There are about ten rooms, each with a slightly different theme, but all with North African/Arabic themes (probably due to the huge North African population of the town) and old French style, decadent furniture. There are loads of velvet settees and things, and one enormous, beautiful bar. There are friendly staff who approach you with a menu of about 150 cocktails. I reccomend "La danse d'Esmarelda". One warning... The prices a re higher than anywhere else in the town, which is sort of good because it filters out the more strange locals, which leaves you left with the rest: the ones trying to be hip.
Dress Code: In the bars in Liege they're pretty laid back. In the clubs they might be a tiny bit more picky. Did I mention there's all sorts of music scenes down there?
Typically small Belgian pub La cuve A Biere, on the Place du Manege, is where I spent most evenings of the week. It is a friendly place, busy on the weekends but very relaxed during the week, where young locals can relax and chat, sipping a beer or a coffee. They have - typically in this land - a healthy menu of beers, yet no Leffe. I would tend to drink Fruit Defendu here - in fact, I would walk through the door, and the barman would have it ready for me with a little plate of chesse by the time I got to him! During Euro 2000 I would come here to watch the football on their TV, but the night that Belgium lost to Turkey the owner literally unplugged the TV and put it away and closed the bar, he was so upset! On a strip of street where there are many bars, this is the best.
Dress Code: Ah, it's a pub. Casual! And this is Belgium. You will find families here, it's very friendly.
Nightlife here is not brilliant. Most people get out of town and go to Brussels or Antwerp or anywhere but here. However I know some great little bars, my fave of which is La Cuve a biere, near the Palais des Beaux arts. Small and friendly, it has a good atmosphere at the weekends. The rest of the bars are okay, some are just a joke, such as Route 66, with it's LPs on the wall and total lack of clientele. The Star Rock Cafe is swish and entertaining, on Boulevard Tirou, but the world's worst nightclub is nearby, by the river - La Nova. There are never more than five or six people in here at a time, and they are the sort of silly people you wish weren't there neither, yet the DJ still MCs to the empty dancefloor as if he's at Cream or somewhere. Every now and then a latino dances with himself at the mirrored wall (yes, mirrored wall). Drinks are expensive, but you laugh so much at the awfulness of it all it really makes no difference! HINT: If you want a nightclub, go to Brussels or Antwerp!
UPDATE.....As of last month there has been an IRISH PUB here, the Irish Times, which can get quite lively on a weekend and has certainly livened up the old dump. But the problem here is that they don't do the big range of Belgian beers that I'm used to, only Westamalle Trappist really is worth it, maybe the Mort Subite Gueze, if they ever understand what it is in there.
See La Nova, above, or get a cab out to Chatelet (the Bradford of Belgium) and visit the Couloirs Du Temps. MARVEL! at the paranoid ordeal of the airport style metal detectors and customs check at the door! WONDER! at why anyone would come here when it's obvious every man there is up for a ruck, and some of the women are too; BEHOLD! the size of the dancefloor, where you will dance to songs for only 30 seconds at a time before they change! GASP! for air in the squash at the bar, only to realise it's waitor service and you will never ever get drunk in there because the waitors will never be ready to serve you...Still, it's free entry...
Dress Code: In that Couloir du Temps place, don't wear trainers. Well, my mate did, but they made him stand out in the cold for half an hour first. My own steelcapped boots set off the alarms on the way in, which was funny. I was therefore the least armed person in the place.