Charleroi is the third largest city in Belgium situated in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium.
Charleroi was once a very rich and powerful city thanks to its extensive industries. For the same reason, it became empoverished when, during the 1970s, industry collapsed in Europe. Since then, Charleroi has dragged the reputation of being poor and shady. It is not entirely true today: the city centre is pleasant, people can be easy-going, the crime rate is in line with a city of this size (and actually inferior to that of Leuven and Liège), and there are at least two cultural top-class infrastructures: one is the Photography Museum, which reached a worldwide reputation, and the other is the modern dance festival Charleroi Dance, which has become famous in the world of dancing. However, compared to the rest of Belgium and Wallonia, Charleroi still lags behind in terms of economic recovery, and abandoned suburbs as well as decaying factories remain a sad testimony of it.
It has become well-known to budget flyers as a destination for low-cost flights. The Brussels South-Charleroi airport, a few kilometres to the north of the city, serves Brussels (located 55 km north). Ryanair and Wizzair both fly out of Charleroi to many European and North African destinations.
Charleroi is also well-known in as the birthplace of the Mayonnaise bracelet that has gained widespread popularity shortly after being announced by Nicolas Buissart. In Charleroi itself, almost every fast-food establishment encourages their use.
Charleroi has a small metro system, running partly around the centre with two branch lines into the suburbs.
Given the short distances to other Belgian cities, most people staying overnight are likely to be passengers at "Brussels South" airport. Unfortunately there are no hotels at the airport terminal itself, and reaching those nearby is difficult without a car.
Unless you have your own transport, the most convenient hotel is the IBIS Charleroi Gare in the city centre  just across the river Sambre facing the Gare du Sud and the bus station. Double rooms here start at €59 if booked in advance.
The IBIS "Aéroport" is 7km away from the terminal at a motorway junction, and costs the same as the city centre IBIS.
There are two cheaper hotels near the airport. The Formule 1, at junction 22 of the A54 motorway from Brussels, costs €38 for a triple room with shared shower and toilet. Take bus 42 or 63 from the city centre. The only way to the airport from here is by taxi, hitchhiking, or going back to the centre to take an airport bus.
The new Etap, 2 km from the Heppignies exit of the E42 Paris-Liège motorway,  has ensuite triples starting at €45. Take bus 68 from the centre. This hotel is about 2.5km walk from the airport.
It might be possible to stay overnight in the airport terminal. The Gare du Sud station building is closed for renovation, so don't plan on staying there.
Some hotel addresses:
Despite of its reputation, criminality rate in Charleroi is not exceptionally high. It is even lower than in other large Belgian cities as Brussels, Liège or Leuven (see ). Nevertheless, as in any other large European city, it is better to avoid going alone or in small groups at night in some neighbourhoods outside the city centre.