MONS.- Mons ended a highly successful year as European Capital of Culture at the weekend with a giant street party throughout the city.
The ancient city, in French-speaking Wallonia, with a population of less than 100,000 people, joined with partner cities in Belgium and France to host more than 300 art projects. It opened five new museums, including a war museum highlighting the citys strategic role in the First World War, and others connected to its four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Visitors from the UK were the fifth most numerous among international tourists, after France, Germany, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.
Major exhibitions such as Verlaine and St George and the Dragon continue until January 2016, so more visitors are expected.
The citys most popular attraction was the opening exhibition, Van Gogh in the Borinage, highlighting the artists early years as a preacher in the Mons area. It attracted 180,000 visitors in its four-month run. Around 100,000 people participated in the opening night celebrations on 24 January, and over 20,000 took part in six open-air dances, concerts and fireworks around the city on Saturday evening.
Monss title of European Capital of Culture 2015 was shared with Pilsen in the Czech Republic. Next year the title goes to San Sebastian in Spain and Wroclaw in Poland.