Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ypres
Ypres (Flemish Ieper) is situated in the plain of West Flanders on the River Ieper (Ieperlee), a tributary of the Iser. Ypres is the chief administrative town for the district and fulfills important trade and services functions.
The principal industries are textiles, textile machinery and food processing. Tourism also plays a significant role in the town's economy. The name Ypres is closely associated with some of the most bitter battles of the First World War, at the end of which the town had been almost completely destroyed.Founded in the 10th C., in the Middle Ages Ypres, together with Ghent and Bruges, was one of the three most important towns in Belgium because of its prosperous cloth making, reaching the peak of its heyday in the 13th and 14th C. with a population of 40,000. The Cloth Hall, the largest and most beautiful building of its kind in Belgium, symbolizes the wealth and power of that period. However, its decline began in 1316 when many of the town's citizens fell victim to a major epidemic. When the town took sides with the King of France against Ghent, which was allied to England during the Hundred Years' War, it was besieged in 1383. It withstood the siege but the massive destruction of the surrounding area and the suburbs forced many of the weavers to leave.In the 16th C. it was devastated by the iconoclasts and Duke of Alba's troops, conquered by the Geuzen and the troops of Alexander Farnese and finally, in the 17th C., was taken by the French following many sieges. Under the French Ypres was fortified by Vauban and taken over by the Habsburgs. Not until 1852 were the fortified walls razed and turned into walkways.Despite all these volatile events Ypres retained most of its ancient buildings, evidence of its former splendor, until the First World War. The inferno broke out in November 1914 in the first Battle of Ypres. Ypres, lying at the junction of important roads, found itself in the middle of the Ypres Salient, the arc of the Allied front, which was bombarded by German and Austrian troops for four years and remained unbroken in the second battle of 1915, in the third of 1917 and during the Kemmel offensive of 1918 even though poison gas was used for the first time in history in April 1915 near Steenstraat to the north. The Allied counter-offensive of 1918 signaled the start of Belgium's liberation from German occupation. During the four years of fighting almost 500,000 soldiers on each side lost their lives; 170 military cemeteries at Ypres and in the surroundings commemorate this mass slaughter. Throughout this time the town stood in the line of fire and was subject to continuous bombardment by artillery so that by 1918 it was reduced to a heap of rubble. It has since been rebuilt according to the original plans, and the damage caused by the air raids in 1940 has been restored. The last building to be rebuilt was the town hall (Nieuwerck).
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Museum Salient 14-18
This museum on the first floor of the Cloth Hall chronicles the heavy fighting of the First World War. Exhibits include uniforms and equipment of all the armies, some architectural remains of the Lakenhalle and pictures of old Ypres.
On the east wing of the Cloth Hall a new building (Nieuwerck), a town hall, was added in 1619 in the style of the Spanish Renaissance, which has also been reconstructed. It bears the coat of arms of the Spanish King Philip II.
Opposite the Lakenhalle to the south on the corner of Boomgaardstraat stands the Nieuw Vleeshuis (meat hall), dating back to 1277, where meat was sold on Saturdays until 1947.
Old Town Hall
On the east side of the Grote Markt is the Gerechtshof (County Court), a Renaissance reconstruction, on the site of the 12th C. Onze-Lieve-Vrouwgasthuis.
From the east end of the Grote Markt it is just a short distance to the Menin Gate, built by the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield on the site of the medieval town gate, through which the British soldiers marched to the front. The names of the 54,896 British soldiers who were killed or missing in action are inscribed under its arches. Every evening at 8 p.m. since 1928 the Last Post is sounded.
Behind the Cloth Hall to the north stands Sint-Maartenskathedraal, rebuilt in 1922 (13th C. origin; 15th C. south entrance and tower). Its large-scale proportions are reminiscent of the monumental French cathedrals. The tower is over 100m/328ft high.
Inside are some art treasures which survived the war; a brass font (around 1600) and the picture of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van Thuyne, believed to have miraculous powers. Inside the church are buried Bishop Jansenius (founder of Jansenism), Georgius Chamberlain (died 1634; sixth bishop of Ypres) and Count Robrecht of Bethune.The glass paintings are a present from Great Britain to commemorate the war losses.
Old Fish Market
At the old fish market with the Fish Gate of 1714, southwest of the Grote Markt, the small customs house (Minckhuisje) and two stalls have been reconstructed.
Saint-George's Memorial Church
North of the cathedral, opposite the theater (Schouwburg) on the corner of Vandenpeerboomplein, the Anglican Church commissioned Sir Reginald Blomfield 1927-1928 to build Saint George's Memorial Church to commemorate the soldiers of the British Commonwealth who were killed in battle in Flanders.The entire interior of the church was funded by Great Britain and the Commonwealth, together with the statue of St George and the plaque with the famous poem "In Flanders Field". Nearby the Etonian Memorial School honors the 342 students of Eton College killed in action.
In Rijselstraat south of the Grote Markt stands the Belle Godshuis, a hospital for the poor founded in 1276 and rebuilt in the 16th and 17th C. It is now a museum about the history of the hospital and has fine paintings, church artifacts and furniture from this period.
Not far south of Belle Godshuis is the Merghelynck Museum, housed in the 1774 building of the Empress Maria Theresia's treasurer, Frans Merghelynck. Part of the splendid Louis XV and Louis XVI interior survived the First World War and was rehoused in the restored house.
Diagonally opposite the Merghelynck Museum is the Steenhuis, now a post office, the only stone building left standing in Ypres (originally 13th C.).
At the south end of the Rijselstraat a narrow street leads off to the right to the Stedelijk Museum in a 13th C. poor hospital; it illustrates the town's history.
Rijselpoort und Majoorgracht
The Rijselstraat ends at the Rijselpoort (Lilletor), a massive fortified gate, from the Burgundian period. The British general staff had its headquarters in the casemates for a while. Near the gate ruins of the old ramparts can still be seen. A walk along the Majoorgracht with the "Halve Man" offers charming views. Boats can be hired from the "Eilandje".Not far from the gate inside the fortifications the "Houten Huis" has been restored, a 16th C. wooden house, one of about 90.
Part of a pub at 18 Vaartstraat has been converted into an unusual bicycle museum.
In Flanders Field Museum
A modern museum that details the history of WW l through multi-media exhibits and scale models. The museum tries to tell stories via new technologies in order to recreate the sights and sound of this tumultuous period in history.
Address: Grote Markt 34, Lakenhallen, B-8900 Ieper, Belgium
The Ypres Cat Festival which takes place on the second Sunday in May every other year is famous throughout the area. There is a large procession through the town with the giants Goliath, Robrecht the Friesan and Cieper the giant cat. It reaches a climax with stuffed toy cats being thrown down from the belfry.
Tyne Cot Cemetery
Bellewaerde Park, Belgium
This leisure park has jungle boats, a cowboy village and Mexican village.Bellewaerde Park provides family entertainment with rides geared to varying ages, a water park and more than 300 exotic animals.
Battlefields of the First World War
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