Day Trip to Tournai (Wallonia - Belgium)

My day in Tournai started with Pont des Trous. Just like Leuven, I went off to the farthest point from city centre which doesn’t have any opening hours. As I said in the last post, Tournai was a very important city in the historical and medieval times. 

There were 2 fortification walls around Tournai - first one very close to the citycentre and a 2nd one almost at today’s R52 highway or city border. Pont des Trous literally means the Bridge of holes and this was part of the outer wall! It was built in 1281, across the river Scheldt. 

This was one of the major entry point to the city that had to be safeguarded and obviously, was attacked several times, esp in 1340 by Edward III of England. Till date only small ships and boats can pass through. Climbing this is not possible. However R52 highway bridge runs parallel and very close to this and the view of the bridge from here is definitely worth it! 
However it was only by 1513, that Tournai was captured by the English under Henry VIII (yes, the same guy who brought major reformations in Christianity, who married 6 times, whose wife Anne Boleyn was beheaded in the Tower of London)! A part of the outer fortification wall, also includes a tower called Henry VIII Tower. However it was under restoration when I went.
By this time, it was about 10 and I headed to the citycentre to Tourism Office. The Tournai Tourism has come up with 2 short films. One that explains about the history of Tournai and another, all about the Notre-Dame Cathedral (Heaven carved from Stone) which I watched and headed to Notre-Dame Cathedral. From the Cathedral, my next stop was the other UNESCO site in Tournai, the Belfry. 56 Belfries all over France and Belgium where brought under the wings of UNESCO in 1999 & 2005 CE. One of the 56 is here in Tournai, bang opposite to the Cathedral. 

This was built in 1188 CE when the town was granted municipal liberties by Philippe Auguste, the then king of France. Till then the right to ‘ring the bell’ was only with the clergy, in the Cathedral. This situation caused a major fall-out between the municipality and clergy!!! Soooo much that the clergy decided to build Cathedral tower taller than the Belfry. Looking at this, the Municipality built the Belfry taller in 1294 CE. Then Cathedral became taller and then again in 1397 CE, the Belfry. However finally Cathedral won with 83m height today and Belfry is 72m!!! Since 1217 CE, both the bells have been ringing!!! Remember I told about the passage that the Bishop made to avoid touching the road maintained by municipality? That too was due to the tiff between clergy and municipality! 
Ever since those times, this was a market place and it still is! Yeah I bought a couple of clothing here which I’ll share soon on Fashion Panache Blog! The current exterior is relatively new, made in 19th C CE by Bruno Renard. It’s just by chance that the Belfry is still surviving for us to see, coz in WWII almost everything was destroyed by German bombing, but the Belfry stood with minor damage! 
Today the height can be scaled climbing 257 steps. Like Leuven, here too, there are 4-5 rooms enroute, however there aren’t any chairs or details in them, but good to rest! Again, how difficult? I pared it in my 8th month of pregnancy with a pause in those rooms! So definitely not continuous as London monument or as tall as Berliner dom! Climbing this is totally totally worth it than any other place - the view of the Cathedral from here is just too spectacular! The major stop with seats is the Carillon with 55 bells, installed in 1535 CE.  The 2 major bells are Bancloque and Timbre. I started to climb by about 1:35 and went directly to the bells to hear the 2pm bell. Here’s the mini video of it! 

Similar to the Henry VIII tower, few of the other towers still standing, of the inner fortification wall too. One of it is the Fort Rouge which is located in a garden inside Eglise St.Quentin church! Sadly it was locked and I couldn’t venture inside. The other fragment is also a part of the inner wall that I spotted, in the N7 highway between Belfry to Eglise St.Brice church
Behind the Eglise St.Brice church is the sculpture of Gabrielle Petit who was from Tournai, who served as a spy for Britain during WWI. She was captured and shot dead and was later hailed as the Belgian Heroine after the war.  


There are 8 major museums in Tournai incl Fine Arts, Folklore, Military History, Natural History, Tapestry, Archaeology and Puppet Art. With the time I had, I managed to visit Folklore Museum and Tapestry Museum. I chose to miss the Fine Arts museum as being an Art History major, I’d need 2 days just for the museum and to spend half an hour there would be a sin! 

The Folklore Museum itself is located inside a 17th C building. In 3 floors, today it beautifully depicts how Tournai was in 1800s, with life sized dolls, old photographs, actual equipments and recreated household/shop/entertainment set up! The Tapestry Museum has a few fabulous tapestries of 15th-16th C CE. The rest of the museum in 3 floors, was contemporary textile art!
My last stop in Tournai was close to the railway station - this house designed by Victor Horta. Houses designed by Victor Horta in Brussels are under UNESCO. In Tournai, this building and the Museum of Fine Arts were designed by him, but they aren’t under UNESCO though. Also this too is a private property, similar to Brussels and I only got to see it from outside!

To Get There:
All these sites are walkable from Tournai Railway Station.

Entry tickets & timings:
Tourist Information Centre: 9:00AM to 12:30noon and 1:15PM to 5:00PM (Mon-Sat); Only afternoon on Sunday
The 2 movies can be watched at Tourist Information Centre at €2.10 per movie
Pont des Trous, Henry VIII Tower, Fort Rouge, Victor Horta House: Open 24 hrs & Free
Belfry: €2.10; 9:30AM to 12:00noon and 2:00PM to 5:00PM
Museums: €2.60 each; 9:30AM to 12:30noon and 1:30PM to 5:30PM
A €10 City Pass is available as well which includes entry to Belfry, 3 museums and 1 movie. €5 City Pass includes 1 movie, 1 museum and belfry. This can be bought at the Tourist Info Centre.

P.S: I was invited by VisitTournai to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

18 comments:

  1. Henry VIII was all over the place for British and European history, the scamp. Belgium is such a lovely country, but I missed this. Beautiful art & building architecture, looks like a worthwhile visit.

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  2. beautiful capture.... lovely place.......

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  3. Tournai looks like such a lovely place to visit. I'd love to see the bridges/arches/fortifications. I imagine hearing the bells much have been great - if a little loud! Saving this for my next trip to Belgium.

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  4. I've never been to Tournai, but it's good to know there are plenty of UNESCO heritage sites. Well done for climbing those 257 steps at the Belfry! At least there are plenty of rooms to rest in. I like the architecture there, so historic and iconic too!

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  5. This looks looks so pretty; I remember visiting Belgium on a school trip and loved the quaint arches and bridges and architecture. Folk museums are always a great way of diving into a destination's history and heritage. I'd love to bring the kids here!

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  6. The architectural beauty of Tournai is truly on a league of its own. Those fortification walls look so imposing. It is so interesting how elaborately these walls were built!

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  7. I had no idea Tournai was conquered by Henry VIII! It's amazing how far the English have spread their influence, even in Europe! This Belgian city is certainly charming with its UNESCO heritage sites.

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  8. Belgium is such a beautiful place with richness of it's history. I have always had plans of visiting Belgium and also have few friends over there who recently moved . Am gonna share this post with them . Thanks for sharing

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  9. I really liked how you gave a brief about the historic background of Tournai, and the places of interest there. The pictures look amazing and I would definitely love to experience the beauty of the place in person. Fortification walls have always caught my interest somehow.

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  10. Tournai looks like just the kind of place we would have enjoyed, had we known about it when we visited Belgium. The story about the municipality and clergy was so interesting. Power play, always power play.

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  11. Again what a picturesque place in Belgium that I may not ever see in person. Those wall fragments are especially precious in both history and beauty the way they were preserved.

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  12. This looks like such a beautiful and amazing place to visit! I adore your gorgeous photographs!! Shell

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  13. How was the food and the beer? I've only been to Belgium once, to Antwerpen, but the country seems brilliant for eating and drinking. I hope to get back soon with a friend, and towns like this full of stone buildings are always attractive.

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  14. Tournai seems like an awesome place to visit! Loved your pictures. How many days would you recommend spending there?

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  15. This looks like a great place to visit. Tournai looks like the kind of place we would have enjoyed. and Those fortification walls look so splendid. It is so interesting how tehy elaborately these walls were built!!

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  16. Tornai is such a pretty place. Full of history and a lot of cultural value - I would have loved this place. The Tapestry museum seems really interesting. I wonder why Henry VIII wanted to conquer and tarnish this beautiful place.

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  17. Tournai looks really interesting. Those huge fortification walls have always attracted us and here the architecture too looks great. Your pictures are great as well. Will like to check this out once around

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  18. It looks like a genuinely interesting place! Honestly, that belfry is fantastic, and very photogenic from a blogging perspective. I'd honestly never heard of Tournai before, so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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