Day Trip to Tournai from Brussels (Wallonia - Belgium)

TOP 10 PLACES TO SEE & THINGS TO DO IN TOURNAI IN ONE DAY

Just like Leuven, I went off to the farthest point from the city-centre which doesn’t have any opening hours. It is always my go-to plan for day trips when I start early and none of the places of interest is open in the centre of the city. It is better to finish off the distant ones earlier which would also save the short travel time in the middle of the day.

Tournai day trip from Brussels

Pont des Trous Tournai Places to see

Pont des Trous Tournai Places to see

Pont des Trous Tournai Places to see

Pont des Trous Tournai Places to see

TOURNAI FORTIFICATION WALLS
My day in Tournai started with Pont des Trous. As I said in the last post, Tournai was a very important city during historical and medieval times. There were 2 fortification walls around Tournai - the first one very close to the city-centre and a 2nd one almost at today’s R52 highway or city border. These were built time & again throughout history. The ones still remaining belong to 12th C CE & later. 

PONT DES TROUS
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. 
Also See: My fashion photoshoot at Pont Des Trous on my other blog, Fashion Panache
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! 

Where is Pont Des Trous (on Google Maps)Pont des Trous
Pont Des Trous Opening Hours: 24x7
Pont Des Trous Tickets: Free

HENRY VIII TOWER IN TOURNAI
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. In the whole of history, Tournai was the only Belgian City that was even under the English! However, it was under restoration when I went. Even otherwise it is not possible to enter the tower. This is in the Parc Henry VIII, located very close to the railway station.

Where is Henry VIII Tower (on Google Maps)Henry VIII Tower
Henry VIII Tower Opening Hours: 24x7
Henry VIII Tower Tickets: Free

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL - UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN TOURNAI, BELGIUM
By this time, it was around 10:00 AM and I headed to the city-centre to Tourism Office. Tournai Tourism has come up with 2 short films. One that explains 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. Below is my link to my detailed post about Tournai Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tournai, Belgium.

Where is Notre Dame Cathedral Tournai? Tournai Notre Dame Cathedral Opening Hours, Tickets: Read my article on Notredame Cathedral, Tournai

Where is Tournai Tourist Office (on Google Maps)Tourist information centre
Tournai Tourist Office Opening Hours: 9:00AM to 12:30noon and 1:15PM to 5:00PM (Mon-Sat); Only afternoon on Sunday
Tournai Tourist Office Short Film Tickets: €2.10 per movie (incl. in Tournai City Pass)

Tournai Places to visit Henry VIII Tower

Tournai Belfry UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Tournai Belfry UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Tournai Belfry UNESCO World Heritage Sites


TOURNAI BELFRY - UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN TOURNAI, BELGIUM
From the Cathedral, my next stop was the other UNESCO site in Tournai, the Belfry. 56 Belfries all over France and Belgium were 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, haha! 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. 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 (above)! 

Where is Tournai Belfry (on Google Maps)Belfry
Tournai Belfry Opening Hours:  9:30AM to 12:00noon and 2:00PM to 5:00PM (closed on Mondays)
Tournai Belfry Tickets: €2.10 (incl. in Tournai City Pass)

Tournai Fortification Wall Fort Rouge

Tournai Fortification Walls Medieval

Gabrielle Petit Tournai World War Spy

Tournai Folklore Museum

Tournai Folklore Museum

FORT ROUGE & OTHER PARTS OF FORTIFICATION WALL
Similar to the Henry VIII tower, few of the other towers still standing, of the inner fortification wall too. One of them 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

Where is Fort Rouge (on Google Maps)Fort Rouge
Fort Rouge Opening Hours:  24 x 7
Fort Rouge Tickets: Free

SCULPTURE OF GABRIELLE PETIT
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.  

Where is the sculpture of Gabrielle Petit (on Google Maps)Statue of Gabrielle Petit
Fort Rouge Opening Hours:  24 x 7
Fort Rouge Tickets: Free

TOURNAI MUSEUMS
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!

Where is Tournai Folklore Museum (on Google Maps)Folklore Museum
Where is Tournai Tapestry Museum (on Google Maps)Tapestry Museum
Tournai Museums Opening Hours:  9:30AM to 12:30noon and 1:30PM to 5:30PM
Tournai Museums Tickets:  €2.60 each (incl. in Tournai City Pass)

HOUSES DESIGNED BY VICTOR HORTA IN TOURNAI
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 house too is a private property, similar to the ones in Brussels and I only got to see it from outside!

Where is Victor Horta designed house in Tournai (on Google Maps)Victor Horta house
Victor Horta House Opening Hours:  24 x 7
Victor Horta House Tickets:  Free

Tournai Folklore Museum

Tournai Things to do Tapestry Museum

Tournai Things to do Tapestry Museum

Tournai Things to do Victor Horta House

Tournai Things to do Grand Place

TOURNAI NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM - Update Feb 2021
My first day-trip to Tournai was when I was pregnant. I recently visited Tournai again to take Atyudarini to visit Notre-Dame Cathedral, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tournai, Belgium. After the cathedral visit, we headed to the Tournai Natural History Museum which turned out to be amazing! In fact, Tournai Natural History Museum is the oldest museum in Belgium to be opened to the public, much older than the Brussels Natural Sciences Museum. This was founded in 1828 when Belgium wasn't even formed but was under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The current building is the former brewery of the Abbaye Saint-Martin where they moved to in 1939. 
This is a mix of Natural History Museum, aquarium and a bit of zoo as well! The first section is 'evolution' with exhibits of life-sized animals as well as some skeletons, right from Giraffe, to Hippopotamus, to Pangolin, to monkeys, to various birds, to lion and more! The next section is a small courtyard with enclosures for tortoises. This was Atyudarini's favourite thing in the entire day. She literally got down to their level and started communicating with them and let me tell you, the feeling was mutual - the tortoises got close to her and started communicating as well! The next section is an adorable butterfly area inside a mini tropical greenhouse. It was fun to walk around and spot the butterflies. The most fascinating one for me was of course the butterfly that looks like a dry leaf! I may not have spotted it unless it was sitting on the glass! Further ahead is the Vivarium (Aquarium) with many varieties of snakes, other invertebrae and fishes. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Belgium with kids.

Where is Tournai Natural History Museum (on Google Maps)Musée d'Histoire naturelle & Vivarium
Tournai Natural History Museum Opening Hours:  9:30AM to 12:30noon and 1:30PM to 5:30PM
Tournai Natural History Museum Tickets:  €2.60 each (incl. in Tournai City Pass & MuseumPassMusees)

Tournai Things to do Natural History Museum

Tournai Things to do with kids Natural History Museum

Tournai Things to do with kids Natural History Museum

Oldest Museum in Belgium Tournai Natural History

Oldest Museum in Belgium Tournai Natural History

HOW TO REACH TOURNAI
Where is Tournai Railway Station (on Google Maps):  Tournai
Tournai is about 100km from Brussels on-road and takes about 1 hour to reach by car.
Tournai is served by a railway station which is very well connected by SNCB-NMBS Belgian Railways. Tournai and Brussels are connected by frequent & direct trains and the journey time is about 1 hour.  Here are some ways to find cheap Belgian train tickets
All the places to see in Tournai mentioned above, are walkable from Tournai Railway Station.

TOURNAI CITY PASS
Tournai City Pass can be purchased from the Tourist Office. There are 3 types - S, M & L.
  • Tournai City Pass S - €4 - Belfry, 2 films at Tourism Office
  • Tournai City Pass M - €5 - Belfry, 1 museum, 1 film at Tourism Office
  • Tournai City Pass L - €10.40 - Belfry, 3 museums, 1 film at Tourism Office

TOURNAI ONE DAY ITINERARY
  • Adults only: Notre Dame Cathedral, Belfry, Pont des Trous, Fine Arts Museum, Folklore museum and Tournai Archaeology Museum.
  • If you have kids with you: Notre Dame Cathedral, Belfry, Pont des Trous, Natural History Museum, Maison de la Marionette

TOURNAI WEEKEND ITINERARY - TWO DAYS IN TOURNAI
  • Day 1: Notre Dame Cathedral, Belfry, watch the 2 short-films at Tournai Tourism Office, Fine Arts Museum, Pont des Trous
  • Day 2: Museum Hopping - Natural History Museum, Maison de la Marionette, Tournai Archaeology Museum, Folklore Museum
Tournai in One day pinterestthings to do in tournai pinterest

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 advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands