Top Things to do in Ypres/Ieper (Flanders - Belgium)

ABOUT YPRES (IEPER)
As you may have figured out in the last article, Ypres was completely damaged and destroyed during the First World War. Whatever we see today in Ieper is a reconstruction made after 1918. Read on to know more...

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Bullets of World War bombs

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Personal belongings of Indian soldiers

AFTERMATH OF YPRES BATTLES - RESTORATION OF IEPER TOWN
After the war, a section of authorities wanted to preserve the city in its ruins as it is. However, the owners of the lands and farmers who returned to their lands wanted to restart their lives and livelihood. So, the authorities had 3 options in hand - to preserve the ruins, to recreate the city as it was and restore the former glory, to develop a totally new city. The 2nd option was voted most and Jules Coomans, who was a major restoration architect of the city was given the task. To date, for 3 generations after him, his family is still into architecture, in the town.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS MUSEUM, YPRES (IEPER)
Today the entire Cloth Hall has been converted to a series of museums, research centres etc incl Belfry. The main entrance is via the In Flanders Fields Museum and there's also another entrance via Ypres Museum. With the time available we missed Ypres Museum.
 
The In Flanders Fields Museum is an extensive exhibition explaining World War I and the situation of Ypres in it. Various things that the war left out in Ypres are here to see - right from bullets to grenades to clothing & accessories of soldiers to horse accessories to medical equipment to newspapers & posters and so much more! Documentaries and role-play videos also demonstrated how a soldier's life was during the war. This entire place was more about the life of people than politics, which was very heartening to see.
See these marbles? These are the granite marbles that filled the grenades, which exploded either by timer or impact. The mere force of these pellets is so much that it killed most at one shot. There was also a section of a much more endearing display - the various hobbies & crafts that the soldiers did when they were held as prisoners. 

Where is In Flanders Fields Museum (On Google Maps)In Flanders Fields Museum
How to reach In Flanders Fields Museum: 800m (9 mins walk) from Ypres (Ieper) railway station. It is in the Grand Place (Grote Markt) of Ieper (Ypres)
In Flanders Fields Museum Tickets: €10 (incl. in Museumpassmusees) - Can be bought online on the In Flanders Fields Museum official website
In Flanders Fields Museum & Yper Museum combined Tickets: €13 (incl. in Museumpassmusees) 
In Flanders Fields Museum Timings: 
     Apr to Nov - everyday 10:00AM to 6:00PM; 
     Nov to Mar - Tue to Sun - 10:00AM to 5:00PM

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Personal belongings of Indian soldiers

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Belfry Cloth Hall

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Belfry Cloth Hall

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Cloth Hall

In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper Ypres Belfry Kattenstoet

IEPER (YPRES) BELFRY & CLOTH HALL - UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN FLANDERS, BELGIUM
One of the main places to visit in Ieper (Ypres) is the UNESCO world heritage site of Belfry. As I had mentioned in my post on Tournai, there are a total of 56 Belfries in Belgium and France that are listed together under UNESCO. The Belfry is a part of the Cloth Hall built in 1304 CE. As the name suggests this was a storage and sale area for clothes in that era. This site, as you might have figured out in the last few posts, was totally destroyed in World War and the Belfry was rebuilt after the war.
The Belfry is a flight of 231 steps and the staircase is from the cloth hall. By 1607, there were 20 bells here and the carillon culture thrived. However, they all were destroyed in WWI and reconstructed under Coomans. In 1934, 36 bells made by Michiels was installed and in 1964, bellmakers Petit and Fritsens restored some of those and added new ones to a total of 49 bells that still function on Ypres Belfry. The best reason to climb it - from atop Ypres Belfry, Tyne Cot memorial is visible
While there don't miss the golden statue of a clown with a cat! In the yesteryears, a real cat was thrown from atop here as cats were considered evil and unlucky. Today however the tradition is still followed but with a plush toy! This is a huge event of Cat Parade called Kattenstoet, that happens once in 3 years.

When is KattenStoet happening in 2021: In 2021, the event has been replaced with Katten Kronkels, a pandemic-safe alternative - July 3 & 4, 2021
KattenStoet 2021 tickets: There's a bike-tour with cats & witches events priced at €5 per person. You can buy the tickets on the official site of KattenStoet

Where is Ypres (Ieper) Belfry (On Google Maps)Ypres Cloth Hall
How to reach Ypres (Ieper) Belfry: same premises as In Flanders Fields Museum in the Grand Place (Grote Markt) of Ieper (Ypres)
Ypres (Ieper) Belfry & Cloth Hall Tickets: Additional €2 with In Flanders Fields museum tickets
Ypres (Ieper) Belfry & Cloth Hall Timings: Same as In Flanders Fields Museum

Ieper Ypres Sint-Maartenskathedraal St.Martin's Cathedral

Ieper Ypres Sint-Maartenskathedraal St.Martin's Cathedral

St George's British Memorial Church, Ypres Ieper

St George's British Memorial Church, Ypres Ieper

Ypres Ieper Ramparts

ST.MARTIN'S CATHEDRAL, IEPER (YPRES)
After the Cloth Hall & Belfry, our first stop in the afternoon was the St.Martin's Church. This is an episcopal Neo-Gothic construction, like the rest of the city constructed after the First World War. On the altar here is Our Lady of Thuyne. In 1383, during a siege, the residents of Ypres prayed to her for protection and the armies left. So ever since then, an annual procession has been happening here. Doesn't that remind you of the story at Tournai?! The tower is a magnificent 100m. But climbing isn't allowed.

Where is St.Martin's Church, Ieper (On Google Maps)Sint-Maartenskathedraal, Ieper
How to reach St.Martin's Church, Ieper: 850m (10 mins walk) from Ieper (Ypres) railway station. This is behind In Flanders Fields Museum
St.Martin's Church, Ieper Tickets: Free
St.Martin's Church, Ieper visit Timings: 9:00AM to 5:00PM everyday except during mass timings. 
Mass timings at St.Martin's Church, Ieper: Saturdays at 5PM and Sundays at 11AM & 6PM

ST.GEORGE'S MEMORIAL CHURCH
Our next stop was the very interesting St.George's Church, which is more of a British war memorial than a religious place, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield. This is esp. for the relatives of the soldiers with no known graves, so they have a place to pay their respects. Everything here, including kneelers, stained glass windows, banners, plaques are dedicated and symbolize the various British regiments that fought the Great War.

Where is St.George's Church, Ieper (On Google Maps)St George's Memorial Church, Ypres
How to reach St.George's Church, Ieper: 3 mins walk from St.Martin's Cathedral
St.George's Church, Ieper Tickets: Free
St.George's Church, Ieper Timings: -

YPRES RESERVOIR CEMETERY
Behind St.George's Church, a very short walk away is Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. There are more than 1500 graves in this cemetery. If you're an Indian reading this, there is one grave of an Indian Soldier of the Great War, H.Puran who served in the Indian Royal Artillery Regiment has been buried here. 
If you're an Indian reading this, here's a detailed map of all the World War Cemeteries in Belgium where Indian Soldiers have been buried. The map also includes a layer of a 10km walking route in & around Ypres to the graves of Indian soldiers and a 60km cycling route as well. The most number of graves of Indian soldiers in Belgium, is in the Bedford House Cemetery, close to Ypres (incl. in both the walking & cycling routes). If you're living in Brussels, the cemetery closest to Brussels is the Halle Communal Cemetery that has the grave of soldier Natha. Here are all the details about the participation of Indian soldiers in the First World War
Where is Ypres Reservoir Cemetery (On Google Maps)Ypres Reservoir Cemetery
How to reach Ypres Reservoir Cemetery: 700m (8 mins walk) from Ypres Railway station. 500m (6 mins walk) from St.George's Memorial Church.
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery Tickets: Free
Ypres Reservoir Cemetery Timings: 24x7

Ypres Ieper Paradijsstraat

Ypres Ieper Ramparts

Ypres Ieper Ramparts Cemetery Lille Gate Cemetery

Ypres Ieper Ramparts Cemetery Lille Gate Cemetery

Ypres Ieper Ramparts Cemetery Lille Gate Cemetery

YPRES (IEPER) RAMPARTS
A short walk from here we were at Paradijsstraat (Paradise Street) which led to the parallel street to the main road. Did you guess already? Yes, it is yesteryear's red-light area (yup, that's why 'paradise')!!! Now, a very decent, quiet, residential neighbourhood though! The end of this street led to the Ramparts.
Our first stop in the ramparts was the Leeuwentoren (Lion's Tower), or rather the ruins of what's left of it. It dates to the 14th C and is of 13mt diameter. The tower's height was reduced during the French era to use them as artillery platform. This is along the moat and the waterbody here is such a beauty. The land has protruding corners and manmade islands in the moats which are perfect for playing hide & seek with the enemy!
Here is the Ramparts Cemetary, aka Lille Gate Cemetary. This is a commonwealth cemetery with 190 burials in it. This is the nearest war grave cemetery close to the city and this is one of the few cemeteries that have dedicated headstones to Maori tribes. Next to this is the Lille Gate. This is the only surviving gate of the 14th C fortification walls.
The next stop is the Kasematten Browerij which has been in existence since 2014. This is a part of the fortification which was used during the war as a dormitory for British troops as well as for storage of ammunition. Just beside it is a wooden horse affixed to the wall. Well, remember the medieval torture devices of Ghent Gravensteen Castle? Well, this is one. The back of this wooden horse is sharp-edged and the punished one has to sit on it with sandbags tied to his legs!!! This is not an original though, just a recreation.
Next, we were at the Ice cellar. Ages ago, large freezers came into being, ice was stored here. During winter, the moat would be filled with ice which was brought here and stored. Its room is underground and has a double brick wall which keeps the ice intact at least till mid-July! This was used to preserve meat and fish and was used also for medicinal purposes. Ice was covered with straw to preserve it longer.

Ieper Ramparts walking map - Way-marked 2.6km walking route via Toerisme Ieper
Where is Paradijsstraat, Ieper (On Google Maps): Paradijsstraat
Where is Leeuwentoren in Ieper Ramparts (On Google Maps)Leeuwentoren
Where is Lille Gate Cemetery, Ieper (Ypres) (On Google Maps)Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate
Where is Kasematten Browerij, Ieper (Ypres) (On Google Maps): Brouwerij Kazematten

Ypres Ieper Ramparts Kasematten Browerij

Ypres Ieper Ramparts

Ypres Ieper Ramparts horse

Ypres Ieper Ramparts horse

Menin Gate
Pic Courtesy: Mikefield, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

MENIN GATE MEMORIAL
Our final stop was, of course, Menin Gate Memorial. This has the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers (incl. 412 Indian Soldiers) who don't have a dedicated burial site (missing / unidentified bodies). Every night at 8 PM the Last post ceremony happens here and it is something not to be missed. Make sure to be here by at least 7:30PM a place with good visibility of all sides. The ideal location would be on the Bollingstaart closest to the centre of Menin Gate to the railing. 
To the side of Menin Gate is the 'Memorial for Indian Forces' and just beside it is the 'Nepalese Gurkha Monument' (keep in mind that both India & Nepal, along with Pakistan & Bangladesh were together a part of British India during First World War). The Nepalese Gurkha Memorial was inaugurated in 2015 while Memorial for Indian Forces was inaugurated in 2011 by the respective embassies. 

What is Ypres Last Post Ceremony? During the First World War, the British soldiers would have marched through this ‘gate' to defend their respective posts in the battlefields of Ypres, to protect the Ypres Salient. This would have been the Last Post which many, many soldiers crossed through, but then died in the battle and didn't come back through this gate. The ceremony is to pay respects to the fallen soldiers of the First World War! 
Personally, for me, I visited here on the evening of Day 1 at Ypres and I felt it was a very moving ceremony and really felt sorry for the fallen soldiers. On Day 2, after visiting Bedford memorial and after reading a bit more about the involvement of Indian Soldiers in World War I, while writing this article, I was moved to tears. This entire experience still sends me to absolute tears. I'm hoping to visit Menin Gate again. Let's see...

Where is Menin Gate Ieper (Ypres) (On Google Maps): Menenpoort
How to reach Menin Gate1.2km (14 mins walk) from Ypres railway station. 400m (4 mins walk) from In Flanders Fields museum
Menin Gate Tickets: Free
Menin Gate Timings: 24x7
Last post ceremony at Menin Gate: 8:00PM everyday

YPRES SALIENT
After visiting Menin Gate, the next thing to do is to visit various spots along the Ypres Salient line. Read more about what is a Salient and the Salient Tour that we went on.

YPRES (IEPER) HOTELS
Hotels & B&Bs at all price points are available in Ypres City Centre. 

HOW TO REACH IEPER (YPRES) FROM BRUSSELS 
To Ypres (Ieper) from Brussels: 130km 
There are no direct trains from Brussels to Ypres / Ieper. Take a train till Gent and then change to another train from Gent to Ypres/Ieper. The whole journey takes 2-2:30hrs including transit time.

MY COMPLETE YPRES (IEPER) TRAVELOGUE
P.S: I was invited by Ieper Tourism 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

17 comments:

  1. Oh belgium! One of the places on my bucket list. But didnt really know anything about it historically. Would have been better if it was preserved :) but this museums will also be informative so i am looking forward into visiting.

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  2. Three generations on restoring a city, destroyed in World War I! Amazing tale of how people value history.

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  3. I've always found the history of the great war fascinating. Many lessons that were never learned. The museums looks amazing!

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  4. I would consider myself a study of war history as I read about it a lot on my own. I've always found it fascinating and I would love to visit this museum and see all it has to offer.

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  5. That's a nice museum! Although we are somewhat outdoor people, we always make it a point to go to museums in places we visit. So much history and culture to be learned there.

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  6. It is so great that there's still few surviving remains of the WWI, and we can found the few at Flanders Museum. This is a great place for kids to learn about history so they could understand the present.

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  7. I am indeed intrigued with the Cat Parade in this old but beautiful historic city. One thing I don't understand is how throwing a car down will bring them good luck all those years ago.

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  8. Ww1 has always fascinated me. Ypres is a great rememberance monument for the fallen. Great read

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  9. So glad to see cities that are rebuilt after extreme turmoil. Depressing but enlightening to learn of their histories and experience it!

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  10. I loved reading this post. Belgium has been on our radar for some time and I love UNESCO sites. There seems to be so much history around these places.

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  11. This place reminds me of Sindhudurg Fort in Maharashtra. This one is still in a fine condition compered to Sindhudurg. It is a good thing that UNSECO is taking care of these sites and ensuring that they'll be around for future visitors.

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  12. Its very pleasant to find such valuable informations about the city history! Thank you for sharing!

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  13. Ok :) A walk into history. You continue bringing everything Belgium has to offer. I think you are one of the largest souses for things to do in Belgium.

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  14. It was really interesting to read all these valuable information about the city's history. So glad to see cities that are rebuilt after extreme turmoil. IT was a a bit sad to read about their history but enlightening at the same time. Another great post, thank you for sharing

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  15. I never though of traveling to Belgium as i didn't know it had so much history. This is an in depth article that has opened new perceptions toward Belgium, hopefully one day i can visit.

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  16. I never knew about Ypres and its sad history during World War. By visiting such type of museums, we get to know how war can prove disastrous. Also never knew about Cat parade and yes in many countries, cat are considered as evil or unlucky.

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