20 October 2019

Top Things to do in Ypres, Belgium | Ieper Travel Guide

Ypres (also known as Ieper) is a quaint town with a haunting history in the Belgian province of West Flanders. Being such a small town I wasn't expecting much but I was totally surprised and swept away by its charm.

A Little History

Ypres played a hugely important role in the First World War and sadly saw the loss of a generation of soldiers during the battles that took place here and in the surrounding areas. It is believed that 300,000 soldiers lost their lives on the front line here known as the Salient.

There are plenty of war museums, memorials, military cemeteries and battlefields to tour, learn about and respectfully explore.

During the war, the town centre was entirely destroyed and reduced to rubble. The main market square Grote Markt and most of the important buildings have been carefully reconstructed in the original 14th Century medieval style.

It's a lovely town to explore and the friendly locals and delicious food make it even more so. With such an important history it is worth visiting on any trip to Belgium.

Here are some of the top things to do in Ypres, with a few travel tips at the end, including where to stay and top places to eat.

Flanders Fields Museum

The In Flanders' Fields Museum is a must-visit, dedicated to the study of the First World War. It's located in the main town square on the second floor of the Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle).

The museum uses various media and sensory experiences including videos, sounds and smells to fully immerse visitors. There are even interactive experiences including selecting a wartime persona and following their trials and tribulations throughout the war.

Menin Gate Memorial

The Menin Gate Memorial is dedicated to the missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown.

The memorial is a giant stone archway that crosses the town moat at the eastern side. Over 55,000 names are inscribed and honoured on the monument.

Flanders Battlefield Tour

There are a number of different companies that run private or group full-day or half-day tours around the main battle sights, memorials and war-related interest points in the area.

Do your research to find which one is the most interesting and best for you. My husband and I joined a half-day tour with Flanders Battlefield Tour which we both highly enjoyed.

We went to several sites over four hours, our tour guide was very informative and we learned a lot. We booked the tour directly at the Information Centre the day before.

Tyne Cot Memorial

One of the sites we visited on the tour was Tyne Cot Memorial and if you don't want to do a tour, visiting this site by itself is a must-do.

This area on the Western Front was the scene of the Third Battle of Ypres. Also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, it was one of the major battles of the First World War.

The memorial is the largest Commonwealth war grave in the world and is very moving to walk through. It bears the names of 35,000 men of the British and New Zealand forces, nearly all of whom died between August 1917 and November 1918.

The Last Post Ceremony

The Last Post Ceremony takes place at the Menin Gate every night at 8 pm. The ceremony is held to honour the fallen and express the gratitude of the Belgian nation towards those who died for its freedom and independence.

The tradition started back in 1928 and has been held every evening without fail since. Traffic passing through the Gate temporarily comes to a halt as buglers sound the Last Post in remembrance of the soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War.

The popular ceremony can get crowded so try to arrive a little earlier to ensure yourself a decent view.

Market Square

The main town square Grote Markt is home to stunning architecture, great restaurants, pubs, boutiques and little shops.

The central feature, Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) is the most impressive building in Ypres and one the most impressive in the entire country.

During the festive months an ice rink, Christmas markets and fun rides are set up in Market Square.

How to get to Ypres

The nearest airports are Brussels and Antwerp. If you don't have a rental car, Ypres is very easy to get to by train. Trains are an efficient and affordable way to get around Belgium and many of the surrounding countries. Find more information on how to get to Ypres here.

Where to Stay

My husband and I stayed at Main Street Hotel for two nights and we very highly recommend it. It's the number one hotel on Trip Advisor in Ypres for a reason! I loved the unique decor, the rooms each have a different theme and they're incredibly cosy.

It's the little touches that make all the difference for me, like amazing customer service, having the mini bar all included and the most amazing breakfast served to you each morning - such as the best waffles I've ever had.

It's one of my favourite hotels I've ever stayed at in Europe.

Where to Eat

We've all heard of Belgian cuisine and Ypres is a great place to indulge in everything it's well-known for. Chocolates, frites, waffles, beer, baked goods and traditional Flemish fare. You could enjoy eating here for days on end!

I was only in Ypres for two nights but here are my top must-visit eateries (some of which my hotel host recommended to me).

Brood Henk Banket - amazing bakery with a wide range of bread, pastries and cakes. I loved their custard-filled croissants and their chocolate eclairs.

A L' Envers - a popular Belgian restaurant and number one on Trip Advisor. Reservations recommended! I highly enjoyed their pork cheek stew and creme brulee.

Peter De Groote - for the finest Belgian chocolates. There are many boxed selections to choose from as well as a large cabinet display of various chocolate assortments to pick and mix.

St Arnoldus - a speciality beer cafe with a large variety of local Belgian beers on tap and Flemish bar snacks.

If you would like to see a bit more, check out my Ypres Travel Vlog I made for YouTube:

Those are my top recommendations for things to do in Ypres. I hope you have some inspiration and are convinced to come and visit this historical and charming little town.

Do you have any other top tips to add? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

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