DISCOVER WEST FLANDERS
From picture perfect to hops capital
West Flanders encompasses Belgium’s entire coastline and is an ideal destination – in particular during the summer months. Explore picture perfect Bruges with its unique medieval charms, feel the breeze at the ‘City by the Sea’ Ostend, discover hidden gems in historic Ypres or head to the hop capital Poperinge.
Exploring West Flanders
Bruges rightly deserves its status as an enchanting tourist mecca. Its history has made it great and earned it the title of a Unesco World Heritage City. The cobbled alleys and photogenic market squares are home to countless culinary and cultural secrets, and exciting events are held on a daily basis.
Also, Ypres has a long and rich history that will surprise visitors. For instance, the In Flanders Fields Museum tells the story of World War I and is one of the highlights of the city. And well worth a visit are the historical Ypres Cloth Hall (Lakenhallen), the cathedral where the Lion of Flanders is buried and the mediaeval Grand Place.
Called the ‘City by the Sea’, Ostend is known for its long beach and promenade. Here, over five and a half miles of sandy beaches invite visitors and locals to indulge in delightful sunbathing and a refreshing dip in the North Sea. Along the promenade, you will also find many shops, bars and restaurants.
Located near the French-Belgian border, Poperinge is called the hop capital of Flanders. Check out the recently opened National Hop Museum, the Talbot House and the ‘Helleketelbos’ forest. Unless you prefer to go fishing in the Yser river and the ‘Vleterbeek’, or take a covered wagon ride through the city centre.
Do not miss
During the Great War, Poperinge was part of unoccupied Belgium. Away from the turmoil of battle in the Ypres Salient, the town became the nerve centre of the British sector. In the heart of this bustling town, the Army chaplains Neville Talbot and Philip “Tubby” Clayton opened a club. From December 1915 onwards, and for more than three years, the House provided rest and recreation to all soldiers coming in, regardless of their rank. Today, as real as then, Talbot House offers a welcoming and friendly stop in Flanders fields.
The Last Post
Every evening since 1928, the Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper at eight o’clock sharp. This traditional final salute to the fallen, is played by the buglers in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies, who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War. The ceremony attracts large crowds, so prompt arrival is recommended.
In Flanders Fields Museum
The In Flanders Fields Museum presents the story of the First World War in the West Flanders front region. It is located in the renovated Cloth Halls of Ypres, an important symbol of wartime hardship and later recovery. The permanent exhibition tells the story of the invasion of Belgium and the first months of the mobilisation, the four years trench war in the Westhoek – from the beach of Nieuwpoort to the Leie in Armentières – the end of the war and the permanent remembrance ever since.
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917
The renewed Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 (MMP1917) opened its doors in April 2004 and became a nationally recognised museum in 2008. The MMP1917 is located in an environment that was a major battlefield in the First World War and which has since been rebuilt. In Zonnebeke, of which Passchendaele is a sub-municipality, you will also find many traces of the Great War.
For beer lovers
St. Bernardus Brewery
In the most remote corner of West Flanders, a beer is made that will take the fancy of most beer lovers. In Watou, St Bernardus has brewed dark and blond abbey ales since 1946. All beers are brewed with their own yeast, malts of the highest quality and hops from a field right next to the brewery.
In de Vrede
The In de Vrede visitor centre in Vleteren hosts the only café on earth where you can taste the “Best Beer in the World”, the famous Westvleteren Trappist beer. Unfortunately, the abbey and the brewery are not open to the public. However, visitors are welcome to the “Claustrum”, an information area at the In de Vrede meeting centre.
Poperinge’s Hop Museum is located in the old “Stadsschaal” or Municipal Scales. An informative audio tour guides you through four floors of history and culture, all the way from the impressive loft to the concluding ground floor. On your way down, local characters like “The Bagger” and “The Nose” will guide you along the four seasons of the hop, historic documents, photographs, scale models and audiovisuals illustrate both the story of this unique building and that of local hop growing, its past and present.
Dates for your diary
IN FLANDERS FIELDS MUSEUM, YPRES
Traces of War – WWI Archaeology
Until 26 August 2018, Ypres
Traces of War is a special exhibition taking place at the In Flanders Fields museum in Ypres. It unearths more than 200 excavated objects and presents conflict archaeology visualised like never before. Discover the fascinating items recovered just 30cm below the ground.
WW1, The Battle For The North Sea
Until 30 August, Bruges
At exhibition “WWI, the battle for the North Sea” in Bruges’ Provinciaal Hof on the market square, where the German Navy organised the dreaded U-boat war, visitors can experience the claustrophobic atmosphere of life on board a U-boat and discover many historical objects.
Coming World Remember Me
Until 11 November, Palingbeek
The idea behind this visual art project is 600,000 hand-made sculptures that represent the 600,000 killed on Belgian soil during the First World War. Located in Palingbeek, a former no man’s land in near Ypres, the installation will be free to visit until 11 November 2018.
Until 30 September, Beaufort
Beaufort is a triennial art project that extends along the entire Belgian coastline. In Beaufort 2018, the sea will be illuminated as a place that is both uncontrollable but at the same time links us to the rest of the world.
Ostend Sand Sculpture Festival
23 June – 9 September, Ostend Beach
Mickey Mouse is celebrating his 90th Anniversary at the Sand Sculpture Festival on the beach of Ostend. With just sand and water, artists from around the world create a fantasy world full of magic, inspired by Disneyland® Paris and all heroes of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars.
Ostend Fireworks Festival
9 July – 13 August, Ostend
Every year, a fireworks festival is organised in Ostend, with fireworks shot from the main beach between the Kursaal and the Venetian Galleries. Eight Belgian fireworks makers compete to win – and this guarantees some sparkling fireworks!
10 October – 12 November 2018, Ypres
This Tony Award-winning play first ran in 1928, starring Laurence Olivier. This autumn, there will be a special performance at Het Kruitmagazijn (Gunpowder Store) in Ypres. In a five-star review, the Telegraph said “this production is worth a trip to Belgium”.
Start planning your trip to West Flanders now, at www.visitflanders.com.
TEXT: MALIN NORMAN | PHOTOS © VISIT FLANDERS
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