While we were travelling around WWI battlefields in France and Belgium we spent a while in Ypres, located in the Flanders region of Belgium. I found Ypres (Leper been its official name) a fascinating city, having been completely flattened during WWI it looks stunning today!
When we arrived we went on a walking tour of the city centre. The guide we had was really knowledgable and was able to answer all of our questions.
The first place we went to was St. George’s Memorial Church. Built to commemorate 500,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient. The church holds many plaques, cushions and flags belonging to different individuals and regiments. One flag that is displayed was even carried into battle.
Next we visited St. Martins Cathedral, completely rebuilt following the war it is a stunning building and sign of resilience. We headed towards the main square passing an absolutely massive shell from the war that was nearly the same height as me!
The main square in Ypres is beautiful. The Market Place (Grote Markt) has truly been rebuilt from the ashes. The old style buildings surrounding the square gives you an insight into what it looked like before it was destroyed. The Flanders Museum is also located here and is worth a visit. There are loads of restaurants and bars around this area which makes it a great atmosphere.
The tour ended at the Menin Gate, another memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Ypres Salient and to those that are still missing. The walls have more than 54,000 names. Ypres doesn’t feel like a big city but it’s hard to believe there was barely anything left standing at the end. On a wall near the gate lots of bullet holes are visible from WWII, a stark reminder of what this city went through.
After, we went for a few drinks and a bite to eat before the Last Post ceremony that takes place at the Menin Gate every evening at 8PM. This has happened every evening since 1928. Witnessing this tradition was a very humbling experience, thinking of all those who lost their life in the war is heartbreaking.
I’m really glad that I got to visit Ypres for the Belgium pastries.. But being serious, it’s a historically rich and beautiful city and a true symbol of resilience. The cities main sights can easily be covered in a day, but Ypres is in a great location, meaning it is a perfect destination to use as a base for visiting other sites, like the battlefields.