Ypres is also nicknamed “The Cat City” or since the visit of Pope John Paul II,” Peace City “. The earliest mention of Ypres dates from the 11th century. The city is full of WWI museums, cemeteries, trenches, tunnels and landmarks. Click on this post’ link, if you would like to explore other WWI sights in West Flanders.
Spotlight Sight: Menen Gate
Reginald Blomfield’s triumphal arch, designed in 1921, is the entry to the barrel-vaulted passage for traffic through the memorial that honors the Missing, those with no known graves. The patient lion on the top is the lion of Britain, but also the lion of Flanders.
The gate retains the name Menen Gate because the road leading through the gateway leads to the small town of Menen. Iepers occupied a strategic position during the First World War because it stood in the path of Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of Belgium. By October 1914, the Belgian Army broke the dykes on the Yser River to the north of the City to keep the western tip of Belgium out of German hands. Iepers was also important because it eventually became the last major Belgian town that was not under German control.
The importance of the town is reflected in the five major battles that occurred around it during the war. Missing soldiers are still found around the countryside. The most recent discovery was in June of 2016 in Diksmuide, Belgium. Article
A proper burial is given at a war cemetery in the area. If the remains can be identified, their name is removed off the memorial. You can visit their website for “The Last Post” dates and times. It’s a ceremony that honors all the soldiers lost in WWI. Website
A well known poem and song also helps bring remembrance and reflection for visitors.
Get To Know the City
*Heritage Footpath Ypres
The heritage footpath is about 5.3 km long and provides the most complete footpath in the Ypres inner city.
Maps are available at the tourist office.
Other Beautiful Sights
*The Cloth Hall/Belfry
The Cloth Hall is located on the beautiful square. It is a series of buildings surrounding a rectangular courtyard. The building work was started in 1200 and took over 100 years to complete. The halls were used for the sale and storage of goods and produce. In one of the upper halls the walls were decorated with 12 frescoes showing scenes from 1187 – 1383. Other walls were decorated with paintings of a cloth merchant.
The Nieuwerck was built in the 17th century. There are two upper floors. The first floor connects to the upper floor of the gothic Cloth Hall. In the mid-1840’s a river flowed through the town. Small boats could make their way up to the Cloth Hall from the Yser River to unload their goods into the halls.
The belfry is the oldest part of the Lakenhalle complex. The foundation stone was laid in 1201. There were three floors in the bell tower. At one time the ground floor was used as a prison. The belfry has served as the Town Hall, a treasury, armory and for meetings by the various Guild representatives. In the past, black cats were ceremonially thrown from the belfry because they were considered to be associated with black magic. Now the city holds a “Cats Festival” every three years. They throw toy cats from the belfry during the festival. There is also a parade.
(Information provided by)
*The Fish Market
In the Old Tollhouse (1899), also called Minckhuisje, the fishmongers had to pay a toll.
Walk a bit further and see two covered stalls.
In 1714 the Fish Gate with Neptune, god of the sea, was originally built.
*St. Martins Cathedral
At 102 meters (335 feet) tall, it is among the tallest buildings in Belgium. Construction began in 1230-1370. There had previously been a Romanesque church in the area, dating from the 10th or 11th century. In 1557, the diocese was abolished. After the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, Ypres was incorporated into the diocese of Ghent, and Saint Martin’s lost its status as a cathedral. The locals still refer to as a cathedral.
World War I did a lot of damage. From (1922–1930) work began on the church to resemble the original. The original spire was lower on the tower. The Lion of Flanders (Count Robert III of Flanders), is buried there. It also doubled as Westminster Abbey in the BBC Miniseries The White Queen.
*Coming World Remember Me
This endeavor was began in 2014 by artist Koen Vanmechelen, and will end in 2018. The goal (with the publics help) is to create 600,000 sculptures out of clay. Each and every sculpture represents one of the 600,000 victims who lost their lives in WWI in Belgium.
The frontline around Ypres will be the final resting place for the exhibit. A remembrance of war and peace. For a nominal fee, it’s an awesome way to be a part of history for future generations to see. Visit their website.
*In Flanders Fields Museum
The museum tells the historical story of WWI in West Flanders. The museum is located in the rebuilt Cloth Hall of Ypres, and an important symbol of wartime suffering. The all-new permanent exhibition tells about the invasion of Belgium and the first months of the war, of movement, and trench warfare in Flanders. To enhance the experience, each visitor receives a personal ‘poppy’ bracelet. Thanks to the chip in the bracelet, the language is set automatically and the visitor can discover 4 personal stories through the permanent exhibition. Website
The Ypres historical museum is located at St. John-godshouse. The building is from 1555. It is one of the few buildings in Ypres that survived WWI. The town museum introduces you to the past through paintings, prints, maps and original photos. You also get an overview of the fine and applied arts from the 16th century: paintings, sculptures and graphics in addition to tin, silver and forgings. Website
This mansion is a perfect reconstruction of the building in 1774. In the beautifully decorated salons and boudoirs see original French style furniture, paintings and silverware, saved from the fires of World War One. There is also a unique collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. The guide tells you brilliant and funny tales about the ups and downs of the Merghelynck family. Website
The Ramparts of Ypres are the best preserved in Belgium. Their history started ten centuries ago when the city originated. Initially, the Ramparts were little more than an earth wall with moats.
The stone walls and towers were are newer. Later still, they developed into a complex unit with bastion, advance fortifications, moats and islands.
The sign posted route is 2.6 km and provides an enjoyable and leisurely 90 minute walk. Along the route there are 23 information panels. They provide history about the different aspects of the Vauban Ramparts.
*The Longest Hour
Can’t get enough of the escape room scene? Enjoy a team building activity?
You can pursue that interest here:
Perhaps you are an adventurous soul and seek a thrill? How about a Hot Air Balloon Ride?
*City Games Ypres
You have an Android Tablet and a GPS. You walk around and see the sights, you solve questions and puzzles.
Play golf and see the sights. There are 3 different packages.
1. Just Play: short introduction + half hour contest + final drink in a local pub.
2. Play & Taste: Just Play + combination of snacks and drinks.
3. Play & Diner: Just Play + subsequent meal.
A minimum of 10 people required.