Visiting Flanders Fields: Some Suggestions

If you’re ever thinking about visiting Belgium, you should definitely consider visiting Flanders Fields. The historic area known as Flanders Fields is the part of the province of West Flanders that had the misfortune of being one of the frontlines during the First World War.

Particularly the city of Ypres suffered tremendously in those four years of war and was completely destroyed. The so-called Ypres Salient was one of the most feared sections of frontline on the entire western front, which extended from the North Sea coast to the Alps.

Visiting Flanders Fields

After the war, Ypres was rebuilt from scratch and nowadays it’s a nearly perfect replica of the pre-war city. Its beautiful town square is dominated by the magnificent Cloth Hall, now the home of the marvelous – seriously – Flanders Fields Museum. This is where you should start your visit of the area; emerging yourself in the history and horrors of the war. Being aware of what happened in this region, you’ll look at the following landmarks, which are now set within a peaceful landscape of fields and rivers, with a totally different perception.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Cloth Hall in Ypres
Cloth Hall in Ypres

After exploring the Flanders Fields Museum in the morning, head out of the city for a tour of the surrounding area. The Trench of Death is located near the River Yser and the city of Diksmuide. This was by far the most feared part of Belgian front, a part where the Allied and German trenches were only a few dozen steps apart. The trench is free to visit and the remains can be explored on foot.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Trench of Death
Trench of Death

Another highlight is the 84-meter-tall Yser Tower, the tallest peace monument in Europe. You can get to the top with an elevator, enjoy great panoramic views of Flanders Fields and head back down the stairway, which leads through a museum of war, peace and the emancipation of Flanders.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Yser Tower
Yser Tower

Properly visiting Flanders Fields can’t be done without a visit to a few war cemeteries. The region is home to literally hundreds of those. The most notable German cemeteries are the Vladslo Soldatenfriedhof – the resting place of more than 26,000 German soldiers – and the Langemark Soldatenfriedhof – the largest German war cemetery, with more than 44,000 soldiers.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Langemark Soldatenfriedhof
Langemark Soldatenfriedhof

British war cemeteries worth visiting are the iconic Tyne Cot War Cemetery, and Polygon Wood Cemetery and Buttes New British Cemetery.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Tyne Cot War Cemetery
Tyne Cot War Cemetery

Additional landmarks are Hill 62, one of the very few hills that were occupied by allied forces, several mine craters, museums dedicated to war and peace, countless war monuments, and so on.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Flanders Fields
Flanders Fields

Back in Ypres, you should definitely head to the imposing Menin Gate, where the Last Post ceremony is still held every evening at 8pm sharp. The ceremony has taken place every evening since 1928 in commemoration of the British soldiers who gave their lives for the Belgian people. The Menin Gate in itself is a major landmark, a war memorial dedicated to fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found. The enormous Hall of Memory contains nearly 55,000 names of missing soldiers, but, as large as it may be, is still too small to contain all names. The rest of the names are inscribed on the wall that surrounds the Tyne Cot War Cemetery.

Visiting Flanders Fields: Last Post Menin Gate
Last Post under the Menin Gate

Visiting Flanders Fields and all attractions covered in this post will take at least two full days. Ypres is without question the best place to base yourself; the region can be explored by either bicycle or by rental car.

About Bram

Website: http://www.travel-experience-live.com

Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Other posts by the Author

One Response

  1. Avatar for Bram

    Jennifer

    We recently took a day tour of Flanders Fields out of Bruges. We stopped at Cafe Taverne de Dreve near the ANZAC memorials for lunch. Owner Johan Vandewalle mesmerized us with stories from World War I and the archaeological finds in the area. He himself discovered the graves of three Australian brothers. He was on a dig when he spotted the reflection of an eye which led to the find. The cafe is rich in memories and Johan is an amazing storyteller.

    Reply

Leave a Reply