Ypres


Ypres (Dutch: Ieper, both pronounced "eeper") is a friendly town in Flanders endowed with wonderful architecture and a troubled past. Ypres is best known as the site of three major battles of the First World War, the most famous being the Battle of Passchendaele from July—November 1917. The many memorials and cemeteries of the fallen in and around Ypres draw thousands of visitors each year. Population 36,000 (2005).

Understand

Ypres town centre. View across the crowded marketplace to the rebuilt Cloth Hall, location of the In Flanders Field Museum.

Town Name and Languages

The official Dutch name for the city is Ieper - this is the version of the name you will see most commonly in and around the Flemish-speaking town. Most native English speakers, however, will know the town by its French name Ypres, as popularised in media and history texts during and immediately after the First World War.

History

The town of Ypres formed the centre of the so-called "Ypres Salient" during most of the First World War—an area of Allied (British and Belgian)-held land surrounded on three sides by the German front line that formed the northernmost section of the Western Front. Holding Ypres was vital for the Allies in their bid to prevent the Germans gaining control of all the Channel ports, vital for the transport and supply of the British Expeditionary Force. As a result, the city became the focus of several major battles to break in / out of the Salient and was subjected to fairly continuous bombardment by German artillery for most of the war. By 1918, little remained of the town but shattered ruins surrounded by muddy shell-pocked fields.

After the First World War, most of central Ypres was rebuilt with German reparations (war debt) money. This was a lengthy process: the famous Cloth Hall was not completed until the 1960s.

Get in

Train

Ypres has its own train station. From there, you can easily walk to the city center. But the station itself is poorly served, causing slow connections to most other towns a bit further away.

Bus

Ypres has bus lines towards neighbouring towns.

Car

Ypres itself is easily reachable by car - highway to Courtray (Kortrijk on signs), then follow directions for Ieper (A19).

From the ports of Calais or Dunkerque, take the A16 East, turning off at junction 28 (A25 towards Lille). Get off at Junction 13 and follow the signs for Ypres (Ieper).

Ypres isn't big, so it's perfectly traversable by car. You can park at the main square, in front of the cloth hall for a small fee (except during the weekly or other market), or freely near to the train station. A car also allows you to visit places further on (s.a. the various cemeteries).

Bicycle

Although it's a nice region to cycle, the distances are often too far when you have a specific destination outside the city centre.

Get around

Ypres city centre is best approached on foot.

For visiting the war graves and memorials, one could use a car or cycle. Take the guided "Battle field tour" -bus, or buy an audio tour on the internet - same sites, but a lot cheaper if you have your own transport

See

The attractions of Ypres are divided between the town center itself and several villages in the surrounding countryside - most of the battlefields and cemeteries are located in the latter. For these, a car, bike or an arranged tour would be best.

Landmarks and Memorials

Museums and Galleries

Further afield

Do

Buy

Eat

The marketplace has several restaurants, pubs and places to sit outside during the summer.

Tuesdays usually host music night outside, organised by "'t Klein Stadhuis" right next to the cloth halls and the city hall.

Sleep

The region around Ypres has many small B&Bs, and in the city centre, there are also multiple hotels.

Stay safe

Ypres is generally very safe. Pickpockets are rare, and violence is very rare. Do watch out in the streets where there's busy traffic.

Go next

Courtray (Kortrijk) is the closest city reachable by rail. Kortrijk is a nice provincial city offering history or shopping and has important rail connections to Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Lille,...

When you travel by car, it's also easy to reach the other towns that have an importance in WWI, s.a. Nieuwpoort, Diksmuide, Poperinge and Menin.

Also the Belgian coast isn't far away, with sand beaches and picturesque towns a bit further from the beach. Those towns include Veurne, Koksijde and Nieuwpoort.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, September 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.