Great Escapes

European Travel Blog


1 Comment

Romantic breaks in Europe this Valentine’s Day

The most romantic day of the year has crept upon us again this year – Valentine’s Day. Shrouded in mystery as to the precise founder of this romantic celebration, Valentine’s Day is as popular as ever, and has even been recognised as the second largest card sending day after Christmas. We appreciate it can be hard to find something unique to surprise your loved one with (if you’re looking to do something a little different to the usual flowers, chocolates, dinner etc), so our Great Escapes experts have personally selected some romantic Valentine’s getaways across the water, which are sure to get you into your better half’s good books.

Hotel Prinsenhof, Bruges

Nestled comfortably in the heart of Bruges, is the charming 4* Hotel Prinsenhof. Set within a beautifully converted manor house and located in a quiet cobbled street, this hotel is only 350m from the city centre and the stunning sights of Bruges.

With 24 stylish guest rooms, the hotel has a very unique and personal feel, which is sure to make you and your loved one feel very special and well looked after during your stay. Take a romantic walk into the centre of Bruges, where you can explore the meandering canals and array of eateries. Or, take a horse and carriage tour around the city, where you’ll see everything from historical sites and museums, to canals and striking architecture. Carriage tours take place day and night, and the best place to find them is at the Carriage Station, or on a Wednesday morning before midday at The Burg.

Great Escapes are currently offering 3 nights for the price of 2 at Hotel Prinsenhof, from £229pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). You’ll stay in a beautiful superior room, with bed and breakfast, and will receive a complimentary box of chocolates for your custom.  For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

31526_1449091_Serenity Use and PR

31521_1848724_Serenity Use and PR

Hotel Prinsenhof 04-06-08

Château Hôtel Cléry, near Boulogne

If you’re looking for a romantic stay that’s quiet and away from the hustle and bustle, then Château Hôtel Cléry could be the ideal Valentine’s break. This beautiful manor house, located in the charming village of Hesdin l’Abbé, is surrounded by 5 acres of parkland and exudes traditional French elegance.

There are 25 comfortable guest rooms, some located in the main building, and some in quaint little cottages within the grounds of the Château. Only 10km away, Boulogne offers lots to see and do, including exploring the historic Ville Haute with its cobblestone streets and beautiful old buildings, visiting the impressive Nausicaa aquarium, or you could take a stroll in and around the famous Basilique Notre Dame.

Great Escapes are currently offering your second night’s stay at Château Hôtel Cléry for half price, from £119pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). A ‘charm’ room with bed and breakfast and two bottles of selected wines is included within the price. For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

8804_1509190_Serenity Use Only

8782_1021962_Serenity Use Only

41717_2085724_Serenity Use and PR

Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche, Paris

If you’re feeling a little more traditional, you could always surprise your partner with a trip to the city of love… 4* Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche is located close to the stunning Jardin du Luxembourg, and with its wonderful lawns, fountains, statues and palace, it’s the perfect place for a romantic walk. The hotel itself is full of character, with exposed stone walls and beams just some of its superbly attractive features.

Being only 4.5km away from the Eiffel Tower, you don’t have to travel far to experience a true air of romance in quite possibly the most romantic monument in the world. Another close by attraction is which is worth a visit is Pantheon Paris, just 950m away. A stunning church building turned mausoleum completed in 1790, is home to the crypts of Marie Curie, Rousseau and Voltaire, among others.

Great Escapes is currently offering your third night free when you stay at Hôtel St Paul Rive Gauche, from just £199pp (including ferry crossing from Dover to Calais). Stay in a standard room with bed and breakfast, along with a complimentary map of Paris and visit to Montparnasse Tower, where you can see some of the most stunning panoramic views of the city. For more information, visit the Great Escapes website.

 17829_474629_Serenity Use Only

17830_651181_Serenity Use Only

Hopefully we’ve sparked a little inspiration for your plans this year, and you’re now feeling the romance.

Please share the love by commenting below if you’ve been somewhere that you thought was a great location for a Valentine’s break.


1 Comment

Tis the season…

Christmas has finally arrived! So we wanted to treat you all to a compilation of beautiful Christmas photos from around Europe – a mixture of food and drink, markets and lights – arguably all the best things about this wonderfully festive time of the year.

So let’s make a start with a classic Christmas in Paris, the city of love…

You can’t really beat the gorgeous Eiffel Tower, covered in a glistening layer of snow, a beautiful backdrop to a very festive looking carousel.

19649_10729249_Serenity Use Only PARIS

As you can see, Galeries Lafayette knows exactly how to decorate for Christmas and keep up an ambience of class.

42268_14408649_Serenity_Use_Only

42270_13454968_Serenity_Use_Only

I’m sure you’ll agree there’s nothing more magical than wandering around a Christmas market, mulled wine in hand, looking at all the trinkets and gifts on sale. And in the snow, it couldn’t be much more festive!

19651_11882923_Serenity_Use_Only

As we all know, it’s not just Paris that are skilled in adding that little (or large) festive touch…

Lille, France is a dab hand at adding a touch of bling to their architecture.

36029_1527548_Serenity Use Only LILLE

And Reims looks stunning when the markets start to pop up, coating areas of the city in lights.

41800_2410200_Serenity Use and PR REIMS, FRANCE

Now let’s take a stop next door to Belgium, and see the handsome buildings of Grand Place, in the central square of Brussels take your breath away…

29884_4952045_Other.. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

And definitely not forgetting one of the best activities associated with this time of year, ice-skating! Take to the ice in one of Belgium’s Flemish Christmas markets.

41861_3004552_Serenity_&_3rd_Party BELGIUM

Once you’ve spent the evening picking yourself up off the ice and probably feeling rather worn out, a Rakomelo is certainly well deserved. Actually a traditional Greek beverage, its warm, sweet (and alcoholic) taste will be sure to go down a treat – only for adults though, sorry kids!

29876_9852454_Other.. BELGIUM

So moving along again, this time to Deutschland, we’ve found that Cologne is a trinket buyer’s paradise. With gifts galore and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs to look at, we couldn’t not feature it in this blog.

Here’s a rather unique stall at one of the markets:

34020_3260416_Serenity Use and PR COLOGNE

Now here’s the bigger picture for you…

34017_3024171_Serenity_Use_and_PR COLOGNE

And the ice-skating rink looks perfect for a family friendly race (if you can stay on your feet of course).

Blick auf die große Eisbahn auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt "Heimat der Heinzel" auf dem Heumarkt in der Altstadt Köln, im Vordergrund das Reiterdenkmal, im Hintergrund Dom und Groß St. Martin.

Our final stop on this festive tour takes us to a little place called Amsterdam, which embraces the Christmas spirit in a delightfully cultural way.

The most impressive perhaps, is this Christmas tree made of bicycles:

4205497257_94c8df9078_o AMSTERDAM

Image credit: Xavier Vergés, Flickr

We then have performances from the ‘World Christmas Circus’, which is a festive tradition in Amsterdam.

3166681145_499af3273e_o AMSTERDAM

Image credit: DirkJan Ranzijn, Flickr

And finally, I can’t think of a better way to round up these images than with a drink, and better yet – a Christmas drink! Delirium Christmas, a festive Belgian beer will send your taste buds tingling with hints of fruit, spices, caramel malt and candied orange. You can buy a bottle or two here.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Image credit: Hideyuki Kamon, Flickr

We hope you’ve enjoyed our mini festive tour around Europe, and are now well and truly in the Christmas spirit!

So now’s the time to go and get your favourite festive drink, a mince pie or two, put your feet up and await tomorrow’s fun and food filled day.

From everyone at Great Escapes, we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

WP_20151218_12_21_37_Pro__highres

Antwerp at Christmas


3 Comments

Europe’s Christmas Markets in 2015

It may only be October but hotels, flights and ferries are booking up fast with visitor’s to this year’s Christmas Markets in Europe. I love wandering around the stalls, finding interesting presents for family and friends, sampling mulled wine and other tasty treats. And, being a keen photographer, the markets and Christmas lights make wonderful subjects for my camera. I’m looking forward to photographing Paris come December.

Here at Great Escapes we’ve looked up the dates for some of our favourites to inspire you to do the same.


Belgium’s Christmas Markets


Antwerp, 5th to 27th December 2015

Each year the Groenplaats, Handschoenmarkt, Grote Markt and Suikerrui have a Christmas make-over. A festive atmosphere and music fills the air with many a cup of hot chocolate and glass of Glühwein consumed. There’s also an ice-rink set-up near Goenplaats, although dates vary slightly from the markets. Visit Antwerp.

24177_498540_Serenity Use and PR

Bruges, 20th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

We couldn’t imagine a more picturesque setting for a Christmas market than Bruges. There will be stalls on the Market Square and an ice-rink and stalls on Simon Stevinplein,  packed full of crafts, seasonal decorations and tasty things to eat and drink. Visit Bruges.

19255_7168812_Serenity Use Only

Brussels, 27th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

Brussels at Christmas

This vibrant Christmas market is held in the heart of the city on Place Sainte-Catherine. The big wheel and the ice rink at Marché aux Poissons will both be back again this year, as well as some 150 stalls. Don’t miss the magical son & lumière illuminations on the Grand-Place.  WinterWonders.be. Visit Brussels.

Ghent, 4th December 2015 to 3rd January 2016

Ghent’s city centre with an ice-rink, a giant Ferris wheel and the Christmas market at Konenmarkt transforms in to a winter wonderland each year. Following the success of last year the Castle of the Counts will again be part of the festivities and decorated as a winter castle. VisitGent.be. Visit Ghent.

Ghent at Christmas

Hasselt, 14th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

This cosy winter village offers Flanders’ largest mobile skating rink, the House of Santa Claus and a fun Ferris wheel in Kolonel Dusartplein.  For the little ones there is also a small Christmas train.  Winterland.be

Leuven, 10th to 20th Dec 2015

One of the oldest Christmas markets in Belgium is held in Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein in Leuven. The streets are lit up by candle light and you can enjoy everything from an intimate Christmas concert to tasting sparkling winter beers. Leuven is also home to the largest brewery in world, Stella Artois, which was originally a Christmas beer, brewed for the first time back in 1926. LeuvenseKerstMarkt.com Visit Leuven.

Leuven at Christmas

Mechelen, dates TBC

The Christmas market is centred on Grote Markt, City Hall, IJzerenleen and Veemarkt with choirs, food and drink stalls and plenty of ideas for Christmas gifts. Visit Mechelen.

Ypres,  27th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016

The Christmas market in Ypres is growing in reputation and takes place on the Grote Markt in the centre of town each afternoon during this period and all day on Saturday. The Swiss style chalets, together with the popular ice rink will certainly put you in a festive mood. (Closed Mondays). Kerstmarkt-Ieper.be Visit Ypres.

Ypres at Christmas

 


France’s Christmas Markets


Amiens, 27th November to 31st December 2015

Amiens is one of the largest Christmas market in the north of France bringing the magic of Christmas into the heart of the city with fairground rides, an open air ice-rink and an impressive light  show at the city’s cathedral throughout December. Visit Amiens.

Arras,  27th November to 30th December 2015

Arras at Christmas

Arras, the town renowned for its tapestries of the late Middle Ages, holds a spectacular Christmas market on the Grand Place with some 60 stalls offering a wide range of arts and crafts and local delicacies. Visit Arras.

Le Touquet, 19th to 31st December 2015

Le Touquet offers a traditional Christmas setting with fables, characters, lights, music and a truly festive atmosphere, with street stalls offering seasonal goods. Visit Le Touquet.

Le Touquet at Christmas

Lille, 18th November to 30th December 2015

The one of the biggest Christmas markets in northern France is held in Lille and attracts nearly a million visitors each year. The Grand Place is transformed by a majestic mix of illuminations and a big wheel which turns majestically to the sound of Christmas carols. Visit Lille.

Lille at Christmas

Paris Christmas Markets and Illuminations, 15th November 2015 to 4th January 2016

Paris at Christmas

What better time to visit the ‘City of Lights’ than at Christmas when the department stores vie with each other for the best Christmas decorations and illuminations and the trees lining the Champs Champs Elysées sparkle with lights. There are numerous Christmas Markets around the city. Visit Paris.

Reims, 20th November to 27th December 2015

You’ll find around 120 stalls at the Christmas market at Reims. Festive foods and gifts, street entertainers, carol singers and magicians all add to the festive atmosphere. Visit Reims.

 


Other European Christmas Markets


Amsterdam, dates vary

From traditional Dickensian markets capturing the magic of a Victorian Christmas to trendy food festivals you’ll find a range of Christmas markets in Amsterdam itself as well as nearby. In the city itself you’ll find ice rinks surrounded by wooden chalets over flowing with gifts and festive food and drink. iamsterdam.com. Visit Amsterdam.

Cologne, 23rd November to 23rd December 2015

Cologne hosts 7 Christmas markets with the largest located at the Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt, on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz. The most impressive has to be Cologne Cathedral as it makes such a spectacular backdrop and it’s here you’ll find the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland. Visit Cologne.

Cologne at Christmas

 

Details of markets and festive activities have been provided by local tourist offices and are published by Great Escapes in good faith.

Please note event dates and details are subject to change – please check with our reservations team if you want any further details.

Hotels fill up fast during the Christmas Markets so we would recommend booking early if you would like to travel at this popular time. Call 0845 330 2084 or email holidays@GreatEscapes.co.uk for a quote.

Antwerp at Christmas


6 Comments

Dates for 2014 Christmas markets in Belgium and France

Christmas may seem a long way off and is probably one of the last things you want to think about in the middle of Summer, however, with the provisional dates already released for many of this winter’s festivities the best hotels, in convenient locations for visiting Europe’s top Christmas Markets, will soon fill up.

19651_11882923_Serenity_Use_Only


Belgium


Antwerp

Kerst & Creatief Beurs, 15th & 16th November 2014

A cost Christmas market with original gifts and some surprising performances at Antwerp Expo. Hobbysalon.be

Christmas Market, 6th December 2014 to 5th January 2015

There’s plenty to see in Antwerp with Christmas markets at de Groenplaats, Handschoenmarkt, Grote Markt and Suikerrui. VisitAntwerpen.be

Antwerp at Christmas

Christmas Fair & Ice Rink, 6th December 2014 to 4th January 2015

A second Christmas market and ice skating rink at Steenplein.  VisitAntwerpen.be

Bruges

22nd November 2014 to 2nd January 2015

Bruges looks particularly pretty during the festive season and while the Christmas market in many of the other cities listed here may be bigger, the setting for the Bruges Christmas market couldn’t be lovelier. There will be stalls on the Market Square and an ice-rink and stalls on Simon Stevinplein.

Bruges Christmas

Winter Moments with Flowers, 21st to 30th November 2014

In addition Winter Moments with Flowers, runs from  at Site Oud Sint-Jan, Mariastraat 38. This is an exhibition for lovers of Christmas spirit, decorations and flowers. Daily flower arranging and demonstrations take place alongside numerous exhibitors highlighting party ideas. Happenings.be

Midwinterfest 14th December 2014

A festive Christmas market with a huge range of traditional and original Christmas gifts and tasty treats to tempt you, held in Balstraat.

Brussels

Winter Wonders, 28th November 2014 to 4th January 2015

6218074477_c0a6be9038_o

I visited Winter Wonders in Brussels for the first time last year and had a fabulous time.  The European Christmas market is held in the heart of the city on Place Sainte-Catherine. The big wheel and the ice rink at Marché aux Poissons, where I saw a really fantastic skating display, will both be back again this year, as well as some 150 stalls and the magical son & lumière illuminations on the Grand-Place.  WinterWonders.be

29878_9846408_Other..

The Festival of Ice and Snow Sculptures runs from mid-December 2014 to early February 2015. It showcases artistic snow and ice sculptures, which are kept at a chilling -6°C. This year’s theme will be revealed just before the opening!  VisitBrussels.be

Ghent

Ghent Winter Festivites, 5 December 2014 to 11th January 2015

Ghent’s city centre will be turned in to a winter wonderland with an ice-rink, a giant Ferris wheel and the Christmas market at Konenmarkt. This year, the Castle of the Counts will be part of the winter festivities and decorated as a winter castle, with special night openings and events. VisitGent.be

19274_659691_Serenity_Use_Only

Christmas Market, 5th December to 4th January

A small market from St Bravo’s Square to the Corn Market, with international stalls offering traditonal products from their countries plus mulled wine, tasty treats and live music.

Light Festival, 29th January 2014 to 1st February 2015

Every three years the Light Festival lights up the city with works by international light artists. The city’s nights will become the backdrop for a surprising spectacle, ingenious installations, spectacular performances and beautiful events, all based on light.

Hasselt

Winter Village, 15 November 2014 to 4 January 2015

This cosy winter village offers Flanders’ largest mobile skating rink, the House of Santa Claus and a fun Ferris wheel in Kolonel Dusartplein.  For the little ones there is also a small Christmas train.  Winterland.be

Leuven

Winter Season, 11th to 31st December 2014

Stroll through one of the loveliest Christmas market in the country, enjoy an intimate Christmas concert, sip a sparkling winter beer or just get lost in the enchanting streets full of candlelight and conviviality.

Christmas Market, 11th to 21st December 2014

Once again, Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein will serve as the enchanting backdrop for this Christmas market, one of the oldest Christmas markets in Belgium.  LeuvenseKerstMarkt.com

7500927026_6a5f011cc5_o

Mechelen

The market provisionally dates are 13th to 21st December, however, this may be extended.  It is centred on Grote Markt, City Hall, IJzerenleen and Veemarkt with food and drink stalls and stalls offering ideas for Christmas gifts.

Ostend

Winterjis, 28th November 2014 to 4th January 2015

The Wapenplein will be covered with a transparent marquee measuring 2,600 m2 and forming a unique backdrop for a magical winter landscape. Step inside and be amazed by the stunning setting, magical lighting and fairytale decorations designed by Neverland, the set constructors of the world famous dance festival Tomorrowland. Check Winterijs.be for updated details.

Ypres

Christmas in Ypres,  28th November 2014 to 4th January 2015

Christmas Market, seasonal entertainment and ice rink on  Grote Markt.  Kerstmarkt-Ieper.be


France


Amiens

21st November to 28th December 2014

Amiens is one of the the largest Christmas market in the north of France bringing the magic of Christmas into the heart of the city.

Arras

 28th November to 30th December 2014

23686_3819509_Serenity_Use_and_PR

Arras, the town renowned for its tapestries of the late Middle Ages, holds a spectacular Christmas market on the Grand Place with some 60 stalls offering a wide range of arts and crafts and local delicacies.

Lille’s Christmas Market

21st November to 28th December 2014

The one of the biggest Christmas Market in northern France is held in Lille and attracts nearly a million visitors each year.

Lille Christmas Market

Paris

15th November 2014 to 6th January 2015

19670_10693436_Serenity_Use_Only

What better time to visit the ‘City of Lights’ than at Christmas. For more details of the various markets and festivities visit About France.

Reim’s Christmas Market

21st November to 28th December 2014

You’ll find around 120 stalls at the Christmas market at Reims. Street entertainers, carol singers and magicians all add to the festive atmosphere.

Rouen

8th December to 13th December 2014

Held in front of the Cathedral the Marché, this small Christmas market has some lovely stalls selling arts and craft and local delicacies plus there are two ice rinks.

For some great value Christmas market breaks check out our latest newsletter.


1 Comment

Celebrating at Europe’s biggest free festival in Ghent

When we told people we were going to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in Ghent we got very mixed responses: from those that had been “It’s amazing you’ll love it!”; from those that hadn’t “Where?”. It’s true that Ghent isn’t on most people’s bucket lists of must see places, but it should be. We had a fantastic three nights in this beautiful city, made even better by our trip coinciding with annual The Ghent Festivities.

Festival by night

We’d originally planned to return to Dubrovnik for a few days where we’d honeymooned ten years earlier during Dubrovnik’s own Summer Festival, however the infrequency of flights and the cost of the hotel meant this really wasn’t practical. We only wanted to leave the children for two or three nights and so we had to consider other options. Whilst at work (for Great Escapes) I’d seen a free third night offer at the Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof in Ghent – the hotel looked ideal with nice rooms, a spa and champagne bar. Plus, I remembered reading about the ten-day festival that takes place each July. When I suggested it to my husband I got a blank look and the same response “where?” but when I mentioned Belgian beer and mussels he was convinced.

mussels

As it turned out I’m glad we chose Ghent over Dubrovnik, the city was equally beautiful, the hotel just as nice and the festival was a great addition.

 

We travelled by Eurostar in the Standard Premier cabin which meant we got food and drinks on board and it’s great value as the ticket entitles you to onward travel to any Belgian city. Ghent (Gent) was only one stop on from the Eurostar terminal in Brussels and once we’d figured out which platform we needed to get to (it can be a little confusing) we managed to get straight on a train and were in Ghent in around 25 minutes. One tip – the trains often refer to the station’s name rather than the city itself. We were panicking slightly after our train departed and the announcements failed to mention Ghent in the list of destinations – listen out for Sint Pieters.

24928_11540749_Serenity_Use_and_PR

The hotel itself is quite grand with an impressive entrance hall and reception area. Whilst checking in we realised we’d made a good choice – a similar standard of hotel in Paris or London would have cost a fortune. It was the first time we’d left the children (now 9 & 6) for this long and we wanted a little luxury.

24923_11986288_Serenity_Use_and_PR

After unpacking we headed out to explore, it was just a couple of minutes’ walk over St Michael’s Bridge to the medieval city. Walking over the bridge provides an impressive first glimpse of the city centre with its gothic towers and medieval buildings – National Geographic Traveler Magazine named Ghent as the most authentic historic city in the world, and Lonely Planet called it “Europe’s best kept secret.” We wanted to discover its secret.

Ghent

 

The Ghent Festivities

Below St Michael’s Bridge is the River Leie and on opposite sides of the river are the Korenlei and Graslei – probably the two most picturesque and most photographed areas of Ghent. Whilst we were there the historic buildings were partly hidden by outdoor bars and stages that had been built on the riverbank and pontoons on the river itself, but for us this only added to the atmosphere. Although I’d read about the festival I never realised quite how big it is – it dominates the city with around 10 stages set up in squares all over Ghent.

POle Pole

003

Each day we’d stumble across new areas we hadn’t discovered before and listen to some different genres of music. Most of the bands are Belgian and little known to the UK market but there are some international bands and we saw a Jamaican Jazz Orchestra, a British Blues band, a rather dodgy rock band and Black Elvis amongst many others.  Slade were performing whilst we were there, but luckily we missed them. It’s said to be Europe’s biggest free festival and also incorporates a circus acts, puppetry, comedy and street performers.

Festival from bridge

Exploring with the Ghent City Card

It wasn’t all about the festival though, there’s a lot more to this little city, the centre of which is virtually all pedestrianized. We got a Ghent City Card which costs 30 euros for 48 hours or 35 euros for 72 hours and gives free access to most of the city’s attractions, bus and tram travel and a boat trip. We climbed the Belfry which gives great views of the city but the 365 tiny winding stairs did make me a little nervous, luckily there’s a lift which we took on the way down.

Jo by river

The card also gave us a complimentary 40-minute boat trip with an English-speaking guide. We’d followed a walking tour independently the previous day so had seen much of the city but the boat trip gave a different view from the river and it was useful to have a guide, even if his accent made it a little tricky to understand every word. If you’re travelling with children there are boat trips aimed specifically at families with river monsters, pirates and witches giving the tour. I’ve no idea if these are included with the City Card, I’m just relieved Ben (my husband) and I didn’t end up on one of these by mistake! During our 3 night trip the weather was beautiful – in the late 20s – so we’d headed out early on our last day for the boat trip. Before boarding the boat we were offered a complimentary Belgian beer but as it was only 10am we’d declined. However whilst sat on the boat waiting to depart, the guide came round again confused why we didn’t have our beer. My will power remained, as you can see my husband couldn’t refuse!

Free Beer


4 Comments

The Great War remembered in Ypres

With 2014 marking the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, known at that time as the Great War, the cities of Flanders, including Ypres, are hosting events and exhibitions to commemorate the occasion. Through such events visitors can both pay their respects and learn more about this significant period of our history.

Ypres, Belgium

Ieper : Stad Ieper Grote Markt met terrasjesFoto TIJL CAPOEN Ypres, is a pretty town in northern Belgium. It is medieval in origin but it was greatly scarred by WW1 when most of the town was completely destroyed. Luckily, detailed plans and drawings of the most significant buildings were preserved and some 70 years ago the town, including the famous Cloth Halls, was re-built to the exact designs of the originals. The now weathered replicas look remarkably authentic and I’m sure visitors, who don’t know this story, would never guess that the stunning architecture found throughout the town is anything but original.

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres

In Flanders Fields Museum, The Cloth Halls, Ypres (courtesy of VisitFlanders © milo-profi photography)

In Flanders Fields Museum is situated in Ypres’ main square in the renovated Cloth Halls.  People from five continents and more than fifty different countries and cultures took part in the war in Flanders. The museums’ permanent exhibition focuses on the personal stories of such ordinary people and  a narrative from the invasion of Belgium until the end of the war. Hundreds of authentic objects and images are presented in an innovative experience-orientated way. Lifelike characters and interactive installations confront visitors with their peers in the war, a century ago. In the research centre visitors can look deeper into the history of the world at this time through personal stories and local history, as well as the big, global background story. If you climb the bell tower of the Cloths Halls, you’ll see an incredible view over the city and the surrounding battlefields.

The Menin Gate (courtesy of Ypres Tourist Board)

And every evening at 8pm the Last Post is played under  The Menin Gate Memorial to remember the fallen soldiers – a deeply moving ceremony.

The Last Post, Menin Gate, Ypres

The Last Post (courtesy of VisitFlanders © milo-profi photography)

Temporary Exhibitions at the In Flanders Museum

War and Trauma – medical care in  WWI, 01.11.2013 – 30.06.2014 Fairplay? Sport and the First World War, 14.06.2014 – 14.10.2014 The Launch of the List of Names, 04.08.2014 The Battle of the Ijzer and The First Battle of Ypres, 04.10.2014 – 04.01.2015 The Best Christmas Present in the World, 22.12.2014 A verbal and musical recital by Michael Morpurgo. This celebrated British actor, accompanied by actress Virginia McKenna, tells a story about the Christmas Truce of 1914. With Christmas carols by Voices at the Door. Further details and events can be found on the In Flanders Museum website.

The Light Front and the List of Names

On 17th October this year, 8,750 torch bearers will make a 54 mile human chain, made up of locals and visitors, from Nieuwport on the coast to Plugstreet near the Frenc border. At the same time, a list of names of the victims of the war will be projected onto three symbolic towers: the Belfry in Ypres, the Yser Tower in Diksmuide and te King Albert Memorial in Nieuwport. For more information visit  Gone West.

Flanders Peace Field – Christmas Truce Event

In collaboration with the English Premier League and various national football associations, a football competition will be held from 19th December, ending in a ceremony on 21st a ceremony in commemoration of the Christmas truces, in the presence of legendary international football figures. For more information visit  Flanders Fields.   Follow my blog with Bloglovin For short breaks to Ypres and other Flemish cities from the UK, please visit Great Escapes.

Picture postcard from… Brussels’ Grand Place this Christmas

2 Comments

Grande Place at Christmas, Brussels, Belgium

I recently spent a lovely weekend in Brussels, the highlight of which was without doubt the Grand Place lit up for Christmas. It took my breath away.

You can read about my visit and see more photos on my personal blog, Travel With Kat.