Things to see and do in Ypres

  • Things to do
  • Belgium
  • 6 min read
Things to see and do in Ypres

Visit the world-famous Menin Gate at Ypres and explore more of this vibrant Belgian city with LeShuttle.

Ypres in Belgium has a poignant place in 20th-century history because of how much it suffered during World War I. The city was almost completely destroyed, as it found itself on the front line of the most devastating conflict the world had ever known.

But Ypres was rebuilt. Today it is thriving and has many impressive buildings and features. The city and the surrounding area (the Ypres Salient) is the site of countless cemeteries, battlefield memorials and museums, and the Last Post ceremony pays tribute to the fallen every day at the Menin Gate.

Whether you are coming to pay your respects to the soldiers who died, or just want to take a break in a historic city, Ypres is certainly worth visiting.

Where is Ypres?

Ypres is in Flanders in the north-west of Belgium, close to the French border.

Driving to Ypres from Calais

Don’t be fooled into thinking that because Ypres is in Belgium, it must be a long drive. Like many interesting places in Belgium, it is really not far at all from our Calais terminal. In fact, it is only a drive of one hour and 15 minutes from LeShuttle. Simply take the A16 from Calais to the A25 at Dunkirk, then the D948 across the border and the N38 to Ypres.

Historical sites to visit in Ypres

Ypres has never forgotten the tragedies of the war. The destruction of the city, the fierce battles and the hundreds of thousands lives lost has a lasting legacy.

The Menin Gate

Large memorial arch

The Menin Gate is the world-famous focal point of many people’s visit to Ypres. The Menin Gate Memorial features the engraved names of the 54,389 Allied soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during World War I without a known grave.

Every night at 8pm the police halt the traffic passing under the memorial and buglers play the Last Post – a daily act of remembrance that will continue in perpetuity. It is a very moving moment to witness. Upon special request, you can be involved in the ceremony by laying a wreath.

Ypres Cloth Hall

Long ornate religious-style building with square belfry

Ypres was built on the cloth industry, and for centuries its cloth hall or ‘Lakenhalle’ was the city’s most important building. Serving as both warehouse and market place, it was left in ruins during World War I. Photographs of what remained of the Cloth Hall became a symbol of the terrible carnage that befell Flanders.

But like the rest of the city it was rebuilt, paid for by Germany’s reparations. The Cloth Hall is open today, and many other city amenities and museums are located here, so it should definitely be on your list of things to do in Ypres.

In Flanders Fields Museum

Appropriately housed in the Cloth Hall itself, this brilliantly curated museum tells the incredibly powerful story of what happened in Ypres and Belgium during the course of the war. Through audio-visual aids, archive footage, photography and original items and artefacts, visitors are given a vivid and detailed picture of how the conflict arrived in Flanders and never left. The permanent exhibition is supported by temporary exhibitions, lectures and events.

WW1 battlefields

Lines of gravestones in circular rows at a large memorial cemetery, with deep blue sky in the background

There were seven major battles in the Ypres Salient, and they have left their mark on the landscape, with trench systems, bunkers and craters all clearly visible. Some battlefield sites are open to the public, and we would recommend a visit to the museum at  Passchendaele, the military cemetery at Tyne Cot, and Hill 60, the scene of intense fighting throughout the war.

Today Hill 60, just south of Ypres, is the site of several memorials and the scattered remains of pillboxes, bunkers and huge craters, testimony to how strategically important this area of elevated ground was in an otherwise flat landscape.

Some of these battlefield sites are stops on the Peace Route, a 45km circular cycle route in and around Ypres.


Saint Martin’s cathedral was also in ruins by 1918, but was faithfully restored and rebuilt to its original floor plan and specifications. Unless you were an expert you would be hard-pressed to know that this wasn’t the original 13th-century church. It has one of the tallest church towers in Belgium, and houses some original features that were removed before the shelling started. These include a stone floor from 1638, the high altar, marble pulpit and stone rood screen.

St. George's Memorial Church

St George’s Memorial Church is the corner of Ypres that is ‘for ever England’. Built in 1929 to commemorate the 500,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers that lost their lives fighting in the Ypres Salient, the Anglican church was financed by public appeal on land gifted by the city of Ypres. It contains hundreds of personal and regimental plaques in memory of Allied servicemen, and acts as a place of pilgrimage for many people on battlefield tours or personal visits of remembrance.

The Merghelynck Museum

Take a trip back in time in this museum, which re-creates the splendour and luxury of an Ypres mansion in the late 18th century, full of period antiques and artworks. Again, this is something of a masterpiece of reconstruction, with most of the items from the original  Merghelynck Museum having been displaced or lost from 1914-18. Volunteers in period dress lead guided private tours of the aristocratic and servants’ quarters of the building, by prior application. 

Other must-visit sites

The Grote Markt

The Grote Markt is the centre of the modern city, just as it was in medieval times. This long wide cobblestoned street and square runs alongside and in front of the Cloth Hall. Markets are held every Saturday, and other notable events to take place here include the annual 24-hour international car rally and the Christmas market. Bars, restaurants, cafés, shops and attractive gabled buildings make it a quintessential Belgian square. Check out Ypres Burger on the Grote Markt – the Béarnaise burger comes highly recommended!

Walk along the Vauban Ramparts

From the Menin Gate why not take a walk along the impressive fortifications built by Louis XIV’s military engineer Vauban? These ramparts on the banks of the city moat are topped by attractive gardens. Most people stroll here as far as the medieval Rijselpoort (Lille Gate), before taking a wander in the Ramparts Cemetery.

View of a waterway with a rampart or fortification in the foreground and houses on the far bank

Kazematten Brewery

While on your rampart walk, make sure you stop off at the Kazematten brewery – which is actually located under the ramparts. There is a sense of history here too. These spaces under the city walls were where British soldiers in World War I produced their famous morale-boosting newspaper The Wipers Times (‘Wipers’ being how tommies could get their tongue around ‘Ypres’).

So how could Kazematten call their signature beers anything else but Wipers Times? You can take a tour of the brewery and sample three beers at the end. There are plenty to choose from – with their Blond, Dubbel and Tripel being the most popular.

Eating and drinking in Ypres

De Ruyffelaer

In an historic city, it’s only right you dine in an historic restaurant that serves the local delicacies. De Ruyffelaer is a homely, quaint restaurant with brocante décor. Not only will you enjoy traditional Ypres meals, but you will definitely find some kooky eccentricities nestled away.

Kaffe Bazaar

As Belgium is famous for its beer, you can't possibly visit without trying a new tipple. Kaffe Bazaar has over 30 Belgian beers and 50 spirits, so even the fussiest drinker will find something they like. Try to visit on a Sunday, as that's when the bar hosts live music for a real party atmosphere.

Plaque on a wall in four different languages about the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate

Where to stay

Main St Hotel

A small, boutique hotel is the perfect place to stay in Ypres, a city known for its unusual atmosphere. Main St Hotel is beautifully decorated, close to the centre of the city; with hand selected Belgian beer and a small library, you’ll feel right at home here.

Visit Ypres with LeShuttle

It is impossible to visit Ypres and not be moved by what you see. Plus, visiting Ypres is easy with LeShuttle, with crossings from Folkestone to Calais in only 35 minutes.

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