Visit Flanders Fields: what you should see in and around beautiful Ypres

All about Passchendaele, the Last Post, John McCrae and the First World War: This is why Ypres and Flanders fields are worth a visit.

All about Passchendaele, the Last Post, John McCrae and the First World War: This is why Ypres and Flanders fields are worth a visit.

Have you ever heard of Flanders Fields?

Or Ypres?

Perhaps the First World War rings a bell.

How about poppies?

Or the Last Post?

Where is Flanders Fields located?

Flanders Fields is located in Belgium in the wide area surrounding the town of Ypres and north west France.

Ypres is where June was born and grew up by the way!

What happened at Flanders Field?

Between 1914 an 1918 Flanders Fields in Belgium was the location where a bunch of atrocious battles on the Western Front took place between the German army and the allies.

Why is Flanders Field so important?

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died here during those years.

And not just because of gunfire or bombings.

The German army launched large scale poison gas attacks, the first time ever that chemical weapons were used in a war.

Chlorine gas was used, and mustard gas that was called Yperite back then named after the town of Ypres.

How many died at Flanders Fields?

The German army launched several attacks in and around the area Ypres in an attempt to make a corridor towards the sea and reach the English Channel.

The Third Battle of Ypres took place between July 31 and November 1917.

This battle of Passchendaele alone cost over 600 000 soldiers their lives.

John McCrae

The famous Flanders Fields poem was written by John McCrae, a Canadian army doctor.

He wrote the poem the day after the death of his close friend and compatriot Lieutenant Alexis Helmer who was killed in 1915.

McCrae himself died of pneumonia in January 1918 at a British hospital in Boulogne, France.

Flanders Fields poem

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Flanders Fields poppies became a symbol to remember the the atrocious battles and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died while fighting.

What to visit in Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields Museum

In Flanders Fields is also the name of the war museum in Ypres.

It is located in the Ypres Cloth Hall in the city centre on the market square. We highly recommend this museum. Every couple of years the museum receives a facelift and technology update.

Find more information about the Flanders Fields museum and tickets here.

Menin Gate

The Menin Gate is a war memorial in Ypres to remember the fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in Flanders Fields. Every night at 8pm sharp, the street that runs through the Menin Gate is closed off.

Buglers play the Last Post. This ceremony lasts about 10 minutes and is free to witness.

On special occasions like Armistice Day an official ceremony is held. Famous visitors are the British royal family and the pope. Belgian and international politicians and guests pay tribute to the fallen war soldiers.

About 54 000 names of victims who were never found are written on the wall of the Menin Gate.

There are of course more victims and names, however there was not enough space on the already huge Menin Gate’s walls to write them all down. You can find them at other memorials such as Tyne Cot Cemetery.

The Last Post

The Last Post is a British Army bugle call that originates from the 1790’s to announce the end of the day.

Over the years it became a fixed song to play during funerals and memorials. From November 11, 1929 bugle players have been playing the Last Post every evening under the arches of the Menin Gate.

Is the Last Post still being played in Ypres?

Yes, until this very day.

The daily Last Post tribute was only paused for 4 years when Ypres was again occupied by the German army from 1940 until 1944.

Can you visit Flanders Fields?

Yes.

When you drive around the Ypres area, you will come across lots of cemeteries with rows and rows of white headstones and crosses, numerous memorials, points of interest and war museums.

You can also book battlefield day tours.

Find more information about what to see and visit here or at the Ypres tourist information centre.

Other interesting and popular places in the area

Interesting things about Ypres that are not war related

1) Papal visit

Pope John Paul II visited Ypres in 1985 and it received the label of City of Peace.

2) Blooming cloth industry

In the early 12th century Ypres became a very important centre for the medieval Flemish cloth industry and trade in the Low Countries or what we now call Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands.

Ships would arrive in Bruges and go further upstream following the river Ieperlee all the way to Ypres to deliver bales of English wool that were to be stored at the Cloth Hall or Lakenhallen. It is where the Flanders Fields museum is located now.

It would last until the 15th century. The cloth trade in Ypres declined because of competition in England and France, changing political climates, plagues and the sea sand gradually blocking the canals in Bruges making it for ships impossible to reach.

The Ypres museum right next to the Flanders Fields museum highlights the history of Ypres and its industry very well, highly recommendable.

3) Cat City

Ypres is called the Cat City.

Every 3 years the Cats Parade is being held, a festival dedicated to cats.

To finish the festival cats are thrown off the belfry. Not live cats but stuffed animals. However for centuries until the early 1800’s live cats were thrown off.

Some believe that was because cats were associated with witches and witchcraft.

Others claim it is because there was an abundance of cats in town after cats were brought in to eat the rats and mice that would destroy Ypres’ precious cloth industry by gnawing their way through wool and fabrics.

4) Flanders Language Valley

Lernout & Hauspie, the precursor in what we now know as speech technology officially opened its brand new headquarters at Flanders Language Valley business park in Ypres in 1999.

In 2001 it went bankrupt due to fraud.

5) Fashion

Belgian fashion designer Edouard Vermeulen was born in Ypres.

He often dresses members of the Belgian royal family.

6) Picanol

Talking of the cloth and fabric industry and trade.

Picanol is a Ypres based engineering factory.

It develops and produces high-tech weaving machines that are sold all over the world. A Picanol weaving machine was used to make the parachute fabric for the NASA Perseverance Rover landing on Mars in February 2021.

And you?

Have you visited Flanders Fields and Ypres before?

Leave a comment below.

We’d love to hear from you!

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Sami
Sami

Thank God my grandfather was a sort of draft dodger in the Austrian Army. He made himself 10 years older and was a Messenger at the war ministry in Vienna. Convinced he would have been killed as where he was from Czernowitz there were terrible battles between the Austrians and Russians.

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