Ypres, Belgium (also known as Ieper) was reduced to rubble during the three Battles of Ypres, which took place from 1914 to 1917 and spanned nearly the entire length of World War I. This made Ypres famous for all the wrong reasons. It was the site of the first use of mustard gas and chemical warfare attacks, but it was also where the famous Christmas Truce in December 1914 occurred. Today, with its historic town square meticulously rebuilt, Ypres is a moving monument to its past, its near total destruction, and its remarkable revival as a major city of influence and tourism.
What We Love
Cloth Hall: Completed in 1304, this impressive gothic building located in the center of historic Ypres was decimated by fighting during WWI. It has been lovingly rebuilt according to the original plans, a process that took almost 40 years.
Menin Gate Memorial: The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, completed in 1927, contains the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who died here during WWI, but who were never identified or found. Enormously emotional, a “Last Post” ceremony has occurred here every night at 8 p.m. since July 2, 1928, as an expression of remembrance for those who fought for Belgium’s freedom.
Best Known For
In Flanders Fields Museum: The second floor of the Cloth Hall is home to the In Flanders Fields Museum, a moving look at the futility of war and the horrors of WWI. It is named for the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by Canadian writer and doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
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Who It's Best For
History Lovers: It’s not all doom and gloom: Modern-day Ypres is a beautiful European city with plenty of history that came before the First World War. However, the city does stand as a sort of living monument to the sacrifices made by so many during the armed conflict of 1914–1918.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It’s Emotional: Don’t expect to get through your visit without a few tears — particularly if you had relatives who fought in this part of the world. The list of Commonwealth soldiers who were never found is heartbreaking, and the sight of other visitors breaking down upon finding the names of family members will stay with you for some time.
Aaron Saunders is a Calgary-based contributor to ShermansCruise.com.