Ypres town centre. View across the crowded marketplace to the rebuilt Cloth Hall, location of the In Flanders Field Museum.
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).
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.
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.
Ypres has its own train station. From there, you can easily walk to the city center.
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
Ypres itself is easily reachable by train, or 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).
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
Menin Gate Memorial - dedicated on 24 July 1927 as a memorial to the missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in Belgium during World War One. Has a Last Post Ceremony each night at 8:00 PM as a way for the Ypres citizens to express their gratitude towards those who died for Belgium's freedom.
This memorial contains, both inside and out, huge panels into which are carved the names of the 54,896 officers and men of the British Empire forces who died in the Ypres Salient area and who have no known graves. The names recorded on the gate's panels are those of men who died in the area between the outbreak of the war in 1914 and 15th August, 1917. The names of a further 34,984 of the missing - those who died between 16th August, 1917 and the end of the war, are recorded on carved panels at Tyne Cot Cemetery, on the slopes just below Passchendaele.
Cloth Hall - originally built around 1200 as a center of Flemish wealth, completely destroyed by German artillery shelling in 1916, the Cloth Hall was rebuilt, the project completing in 1962 and the symbol of a resurgent city. Contains the In Flanders Fields Museum (see below).
Museums and Galleries
In Flanders Fields Museum. Located in the Ypres Cloth Hall, right in the center. This museum gives an excellent overview of WWI. It is more like an experience that takes you right into the daily life during the war. Can be a quite strong experience that will have a profound impact on you. Open daily April - September 10AM-6PM, open Tue-Sun October - March 10AM-5PM, last entry 1 hr before closing, admission adults €8, children 7-25 yrs €1, under 7 free. It is closed until June 10, 2012 for an upgrade.
Kattenstoet, . A parade in Ypres devoted to the cat. It is held every third year on the second Sunday of May. Most recently, the 42nd edition took place on May 10, 2009. This "Festival of the Cats" commemorates an Ypres tradition from the Middle Ages in which cats were thrown from the belfry tower of the Cloth Hall to the town square below. Symbolically reviving this practice for the parade festivities, a jester tosses stuffed toy cats from the Cloth Hall belfry down to the crowd, which awaits with outstretched arms to catch one. The throwing of the cats from the belfry is followed by a mock witch burning.
Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, . Museum in a beautiful setting, telling the story of the Great War in chronological order. Lots of information on the different battles and a large selection of authentic artifacts on display. The big bonus of the museum in a reconstructed dug-out which lets you to experience what life under Flanders Fields must have been at the time. Open daily (Feb-Nov) 9AM-5PM. Admission: €5, groups €3.
Tyne Cot Commonwealth Cemetery - The largest Commonwealth Wargraves Commission cemetery in the world, situated to the south of the village of Passendale. There are also many more smaller Commonwealth cemeteries dotted around the region as well. Location: 50° 53′ 13.39″ N, 2° 59′ 52.54″ E
Vladso German Cemetery - One of the most important German cemetery from the First World War lies in the village of Vladslo, north of Ypres and close to the city of Diksmuide. In one of the few oak-tree woods in the area lie hundreds of square black stones with the names of the buried soldiers. The peace treaty of Versailles denied the losers of the war the use of white stone. The stones lie in rigid lines in the grass under the trees. No flowers decorate the burial grounds. Includes a statue by Käthe Kollwitz called The Grieving Parents. Location: 51° 3′ 0″ N, 2° 55′ 0″ E.
Langemark German Cemetery - The cemetery, which evolved from a small group of graves from 1915, has seen numerous changes and extensions. It was dedicated in 1932. Today, visitors find a mass grave near the entrance. This comrades' grave contains 24,917 servicemen, including the Ace Werner Voss. Between the oak trees, next to this mass grave, are another 10,143 soldiers (including 2 British soldiers killed in 1918). The 3,000 school students who were killed during the First Battle of Ypres are buried in a third part of the cemetery. At the rear of the cemetery is a sculpture of four mourning figures by Professor Emil Krieger. The group was added in 1956, and is said to stand guard over the fallen. The cemetery is maintained by the German War Graves Commission, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge. Location: 50° 55′ 14″ N, 2° 55′ 0″ E
Wonderful countryside with many routes for walking and cycling.
Lovely shops and cafes selling Belgian chocolates and beer.
Things from the WW I period in dedicated shops, located for example near the Menin Gate.
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.
Trattoria Alloro, patersstraat 2 (150 metres from the Grote Markt direction the train station), ☎ 057467998, . Friday & Saturday evening, Sunday lunchtime. A very pretty family run Italian restaurant situated about 150 meters from the Grote Markt. Well reviewed in various magazines and web-sites. All fresh food is locally sourced and prepared individually. The pastas and condiments are of the top Italian quality and already the restaurant is booked most weekends.+/- €40 for 3 courses.
Varlet Farm, . Bed and breakfast, on the old Passchendaele battlefield, named by British soldiers of the Great War. It was taken by the Royal Naval Division on October 1917. Close to all major memorials. Maps, guidebook, and tour guide available. 7 rooms. Small groups up to 18 people. Private collection on the farm showing artifacts dug up in the fields.
Cherry Blossom B&B, . English family run B&B. Motorcyclists and Children are welcome. Evening Meals and Packed Lunches by arrangement. Tea and Coffee making facilities/TV in all rooms. Small collection of artifacts to view.
B&B Fresco, Kunstenlaan 38 8900 Ieper (10 min walking distance up from the station), ☎ 0032(0)57/200137, . checkin: flexible; checkout: flexible. B&B with , hearty breakfast and spoken English, French, German, and Flemish. The hosts are very friendly. Wifi, terrace, privatised floor with fridge, big comfortable rooms, nice bathroom with bath foams, hearty breakfast (default breakfast with meat, vegetarian on demand including a platter of speciality cheese).Doubles €50.
Ambrosia Hotel Ieper (Ambrosia b&b Ypres), D'Hondtstraat 54, ☎ 0032 476 467 016, . This small hotel (10 rooms) was recently renovated. Cooked and/or continental breakfast and free internet.
Ypres is generally very safe.
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,...