Ypres, 76 mi/122 km west of Brussels, became known throughout the world as a result of horrific World War I battles. Every night at 8 pm, buglers sound the Last Post at the Menin Gate to commemorate the soldiers who died there. The gate itself is inscribed with the names of 54,896 (mostly British) soldiers—a small fraction of those who perished in the battles. Totally obliterated during World War I, the town was triumphantly rebuilt afterward. Inside the "authentic" medieval cloth-trading house next to St. Martin's Cathedral, visitors will find the highly recommended In Flanders Fields Museum. It tells moving stories of the war.
If you have time, tour the countryside around Ypres: It's dotted with war memorials and cemeteries (more than 150). Along the side of the road, you'll even see old, rusted-out ammunition shells. Be sure to visit the Hooge Crater Museum, with war memorabilia unearthed from the surrounding farmland and a unique collection of World War I uniforms, and the Hill 60 Preserve, where you can still see concrete bunkers from the war. Of the cemeteries, we especially recommend Tyne Cot (one of the largest and most impressive) and Essex Farm (where John McCrae, Canadian author of the poem In Flanders Fields, served as a medical officer). A guided tour of the war sites is not just an emotional experience but also an educational one.
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