Ypres' Best World War I Spots And Their Gripping History

Ypres' Best World War I Spots And Their Gripping History
Located directly in Germany’s path to France, Ypres’ story is one of conflict and loss, and sure to provoke thought and curiosity for those who visit. Read Culture Trip’s rundown of the most historic spots in Ypres.
Ypres © Matt Barber/Flickr

Sanctuary Wood — Hill 62

A visit to Ypres’ past is not complete without a visit to some of the infamous grounds that World War I is famous for: trenches. Sanctuary Wood, located just below Hill 62, is an unforgettable, not-to-be-missed site and family-run museum abounding in remnants of war. Its grounds are flooded with deep holes and cavities, likely a result from bombings. Originally a space for soldiers coming off the front line, it is now open to the public and holds a vast collection of memorabilia and objects of interest. With preserved trenches and tunnels for spectators to discover, one is able to imagine the daily life of a soldier here — an experience unlike any other. A quick walk to the top of the hill also brings you to a simple monument that honors members of the Canadian Corps who fought here.

Hill 62 Museum Trenches in Ypres, Belgium © Harm Frielink/WikiCommons

Menin Gate

This considerable 1927 memorial is a tribute to British soldiers killed in battle and whose final resting places are unknown. The names of these missing men line the inside of the gate, which is open for both cars and passersby to move through. Its location is also of significance because it sits atop one of the main roads that led troops through, allowing them to reach the front lines. There is also a remembrance ceremony each night — a tribute to those named. Wandering through the gate is sure to leave a mark today, as it contains the names of more than 54,000 soldiers who were lost between 1914 and 1917.

The Menin Gate © Steve Parker/Flickr

In Flanders Fields Museum

The extensive and famous In Flanders Fields Museum is also located in Ypres and contains every piece of information imaginable about the war. Housed in the old Cloth Hall, the building itself makes quite the impression upon first arrival. Given that World War I completely demolished the city, it is remarkable to witness its rebirth, and the Cloth Hall is no exception. The museum is interactive and allows you to journey through the war’s history with a personalized bracelet given to you at the entrance. This bracelet guides you through the museum via the perspective of one person tailored to you. This in turn offers you an intimate look at the war’s repercussions in not only its broad spectrum but also its particulars as well.

In Flanders Fields Museum © Paul Arps/Flickr

Tyne Cot Cemetery

With 160 cemeteries located in Ypres, there is hardly a shortage to choose from when wishing to pay a visit. However, one of the more notable of these is Tyne Cot Cemetery. Originally used as a dressing station and hospital during the battle, it has now transformed into a British museum and cemetery, housing an assortment of artifacts and memorabilia from the war. A walk through the cemetery offers a glimpse into the care taken by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in honoring these men. It is a peaceful place that is beautiful in its own way, with each headstone a marker for an individual. Its large memorial contains the names of missing soldiers dated after 1917, which were too many to be inscribed on the Menin Gate.

Tyne Cot Cemetery © Tony Grist/WikiCommons

Langemark Cemetery

It is definitely worthwhile to have a look at the contrast between both British and German burial grounds; so trekking over to Langemark Cemetery is a must. Smaller in scale and modest in nature, Langemark houses more than 44,000 soldiers in its midst. The cemetery is not as personalized as Tyne Cot, and this shows through the mass burial sites that it contains. It should also be noted that Langemark not only includes the remains of soldiers but also of school children.

German War Cemetery in Langemark, Belgium © Alex Birkett/Flickr