Ok, so why is this title like this? What is this place about? Is it worth going out of your journey plan and visit this apparently little known place in Belgium? Too many question! And one the answer is so simple and is there…in BELGIUM! 🙂
As many of Belgian old cities or better said ancient cities and towns (Brugge, Ghent, Antwerpen…you name them), Tournai is one of the oldest towns in Belgium if not the oldest one. This beautiful small Belgian town is located at the border with France and is considered to be one of the most important cultural sites that Belgium has. How to arrive? I live in Schiedam (Netherlands) and from home to Tournai are about 242km and it takes two hours and 20 minutes approximately, by car. Renting a car and driving to there seems the cheapest way, but drive carefully (in Belgium) as many of the drivers won’t use any turn signals and just cut-cross in front of you and in some places (not everywhere in Belgium) the quality of roads is not very good, you can find holes even in the highway!
If you don’t have a car, then you can reach this place by bus or train. Your journey by train will be cheaper but it will take longer hours. For example, from Rotterdam to Tournai by bus will take you about 5h30min and will cost you 44 euro / one way, by train the same distance will be traveled in 2h30min and will cost you 52.3 euro / one way For more information about schedules and prices, please visit the following pages : bus and trains from (Netherlands, France and Belgium). Where to stay? Tournai is a town (some sources call it small city) that, as I have said above, is not very popular among foreign tourists, therefore the accommodation in the city is limited! Book in advance your accommodation, otherwise you’ll have to look for something nearby in France (Roubaix or Lille) or in Belgium (Brugge).
If you want to go camping, good news!!! There’s a place, at 4km from the city center with a manmade lake, cafeteria, games, barbecue, pedal boats and swimming pool with water slide, called Camping de l’Orient** (Rue Jean Baptiste Moens 8, 7500 TOURNAI). For more information and reservations, please call on this number : +32 (0) 69 22 26 35. Apparently they don’t have any web page…well, I couldn’t find any, but if you do find one, please let me know 😉 Where to eat? There are plenty of restaurants on the main square that will serve local food. Prices vary between 14 euro to 20 euro for a meal. If you want to save money, then small restaurants towards the train station or on small streets outside the city center that offer Turkish food or Italian pizzerias will save you some money.
Tip, go to Carrefour and next to it is a kind of bistro that serves tasty local food from 6 euro! What to visit? Notre-Dame cathedral and the Belfry, the oldest in Belgium, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To visit Belfry you’ll have to pay 2.5 euro per person. To visit the cathedral you won’t have to pay anything, but to see the treasury you’ll need a ticket and it costs 2 euro/ person. Belfry is a tower of 70-metre which dates back to 1217 with fifty-five bells. These chimes symbolize the town’s freedom. The panorama from this tower is amazing! You see the whole town and even its surroundings.
If you are at the Cathedral and want to walk around (the old town can be visited on foot, therefore no need to drive or rent a bike), then you can walk towards the Train Station or just wonder around in the old town and the main square – Grand Place. If you go towards the Station then you’ll cross the canalized river Scheldt and from there is just 10 minutes walk to the Pont des Tours. The Musée des Beaux Arts (entrance fee 2.50 euro) is the only museum created by Victor Horta, the design genius of Art Nouveau. The museum has two major works by Manet but also paintings and drawings by Ensor, van Gogh and Rogier van der Weyden. Two colossal scenes by the 19th-century artist Gallait will most likely stop and stare for good minutes – one depicting the dramatic abdication of Charles V, the other capturing the outpouring of faith in the plague procession of 1092.
TO NOTE: Tournai’s museums, including the tapestry museum, are free the first Sunday of every month. On rue Barre-St-Brice are two houses dating from between 1175 and 1200 and built in the Romanesque style are considered to be some of the oldest private houses in Europe, while the rue des Jésuites you can see a Gothic house from the 13th century.
My advice to you is the same as always: get the map check the places you want to visit. After doing it you may fold it and hide it in your bag or backpack and get lost, it’s always exciting to discover places hidden from visitors. For more information on the town’s attractions, please click here. If you want to know more about some specific pictures that I have taken during this trip, then you can go here. Travel safe and wise!