Why you should visit Tournai

Tournai, the hidden gem of Belgium, is a great place to go and see the country’s past

Tournai, the hidden gem of Belgium, is a great place to go and see the country’s past, and discover its two UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Discover where it all began for Belgium, in Tournai, one of its oldest cities. Dating back to Roman times, it was the home to kings, a beautiful cathedral, and was also famous for its tapestry-weaving.

Where is Tournai?

Located only an hour and a half's drive from Calais, in the Wallonia region of Belgium, Tournai is part of the French speaking community, so it's probably time to brush up on your GCSE French!

Discover two UNESCO sites in Tournai

As a signifier of Tournai's beauty and important cultural influence, UNESCO has given it the honour of not having just one, but two World Heritage sites.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Tournai Cathedral is an extravagant building that stands intimidatingly over the surrounding streets.
Tournai Cathedral is an extravagant building that stands intimidatingly over the surrounding streets.

Surviving both world wars, it was a tornado in 1992 that left the cathedral in need of serious restoration work. Despite the continuing building work (which should be completed in 2018), the five bell towers of the Notre Dame stand tall and proud over the city. It's not just the exterior of the cathedral that makes it so special, the interior is just as spectacular. The stained-glass windows let droplets of bright colour dance around the walls, and Corneille de Vriendt's Renaissance rood screen is worth visiting alone.

The cathedral is closed Saturday and Sunday mornings, and on public holidays, but is open the rest of the year. If you want a guided tour, this can be arranged by the Tournai tourist office.

The Belfry
Climb all the way to the top of the belfry and you could almost touch the clouds.
Climb all the way to the top of the Belfry and you could almost touch the clouds.

The second UNESCO World Heritage site is the Belfry. This is a freestanding tower, reaching 72 metres in height. If you think you can handle it, you can walk the 256 steps to the top. It may turn your legs to jelly, but the view will be worth it. First built in 1188, the Belfry has had numerous roles throughout its long life. From acting as a town siren, to a watchtower, to a prison, it's had an important role in Tournai's history.

It's closed Mondays and Sunday mornings from November to March. Entry is €2.10 for adults and €1.10 for children and seniors.

What else can you see in Tournai?

Don't worry, you don't just have to climb to the very top of a Belfry to get the best out of Tournai. There is plenty for you to see and do on the ground.

The Grand Place
Enjoy a drink and bite to eat in Tournai square.
Enjoy a drink and bite to eat in Tournai square.

After a long day exploring, a sit down in a bustling, vibrant square with a drink in hand is just what you need. The Grand Place is unique as it is triangular in shape, covered in colourful banners flying above fountains and a statue of Princess Christine of Espinoy, wielding an axe.

Halle des Draps
The Halle des Draps is a beautiful gilded building and the perfect background to your holiday photos.
The Halle des Draps is a beautiful gilded building and the perfect background to your holiday photos.

In the square, you can also see the Halle des Draps, a look back to Tournai's past as Belgium's centre of tapestry. The hall has a traditional gilt exterior, but its interior is a simple brick design. It was first built in the early 1600s by Quentin Ratte, a master builder. It withstood both world wars, but had previously collapsed in the 1800s, and was rebuilt to its exact original design.

The hall is occasionally open for exhibitions, so make sure you check what's happening when you visit.

Are you looking forward to taking a step back into the history of Belgium? Start planning your trip to Tournai, and don't forget to book your tickets early, to get the best price.

Book travel

from £30
Prices start from £30 per car, each way* *£30 Day Trip & Overnight - Ticket must be purchased as part of a 2 day return. Return must be completed by midnight (local time) on the second calendar day. Book your travel now