The front lines of the Western Front ran through the Belgian countryside for years during World War I, and its landscape and towns still bear scars from the atrocities that occurred there. Visit museums, watchtowers, memorials and Flanders Fields on this full-day tour from Bruges or Ghent.
Your guide and driver will bring you to the town of Ypres, where you’ll see a museum and sobering memorial dedicated to the war and the lives that were lost. You’ll also visit Zonnebeke, where you can see the Tyne Cot Cemetery, a sprawling burial ground for soldiers from the British Commonwealth killed in action. Your guide will even bring you to see an immaculately preserved trench in the Belgian countryside.
This activity lets you take in the sobering realities of World War I in a more intimate setting than a large group tour, plus your guide can tailor this tour to better meet your interests.
Your tour begins in the morning from either Bruges or Ghent, where you’ll meet your private guide and driver before heading to the town of Ypres. Here, you’ll visit the In Flanders Field Museum, which is named for the poem and dedicated to the study of World War I. Its permanent exhibit tells the story of the invasion of Belgium, the first months of movement, the years of trench warfare and the end of the war.
The museum is housed in the Cloth Hall, a massive medieval commercial building topped with a 70 m (230 ft) belfry capped with four turrets and a spire. The belfry was used as a watchtower, and when you reach the top you’ll be able to look past the rooftops and see the West Flemish hills in the distance.
While in Ypres you’ll also visit the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, a triumphal arch with a barrel-vaulted passage that allows cars to drive through the mausoleum. The 54,395 stone panels in the memorial are etched with the names of the Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the war but buried in unknown graves.
You’ll then head to Zonnebeke to see the Tyne Cot Cemetery. This serves as the burial ground for World War I soldiers, with nearly 12,000 graves on-site. The cemetery is located on a hill overlooking the countryside, as the high ground was an important strategic point during the war.
Near Diksmuide you’ll visit the Trench of Death, an immaculately preserved trench on the banks of the Yser Canal where many soldiers lost their lives. The stone-walled trench is 270 m (886 ft) long and was integral in preserving the front lines in this area.
Lastly, you’ll visit Flanders Fields, a major battlefront during the war where one million soldiers from more than 50 countries, were wounded, killed or went missing. Here you’ll find the Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial, where 411 American servicemen are buried or commemorated. The headstones are aligned in four symmetrical quadrants, anchored in the middle by a white stone chapel with the names of 43 Americans who were never recovered.
This day trip is only available from March through December, as many of the museums are closed in January and February.