Poperinge is a charming town in the southwest corner of the province of West Flanders, close to the French border. The town of 20,000 inhabitants (2018) is mostly known for its World War I heritage sites and captivating beer culture with many hop fields in the surrounding area. In the last years Poperinge also has developed itself as a regional hub for cycling and hiking. The municipality consists besides Poperinge of six other communities: Haringe, Krombeke, Proven, Reningelst, Roesbrugge and Watou.
During World War I the battleground was only a few kilometres to sometimes just a few hundred metres away from Poperinge. The town was never captured by the Germans, however, and functioned as a posting station for the Allied army forces going to or from the Ypres Salient. English soldiers that recalled the town for its amusement and prostitutes, named the town affectionately as "Pops". The many cemeteries in the region are a somber reminder of the thousands of soldiers that died in the surrounding countryside.
- 1 Visit Poperinge, Grote Markt 1, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00—12:00, 13:00—17:00; Sa Su 09:00—12:00, 13:00—16:00. The tourist office will be able to provide you with help when you need more information about the town and the surrounding region. It is possible to buy here the booklets with information and directions for the walking and cycling routes.
The 1 Poperinge Railway Station is located quite centrally in the town.
- From Lille Flandres station changing at Kortrijk. The train ride from Kortrijk takes 40 minutes.
- Direct connections from Brussels and Ghent. Poperinge is 2 hours away from Brussels and 1 hr 13 minutes from Ghent.
- Poperinge is a train ride of 7 minutes away from Ypres.
The Flemish national bus company, De Lijn, has lines to Poperinge from Ieper, Veurne and Diksmuide. For more information regarding different timetables (unfortunately only available in Dutch): https://www.delijn.be.
When coming from England you will most likely arrive in the ports of Calais or Dunkirk. Followingly take the A16 eastwards, turn off at junction 28 (A25 towards Lille). Get off at Junction 13 and follow the signs for Poperinge / Ypres (Ieper).
When coming from inland Belgium (not the West Flanders province), take the E17 towards Kortrijk. At the Kortrijk-West interjunction take road A19 which leads to Ypres, when reaching Ypres, drive straight ahead.
Buses of De Lijn may be way of seeing the countryside around Poperinge, but please keep in mind that some buses only run once every few hours, which can make sightseeing quite challenging. The Belbus is a service which needs to be booked at least 2 hours before travelling.
The most convenient way to get around is by car, or when the weather allows so, by bicycle or on foot. Most WWI sights in the area are well signed, but it may be helpful to have a map (on paper or digital) with you.
- 1 Bicycle rental (Fietsverhuur Poperinge), Ieperstraat 34, ☏ , email@example.com. 08:00—20:00. In the same building as Hotel Palace. It is possible to rent a GPS as well. €11 for full day, €9 for rental after 14:00.
World War I sites
- 1 Talbot House, Gasthuisstraat 43, firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:00—17:30. Last entrance at 16:30. The ‘Every Man’s Club’ as Talbot House was called is one of the most evocative sites of the Great War. Over half a million soldiers were catered here. Everyone was treated equally as ranks did not matter here. Soldiers had the opportunity to play the piano, borrow books, to become human again. The exceptional spirit can possibly best be felt in the newly renovated 'Upper Room' or Chapel. This ‘Home away from Home’ makes a good way to look on the other side of World War I. €8, children till 6 years old go in for free. Combi-ticket Talbout House/Hopmuseum: €10.
- 2 Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Boescheepseweg 35A, email@example.com. Daily 09:00—18:00. This military cemetery is the prime witness of over four years of brutal fighting during World War I. Between 1915 and 1920 the hamlet of Lijssenthoek operated as the biggest evacuation hospital of the Ypres Salient. Next to the cemetery is a visitor center which provides a deeper understanding and impression of the history of the site. Free access.
- 3 Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Roesbruggestraat. A field hospital was installed very close to this spot in June 1916. Two months later the first burial took place. 2442 victims of the war are buried here. Free access.
- 4 Gwalia Cemetery, Elverdingseweg 22. A hop farm was claimed by the British army forces and called Gwalia Farm after a place in Wales. A small hospital was installed here. 470 army members who did not survive are buried on a cemetery on a plat behind the farm. Free access.
- 5 Death Cells and Execution Spot, Guido Gezellestraat 1, ☏ . The authentic execution pole which is situated in the inner courtyard of the town hall is a hurtful reminder of the fate that awaited so many so called 'deserters'. Soldiers, who sometimes bombarded for days, became near senseless and simply did not know what they were doing. Instead of receiving understanding and compassion, they served as a terrifying example to others. The condemned men spent their last night in the death cell before being shot at dawn on the courtyard. Free.
- 6 Nine Elms British Cemetery, Helleketelweg. 1615 war victims are buried here, of which 1593 are killed during the First World War and about 20 victims and 2 unidentified losses from the Second World War.
Beer and hop
- 7 Hop Museum, Gasthuisstraat 71, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 25 February to 30 November: Tu-Su 10:00—18:00. Closed on Mondays. The Poperinge region has centuries of hop growing tradition. This tradition is showcased in this museum in the former building of the Municipal Scales (Stadsschaal). The whole process of hop growing is pictured and explained, along with historical documents, photographs and an audio guide. €6, €2,50 for people younger than 25, children till 6 years old go in for free. Combi-ticket Talbout House/Hopmuseum: €10.
- 8 Brewery Sint-Bernardus, Trappistenweg 23, ☏ , email@example.com. Tours are possible every day in English, Dutch and French. Since 1946 this brewery in the village of Watou produces dark and blond abbey ales with their own yeasts and malts. Their hops come from the hop field that is located right next to the brewery. €12.50.
- 9 Brewery De Plukker, Elverdingseweg 16. Apr—Sep: Offer guided tours in Dutch for individuals or small groups on the first Saturday of the month at 15:00. This family-owned brewery produces 5 beers, of which 3 are year round and 2 hop harvest beers. The brewery shop is opened on Saturday afternoons 14:00—17:00. There are also some selling points in the town centre and in the wider region. During the tour it is possible to taste the beers. €6.
- 10 [formerly dead link] 't Hoppecruyt hop farm, Alexisplein 18, Proven, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Visits possible: 21 May—30 September, 16 February—31 March. No visits on Sunday afternoon. For an interesting visit on an active hop farm. Learn what medicinal value hop can have and how the progress of hop growing is done. Quick visit of 30 minutes: €6 per person with a minimal cost of €25. For longer visits individual visitors need to join a booked group.
- 11 St. John's church (Sint-Janskerk), Sint-Janskruisstraat 1. 13th-century church which is a well-known place for pilgrimage dedicated to Our Lady. According to common beliefs, Our Lady performed a miracle here in 1479. This miracle is the basis for the yearly religious-historical procession, called Maria-Ommegang.
- 12 St. Bertinus' church (Sint-Bertinuskerk), Garenstraat 1. Together with the St. John's church this one is very noticeable in the town of Poperinge. In the stained glasses of the church you can spot some local references, such as hops on the rood loft and depicted hop picking scenes.
- 13 Town Hall, Grote Markt 1. The Poperinge Town Hall was built in 1911 by the same architect who later would be responsible of the reconstruction of Ypres after the world war.
- 14 German Tower (Duitse Toren), Westvleterseweg. This 13-m-high German observation tower was built in 1940 during the Second World War as part of a military airfield (Fliegerhorst) just outside Poperinge. When the airfield closed in 1941 and became rural area again the tower fell out of use. Today the tower stands in the middle of the field and can only be seen from a short distance.
- 15 Weeuwhof, Sint-Annastraat. On the location of a former hop field on the assignment of a canon 12 houses for widows (called weeuwen in the local dialect) and old single ladies were built. Later the complex was extended by 6 additional houses.
- 16 Page Electronics, Casselstraat 210 (walk down the Casselstraat from the church), ☏ , email@example.com. A local company assembling modern electronics, ranging from modules for spacecraft and aviation to prototypes for world famous research institute IMEC in Leuven. They offer free tours of the entire assembly line, giving a unique insight in how modern electronics are manufactured, including circuit boards, cabling, and assembly of complete products. Guided tours in English or Dutch only, with reservation. Tours take 3 - 4 hours, making it a great activity for the many rainy days in West Flanders. Free.
- Cycling and walking. The tourist offices have prepared several cycle and walking routes covering the Poperinge municipality. The tourist office can provide you with maps and more information. Often they have a specific theme:
- Popfietsroute (Pop cycling route) — 38 km or 55 km, across traces behind the battlefront.
- Fleternafietsroute (Fleterna cycling route) — 43 km, covers the area between Poperinge and Vleteren.
- Frontierenfietsroute (Front Line cycling route) — 41 km, looping through the border area northwest of Poperinge on both sides of the Belgian-French border.
- Hoppelandfietsroute (Hop Country cycling route) — 43 km, through the hop growing area.
- Dode IJzer Wandelroute (Dode IJzer walking route) — 7.8 km, crossing the border area and the banks of the Dode IJzer river.
- Galgebossenwandelroute (Galgebossen walking route) — discovering the Galgebossen forests on the border of the villages of Poperinge, Elverdinge and Vlamertinge.
- Bier & Hoppefeesten: . The Hoppefeesten take place once every 3 years in the middle of September. The next is expected in 2023. The culmination of the festivities in the city is the Hoppestoet procession, in which all processes of hop growing are shown. (date needs fixing)
- Marktrock Poperinge: . Music festival organised on the Markt square in Poperinge. The festival lasts one day in late August. (date needs fixing)
- Vierdaagse van de IJzer: . A 4-day-long international march in late August organised by the Belgian Defence forces. This annual 'military exercise' is open to civilians and military members, Belgians, and foreigners. A small subscription fee is required. Lodging options are organised by the event organizers, but need to be payed for. (date needs fixing)
- 1 Stephanotis, Priesterstraat 44. Chocolates
- 1 't Sparhof, Stoppelweg 39, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. This family-owned restaurant is housed in a former farm in the middle of the idyllic green setting that can be found on the countryside of Poperinge. You can have anything here from a small snack up to a large meal. In the afternoon it is also possible to just have a drink here. Outdoor seating during summer.
- 2 [dead link] Poussecafe, Ieperstraat 45, ☏ . W 08:30—19:30, F 08:30—21:00, Sa 10:00—21:00, Su 10:00—19:30, closed M Tu. Bistro with Belgian dishes. Menu of the week for €15.
- 3 Cafe de la Paix, ☏ . Th-M 12:00—14:30, 18:00—21:00, closed Tu W. Hotel restaurant of Hotel La Paix, located right next to it. Lunch menu at €12,50.
- 4 [dead link] D'n Hommelzak, Paardenmarkt 10, ☏ . F-Tu 11:00—22:00, W 11:00—14:00 closed Th. Tea-room and snack bar with four professional snooker tables.
- 5 't Blauwershuys, Hoge-Noenweg 3, ☏ , email@example.com. Closed on Saturday afternoon, Sunday evening, Monday and Tuesday. Restaurant in a renovated farm on the countryside. Has several suggestions with regional seasonal ingredients.
The Grote Markt village square is the best place to find a bar to have a drink.
- 1 Oud Vlaenderen, Grote Markt 14, ☏ .
- 2 Vismarkt, Burgemeester Bertenplein 1, ☏ .
- 3 Den Eendracht, Watouplein 7. Cozy cafe in the village of Watou. You can play several games here.
- 1 [dead link] Hotel Palace, Ieperstraat 34, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Two-star family hotel with 11 rooms. In the hotel bar you can try over 100 Belgian beers.
- 2 Hotel de la Paix, Grote Markt 20, ☏ , email@example.com. Rooms in the centre of the town. The hotel restaurant/bar which is accessible for non-guests offers over 120 kinds of Belgian beer. The restaurant/bar is closed on Tuesdays and Mondays. The hotel has 4 scooters available for rent. €95/night for a double room.
- 3 Hotel Amfora, Grote Markt 36, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel offers 7 rooms and 3 guest rooms. The guest rooms are in a separate building 80 m from the hotel. Breakfast buffet at €15/day. On the ground floor the hotel has a bar and restaurant, which are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. From the middle of March they have bikes available for rent which cost €11/day.
- 4 Hotel Recour, Guide Gezellenstraat 7, ☏ , email@example.com. Hotel in a protected 18th-century townhouse. Each room has its own distinct look and feel. On the back of the hotel is a town garden and sun terrace. Free parking and guests can store their bicycles here for free.
Poperinge is generally very safe. Pickpockets and violence are very rare.
- Ypres — another town with impressive World War I history is only 12 km away.
- Go north to In De Vrede, where they sell Westvleteren (allegedly the best beer in the world!)