How much time is needed to tour the museum and are there any surrounding WWI sites worth visiting? I would love to visit but I am not sure if we have the time to squeeze it in. We will only be in Belgium for 3 days.
There are a number of historic sites in that area that are worth visiting (IMO). Some that come to mind are....
- Sanctuary Wood / Hill 62 Museum & Trenches
- Tyne Cot Cemetery (the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world)
- Flanders Fields American Cemetery
- Langemark German War Cemetery
If you're pressed for time, one option would be to spend one day of your three days and take one of the local tours. That would be the quickest and most efficient method of getting around to the most important sites. Where are you going to be staying in Belgium? There may be tours available from Brussels or Bruges, but I haven't checked.
I didn't visit the museum (I had a four-legged friend with me), but I've explored the city and some of the surroundings. You can spend as little or as much time wandering around the countless memorials that dot the surrounding countryside, but you'll need some kind of wheeled transportation, either a rental car, a group tour or even a bicycle. There's a pretty good tourism office located in the old Cloth Hall where you can probably find information on tours, should you choose that route. The city itself is rather attractive (surprisingly, given that the artillery of the war reduced it to rubble), and compact enough that you can explore on foot.
I think the better part of a day would be enough. As the previous poster noted, of the well-known tourist destinations in Belgium, it would be easiest to visit from Brugge or Gent (by car, not necessarily by rail), but a daytrip from Brussels or Antwerp are also feasible.
Hi, You can take a daytour by small touristbusses from Bruges. The company is called "Quasimodo-tours'. It's takes you from Bruges to Ypres (By car a 45 minutes drive). If you go by yourself (so without the tourbus because they don't stay so long in Ypres) stay until 8pm in Ypres. You will hear and sea the firedepartment playing "The last post" on there trompets. They do that for over more than 50 years now - everyday! You can see that event unther the monument "Meningate', be there at least 30 minutes before 8 and even earlier for a good spot. (And it can be very windy unther the gate). Very touching. (I hope my English is good enough to understand what I wanted to say). Hope to see you soon in my country, Peter
We visited the Museum last spring. As, with any museum, it depends on how much time you WANT to spend viewing the exhibits.
The exhibits are extremely well done, in my opinion. There were also several inter-active exhibits and short film clips.
I thought the entire museum was very thought provoking and gave another glimpse into the reasons,if any,for wars.
We spent about 1/2 day in Bruges. It happened to be a holiday weekend so it was very crowded. It also seemed to be a giant lace and chocolate shopping trip fpfr most visitors. Also, the restaurants around the old square were very expensive.
We did enjoy the canal boat trip.
If you are interested in WWI battlefields, we thought the Verdun, France, was good. Just still seeing some of the depressions left in the ground from the artillery was sobering. There is also a building near the cemetery where there are exhibits and windows where you look in and see nothing but bones.
We went to Ypres on a day trip from Brugges a few years ago. We had the use of a car and were able to visit Tyne Cot Cemetery as well as smaller cemeteries in the area. We found the Flanders Field Museum in Ypres to be one of the best in presentation of the complexities of the era, battles, and social aspects of WWI. After spending a couple of hours there we left to find the cemeteries but I think we could easily have spent a few more hours to full comprehend its offerings. I highly recommend a trip to Tyne Cot. Not only are there nearly 12,000 graves there but there is a huge marble curving wall with the names of 35,000 men whose remains were never found. The visitors center is quite somber with the hidden voice of a woman reading the names, ages, and hometown/villages of the dead. We were there on a summer afternoon with only a few other visitors. It is a haunting place that gave us quite a vision of the horrors of WWI and trench warfare.
In addition to Quasimodo Tours mentioned by Peter, we used "Nathan's Tours" mentioned in the Bruges section of the Rick Steves guidebook. Nathan is quite a character and knows history back and forth. It was a very small group (one other couple besides us) visiting the cemeteries, Ypres, and Tyne cot in the rain. We'd read All Quiet on the Western Front before we went and the tour made it all very real. (So did the book.)
Bruges is a lovely town, once you get away from the center, with very good restaurants offering value and astonishingly beautiful sights. We also took the "Photo Tour Brugge" (http://www.phototourbrugge.com/) which was incredibly worthwhile. In a very small group (one fellow and us), Andy led us to the nooks and crannies of Bruges that tourists don't normally see, offering expert advice on how to frame shots, etc. A photographer's dream. After some rain stopped us from shooting any more pictures (yes, Belgium is rainy!), we all wound up in the oldest tavern in Bruges drinking the local Zot ("the fool") beer. Highly recommended tour!
We visited Ypres (Ieper, in Flemish) while on a bicycle tour thru Western Belgium in June 2008, and spent about 2 hours at the Flanders Fields Museum due to time constraints, but could've spent more time. Very thought-provoking, well-done interactive exhibits. We arrived in town just before 8 PM the evening before, and got to the Menin Gate just as the Last Post tribute was finishing up - very touching, and the huge marble gate has hundreds of memorials to fallen soldiers. Just north of town is the concrete hospital bunker where Canadian surgeon John McCrae, who wrote the In Flanders Fields poem before he was later killed in the war, was stationed. Three days is a short time in even the relatively small country of Belgium, but Ypres/Ieper would be worth some of your time if you can fit it in. Great chocolate and local beer there, as in the rest of Belgium!