A day in Tournai
Tournai is very much linked to one of my close friends who lives here, which explains why I always enjoy coming here. But the city can be of interest for anyone who loves culture! Tournai is part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites and feels very historic. With its many churches and monuments, it is a beautiful relic of the past. You shouldn't expect trendy spots and hipster cafes, but there are some newcomers whom wish to change that. For those who think it's too remote, remember our lovely country is actually very small and you can combine it with a trip to Lille. Head to Tournai on a sunny Saturday and I'm sure you won't regret it!
If you're interested in architecture, you can start the day by exploring the neighborhood of the train station, looking for the beautiful Art Nouveau houses that are scattered around here. The most memorable facades can be seen on the Avenue Van Cutsem, the Avenue des Frères Haeghe and the Place Victor Carbonnelle.
Continue your exploration of the outer portion of the city by heading to the Quais de l'Escaut (the docks of the Scheldt). After your stroll along the river, head to the Saint-Brice Church and keep your eyes open for the roman houses located on Rue Barre Saint-Brice. If you enter the church you'll notice that its architecture feels very open compared to traditional churches.
Move closer to the historic center of the city by walking towards the Parc Reine Astrid. This little park boasts fountains, flowers and a cute spot hidden in the back called the Cloître de l'Hôtel de Ville. Further in the back, you'll find the Musée des Beaux-Arts that is more interesting than it looks at first sight. Indeed, the museum has the shape of a turtle and is the only one that was ever designed by the Art Nouveau master Victor Horta. Its art collection is really beautiful and I'm a big fan of the flying hippopotamus in the main hall.
For lunch you should definitely go to Eva Cosy. The place is charming and the food is delicious. For around €15,00 you can have a taste of all the goodies displayed in the window (vegetarian if you ask for it) and afterwards you will probably not resist having an excellent piece of cake. After lunch, you can do some alternative shopping around the Grand-Place. First there is newcomer Mood where all the items on display are for sale, ranging from clothing to furniture. Then there is Spiridon Studio where you'll find plenty of decoration items and accessories, from brands such as Hay.
You are now located on the Grand-Place, which is the heart of the city. Take it all in: the Saint-Quentin Church, the statue the Princess of Epinoy, the medieval facades and of course the Belfry, the oldest one in Belgium! If you're brave/sporty, know that you can climb up to the top of the Belfry to enjoy epic views of the surroundings (€2,10 entrance fee). A little further you'll find the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the second monument in Tournai that's part of the Unesco World Heritage. The renovation works have been going on for years and there is still no clue as to when they will be finished, but it's worth a stop anyway.
You can spend the rest of the afternoon sipping drinks on one of the many terraces on the Grand-Place, or you can head to the docks for bars such as La Vie est Belge.
How to get there:
The train will take you straight from Brussels to Tournai in about 01h10. If you're coming by car, know that parking is free on the Place Reine Astrid, but only on the part located near the park.
Special thanks to my friend Stéphanie for helping me with this city guide!