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Tournai

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A different point of view

Tournai is not only the oldest town in Belgium. Through Childéric and Clovis, it is also the origin of France. Rich from a 2000 years past history, Tournai get its origins from Roman antiquity. From this long past, Tournai kept prestigious vestiges, restorated with high attention; classified frontages, historical districts, quaint picturesque streets, two outstanding buildings inscribed at the UNESCO world heritage, the oldest belfry of the country and the magnificent and impressive five bell towers cathedral.

Undeniably called an historical city, Tournai has several museums showing its cultural wealth: the Fine Art Museum, build by the famed Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, hosting the two only Manet’s paintings exhibited in Belgium; the Tapestry and Textiles Arts museum exhibiting prestigious antique tapestries from the 15th and 16th Centuries; the Natural History Museum and Vivarium, inaugurated before birth of Belgium, along with a typical curiosity cabinet from the 19th century.

Around the splendid triangular Grand-Place, soothed by the fountain’s sounds, bars and restaurants are bringing a lively and unique conviviality.

About sightseeing, the city is perfect for an outing between friends or family: puppets or exotic butterflies, quirky or gourmand walks, imaginary adventures in town and treasure hunting. There is something for every taste!

Capital of the Picardic Wallonia, WAPI for the expert, the city of the five bell towers is considered as a green town: filled with green spaces, parks, gardens, all kind of squares. Countryside and villages are located very close by the city center. You can reach there going along the Escaut on the green ways, perfect scenery for great rides by bike or walking.

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The essentials​

1

Grand Place

Soothed by the fountain’s sound, Grand-Place is a special relaxing place in town where you will be able to taste local specialities in the shadow of the belfry, the Halle-aux-draps or Saint-Quentin’s church.

2

The Cathedral

Inscribed at the UNESCO, the Tournai’s Notre-Dame Cathedral is an unique and magnificent blend of Romanesque and Gothic style and easily recognised by its five solemn square towers overlooking the city.

3

Belfry

Dating from the 12th century, Tournai’s Belfry, inscribed at the UNESCO world heritage listing, is the oldest of Belgium. The top of it offers the best view of Tournai and its surroundings.

4

Museum of Fine Art

Unique museum build by the famed Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, hosts the modern art masterpieces’ collection of the famous Brussel’s patron Henri Van Cutsem. And as well the two only Manet’s paintings exhibited in Belgium.

5

Bridge of Holes

One of the most prestigious vestige of the medieval military architecture of Belgium. Erected at the end of the 13th century, it was part of the second communal walls, and was protecting the « cours de l’Escaut » who runs through the town.

6

The Docks

The « quais de l’Escaut » have been converted in a pleasant and friendly place for pedestrians and bicycles. The perfect place to stroll over the water, or just sit and enjoy one of the several coffee terraces.

7

The Natural History Museum and Vivarium

The museum is known for different atmospheres : a typical curiosity cabinet from the 19th century along a very impressive and rare stuffed animals galerie. You will also discover a reconstructed natural habitat vivarium and a scientific garden with its huge butterflies greenhouse.

8

TAMAT, Tapestry and Textiles Arts museum

The museum hosts modern works and permanent collections made up of prestigious antique tapestries from the 15th and 16th Centuries, some others are exhibited at the MET museum in New York City and some other more at the Sistine Chapel in Rome…

9

Henry VIII's tower

Tournai is the only Belgium town who has been english. In 1513, the king Henry VIII built a citadel on the right bank side of the Escaut. Now a days, we can still observe the remain of this impressive tower : reaching 25 meters of diameter and 6m90 wall’s thickness.

10

The « Puppets House » Maison de la Marionnette

The museum invites you to discover the Art of puppets, within a 2500 traditional contemporary collection pieces, coming from all over the world.

11

Green Areas / Tree

Thanks to the heritage and nature organisation, the city keeps shining of charm. Few cities are able to accommodate such a large variety of wooded and green areas as Tournai does. The city is so green, spreading remarkable trees from one place to another.

12

Art Nouveau Houses

In addition to the museum of Fine Arts, the city kept a few beautiful private structures of Art Nouveau. Close to the train station area and also at the Roi Albert Boulevard, a few interesting exemples are decorated by graffitis.

13

Fort Rouge

Within its twelve meters diameter, this impressive medieval vestige of the past owes its name from its tile’s colours. Defensive corner tower, the Fort Rouge was part of the first city wall, this structure dates from the 11th century

14

Musée de Folklore et des Imaginaires (MuFIm)

Installé dans un immeuble du XVIIe siècle à deux pas de la Grand-Place, le Musée de Folklore et des Imaginaires de Tournai retrace les traditions et le patrimoine de Tournai des années 1800 à aujourd’hui.

15

Musée d’Histoire militaire

Le musée offre à travers ses importantes collections, un parcours découverte de la longue histoire de Tournai de 1100 à 1945, de ses fortifications, des nombreux sièges…

16

Musée d’Archéologie

Le musée recèle de véritables trésors des époques primitive, gallo-romaine et mérovingienne, dans l’ancien Mont-de-Piété de la ville.

The traditional Events

The Lost Monday « Lundi perdu »

Seen as the third celebration after Christmas and new year, at the beginning of January, the «Tournaisiens» (citizen of Tournai) are celebrating a traditional feast. After drawing the «Billets de Rois» everyone will sit down around tables to have a great moment of conviviality where it will be served food such as rabbit and the Tournaisienne traditional salad.

Ramdam film festival

Every year, during the beginning of January, this internationally recognised festival shows Inconvenient movies that appeal or bother people

Carnival

It always held the third Saturday before Easter and gather together over 200 fellowships. Homage to the Naïade, balloon releases, «pichous» (little traditional white bread) throwing from the belfry, king cremation and a ball to end up the festive day.

Flower Market

Back to 1825, it takes place on holy Friday to celebrate the end of Lent and the return of spring. More than a hundred of horticulturists are presenting this sumptuous and colourful market, a tradition held close to the tournaisiens’ heart.

« La Piste aux Espoirs » Competition (every other year)

Created more than 25 years ago, this international circus artists’ festival takes place in the streets, halls or under marquees in Tournai. A key event that gathered amateur and confirmed artists!

Jazz Festival

The specificity of that festival is the real try of exploring Jazz in any shapes, for a very large audience. Jazz Workshops are organise wether for adults or children.

I love accordion «L’accordéon moi j’aime»

On Ascension day, between the cathedral area and the Escaut, Tournai is filled with the sound of accordion. In pubs or in the streets, styles vary : jazz, rock and folk, musette (accordion music), gypsy jazz or klezmer.

The Tournai Festival «Tournai en fête»

During Ascension, Tournai is celebrating! Concerts for every tastes and styles are on the agenda, a special children day, annual festivities to make everyone happy around the five towers town

Music Day «Fête de la musique»

June 21th, Musicians are taking over the town, setting up along the docks, in the Saint-Pierre old town, bars, coffee shops, parks… where they perform for free. You will discover new talents or enjoy confirmed ones. Those days are magic, mixing all kind of music styles and public.

Garden Party

During National day, a Garden Party «Black, Yellow, Red» is organised in the city park with all you need to success a good party : local and traditional food products made in Belgium, hustles and bustles, and in the evening, a firework to beautifully end up the day.

Tournai les bains

By the Escaut, 1000m2 of sand, deckchairs, relaxation, concerts, sports, meals, bouncy castles, workshops, activities for all ages, and so many more…

Les Inattendues «The Unexpected»

Music and Philosophy festival, inside and around a spectacular heritage: the Tournai Cathedral. In an open and tolerant mind: performances, workshops, unexpected debates in several places of the town.

«Les chiffonnades»

Along the docks, this textile flea market allows everyone to sell or buy all king of textile. Used clothing, woollens, fabrics, haberdashery, household linen…

The Great Procession and the Cortege

Instituted in 1092 in thanking Notre-Dame to have saved the town from the plague, the Great Procession occurs every second Sunday of September in Tournai’s streets. Shrines and statues, absolute religious art treasures carried by the believers.

Art in town

Every year, in October, Art takes the town! Pictorial and romantic interventions, photography, sculptures, ceramic, design, textiles.. Artists take over cultural places, art galleries, shops

Winter Tournai

Christmas markets, Christmas sceneries at the Poppets Museum, concerts, activities, local specialities to discover in a very traditional Christmas spirit…

Local Specialities

The lost Monday meal, «Repas du lundi perdu»

Seen as the third celebration after Christmas and new year, at the beginning of January, the «Tournaisiens» (citizen of Tournai) are celebrating a traditional feast. After drawing the «Billets de Rois» everyone will sit down around tables to have a great moment of conviviality where it will be served food such as rabbit and the Tournaisienne traditional salad.

Palet de dame

The «Palet de dame» are round biscuits topped with a delicious icing. This biscuit was born at the 18th century with a round shape referring to the puck of the popular game at the time. And «as shiny as the ladies’ dresses» who were playing that game.

The Clovis Cake «Gâteau Clovis»

This frangipane and stewed fruits cake was created to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of Childéric’s death and the accession to the throne of his son Clovis, first King of the franks.

The Childéric’s bees «Abeilles de Childéric

Brioche cake topped with a strawberry jam on the wing, reminding the bees who were discovered in Childéric’s tomb in Tournai. Seen as animal jewelleries, decorating his overcoat.

Round loafs «Faluches»

Soft and dense, the faluche (round loaf) is a little traditional white bread usually eaten warm for breakfast or snacks, cut in two with butter and brown sugar!

Wafers (Gaufrettes)

Those buttery thin waffles are filled with vanilla or brown sugar. Those sweet treats are very popular in Tournai, until the north of France.

Pichous

If there is one moment that cannot be missed for any reasons during Carnival in Tournai is the Pichous’ (little white bread) throwing from the top of the belfry, taking place on the Saturday afternoon. This little bread is especially made for the event.

The black ball of Tournai «Le ballon noir de Tournai»

The most famous sweet of Tournai, produces for more than a century and made of three different sugars. Through its soothing and calming properties for the throat, it used to be a winter help.

Local Beers

Beers lover? You will find true happiness in here. Lager, stout, amber, black or abbaye, give a try to the Tournay beer, the Bush beer, the Moinette or the St Martin…

Local Experiences

Discovery and tastings (Gourmand Tournai)

Come and try our Gourmand tour, across the picturesque streets of the 5 bell towers! A real stroll for the eyes and mouth discovering our rich heritage and our best «Tournai’s» gustatory specialitie

Time 4 beer

Beer’s culture in Belgium is recognised at the UNESCO immaterial world heritage! With our guide, find the most appreciated and popular beers from our region. And the best places to enjoy it!

The quirky Tournai

This tour invites you to discover the peculiar and historical secrets of our town. Across the narrow streets of Tournai, you will chase the quirky vestige of the past.

By bike

With 1600km of marked cycling, the region is a must see for all the bike lovers. A new 10 tours free book «points-noeuds» crossing over Tournai and its 29 villages leads you to discover the «tournaisian» countryside.