15 things to do in Armentières (France)

The small town of Armentières is right on the Belgian border, 15 minutes from Lille and 20 minutes from the Belgian city of Ypres. If you’re looking for a local holiday, there’s a lake, activity center and beach, plus a variety of open farms and quaint country museums to browse.

But maybe you’re curious about delicious local beers, World War I history, or the Clock Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indulge your curiosity for days in the lovely old town, breweries, hop farms, battlefields and war museum. With Lear at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to check out what you can find.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Armentieres:

1. Beffroi d’Armentières

Beffroi d'Armentières

The undisputed must-see in Armentières is the red brick limestone bell tower attached to the town hall.

The UNESCO-listed building echoes the town’s history, first in the Middle Ages, then destroyed after World War I and proudly rebuilt.

The current building is in Neo-Flemish style, with stained glass windows paying homage to the old local beer brewing, spinning and weaving industries.

With 200 steps to the top, you’ll be blown away by 360-degree views of the town, Haute France and the Belgian countryside.

Tours take place on specific dates in summer, or by appointment with the Tourist Office of Armentières.

2. St. Vaster’s Church

St. Vaster's Church

The church in Armentières is comparable in size to a cathedral, and its bell tower, at 83 meters, is the highest point in the town.

Once again, the story of the church is one of destruction and rebirth, going back to the 800s.

In 1921, when the church was still in ruins, Marshal Foch, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces, attended a special mass here where the town was awarded the Croyd Gael Medal for service in the war.

The reconstructed exterior is Neo-Renaissance, while the interior is more Gothic and is decorated with lovely stained glass and several paintings, including “The Wrath of Christ,” which is itself a historical monument.

3. The Grand Place

Grand Place

For a town of medium size, Armentières has an impressive public square: the Grand Place revolves around the town hall and the bell tower, facing the Église Saint Vaast.

Over the past few years, a large part of this square has been covered with sidewalks, isolating the clock tower in the center and making it even more impressive.

In summer, there’s no better place in town than with a cool beer on a café or restaurant terrace, contemplating the Flemish-style houses and the town’s small but striking monuments.

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4. Les Pres du Hem

Les Pres du Hem

Next to Armentières, in a green park of 120 hectares around a vast lake, is a hub of activity with many things to do.

On sunny days, you can spend time on the beach, kayak, rent a pedal boat, or even take sailing lessons.

For the smallest visitors, there is also a miniature railway that circles the western shore of the lake and is also a convenient way to reach some of the facilities.

The remote North Shore is a bird sanctuary, and hides have been set up for nature watchers.

To the south there is also a large communal garden with playground, a café and a small farm with pigs, cows, sheep, rabbits and donkeys.

5. Little Goldfrey Museum

Little Godfrey Museum

You can spend a pleasant few days without leaving town, as there are various small museums.

Just 5 minutes from the Grand Place of Armentières is the Petit Musée de la Gaufre.

Around the old burning fireplace, artisans will tell you the history and techniques of authentic waffle making.

There’s a range of vintage waffle-making equipment, and there’s a chance to try the waffles for yourself at the end of the tour.

In French Flanders, waffles are oval, they have smaller indents and are sprinkled with brown sugar.

6. Musée de la Bataille de Fromelles

Bataille de Frommeler Museum

The countryside is full of cemeteries and memorials to the First World War.

Armentières saw a devastating battle in 1918, but the nearest large museum is 10 minutes away by road outside Fromelles.

Here, you’ll learn about the bloodiest battle the Australian military has ever faced, with as many as 7,500 killed in just 14 hours.

Opened in 2014 next to Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, the museum houses artifacts handed down or recovered from the battlefield, life-size dioramas of trenches and accounts of some of the people involved.

7. La Ferme Beck

lafmebeck

Outside Bailleul, about a 15-minute drive from Armentières, there is a rural spot that will take you to the region’s love of beer.

It’s just a small operation, but every stage of the beer-making process is revealed, from hop and yeast cultivation to fermentation and bottling.

All of this is done using ancient methods and using ample water from natural springs.

Children can meet and feed the horses, and there is a restaurant serving home-made beers and hearty Flemish cuisine.

8. Lille Historic Center

old exchange

You’ll soon find yourself in the heart of this wonderful city, wandering the cobblestone streets lined with ornate 17th century houses.

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You can stroll for hours without getting bored, but before you start your trip, there are a few must-see spots.

Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange) is a collection of 24 Mannerist houses surrounding an atmospheric courtyard.

It is flanked by two squares, the huge Grand’Place and the equally refined Place du Théâtre.

This is where Lille’s own Art Deco bell tower gushes out from the town hall, climbing to over 104 meters, making it the tallest bell tower in Europe.

9. Lille Palace of Fine Arts

Lille Palace of Fine Arts

You have to drive all the way to Paris to find a comparable art museum in Lille.

Paintings from the 1400s to the 1900s are by many artists: Rubens, Rembrandt, Picasso, Goya, Manet, Seurat, El Greco, Van Dyck, Courbet and Delacroix Watts and more.

The sculpture collection is also stunning, including works by Antoine Bourdelle, Camille Claudel and Carolus-Duran.

There’s also a set of flat reliefs, 3D military maps of the 17th and 18th centuries that you won’t find anywhere else.

Large in scale and in stunning detail, the works depict cities such as Lille, Ypres and Calais 300 years ago.

10. Lille Zoo

Lille Zoo

Lille’s closest days to Armentières, the Lille Zoo is free for children under five.

The location also helps, as the attraction is at the foot of the star-shaped castle of Vauban.

There are 450 animals of 70 species including gibbons, tapirs, rhinos, zebras, alpacas, capybaras, and red pandas.

Maison Tropicale is home to a variety of reptiles such as pythons, turtles and iguanas, as well as jungle primates such as marmosets and marmosets.

The aviary is also a joy, with parrots and snowy owls, and meerkats scurrying around.

11. Bayor

Bayor

This lovely town is 15 minutes away by road on the French side of the border.

Here’s another example listed if you’re on the UNESCO Clock Tower Trail.

Like Armentières, it was restored after the war, but in the pre-1914 style. You can climb the stairs to the top, 63 meters from the town and hear the carillon in the 35-bell tower every 15 minutes.

If you need another reason to visit Bailleul, it’s the Musée Benoît-De-Puydt, founded by a wealthy art lover with a small collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings by artists including small Pieter Brueghel, Gerard David and Henry meet de Bles.

12. Ypres

Ypres

The city shines with history and is still surrounded by a ring of walls.

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There is also a World Heritage clock tower here, but this one is connected to another medieval wonder.

The Gothic Cloth Hall was built in the early 14th century as a commercial venue.

As one of the largest medieval buildings in the world, it represents Ypres’ status as a trading center.

The building was almost completely destroyed during the war, but was rebuilt stone by stone in a 30-year meticulous restoration completed in 1967. Also see the imposing cathedral, dating back to the 14th century, with a spire over 100 meters high.

13. Ypres’ last posting ceremony

Last Post Ceremony

The Menin Gate in Ypres is the scene of this daily ritual, with the town’s fire brigade blowing its final whistle.

The ceremony, usually held at 20:00, has been held every evening since 1927, except for a five-year hiatus during World War II.

The ceremony was a tribute to those who gave their lives in defense of Belgian freedom.

The gate itself was inaugurated in 1927 to commemorate the lost soldiers of World War I, and has an important location to mark the beginning of the soldiers’ route from the town to the front.

14. Rice River Cruise

Rice River Cruise

L’Armentières 2000 is a 100-seater glass-roofed boat operated by the town’s tourist office during the summer.

It glides along the Lys and serves the activity center of Les Prés du Hem.

The river has the best view of the local industrial heritage that would otherwise be off-limits.

On the shore are old brick factories and warehouses for the textile industry from the 1800s, as well as the ornate Brasserie Motte Cordonnier.

It’s an abandoned 19th century brewery, protected as a historic monument, but it was deserted when plans were drawn up for a possible museum inside.

15. Regional Food and Beverage

coq à la bière

We’ve seen that beer is pretty much a way of life in this part of France.

Not far from the Watou border is the St Bernardus Brewery, which produces some of the world’s most acclaimed beers.

On the French side, there are 20 breweries in the Nord Calais region, which together with Alsace are the largest producers in France.

Beer also permeates the local diet, with coq à la bière, Welsch (a Welsh rarity) and the much-loved carbonade flamande (a beef stew, often served with chips), among others The cornerstone of the cuisine.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Armentieres, France
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