The Market Place (Grote Markt), Ieper
The market place of Ypres, now called by its Flemish name of Ieper, became the natural centre of trade for the town as the central place where the main routes entering the town from the north, south, east and west converged. In medieval times, during its most prosperous commercial period of history, the market square of Ieper was one of the largest in Belgium.
The photograph of the square taken from the belfry was taken in 1990 and the square has undergone a major redevelopment since, although the central area is still used for car parking on most days.
The view from the photograph is looking eastwards towards the Ypres Salient battlefields to the eastern side of Ypres town. The right hand road of the two roads leading off from the square at the top of the picture is the Meensestraat. It leads to the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, which can be seen in the top centre of the photograph.
The market place is still the busy heart of the town of Ypres. Numerous special events take place in this central location in Ieper (Ypres) during the year, taking over the whole of the Grote Markt and bringing many visitors to the town. These events include the annual 24 hour international car rally, the bi-annual Cats Festival, the Ypres Tattoo, and a festive Christmas Market.
Saturday Market Day
Saturday was, and still is, “market day”. Before the First World War the inhabitants of the city and its surroundings were involved with market trading in meat, fish, vegetables and butter. On market day the large square was filled with woven baskets, tilt carts, covered wagons, stalls, produce and people.
The square was not only used for markets and trading but was also a place where people would gather together for festival days and military parades. There was a band-stand in the square. As a garrison town with an infantry and cavalry regiment there were parades of soldiers and cavalrymen. Hundreds of beautifully groomed horses would pass through the square carrying their men in their brightly coloured uniforms and swords. Before the war Ieper was the home of an internationally famous riding school for the training of cavalry officers.
After the First World War the buildings reconstructed around the cobbled market place incorporated some of the medieval and renaissance style features typical of the historic architecture of Flanders.
Some buildings on the market square are of particular interest.
Three Taverns: Het Klein Stadhuis, In Den Anker, In de Trompet
32, 30, 28 Grote Markt
Three buildings on the north west corner of the Grote Markt, immediately adjacent to the Cloth Hall's Nieuwerck, were taverns before the First World War. Named “Het Klein Stadhuis”, “In Den Anker” and “In de Trompet” these three taverns were originally built in the renaissance style of the 1600s. In the post-war reconstruction of the town these buildings were reproduced close to their original exteriors by the architect Frans Van Hove.
Each building is still a tavern and café, and a popular place for visitors to sit with a coffee or beer on the Grote Markt and watch the world go by.
10 Grote Markt
One of the buildings in the centre of the northern side of the market square is a post-war reconstructed building originally dating back to the beginning of the 1550s. From this time the feudal County of Flanders was divided into lots of small Castellania (otherwise also known as Bailliwicks). These Castellania were counties with a castle and a count at their centre. The Castellania county was adminstered by a Viscount or Sheriff with the French feudal title of “Châtelain”. This building was the house of the Sheriff of the Ypres “Châtellenie” (by its French name) or “Kasselrij” (by its Flemish name).
After the French Revolution in the 1790s this building was no longer in use for the Sheriff as the feudal institution of the Chatellenie was abolished by the revolutionaries. In the 1800s the building was bought by the town and was called the “Hôtel de Châtellenie”.
When this building was rebuilt after 1918 it was finished before the Cloth Hall and the Town Hall. Provisionally this building served as the Town Hall until the rebuilding of the Cloth Hall was complete. The Town Hall moved into its Cloth Hall location in 1967. The Kasselrij building currently houses the Commercial Court, the Juvenile Court and the Justice of the Peace Court.
In the rebuilding of the “Kasselrij” it's roof acquired three sets of dormer windows which had not been there on the original building before it was destroyed in the Great War. On the façade of the building the post-war reconstruction included 7 sculptured medallions by Alois De Beule depicting the “Seven Deadly Sins”.
O.-L. Vrouwhospitaal - Court of Justice
1 Grote Markt
Before the war the building at the eastern end of the market square was a mental hospital. At the time of the outbreak of war it was known by its French name of Hôpital Notre Dame. In Flemish it was called Onze Lieve Vrouwhospitaal. The names would translate into English as the Hospital of Our Dear Lady.
As with almost all the buildings in Ypres this building was destroyed by the end of the war. With the post-war reconstruction it was decided not to put the hospital back here and instead to move the Courts of Justice into this location. The site for the new hospital building was positioned not very far from here on the Lange Torhoutstraat, which is up the street on the left hand side of the former hospital building (Court of Justice now) and left again at the old Ypres ramparts.
Gifts and Souvenirs of Ypres
On and around the market place of Ypres there are a number of shops selling gifts, souvenirs, postcards and books about the city, its historical heritage and its place in the history of the First World War.
There are a number of shops in Ieper selling the famed Belgian chocolates.
The Visitor Centre for Ypres shop sells an excellent range of books, maps, cards and items related to the memory of the Great War of 1914-1918.
For information about where to find chocolate shops, souvenirs, gifts and books in and around Ieper see our page at:
Where to Eat
The market square has a wide range of restaurants and cafés to suit all budgets and tastes. Visitors can choose where to eat in any number of restaurants on and around the Grote Markt where time and budget may determine your choice
Most cafés and bars offer favourite quick snacks such as the Croque Monsieur (toasted cheese sandwich with various toppings and salad) and, of course, the delicious Belgian chips served with mayonnaise.
For the diner who may wish to try out some of the gastronomic specialities of the region there are menus offering local fish and meat dishes, Moules Marinière (mussels), Belgian pâtés and cheeses, including the local Passendale cheese.
Among the variety of pastries to be found in the baker's shops, as snacks or on the menu for dessert are the local West Flemish butter waffles called “Lukken”.
Where to Stay in Ieper
There are a number of hotels, bed and breakfast lodgings, hostels for educational and military groups, restaurants and cafés in and close to the market square of Ieper. Those that are located elsewhere within the city are generally only a few minutes' walk from the square.
For listings and location of accommodation see our page at:
Special Events on the Grote Markt
The market place is a busy hub in the daily life of the town of Ypres. However, there are also numerous special events which take place in this central location during the year. These events take over the whole of the Grote Markt and bring in many additional visitors from all over the world.
Cultural, Commercial and Sporting Events
These events include the tri-annual Cats Festival in May, the annual 24 hour international GEKO Ypres Rally in June, a festive Christmas Market in December and a funfair at other times of the year. Travellers planning a visit to Ypres may find it helpful to know when these major events are taking place, as this can cause disruption to the Grote Markt as a result of the influx of visitors using the accommodation, restaurants and noise of the events emanating from the Grote Markt.
For the dates of these particular events see our page for the Visitor Centre for Ypres.
WW1 Related Events
Two annual First World War related events which take place on the Grote Markt are the Ypres Memorial Tattoo in September and the Armistice Day parade on 11th November.
In the case of the Armistice Day event the market square is cordonned off to cars and a live video link from the Menin Gate Memorial morning commemorative service is transmitted to the audience standing in the square.
For information and dates of WW1 events see our Ypres Salient Events page:
Location of the Market Square in Ypres - Ieper
The market square is located in the centre of the city. There is parking on the square with a payment charge.
There are public toilets located in the north side of the Cloth Hall opposite St. Martins' Cathedral.
For information about Ieper (Ypres) see our page about the Visitor Centre for Ypres and the Westhoek (Ieper Tourist Office):
The Cloth Hall (Lakenhallen)
For information about this famous building at the heart of the city go to our page at: