A short guide to Poperinge

   
While I don't profess to be the world's greatest cartographer, the plan below should help you find some of the many good things this delightful town has to offer. 
Print out this page and take it with you when you are holidaying in West Flanders.

The most central parking area is the Grote Markt (pronounced Hroater Marked), the main square.  The picture (left) shows the parking area, looking east towards the town hall and tourist office – the tall building with the spire - which is at the corner of Ieperstraat (pronounced Eeperstrart).

Cross the road towards the town hall, then turn and look back.  On the south side of the Grote Market is the church of St Bertinus (right).  Turn round again and go along Ieperstraat, which has a variety of small shops - but first we’re thinking about lunch!

 
A good location for lunch is the Palace Hotel at Ieperstraat 34 (picture left).  In the bar (to your left as you enter) they offer snack meals – such as soup, croque monsieur (toasted ham & cheese), omelettes, Boerenbrood (pronounced boorenbrode) which is an open sandwich either ‘met Kaas’ (met cars) – with cheese – or ‘met Ham’.  If you’re very hungry choose the Dagschotel (dish of the day – usually soup and a substantial main course such as chicken (Kip) or Steak and chips), on offer at under €10.  You can also go into the restaurant (on the right of the entrance) where the a la carte menu offers regional dishes which, depending on season, might include hop shoots, fish and meat specialities or Mazarinetaart.



But if you’ve got a hearty evening meal waiting for you back at your hotel, my advice is to have a snack in the Palace bar (right) so that you can concentrate on the real reason why you’re here!  The Palace has a menu of over 100 beers, and provides a good opportunity to try some of the less commonly found ones, as well as the current Bier van de Maand (beer of the month).  The owners, Guy and Beatrijs, take their beers seriously and hold a renowned beer festival each September.  They can accept VISA cards but also take sterling.  Their website is at
hotelpalace.virtualave.net

Further down Ieperstraat on the opposite side (no 45a) lies the Poussecafé, a good location for afternoon tea or coffee, and a chance to taste their special ice cream, or an alternative venue for lunch.  Their beer list is interesting, albeit not as extensive as the Palace’s.


While in Ieperstraat you will find a number of small but interesting shops.  There are a couple of bookshops.  For books on Belgian beer the smaller one near the Poussecafé is usually better – but brush up your Dutch! 
        You will also find clothes and designer lingerie . . .

Still in Ieperstraat, virtually opposite the Palace Hotel is Kruidvat – offering everything you didn’t know you needed for health and beauty, and an essential port of call if you forgot to bring your toothpaste, spare film, batteries etc.

On the same side as the Palace Hotel as you head back towards Grote Markt is Blokker.  This is one of our favourites, stocking a fascinating range of household goods.  In the past we have bought cutlery, soup cups, electrical goods, buck-wheat filled pillows (I love ’em!), cards, reading glasses, amazingly effective mosquito zappers (essential for summer in Belgium!)  And in December it was the place to find fairylights, artificial trees, and 6-foot inflatable snowmen!

 

Back in the Grote Markt, on the north side you’ll find the Belfort Hotel (pictured left).  This would be
another suitable location for afternoon tea, or for lunch.

       (VISA accepted)



Just a few doors along from the Belfort , at Grote Markt 20, is the Café de la Paix.  You can get snacks and larger meals here, but the main attraction is the beer list, offering over 100 to choose from.  It has some nice window tables overlooking the square, and is next door to the supermarket mentioned below.            (VISA accepted)


De Rynck
is a supermarket which crams into its small premises a vast range of goodies.  As the window displays show, this includes quite a few presentation packs of beer and glasses, many featuring the local speciality, Hommelbier.  Poperinge being the hop capital of Belgium it is appropriate that this hoppy beer is brewed locally by Van Eecke in Watou. 

But also check out the breads, cheeses and cold meats at the deli counter, as well as biscuits and chocolates.  Our tip: try Royco cup-a-soups, much nicer than any we can buy at home!                                    (VISA accepted)
 



On the south side of Grote Markt is De Ranke – yet another tea room and restaurant.  Apart from being a pleasant spot for an afternoon cuppa (and cake!) it has a secret which is only discovered by those who stop to read the plaque (left) – in WWI it was an officers-only restaurant whose popularity was based on the attractiveness of the landlady’s 3 daughters, the youngest of whom was ‘wise beyond her years’ as the plaque coyly records. . .

           This tea room is now a favourite of my 88 year old mother in law, who insists on every visit to Flanders that she is taken ‘to have tea in the brothel’!



West from Grote Markt runs Gasthuisstraat, (pron.
Gassed-house-strart) on the site of a Roman highway, and at  number 43 is Talbot House. In December 1915 chaplain ‘Tubby’ Clayton opened a soldiers' club here where everyone, of  whatever class or rank, was welcome.  Named after lieutenant Gilbert Talbot, killed in 1915, this is where the TOC-H world-wide charitable movement originated.  In this living museum are works of art, souvenirs and memorabilia of British soldiers, and it is a moving experience to visit the simple attic chapel, decorated with furniture from destroyed churches

 

 


As befits the town which is the hop capital of Belgium, Poperinge boasts a Hop Museum at Gasthuisstraat 71 (further along, past Talbot House).  Unfortunately it is currently closed for extensive renovations and is scheduled to re-open in September 2006.  Check the exact date with the tourist office
www.poperinge.be if you are making a special visit to see it.

On your return to Grote Markt look into the Tourist Office (on the corner of Ieperstraat) – as well as local information they have a small stock of souvenirs and postcards to remind you of your visit to this attractive West Flanders town.

 
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