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Just an hour south of Brussels by train, the French-speaking town of Tournai feels a world apart from the humdrum Belgian capital. It‘s a cheerful, ancient place, bisected by the slow-moving river Escaut and clustered around one of Belgium’s most magnificent cathedrals, which totally dominates the town center. This, along with its grand old 18th-century mansions and the giant, café-fringed main square, gives Tournai the air of a provincial French town, a prosperous, languid air that’s quite different from the Flemish cities of the north (although like them it boasts a number of restaurants that are the equal of any across the border). In ...

Just an hour south of Brussels by train, the French-speaking town of Tournai feels a world apart from the humdrum Belgian capital. It‘s a cheerful, ancient place, bisected by the slow-moving river Escaut and clustered around one of Belgium’s most magnificent cathedrals, which totally dominates the town center. This, along with its grand old 18th-century mansions and the giant, café-fringed main square, gives Tournai the air of a provincial French town, a prosperous, languid air that’s quite different from the Flemish cities of the north (although like them it boasts a number of restaurants that are the equal of any across the border). In fact, Tournai was loyal to the French crown for centuries, its denizens addressed as "kind, loyal, Frenchmen" in a letter from Joan of Arc. The cathedral is the big thing not to miss in the town, but outside you can do a lovely walk to the 149-meter-high (490 ft) Mont St-Aubert, a local hotspot of leisure activities, and from which there are predictably lovely views, or visit a couple of chateaux in the countryside towards Mons: one, Beloeil, a giant, brooding place with a moat and the largest formal gardens in the country; the other, Chateau d’Attre, a neoclassical pleasure dome full of sumptuous paintings.

Martin Dunford
About the Expert

Martin Dunford is the author or coauthor of eight Rough Guides: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Brussels, Belgium & Luxembourg, Italy, Rome, Naples & the Amalfi Coast, and New York City.

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Martin Dunford for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Located in northern Belgium, approximately 50 miles from the capitol city of Brussels.
  • Language: Flemish and French
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, summer, early fall