Tournai Attractions - Ahulan

Tournai Attractions


Anyone interested in culture and history should visit Tournai in Belgium. The town has great museums, history, and sights. It remains an unknown treasure. These Tournai activities will help you plan your vacation to this magnificent location, easily accessible from London, Brussels, or Amsterdam.

Travel Guide Tournai
Tournai has many fascinating things to do, particularly for art and history fans, but it also has fantastic restaurants, local beer, and gorgeous scenery. It’s in French-speaking Wallonia, Belgium. Start with its brief history.

Brief Tournai history


Tournai was established around 2000 years ago. It is one of Belgium’s oldest cities and France’s birthplace. France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Austria governed it. Everyone left their mark.

Only one Belgian town was governed by England during Henry VIII. The 14th and 15th centuries were the city’s Golden Age. Since the 17th century, it has lost importance and declined.


The city was extensively bombarded during WWII. After rebuilding, its Golden Age is evident everywhere.

Tournai things to do
Starting your journey at Tournai’s Tourist Office is ideal. Two 20-minute documentaries chronicle the city’s history and the construction of Tournai Cathedral. Both videos are instructive and entertaining city introductions.

TIP: Visit the Tourist Office for city brochures in several languages. They provide city maps with self-guided tours. Following one of them helped me learn about Tournai’s historical landmarks. Visiting more Tournai sites? Check out their City Passes.

Tournai cathedral entrance

The historic Cathedral of Tournai sits across from the Tourist Office. Famous for its five towers, the building seems regal. The edifice is mostly Romanesque and Gothic. It nearly splits in half, showing these two types.

A 1999 tornado in the city threatened the building’s stability. The restoration began immediately after, and much of the structure is currently being repaired.

Also remarkable is the Cathedral Treasury. Through history, Tournai has been known for its tapestries. The Cathedral Treasury displays some of this Belgian town’s exquisite tapestries. Beautiful medieval goldsmith work is also on show. The show’s most intriguing artifact is Thomas Becket’s cloak. He visited Tournai on his way back to England days before his 1170 murder.

To do in Tournai: Belfri
Address: Grand Place 15

The Cathedral represented religious authority, while the Belfry represented civic power. Tournai has Belgium’s oldest belfry, built in 1188. You should climb it and enjoy a beautiful city view in Tournai.

From above, you can view the city’s cathedrals and towers. A few smaller chambers in the belfry were utilized as municipal prisons.

Explore Pont des Trous

Tournai’s third emblem is Pont des Trous Bridge. The Second World War devastated this late 13th-century building. Rebuilt after it, it’s a lovely reminder of Tournai’s river trade and history.

Visit the Tower of Henry VIII in Parc Henri VIII.

Tournai was ruled by the British from 1513 until 1519 under King Henry VIII. He erected a huge tower in his new city to gain authority. Near the train station, the tower is being rebuilt.

Explore the park near City Hall.

In central Tournai, medieval architecture surrounds you. Walk around the park adjacent to the city hall and feel like you’re in the Baroque and Classicist periods.

On sunny days, this park is a nice spot to relax. A statue of Tournai painter Louis Gallait sits in the center. Most Tournai museums are there too.

Tournai Natural History Museum and Vivarium
Cour d’Honneur de l’Hôtel de Ville, Rue Saint-Martin 52

Tournai has great museums for a tiny town. The Natural History Museum was my favorite. The museum has two sections. The first has skeletons and plush animals. Second, Red List of Threatened Species animals are included. Wonderful location to learn about animals. Make it one among your top Tournai attractions!

Tournai Fine Arts Museum

Nearby is another Tournai cultural institution you shouldn’t miss. The only Victor Horta-designed museum is Tournai’s Museum of Fine Arts. The only two Belgian Manet paintings are there. I appreciated studying about Tournai artists Louis Gallait and Rogier van der Weyden during my tour.

Tournai Market Square

The Grand-Place or Market Square is Tournai’s center. Cafes, restaurants, and small stores abound. Saint-Quentin Church and the ancient Cloth Hall are additional noteworthy heritage sites.

⤷ TIP: Saturday farmer’s market in Market Square. Visit it if you’re in Tournai during the weekend.

Saint Jacques Church and street shells
Pilgrim scallop shell from Tournai, Belgium
Visit Saint Jacques Church in Tournai, Belgium, at Rue du Louvre.

Before Santiago de Compostela, Tournai was a major pilgrimage station. That’s why its alleys are lined with bronze shells pointing to Saint Jacques’ pilgrimage chapel. The medieval stone church has a stunning gloomy interior. Definitely worth seeing.

Tournai Martine Statue

Placette aux Oignons 7500

Belgium is known for comics. Tournai has a renowned comic book character like any Belgian municipality. One is popular and was made in Tournai. Casterman Editions, a bookseller, published Tintin and Martine, which became famous.

Many editions of these comics are in the Tournai Folklore Museum. Martine, a municipal icon, was honored with a monument in the center.

Explore the River Scheldt by strolling nearby

My favorite travel activity is experiencing local life, along with museums. I seek out local cafés and eateries. This is a Scheldt bank in Tournai. After being renovated a few years ago, it’s a great afternoon stroll. Many wooden chairs along the river are great for watching the world go by.

How to reach Tournai
Tournai is best visited by rail. London, Brussels, and Amsterdam can easily reach it by rail from Lille, which is 15 minutes away.

Bruxelles to Tournai via rail takes 45 minutes.

Accommodation options in Tournai include Hotel Cathedrale.
Definitely Tournai’s nicest hotel location. Just steps from the Cathedral. While not 5-star, its location makes up for it. I stayed there and walked everything easily.

  • Floreal Panoramique Hotel
    For vehicle travelers, this motel is ideal. Located a few miles outside the city center, it’s a beautiful rural spot with a forest and city perspective. Its enormous playground in front makes it a fantastic family destination. I had lunch at their great restaurant.

Tournai food
Oh, Belgian cuisine… I could visit Belgium solely for its cuisine, beers, and chocolates. Many eateries in Tournai provide delicious meals. Tournai beer was so good I took some home.

I highly recommend L’Ecurie d’Ennetières, one of my favorite Tournai restaurants, for its delicious meals. That charming eatery is in a historic barn that has been converted many times. See the Giants, a local ritual, while there. Belgian folklore includes enormous doll processions. UNESCO considers them cultural heritage.

The enormous dolls Tournai
Belgian gifts should always be appetizing. My favorites are chocolate and beer. Buy souvenirs and publications at the Tourist Office for something lasting.

TIP: Buy Belgian beers at Le Moine Austère (Rue Dorez 8).

Tournai, Belgium’s best-kept secret, is worth seeing. Plan your next vacation to see its gorgeous architecture, interesting history, and delicious food. Plan a wonderful Tournai vacation with our guide to its top attractions.

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