Detour to Bergues
Full name Bergues Saint-Winoc
Place Henri Billaert
59380 Bergues Saint-Winoc
Tel: 00 33 (0)328 68 71 06
Just 9 km from the beaches at Dunkirk’s Malo Les Bains and 15km from the Belgium border is the quaint medieval Flemish town of Bergues. Home of the regional ancient Bergue cheese, this town offers a charming detour from Dunkirk town. Many liken it to the Bruges of France because it is so overtly Flemish, so olde world and like Bruges has a series of canals that traverse the town.
Adding to its charm are the ramparts that envelope the town. These fortifications were strengthened by the talented military engineer Vaubhan after the town was captured in 1668, cleverly channeling the river to make defensive moats around the town. These fortifications remain entirely in tact and today offer pleasantly serene pathways for ramblers.
Bergues, though a town once well prepared for war, is today a blissfully peaceful town of old walls, towers, elegant doorways and in the distance you can see remnants of an ancient Benedictine abbey perched atop a hill of Saint Winoc Bergues that gave the town its name.
The centre piece of the town is its 54 metre high sand-coloured brick belfry and considered the lovliest in France. It was first built in 1112, destroyed in 1383 by the French during the reprisal, rebuilt in the 16th century, burnt down by the Germans in 190 and finally rebuilt in 1961. It still stands proud and was recently classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It acts as the symbol of collective power and freedom and throughout the centuries has served many roles. Initially it was the gate to Bergues, then a guard tower, now home to the tourist office and serves as a clock from where the town bells chime. Visitors can climbe the 191 steps of belfry to see the carillon of 50 bells and get an charming eyeful of the square below as well as the roof tops that spread over the town.
A must-see whilst in town, is the Musée Municipal du Mont-de-Piété at 1 rue du Mont de Piete www.bergues.fr. The brick and stone building alone is worth spending a moment to look at to enjoy this fine example of ornate 17th century Baroque architecture with incredible arched, triangular and round windows. It dates back from when Spain ruled Flanders (1841) and is the work of Wenceslas Cobergher. it was originally built as a pawnshop to help the poor, it is now the Museum of Bergues, with a interesting collection of paintings by artists of Northern France.