A day out in the walled town of Bergues
A day out in Bergues
The fortified town of Bergues is perhaps most famous for the filming of ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis’ (or ‘Welcome to the sticks’), a 2008 French comedy film directed, co-written by and starring Dany Boon. Much of the shooting took place in Bergues and you can follow a guided tour to visit some of the sites, such as the belfry , the post office and the house of ‘Mrs. Bailleul’.
However, Bergues is also a beautiful, walled town and its bell tower, which possesses 50 bells is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a beautiful view from it’s roof.
Bergues is just 40 minutes from Calais, so it’s a perfect place for a day trip to France or for a first stopping point if you’re driving through France.
I recently spent a day there, but it was so bitterly cold, that although I visited a few of the sites, my hands were too numb to take many photos! I will go back in the Summer and update this post. In the meantime, read on for more details about this look and more photos, as well as for some ideas of what to see and do in Bergues.
A day out in Bergues
So first, a little about Bergues, which is situated in the ‘Nord-Pas-de-Calais’ region and which is nicknamed “the little Bruges of the North”, thanks to its canal. As mentioned above, it grew in popularity after the release of the 2008 film ‘Bienvenue chez les ch’tis’ (for those who do not come from Northern France, a ‘ch’ti’ is a slang term for a northerner). If you have seen the film, there is one scene that sticks in my mind, where Danny Boon is driving up from the South of France, and when he gets to the signpost for the North, the previous blue sky turns black and its starts raining heavily (chucking it down!)! As this invariably happens when I drive up from the South, it always reminds me of this scene! Today, however, the sky remained a beautiful blue, but it was freezing cold!
If you have seen the film, then you may want to follow the ‘ch’ti’ guided tour (See here for more details).
So, for a little history – Bergues was founded on a small hill and took its name accordingly – “groene berg” means “green hill” in Dutch. The town was fortified in 885 to protect itself from the Vikings, and the relics of Winoc, a Patron Saint who converted the region to Christianity at the end of the 7th century, can be found at the Saint Winoc Abbey.
A few of the things to do in Bergues are:
Visit the belfry
The belfry is the most well-known attraction and a good starting point for a visit, as the tourist office is housed here. You can also pick up the tourist train here, which gives a guided tour to start your visit to Bergues.
The belfry was classified as a historic building in 2004 and, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. There are fifty bells which are rung on Mondays (market day).
The belfry itself is open Monday to Saturday (from 10 am to 11:30 am and from 2 pm to 5:30 pm) and on Sundays and public holidays (from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 3 pm to 5.30 pm from April to October.). To visit the bell tower, you have to go up 193 winding steps, which I didn’t do, but I have been told that the view from the top is well worth the effort! Next time maybe…..
Take a walk around the ramparts
The fortified enclosure of Bergues has been preserved in its almost totality, and you can walk all the way round starting from the belfry. You enter the ramparts just before the ‘Porte de Cassel’ then follow the circuit round until you arrive back at the ‘Porte de Cassel’. On the way round, look out for the old abattoir, the lock gate, the canal, the various gates and towers and Saint Winoc’s abbey.
Visit Saint Winoc’s abbey
The Benedectine abbey of Saint Winoc was built on the highest point of the town by Count Baduoin IV in 1022 on the ruins of the old monastery to house the bones of Saint Winoc.
The abbey was subsequently destroyed in 1789 during the French Revolution and only the marble gate and two towers (the square and the pointed tower) remain on the land, which is now a public garden. The majority of the photos were taken on this site.
Visit the town centre
Inside the walls, you will find the town hall (‘mairie’), as well as St Martin’s church, the belfry, and of course, the gardens of Saint Winoc’s abbey. You can just see the church in the background of some of the photos.
Stop for lunch or dinner
One of the best known places for lunch in Bergues is “Le Bruegel”, which is also one of the oldest properties in Bergues. You can find it in the Rue du Marché aux Fromages, by the side of a canal bridge. This inn or tavern dates back to 1597 and specialises in flemish cooking, served by staff served in period dress (16th century clothes).
You can find more details, photos and the menu here.
Now, for my outfit. As it was so cold, I wrapped up warm, the red top is from Zara (last season, similar here), the lace skirt is from Linea, House of Fraser (now on sale here), and the coat is from Maje (several seasons ago) . The scarf is a Burberry, and very old (you can still find it here) and I added a pop of animal print with this bag (again last season), but you can find similar here and here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and I would love to hear about your experiences. Have you seen ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” and or visited Bergues? As always, I love to have feedback, so please do leave comments and if you are a blogger yourself, then please leave your URL, so I can read your posts too.
You can also contact me via e-mail if you would like any advice or just to chat.
Thank you for reading and have a great weekend!