Introduction

Like Ypres, Diksmuide was painstakingly restored after total obliteration in WWI. Though used as a large car park, the resurrected Grote Markt (main square) offers an impressive array of traditionally styled brick gables, two inexpensive hotels, several terraced cafes and a romantically towered city hall. Set directly behind, the truly vast church has a particularly fine rose window. The tulip-turreted Boterhalle hosts a tourist office.

Pleasure boats are moored attractively at the river port 1km west. Directly beyond rises the unique 1950 Ijzertoren. Built of drab, purple-brown brick and topped with power station–style windows, this colossal 84m-high ‘peace’ tower is at once crushingly ugly and mesmerisingly fascinating. It’s set behind the shattered ruins of a 1930 original, whose mysterious sabotage in 1946 remains controversial. The tower is probably Flanders’ foremost nationalist symbol. Its 22 floors house a very expansive museum related to WWI and Flemish emancipation. There's no fee if you just want to walk up to the tower's base, starting through a WWI-style sandbag passage and crossing an over-pond passerelle.

Served at some Diksmuide hostelries you'll find Oerbier, a highly rated stealthy dark ale. It's brewed 3km east by De Dolle Brouwers in Esen village, 100m south of Esen’s powerfully oversized church. At weekends, the brilliantly colourful little brewery café serves the stuff on draft and there's a 2pm tour in English on Sundays.