ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting Menen, Belgium: part of a cross-border conurbation, where everything suddenly changes

Updated on March 8, 2016
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Joined to the French town of Halluin, at Menen Belgium and Flanders suddenly begin
Joined to the French town of Halluin, at Menen Belgium and Flanders suddenly begin | Source
Menen's town hall and belfry
Menen's town hall and belfry | Source
Map location of Menen, Belgium, in West Flanders province
Map location of Menen, Belgium, in West Flanders province | Source

See its remarkable, octagonal belfry

Interestingly, Menen is possibly more well known among Anglophones because of a structure named for the town, rather than because of the town itself. I am referring to Ypres (Dutch: Ieper), where the famous Menen (or Menin, the French spelling) Gate is the scene of frequent commemoration of the fallen of the Commonwealth.

Town Hall and other buildings

In Menen itself, among the most outstanding landmarks is the Town Hall, with its belfry. Often belfries in Flanders are round in shape, but this one differs in that it is octagonal.

This Town Hall building dates from 1782. The belfry itself, however, was built between 1574 and 1610.

Among various other notable buildings, these include: the church of St. Vedatus (Dutch: Sint-Vedastuskerk ) dates partly from the 15th century; there is an old windmill dating from 1798; the church of St. Francis (Dutch: Sint-Franciscuskerk ) dates from 1861, but with its origins in a much older monastery.

Border psychologies and linguistic transitions

If you look cafefully at the picture of the town hall at Menen, you will see a sign to a city in France, But unless you known the Dutch equivalent, you won't recognize it. The French city: Lille; the Dutch equivalent: Rijsel. (Who would have thought?)

Anyway, this will not be the only instance where the word in Dutch is completely different from a French place name. More examples:

French: Tournai; Dutch: Doornik.

French: Grammont; Dutch: Geraardsbergen.

French: Mons; Dutch: Bergen.

French: Arras; Dutch: Atrecht.

At several of the towns in this area, the Lys River (Dutch: Leie ) forms the border between Belgium and France; between the French Nord department and the Belgian province of West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen ), but at Menen the border curves southwards, and from Menen onwards, the Lys (or by now, should I say, Leie ) is wholly in Belgian Flemish territory.

This is very much border country and in history Menen was besieged on 22 occasions between 1579 and 1830, including by the 1st Duke of Marlborough (victor of Blenheim and first proprietor of England's Blenheim Palace). The Duke's men used the town's belfry for target practice ... and when it was eventually repaired, it was given its current octagonal shape. French king Louis XIV's engineer Vauban fortified the town in the late 17th century. Belgium has earned itself the historical sobriquet the 'cockpit of Europe' and Menen, certainly, by virtue of its pivotal border situation, has particularly exhibited the propensity to attract armies to its vicinity, so that they could gain extra square metres (or whatever measurement they were using) of advantage over the opposing army.

These days, in this area of Belgium, however, square metres are disputed not with armies and canon, but for linguistic reasons. Because in the wider district, every last square metre has been apportioned to either Dutch-speakers, or French-speakers. Some communes known as 'facility communes' (Dutch: Faciliteitengemeenten ; French: Communes avec facilitées linguistiques ), the official designation for places where linguistic minorities are protected. But here in Menen, as distinct from the adjoining French town Halluin in its conurbation, where everything is officially in French, the Dutch language area suddenly begins at the boundary, with no facility for French at all. Meanwhile, nearby Comines, Belgium (there is also a Comines, France, but let's not complicate matters) is French-speaking but with Dutch as a protected language, and in nearby Mouscron the same official situation prevails.

Also worth seeing

Halluin , France (distance: 2 kilometres); there is an old windmill, dating from 1877. Outside the town is an arboretum at a manor complex, the Manoir aux Loups .

Roncq , France (distance: 6.7 kilometres), where there is a number of distinguished buildings, including the Town Hall, and the St. Piat church with an 18th century tower.

Ieper , Belgium (French: Ypres ; distance: 22 kilometres), with its rebuilt Medieval Cloth Hall and its Menen Gate, commemorating World War 1 war dead.

Comines , France (distance: 11 kilometres) has a picturesque town hall with a belfry and memories of the Medieval chronicler and diplomat Philippe de Commynes.

Kluisberg / Mont de l'Enclus , Belgium (distance: 37 kilometres), a picturesque, wooded hill, which attracts many visitors.

Tournai (distance: 41 kilometres), its magnificent architectural heritage includes its 12th and 13th century Cathedral and a fine Medieval tower.

Antoing , Belgium (distance: 52 kilometres), a town on the Scheldt River, with its Medieval castle belonging to the de Ligne Princes.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Menen (distance: 116 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company NMBS/SNCB maintains a service between Brussels and Menen. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

For your visit, these items may be of interest


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)