Roeselare is a fun town in the West-Flemish part of the Lys Region. It has a pleasant town centre full of beautiful facades, there are plenty of interesting businesses and museums to visit, and it offers surprisingly many things to do. Trot Op! took a discovery tour and came back with these 8 tips.
The last place my sassy sidekick Floor and I stopped during our wild weekend in the Lys region was beautiful Roeselare. Coincidentally, this was the only city in our threesome (read my posts about Deinze and Kortrijk here) I had already happily explored last year. As a result, I knew what it had on offer, so I didn’t have to look up anything in advance. Not even a restaurant for dinner on a busy Saturday night, which led to a very entertaining search for some food to eat that evening. Everything turns into an adventure when I’m in charge. Roeselare is a relatively small city with a large and surprisingly hip spirit. You can experience this as soon as you arrive at the new train station. They installed three large white letters spelling RSL next to it for tourists to take their selfies with. It’s not quite the Hollywood sign, but if your friends Google it, they’ll at least know where you are. Not stupid, those Roeselare people.
What to do in Roeselare: 8 new tips for your weekend in the Lys Region
Fortunately, it doesn’t stop with those letters. There’s quite a lot to experience in and around the centre of Roeselare. They have a nice market square with a belfry tower on the town hall which is almost mandatory in the region. In the City Park you can be romantic in a little rowboat. The shopping streets are lively and here and there you will find trendy boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. In the centre you can also visit the Rodenbach Brewery, and Rumbeke Castle can be found just outside of it. We decided to link some of Roeselare’s more famous attractions to a few less obvious stops. This way there’s something for everyone to enjoy. In case you were wondering why there are so many summer photos in this article: we were blessed with incredibly shitty weather when we were there. In order not to immediately give everyone the idea Roeselare is some half-flooded hellhole, I alternated recent photos with images from last summer when it was all sultry and sunny. After all the adventures we’ve been through together, I hope you can forgive me for this.
1. De Charmante Koffiepot: the cosiest museum in Roeselare
Let me start with the very last thing we visited in Roeselare before driving back to Antwerp. De Charmante Koffiepot is probably the smallest and most welcoming museum in the wider area, and is not located in the city centre but in the sub-municipality of Beveren. It’s run by Vera Degryse – a spry 75-year old lady – who over the years collected no less than 1381 coffee pots in her garage and exhibits them there as well. This is of course nice to have a look at, but especially interesting are the stories associated with each piece. Vera is a warm woman and a born storyteller. What is actually displayed here are not coffee pots but row after row of memories and life stories. Many are hilarious, others touching and a few tragic but beautiful: a smile and a tear can be good friends in here. So come for the coffee pots, stay for the chat and go home with a big smile on your face – at least that’s how it was with us. By the way, the photo above should also be hanging there soon (sent through the good old post office). www.toerisme-leiestreek.be/nl/doen/de-charmante-Koffiepot
2. The Old Municipal Cemetery: Roeselare’s Père-Lachaise
Strangely enough, one of the most unique sights in Roeselare is the cemetery. The Old Municipal Cemetery (also called the Park Cemetery) is located in a walled garden full of tree-lined avenues. It combines green space with tranquillity and heritage, making it the perfect place to reflect on the meaning of life and death on a quiet morning walk – you always want to start the day with something cheerful. Apart from some regiments worth of fallen soldiers still looking like they’re in battle array near the main entrance, the oldest part of the cemetery (called Campo Santo) is also the most interesting. Here, row after row of stately tombs and richly decorated mausoleums lie under the trees, belonging to the most important families of the city’s past. Strange detail: many of these beautiful tombs (which fall under a so-called perpetual concession) had deeds from the municipality sticking to them, asking to extend the term. No idea what will happen to the graves of families without living descendants, but removing something here would in any case be a (deadly) sin. Sometimes even eternity isn’t forever.
3. Street Art in Roeselare
There is so much spectacular street art to discover in Roeselare, the city was voted most impressive street art destination in Flanders and Brussels in 2019. David Walker’s beautiful Sleeping Woman on Onze-Lieve-Vrouwenmarkt was voted the most beautiful work the same year. Throughout the city centre you can often encounter surprising street art in unexpected places. The most imaginative graffiti hotspot can be found along the canal, in a place called Kop van de Vaart. There, entire factory buildings were painted in abstract colours, and a giant great white breaks through a concrete wall to gobble up an unsuspecting diver. If you want to see every single painting, go for a brisk street art walk or cycling tour. You can download a handy map from this website. www.toerisme-leiestreek.be/nl/doen/streetart-wandelroute-roeselare
4. KOERS: the Museum of Cycling
In an impressive building near Grote Markt you will find Koers: the Museum of Cycling. In it is one giant ode to the sport, where on the second floor you will find jerseys, bicycles and other attributes belonging to just about all the greats from Belgium and abroad. The most poignant part of the exhibition however, is Allez Jempi one floor below. It tells the tragic story of local folk hero Jean-Pierre “Jempi” Monseré: an incredible talent who became world champion at age 22 in 1970. In his first year as a pro he beat guys like Merckx and Gimondi to the title. Less than a year later however, he died after crashing into a stationary car during a local race. That in itself would be a sad enough story, but his seven year old son died in almost exactly the same way five years later. Hit by a speeding car while on his little bike. He was wearing his father’s championship jersey. If you want to feel sad for an entire day, you should watch the great but hard-hitting docu Jempi Monseré – Eternal World Champion, which is also shown in the museum. www.koersmuseum.be
5. Viva Verne: Cocktails in Roeselare
Anyone in need of a breather after the previous story, should go to Viva Verne (near the Park Cemetery). From the outside it looks like your standard village brasserie, but actually this is an exceptional cocktail bar that could just as well have been in any big city. Inside, everything is decorated in a cool but homely way, and when the weather is good, you can sip your drink in a lush green courtyard. Viva Verne opened a decade ago, as a gin bar to support the photo gallery next door, but gradually decided to focus more on cocktails. That turned out to be a good idea, because what they shake up here is pretty great. We got pretty wasted pretty quickly here – mandatory covid closing time or not. Anyone too lazy to drive to Roeselare can have their cocktails delivered at home via www.thehomeshakers.be by the way. The Purple Rain is highly recommended. www.vivaverne.be
6. Curieuzeneuze: browsing through granny’s things
Because I am gradually becoming an old f*ck myself – I stay artificially young by surrounding myself with gorgeous women not yet touched by the cruel hands of time – I’m experiencing more and more moments of melancholic nostalgia. If you’re even older than me and suffer from them as well, you should visit Curieuzeneuze. This is a colourful second-hand shop full of hip gadgets from the sixties and everything in the vicinity. Hippie clothes, that white-black-brown tableware every grandma had in the cupboard until the late eighties (look at the picture: you know she had it) newspapers reporting on Eddy Merckx’s first Tour win: it’s all here. Very pleasant place for a quick browsing session. Pay attention: since they’re currently moving, you can only visit the new store (across the street) as from January 29. www.curieuzeneuze.net
7. Muze’um L: playing with the light meridian
Shitty weather, boo.
Does anyone know what in the world the light meridian is? Allow me to expand your knowledge. The light meridian is a straight line running through Europe and Africa from Blankenberge (I’m not making this up) to Lagos. It’s midday at the exact same time for every place on this line, and for one reason or another people thought it a good idea to start light art projects in different places on it. Muze’um L is one of its central axes. This is the strangest building in Roeselare, and it was seemingly randomly put in the middle of some fields (but was built in fact, exactly on the meridian). Although exhibitions often take place here, the building itself is the main attraction. The odd angles and lines running through this monolithic block make the property become a sun sculpture changing with the light. At noon, a cut in the roof makes the light meridian briefly visible due to the sunlight falling through. Unfortunately the weather was still complete shit when we were there, so this light show passed us by. But hey, at least we were able to make some funny echoes in the corridor leading to the gallery. It’s something. www.muzeuml.be
8. Hotel De Bonte Os: sleeping in a former butcher shop
I’ve been working – someone has to do it – as a travel journalist for over ten years. As a result, I’ve stayed in a myriad of hotels over the years. There’s nothing wrong with the big brands of course, but I usually prefer the smaller local places. They are still owned by real people and usually feel much more relaxed. De Bonte Os in Roeselare is a textbook example of this kind of place. This “2-star family hotel” is located in a former butcher’s shop and has been owned by the same family for generations. It’s currently managed by Ignace – an oldskool business owner who seems to run almost everything by himself. The man is always ready to help and will happily share lot of tips for your visit. The building was expanded so many times it now has five extra floors, which can be reached by an exterior glass elevator from which you can admire the stunning Roeselare skyline. It’s not the Ritz-Carlton of course, but our room was spacious and tidy, the breakfast fresh and copious and if several Hollywood stars decided to spend the night here (check the wall of fame) it’ll be good enough for us as well. We stayed in room 31 by the way: a small apartment with a living space covered in old school and sports photos from days gone by. Quite unique. www.debonteos.be
“Roeselare is a relatively small city with a large and cosmopolitan spirit. There are plenty of interesting businesses and museums to visit, and it offers surprisingly many things to do.”
There, now you know what to do in Roeselare. What did you think of it? Did I forget your favourite place? Are there other cities in the Lys region that we should visit? Let me know in the comments below.