Roeselare is a city and municipality of Belgium in the Flemish province of West Flanders.
The municipality comprises the town of Roeselare proper and the cities of Beveren, Oekene and Rumbeke.
The city’s name comes from two German words meaning “reed” and “open space”, namely, swamp in a swamp forest.
1. Rodenbach Brewery
Rodenbach is a name that is respected in beer circles. The brewery specializes in Vlaams rood bruin (Flemish red-brown) beer which after fermentation is allowed to cook in giant oak barrels for varying periods of time.
The oldest barrels date from 1872. After that the brewed beer is then cut with a lager:
For example, Rodenbach’s flagship Grand Cru is a 67% to 33% mix of old and young beers, with an almost wine-like aroma and a light, refreshing sour taste.
2. KOERS. Museum van de Wielersport
KOERS, which opened at the ornate former fire station on Polenplein in 1998, documents the history of competitive cycling, but also the evolution of the bike.
You’ll find out how the design of racing bikes have been tweaked down the years, and follow the bicycle’s 18th and 19th-century journy via balance bike, vélocipède and penny farthing.
In one room you’ll get to know the four world champions to have hailed from Roeselare, and there’s plenty of space given to Jean-Pierre Monseré who died at just 22 years old while world champion.
The tower on the south side of the Grote Markt Roeselare square is one of 56 in Belgium and northern France that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
That this building was only built in 1924, although the Louis XV-style town hall where it was developed was ready in 1771. If you’re interested in seeing the inside, you can sign up for a guided tour.
There are portraits of all the mayors of Roeselare from 1830 to the present, the Gemeenteraadzaal (city council hall) sticking to the original Louis XV décor, while in the conference room there are paintings depicting the city layout as it was in the 17th century.
Most of Roeselare was razed by a fire in 1488, and what was then the only church in the city was reconstructed in a Late Gothic style at the beginning of the 16th century.
Today, the 65-metre tower is one of Roeselare’s main identifiers, and was topped with a Baroque dome and lantern after sustaining damage in the 1730s.
The tower is 12 storeys high and houses 75 bells and two carillons. In a corner at the back of the nave sits Sint-Michielskerk’s foremost monument, a recumbent tomb carved in 1504 for Jan van Kleef and his wife Johanna van Lichtervelde.
The castle’s 27-hectare estate also demands some exploration and is remarkable for its mature forest and a plan that dates to the 1770s.
At that time the whole estate was re-landscaped, and given a system of alleys that converge at a single point.
This is where the name Sterrebos (star forest) comes from, and the design is borrowed from the famous Prater park in Vienna.
6. Rumbeke Castle
Rumbeke Castle has a distinct Flemish Renaissance design dating back to 1538, but is on a site that had been occupied for centuries before.
Legend has it that Baldwin Iron Arm, the 9th-century first Margrave of Flanders, kidnapped Carolingian King Charles the Bald’s daughter Judith from Senlis and brought her to a fortress at this location.
It’s a stunning sight, still ringed by a moat, and with a brasserie on a terrace by the water and an excellent children’s playground.
7. Grote Markt
The square on the north side of Stadhuis is at the point of contact in the old town and is as social as you’d expect, with bars, restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops on the north, east and west sides.
An extra interesting detail about the Grote Markt is the lost 13th-century cloth hall and the original belfry that collapsed in 1704. After excavations in the 20th century, the complex’s footprints are marked on the paving of the square.
The Grote Markt escaped significant damage in the First World War and has a spectrum of styles, but mostly Neoclassical from the late 19th century and Art Deco from the 1920s.
This is also among the oldest streets in the city, growing in importance with the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century.
The ground floor of every building on Oostraat has a shop or catering establishment, while the east end is pedestrianised and the remainder of the street has one-way traffic and widened pavements for shoppers.
And allied with brands like Zara, H&M, Women’s Secret, C&A, Springfield and Jack & Jones, there’s some lovely Eclectic and Art Nouveau architecture to appreciate.
ARhus (2014) is essentially a library, but incorporates a knowledge and “learning centre”.
Being a public amenity it’s a building that is well worth seeing inside, and you can make your way up to a terrace for what is probably the best view of Roeselare’s skyline.
On the first floor is the ARhus Café, which is open seven days and in early 2020 had some interesting choices like veal steak saltimboca and pan-fried walleye with parsnip puree and horseradish sauce.
10. Roeselare–Leie Canal
This artificial waterway was dug through the Mandel valley across ten years between 1862 and 1872, and is 16.5 kilometres long.
The Roeselare–Leie Canal still has an industrial purpose thanks to Roeselare’s thriving inland port.
This is the base for animal feed manufacturers like Debaillie and Hendrix, and is worth a look for the enormous grain silos that have been given ultra-realistic murals in the last few years.