Along with Tongeren, Tournai is the oldest city in Belgium. Its history dates back to Roman times when it was called Tornacum. It was a stopping place on the road from Boulogne to Cologne. In the early Middle Ages, it came under possession of the Salian Franks. It was the capital of the Frankish Empire until Clovis moved the centre of power to Paris.
The rich history of Tournai can be seen in the city's architecture. Though it was badly damaged in World War I, the city can now again be seen in her original splendor thanks to careful restorations. The cathedral of Notre Dame de Tournai is a rare example of a cathedral with features of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the belfry is the oldest in the country. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the cathedral and the belfry have been jointly designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Like many cities in Belgium, Tournai has a Grand Place (Town Square) where you can relax and have a beer on the terrace of of one of the various cafés. Two of the oldest private houses in Europe, dating between the late twelfth century and the early thirteenth century, can be found on Rue Barre-St-Brice.
Every second Sunday of September, there is the Grande Procession, which has been held every year since the late eleventh century (with the exception of one year in the sixteenth century, when the iconoclasts destroyed the religious symbols of the city). Lundi Perdue (Lost Monday) is a tradition dating back seven hundred years; on this day families elect a "king" and have a traditional dinner consisting of rabbit.
Some famous people born in Tournai include Clovis, King of the Franks; Rogier van der Weyden, Flemish painter of the fifteenth century; and Georges Rodenbach, symbolist writer of Bruges-la-Morte.
There are various accommodation options, including limited options for Tournai hostels. As in most of Western Europe, accommodation can be quite pricey.
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