Please find driving directions and map below the main text
Founded around 974 AD in a curve of the Scheldt – then the much disputed border between the Merovingian kingdoms of Lotharingia and Francia – Oudenaarde developed gradually from a small trading post to a rich tapestry centre of world renown. While its cloth and tapestries were being exported all over Europe as luxury products, the town became also increasingly famous for its silversmiths.
The period between 1510 and 1540, during the reign of Emperor Charles V, was the richest and most prosperous in the town’s history. Symbol of that urban wealth and power is the flagship town hall and belfry, built in 1526-1537, now UNESCO World Heritage.
After the golden years the religious turmoil of the 16th C caused the decline of the city and, actually, of the entire Southern Netherlands. During the Reformation, the people of Oudenaarde chose Protestantism and allied themselves against the Catholic Spanish rulers.
Ironically, it was the grandson of a maiden from Oudenaarde (*), who gave the final blow. Alexander Farnese recaptured the town in 1582 and brought it back under the reign of the Spanish, causing most merchants, workers, artisans and nobles to flee the city. It was the beginning of a long period of severe economic crisis, poverty, warfare and plague. The glory days never came back.
The French attacked and took the city three times in less than a century. In 1708, one of the key battles in the War of the Spanish Succession was fought in the vicinity of the city. In the 18th century Oudenaarde slumbered as a provincial town under the Austrian regime. The town changed from a fortified city that attracted the attention of European rulers to a ghost town at the end of WWI.
Today Oudenaarde is a peaceful, quite affluent provincial town that takes very well care of its heritage.
We start the day with a guided visit (En-Nl) to the town hall and the rich collections of tapestries and silverware. After lunch city guides (En-Nl) walk us around in the old centre, to the beguinage and other historic buildings and places. We will all come together again for a farewell chat and a local craft beer.
(*) During a stay in Oudenaarde the Emperor Charles fathered an illegitimate daughter, which he later adopted and is known as Margaret of Parma. Margaret was to become Regent of the Netherlands and Alexander Farnese’s mother.
From Brussels Groot-Bijgaarden: 1 hour, 70 km E40 to Gent-Zwijnaarde > E17 > Exit 8 De Pinte > N60 to Oudenaarde From Antwerpen Kennedy tunnel: 1 hour, 78 km E17 > exit 8 De Pinte > N60 to Oudenaarde. Free parking ‘Minderbroederstraat’, indicated at the roundabout before entering the city from the N60. Avoid the ‘Markt’ (roadworks!)