Belfry of Aire-sur-la-LysBelfry of Aire-sur-la-Lys
©Belfry of Aire-sur-la-Lys|Tourisme en Pays de Saint-Omer

Climb to the top of the belfry at Aire-sur-la-Lys

The Aire-sur-la-Lys belfry is worth a visit. Classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site, it offers an extraordinary view from its summit that you won’t soon forget. An experience to be enjoyed with all the senses to capture all the city’s beauty at a glance.

Get some height

Stone giant

There’s no better place than a belfry to experience a few thrills while enjoying a little history lesson. And the Aire-sur-la-Lys belfry has a lot to tell! I’m surprised by its location, well hidden behind the monumental town hall.

Taking the little rue Jules Hunnebelle, I come face to face with its slender yellow brick silhouette. I’m warned: all the way up, I’m going to find myself, like a modern-day lookout, in exactly the same place as those who watched over Aire-sur-La-Lys and the surrounding area centuries ago… The door opens, and it’s off for a climb full of surprises.

Panorama from the top of the belfry

Les JEP 2019 à Aire-sur-la-Lys
Les JEP 2019 à Aire-sur-la-Lys
Voici le reportage réalisé en 2019 lors de Journées Européennes du Patrimoine à Aire-sur-la-Lys avec Tourisme en Pays de Saint-Omer.
Discover its history

Reconstruction by the King's architect

First of all, I learn that Aire-sur-La-Lys already had a belfry in the 12th century. Finally it was a “cloquier”, a sort of ancestor in which the bells of Hesdin had been hung due to a dark story of revenge led by Philippe d’Alsace, the Count of Flanders at the time.

It was eventful life in the Middle Ages! Aire-sur-la Lys, sometimes French, sometimes Spanish, would suffer incessant sieges, the guide tells me. The architecture paid the price. The town became French again with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. King Louis XIV entrusted his favorite architect, Mathias Héroguel, with the construction of a new town hall and belfry, worthy of his grandeur.


Take some

Full of ears

As I ascend, I get an earful. He knows a lot of tunes, that belfry! He can play 50 of them, but there are 4 that recur every quarter of an hour. If you’re a music lover, you’ll easily recognize “Il pleut bergère”. For “La Muette de Portici”, I confess, I gave my tongue to the cat.

I’m told what the first rooms were for, then the staircase leads to the bell room on the 4th floor. Each has its own role. The biggest, the bancloque, weighs 600 kg. It’s the bell for announcements, the publication of banns. Then above, on the 5th floor, is the famous carillon with its 14 bells. The largest weighs 260 kg, the smallest 26 kg. That’s enough to make an entire town listen. If you’re as wise as I am, the guide will ring the so-called winegrower’s bell (500 kg). This was the curfew bell used to close the town gates in the Middle Ages.


A gateway to heaven

We pass the dial room again: 6th floor! What a climb it is! Here I learn that with its 58 meters, the Aire-sur-la-Lys belfry beats in size those of Béthune and Boulogne (47 meters), Bergues (54 meters) and Comines (45 meters). I also discover the last lookout, Eugène Delvard, blowing his cornet, before the fire of 1914 and reconstruction by architect Jacques Alleman.

Finally, after a number of steps – it’s up to you to count them! I reach the campanile, the watchman’s loggia. What a surprise! It forms a perfect octagon terminated by a dome, like a rocket ready for take-off!

Please note!


An extraordinary panorama

The Grand’Place, the Collégiale Saint-Pierre, the Chapelle Saint-Jacques, the Bastion de Thiennes: all the heritage treasures spread out before me, witnesses to the town’s rich historical past. So rich, in fact, that it’s nicknamed “La Belle du Pas-de-Calais”. And do you see that little piece of pediment right there? That’s the one on the monumental Hôtel de Ville, which looked so big to me earlier. A little breeze, a ray of sunshine, I’m all right up there, alone in the world… But that little bit of river in the distance (the Lys) and this natural area (Les Ballastières) make me want to get back to the cow floor.

Tour highlights

An extraordinary view

A place full of history!

A beautiful ascent



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de Saint-Omer