Dominating the Markt is the impressive 16th-century UNESCO-listed Stadhuis. Built in Brabantine Gothic style, its rooms house a brand new city history museum, and the town’s collection of silver and 300-year-old tapestries. Oudenaarde was once famous throughout Europe for its tapestries, and its weavers created exquisite wall tapestries for French and Spanish royalty until the 18th century when the industry went into terminal decline. The tourist office organises tours of the Stadhuis.
Perched on the south-western edge of the Markt, the bell-topped Sint- Walburgakerk is, in fact, two churches joined at the transept: the choir, in dark-grey limestone, dates from the 13th century and the rest from the 15th century.
Across the road from the church, is the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen dedicated to the Tour of Flanders. A must-see for cycling enthusiasts there are lots of newspaper clippings and films. Relive the races by discussing them with the locals over a beer at the Flandrien bar. A short walk south east will lead you to Oudenaarde’s begijnhof (Achterburg), a UNESCO-listed collection of whitewashed cottages, which largely date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Wander round to the back to find the minuscule chapel.
The grand 16th-century Huis de Lalaing belonged to Philip De Lalaing, the town governor, and is rumoured to be the birthplace of Emperor Charles V’s illegitimate daughter Margaret of Parma. It now houses a selection of Oudenaarde’s enormous 17th-century tapestries and a restoration studio on the second floor. Before entering the house, look for the ancient ginkgo biloba tree in the garden.
If you’ve got a car or bicycle, get out into the local countryside and visit Browerij Smisje, a local microbrewery that opens its café doors on the first Saturday of the month. You can take a tour of the brewery at 16.00.
Comte de Flandre has an elegant white dining room and a varied menu of affordable soups and pastas, as well as expensive steaks and salads.
Don’t be put off by the neon Carlsberg sign lighting up the façade of ‘t Verloren Hart, the elegant interior is full of yesteryear charm thanks to the wooden tables and chairs, high ceilings and fireplace. Try the house steak and a bottle of red from the extensive wine menu.
Every Sunday, between 12.00 and 13.00, the Sint-Walburgakerk puts on a carillon concert. Sitting in the shadow of Sint-Walburgakerk, Carillon is the best place to listen to the bells while sipping on a Liefmans Kriek.
Why not attempt the Ronde van Vlaanderen yourself? Maps can be bought from the tourist office (€3), and bikes can be rented from Fietsen Peter. If you’d prefer something flatter, try the Scheldt Vallei route (€1.80).
Smart, spacious en-suite rooms can be found at the very central La Pomme d’Or (rooms from €80)
Café/restaurant Tijl (rooms from €70), situated near the railway station, offers seven simple, yet hot-pink rooms, and free Wi-Fi.
Huize Norman (rooms from €65) is a very trendy retro-style B&B with three rooms, one suite, a zesty lime breakfast room and bikes for hire. A good balance of price and quality.