6 reasons why you should visit Ghent, Belgium

Lonely Planet calls it “the best-kept secret of Europe” and we visited last year we could see why the respected travel guide fell for its quaint charms. Filled with canals, culture and beautiful medieval architecture in abundance, here are our reasons why we think you should add Ghent to your travel wish list, sooner rather than later…

Cuisine

Ghent Restaurant

Julies House Ghent

Ghent is fast topping the list for foodies from all over the world, as local chefs come to dominate the food scene with dynamic takes on traditional dishes, championing locally sourced products and offering diners a taste experience to remember from a basket of shrimps at the medieval fish market to an oyster tasting bar to the best cuts of Kobe beef, Ghent’s restaurants will leave even the fussiest Foodie’s tastebuds hankering for more.

However, no article about Belgium would be complete without mentioning chocolate. Temmerman’s offers a veritable smorgasbord of old-fashioned and eccentric candies while Yuzu provides Chocoholics with fresh, homemade chocolates which draw their inspiration from all over the globe, ranging in taste, texture and design. If you’re looking to sample some traditional Belgian beer, head to Friday Market Square which is the largest and most popular in Ghent and an excellent place to soak up the atmosphere in the car-free city centre.

Firstly, try Delirium Tremens Beer which, is brewed locally outside the town itself in the original brewery which, is about 350 years old and is considered one of the best in the world. Another favourite is the trappist beer at Trappistenhuis or better still head to Café Het Spijker who have a vast selection of Belgian beers in their 13th-century café. And after all that beer sampling, soak it up with a street-side Belgian waffle.

Culture

Quirky Ghent

Ghent Canals 12.15.10

The first thing most people notice on arrival to Ghent is the bicycles. The city centre in Ghent is the biggest car-free zone in Belgium and everyone commutes via bicycle which gives the city an added relaxed and laid back feel. The first port of call is to the STAM museum where history comes to life, visitors come to discover the rich history of Ghent using the most modern techniques like, allowing visitors to build a Ghent tower from Lego or do their own research into that famous stolen Van Eyck.

To understand the true essence of the Flemish culture, visit the folklore museum. Sound dusty and boring? You’re wrong! This museum is full of interesting nooks and crannies choc-full of snippets of times past ranging from typical commercials of the seventies to the clothes worn by Ghent’s women in the fifties. The city itself hosts all kinds of cultural festivals, small boutique art galleries and antique shops pay homage to the history of the city and the city’s artists have been making a name for themselves in the international stage.

You may also like other beautiful places to visit in Belgium.

Canals

Ghent canals

Ghent evening

It’s hard to imagine ever getting tired of the wandering around Ghent’s cobbled streets but if you feel like trying something different, try a canal cruise and see graceful Ghent from a different angle. Construction began on the Ghent-Terneuzen canal in the early nineteenth century and has been a success ever since, originally used for sea access, the canal now is home the many boat tour companies which offer guided tours of Ghent from a different perspective. Each company has its quirks depending on what you’re looking for, ranging from historic round trips, to architectural specialities to party and thematic trips.

Castles

Castle Ghent Ghent tower

Gravensteen was originally built in the 12th century but went through a troubled history before being finally bought by the city of Ghent at the end of the 19th century and restored to its original condition. Every year the castle attracts thousands of visitors who are now able to walk around the castle walls, investigate the original moat, climb to the top of the turrets and peruse the traditional torture instruments in the dungeon.

Cathedrals

Cathedral Ghent

Pretty Ghent

Cathedrals Ghent

It has been said that Ghent became quite rich during the middle ages due to its ability to manufacture textiles and the great and good were only too happy to share their wealth with the Catholic Church which, accounts for the number of spectacular churches around the city. St. Bravo’s is the first and was built in the ninth century and is full of religious works of art, none more famous than the altarpiece which, is more than worth the short queue and small entrance fee. St. Nicholas’ and the 14th century Belfort are also must-sees.

Character

Ghent Culture

Ghent quirky

Ghent’s character oozes from every brick in the wall and cobbled stone on the street. The city has extremely well preserved medieval architecture with cathedrals, towers and even breweries dating back as far as the 11th century. While walking through the city, you feel like you are taking a walk through the ages as medieval blends into art nouveau and then art deco. The city is full of quirks with bicycles cluttering junk shop windows, interesting shops are around every corner selling anything from retro products, vintage pieces, flower ice cream and wallpaper from the fifties. Even the most opposed of shoppers will struggle not to be lured in to buy a unique, one-of-a-kind souvenir of their visit to Ghent.

Ghent night

We believe no one will leave Ghent disappointed. The air of a well-preserved tradition and culture permeates the city at every turn with something to amaze and enthrall every tourist. The locals are friendly and eager to impart their secret tips for shopping, hints for sight-seeing and recommendations for food and drinks to visitors. It cannot help but be noticed how proud the locals are of their city and its history.

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Born in England, with a few family roots from Bavaria, and a heart in Scandinavia I've always been a bit of a restless soul. My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I've lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up over 40 countries on trips and living in Dublin, South East Asia and Australia. I'm a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, easy-on-the-eye travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian - from cloudberry liquors to Scandi Noirs. When not wandering the world, you'll find me walking my rescue dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Laines on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about returning to my all time favourite places in the world; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Thailand and the frozen landscapes of a wintry Iceland. Follow Becky on Twitter and Google+.

30 Comments

  • Avatar

    Sally

    14 November, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I plan on visiting Belgium next spring so this came in at the right moment. Ghent seems like the perfect imperfect, different town, but I never heard of it until now. If things go smooth, I could spend there 2 to 3 months so I need a huge list of things to do and places to visit.

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    febe

    3 October, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I’ve been living in ghent for 15 years and it’s an amazing place to live! It’s So vibrant but not as touristic as Brugge or Antwerp, which makes it more ‘real’. Btw, this summer I worked in the placethat you can see on the fourth picture 😀

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    rebecca

    29 September, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    couldn’t agree more! Belgium is so unrated! I loved Bruges and found Brusells to be a lot more fun then I thought. I would have hit up Ghent if I had more time…. its on the list!

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    Eduardo

    26 September, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Sorry Alice, I don’t think you know the city well. I’ve been living and working in Ghent for a couple of years and I have to say it’s the best place to live. This city has everything you could aim for and all this in a splendid decor. The architecture is stunning and Ghent has a vibe hard to find elsewhere.
    One day I go back, for good!

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