Let me tempt you with a short holiday in Ghent, Belgium. While may people will head through to Bruges, because it is very special, Ghent is serious contender as it is also such an amazing city. You will notice that it is also spelt at Gent, but they are one and the same. Belgium city breaks are always a good idea because Belgium is a quirky and charming country.
- 1 What to See and Do during a short break in Ghent, Belgium
While Ghent looks like a page out of history with its stunning architecture, it is a university city too, and the mix of the young and the old adds to its vibrancy, and it’s history adds to its attitude, which you can read about on The History of this Stubborn City.
Ghent is a proudly independent city in Belgium, and a part of the Flanders region. The people consider themselves Flemish as opposed to Belgian, such is their loyalty.
Charles V, who became Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, was a native of Ghent, yet he punished the city after the 1539 Revolt of Ghent, a revolt against the taxes imposed and made the city’s nobles walk around barefoot with a noose around their necks. Now the people of Ghent are called “Stroppendragers” (noose bearers), even by themselves. They celebrate this annually during the Ghent Festival by wearing white shirts with a noose hung around the neck. Another paradox.
Ghent is one of those very beautiful European cities with churches, canals, buildings and it’s very own castle, The Castle of the Counts or Gravensteen is literally in the middle of town.
Getting Around Ghent
Cars are banned from large parts of the city which make it a pleasure to walk around the city. There are trams if you want to go further.
What to See and Do during a short break in Ghent, Belgium
Explore the city on foot and by water
The stunning Graslei, a riverside street, has many of the old guild houses, and each has their unique history. This tells us about Ghent in the Middle Ages. Again on the other side, the Korenlei has the stunning facades and not much if anything, behind them. There are boundless museums and art galleries, which show the appreciation of both classical and contemporary art.
Make sure to see Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, Saint Nicholas’ Church and the Belfry of Ghent, Het Belfort van Gent. You cannot miss them.
You can also gain a great appreciation of the appeal of Ghent by seeing it by boat and tickets can be booked at De Bootjes van Gent, where you can choose a tour called, The Medieval Centre of Ghent Tour, where you find out that abut the Monks who began to brewing beer because of the unsanitary water.
The Stam shows you the history of this unique city, and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), next to the Museum of Fine Arts will show you it’s future. They are worth visiting.
The Stam Address: Godshuizenlaan 2
Smak Address: Jan Hoetplein 1
Museum of Fine Arts Address: Fernand Scribedreef 1
Explore the Castle of the Count
This castle is known as The Gravensteen castle in Dutch, but most people call it the Castle of the Count. It is a medieval castle from the Middle Ages.
The Castle of the Count was built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace and was said to emulate castles he had seen when on the Crusades. It was his way of showing that Flanders was a force to be reckoned with and his castle was bigger than their castle.
Originally there had been a wooden castle on the same location, which was built in the ninth century. The castle served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders until they abandoned it in the 14th century. The castle was then used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually decayed, until the recent restorations.
The Groentenmarkt is held in the central square every morning, except Sunday, and is well worth exploring to sample the culinary delights of Ghent. The flower market at Kouter is held in one of the most beautiful squares in Ghent, and you might recognize it from the Nicole Kidman movie Grace of Monaco.
Drink beer and eat in Ghent
This is Belgium and you cannot and should not avoid having a Belgian beer especially in Ghent, where the options will astound you. Just ask the waiter or waitress for their recommendations.
Try Tierenteyn, the Ghent mustard made from a blend of 27 different mustard seeds. If you can, pair the mustard with hoofdvlees, a jellied brawn made from a boiled pig’s head. And because it is Ghent and it is Belgium, try the brussel sprouts. They are different, in a very good way.
Try eating cuckoo. This is the name of the chicken, in the classic waterzooi stew. Ask for ‘cuckoo.’
The most important thing to eat in Ghent is the Ghent’s little-noses, a confection served from little carts in the street.
How to Get to Ghent
Take the train from Brussels and then to Ghent, which is called Gand at the railway station. It is easy to walk around the city or use the friendly public trams.
Where to stay in Ghent?
There are many places to stay to explore this enigmatic city.
A short break in Ghent is a very good idea. Hope you were tempted to visit this quirky city in the Flanders region of Belgium.