On my husband’s birthday we went to Ghent, just to have a stroll around the city and to have diner with the family to celebrate his birthday. Ghent is a very beautiful city and certainly worth a visit when in the neighbourhood. I hope this post will help you convince to put it on your itinerary when you visit Belgium!
We only live about half an hour from Ghent, but we don’t visit it that much. We rather go to Antwerp as that is closeby. But actually Ghent is really authentic, really beautiful and just one large historical gem!
Most of the tourists visiting Belgium go to Bruges, but you really should fit in Ghent as well. To me Ghent feels a bit more authentic than Bruges, even though it is much larger. I think it feels more real, because it is a typical student city with many colleges and of course the University of Ghent. The students bring that typical ‘laissez faire’ to the city that Bruges misses. Bruges is lovely as well, but it’s much more aimed at tourists in my opinion. Oh well… both are authentic cities, both are lovely, both have many historic buildings and both have an extensive cultural offer!
We parked our car at Interparking Ghent Zuid, which is easy to reach from the motorway. Driving a car in the city center is really dissuaded and the use of bikes and public transport is encouraged. So when going to Ghent please take this in mind!
We really had four seasons in one day on this early April day… sun, wind, rain,… but that didn’t stop us from making a long walk into this beautiful city.
We first visited the King Albertpark (right next to the car park) and one park led us to another… the Muinkpark, much smaller, but nicer in my opinion… much cosier and surrounded by beautiful manor houses. This must be a delightful place to live… right in the cityc enter but very tranquil.
We walked towards the St-Peter’s Abbey. The abbey is used for several expositions. It is a beautiful medieval building and it has a beautiful garden apparently… with vineyards and ruins… but as I didn’t know that at the time of our visit, we didn’t enter the garden (I know… so stupid of us!! That definitely will be something to do next time). On the place before the abbey, there are often concerts, markets and other activities.
Walking further towards the historical center of the city, we passed a remarkable building. It used to be the building of newspaper ‘Vooruit’ and was built in the 1930’s. It contains a lot of geometrical art deco features and is now a a hostel (Backstay Hostel) with more than 100 beds. Definitely worth checking out if you need a cheap place to stay!
Right across this building is another building called ‘Vooruit’. It is an arts centre, a place where a lot of art events take place as well as (rock) concerts. On the website you can check the events calendar.
Then we walked past lots of beautiful coffeeshops, fab fashion stores and deli’s… browsing here, looking there… Ghent is a city you just have to explore. It offers lots of unique shops and as it is a student city, it really is a very vibrant and trendy city.
When we arrived at the Korenmarkt it started raining quite heavily, so we went to one of the many Irish pubs you can find in Ghent : Celtic Towers. After a hot soup, we continued our stroll and spotted some impressive buildings: the Belfry, with in front of it the modern City Pavillion, the St-Nicholas’ Church, the former post office (on the Korenmarkt), the Town Hall and the Great Butcher’s hall.
If you want to buy or try local specialities, you really should go to the Great Butcher’s Hall. They sell a lot of yummy stuff like Gandaham (a naturally dried ham), different local cheeses and sausages, but also sweets and different pies. You really should try the “Aalsterse vlaai” (a local sweet pie with a kind of gingerbread, spiced cake and syrup) and “neuzekes” (a cone-shaped candy with a soft, raspberry-like filling).If you want to try a local beer, there are of course plenty of options as Belgium definitely is the land of beer!
After we had a coffee and a piece of Aalsterse Vlaai, we continued our walk through Ghent. Next week you get to read (and see!) part 2 of our daytrip.