Gorgeous Ghent!

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Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

Brugge may be known as the fairytale city of Europe, but it’s not the only Belgian city that appears straight out of a storybook. Little sister Ghent brings the dreaminess of Brugge and the city life of Brussels together, adding its own medieval charm. Winding canals, picturesque bridges, medieval churches and castles fill the streets. But don’t mistake Ghent for a mere history tour. With a young and vibrant scene, this Flemish city is a charming discovery waiting to happen. Ghent is the English spelling. Don’t be surprised if you see it spelled Gent or Gand - these are the Flemish and French spellings.

Photo of Ghent, Belgium by SONIA DAVID

Map of Ghent: N 51.05° / E 3.71°

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

When to go: May - October

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

Never too cold, hot, dry, or humid, Ghent sits comfortably for most of the year. Like most European cities, however, Ghent is best enjoyed when the weather is sunny and warm, May to October. For a uniquely Ghent experience, Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festival) takes place over 10 days in July and you can party it up with the entire city. If you want to avoid the crowds, though, visit in the fall before the

temperature turns.

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

Ghent hit its heyday in medieval times, and exploring the remnants of its 12th century past is a must. The must-sees of the tourist circuit include Gravensteen Castle, the medieval fortress perched on the river Leie, St. Nicholas’ Church, and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral. Saint Bavo's contains the crown jewel of Flemish art: the altarpiece of Van Eyck’s The Adoration of the Mystical Lamb – a centerpiece of the story behind the film The Monuments Men. If that’s not enough for you, climb the Ghent Belfry tower for a spectacular view of Ghent, or take a day trip to Laarne Castle for more fortress adventures.

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

If you’re short on time and want to experience the entirety of Ghent art in one afternoon, all you need are two museums – The Museum of Fine Arts and SMAK. These contrasting museums present different faces of Belgian art, from medieval Flemish work to modern expression. As opposite as their contents are, you can’t visit one without seeing the other during your stay. If you have more time in the city, make the trip to the Museum of Dr. Guislain, which presents exhibits on psychiatry and art in Belgium’s first mental asylum. Then stroll through Graffiti Street, a special corridor in the city set aside specifically for street artists, before ending your artistic tour at the

Design Museum Ghent.

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

Part of Ghent’s modern magic lies in its devotion to ecotourism and emphasis on green spaces. Within the city there are numerous parks, like the artistic Citadel Park, and even small green corners like Appelbrugparkje that offer shady areas for weary walkers. If you need to get out of the city, explore Flanders, the surrounding region, which is home to the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen Nature Reserve. This marshy park is spectacular for bird lovers who can watch the yearly migration, or city-worn travelers who just want a place to watch the sunset.

As with any vibrant city with a plethora of historical monuments, gorgeous architecture, and bustling neighborhoods – a walk is in order. If you follow the de Leie river, you’ll pass through the best parts of Ghent, from the picturesque Graslei, up through the historic Patershol neighborhood. Discover the best architecture, cafes, and boutiques before picking a market to wander. Our favorites include the flea market in St. Jacobskerk Square, the secondhand book market, or the upscale flower market. If walking isn’t your thing, hop on a boat and view the city from the canals. Like its sister Brugge, Ghent has a latticework of canals crossing the city, but unlike Brugge, a boat tour will not break the bank. Hop aboard a boat, a kayak, or even a paddleboard to see the city from a fresh perspective.

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

What to eat?

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

It’s Belgium, so of course you can’t escape Ghent without chowing down on your fill of chocolate and Belgian waffles. But don’t stop there. Pick up a mastel, a classic Ghent pastry, or any other delicious baked goods at Bakkerij Himschoot. Then treat yourself to a bag of cuberdons, a nose-shaped candy, to satiate your sweet tooth. For a hearty dinner, try waterzooi, a meat or fish stew that many restaurants put their own spin on. Make a reservation at De Rave, a classic upscale restaurant, or, if you’re in town on Thursday, join the locals for a vegetarian dinner at Lokaal. For drinks, visit Ghent Gruut Brewery to test locally-brewed Gruut beer, or sit in Pub de Dulle Griet, a historic tavern with a massive selection of

beer to wet your whistle.

Where to stay?

Photo of Gorgeous Ghent! by SONIA DAVID

Ghent has many classic hotels that will make you feel like Flemish royalty. Stay at the historic Ghent River Hotel, perched right on the River Leie and walking distance from the central attractions. This reformed cotton factory blends luxury and industry. The best part is you can reach the hotel by boat. For something more affordable, Hostel Uppelink also enjoys a central location in a historic building, at an inexpensive price.

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