The city of Ghent or Gand (French) or Gent (Dutch), in the Flemish part of Belgium. One of the big cities of Belgium, Ghent is incredibly beautiful, with a unique personality of it’s own. East Flanders’ capital and largest city lies about midway between Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp, but visitors often miss the city.
It’s University town and the student population here gives Ghent its buzz. Many of Belgium’s young people choose to live here rather than the bigger cities. During the middle ages with it’s stunning architecture all around, it was once considered the second biggest city in Europe after Paris.
The whole city centre has been restored to its medieval glory days, and is now largely pedestrianised, which makes it even more welcoming and attractive. With it’s stunning façades of the colourful narrow buildings heading back to the 1600s or the canals add an extra charm to the city.
The city is home to the 15th-century “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” a.k.a the Ghent Altarpiece- A 12 panel religious work by Jan and Hubert van Eyck. It is also said that this is no ordinary masterpiece as critics consider it the first major work of the Renaissance. Indeed, if the altarpiece were moved to Paris, declared American art historian Noah Charney, “it would easily knock the Mona Lisa off its throne.”
Without leaving its historic reputation behind, it has gained increasing attention as a place for design lovers, cool restaurants and striking caféteries and all kind of unique shops.
Once you’re arrived to Ghent, it is pretty straightforward to get around. Although there is no metro, the city center is reachable by a 20min walk or by what seemed to be an efficient tram system. Nevertheless, the best way to get to unlock the secrets of Ghent is by walking around, marveling at historical buildings and charming canals while encountering the irresistible chocolate shops every other corner.
The St. Bavo’s Cathedral is one of three famous landmarks (called the Three Towers of Ghent). It’s most well known for being the home of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a masterpiece painting by Jan Van Eyck. This 20 panel work of art lays claim to being the most stolen masterpiece in history. Another of the historic buildings is St Nicolas’ Church is a beautiful building located next to the Korenmarkt (wheat market). It was the first of the three towers to grace the Ghent skyline, with construction beginning in the 13th century.
Nestled in between St Bavo’s Cathedral and St Nicholas’ Church is the Belfry. One can enjoy magnificent views over Ghent from the top of the 91m tower. Another landmark one can see is the Gravensteen or the Castle of the Courts. I’ll show them who’s boss’: that’s what Philip of Alsace had in mind. So he had the imposing castle rebuilt (1180). Overlooking the city from its battlements high up on the keep, one can sense the feeling of wealth and power that the lord of the castle must have had. You will be crossing often to get the best pictures of Ghent and the Three Towers.
What to Eat- Waffles of course. There are loads of savouries one can enjoy which are yummy and fresh
How to Get here- Ghent enjoys a prime location in Belgium, just a short train ride from Brussels making it the ideal side trip for a day trip. Ghent – St. Pieters station is one of the busiest in the country and it runs train services taking only 30 mins from Brussels/Bruges. It’s easy to visit just about all of the major sites on foot. In fact, walking around Ghent is one of the best things to do in town. I loved walking across the canals, the old row houses and cafes.
Ghent is still one of the hidden wonders of Europe. There is so much more to see and do in this incredible medieval Belgian city. It is gaining in popularity with tourists, but still isn’t quite as busy as Bruges can be. Exploring the Old Town is a fantastic experience, but venturing a little further out will show you a little more of the real Ghent.