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June 2022 – Ghent, Belgium
Long time no roadtrip, but here we go again!
Even if it’s just a short drive across the border for now, all the other ingredients of a city-break start to pop up. Looking for a quiet place to stay overnight, where to eat, what to do in a day while learning something new but not making a marathon out of it, checked.
All we have to do is finish work on Friday evening, take a backpack and hit the road. After 2 hours of driving, listening to music and looking out the window while the scenery doesn’t change at all (hey it’s just Belgium 🙂 ), here we are reaching the outskirts of what seems to be, in a glowing sunset light, Ghent.
First of all it has an interesting and rich history. Or so we heard. Also, great food. Oh we’re definitely going to check that.
Wool elevated Ghent from a barren marshland to a wealthy trade center during the Middle Ages. Then the landscape transitioned from the crenelated battlements of the medieval Gravenstein castle, to Baroque-era fish markets, to 19-century factories.
Ghent is now home to cool museums, vivid street art, new hotels in centuries old buildings and, tucked away on unknown streets, first rate restaurants.
Just give it a try. You can decide for yourself if it’s worth it afterall.
WHAT TO DO IN A DAY?
If your time here is limited to one day, it’s enough to reach the city center and get lost in the maze of cobblestone streets. The main architectural attractions are literally lined up one after another, making a one day itinerary very easy to plan.
As soon as you spot Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, you can start your walking route without any map. This gothic church hosts hidden treasures like old paintings and manuscripts. But even the construction itself with so much detailed artwork inside and out is a masterpiece.
From here everything else is within walking distance.
Continue with Het Belfort van Ghent, the iconic bell tower of the city since the 14th century. The view from the top floor is exquisite!
Last stop of the day, the jewel of the crown, is undoubtedly Gravensteen castle. The mysterious ‘Castle of the Counts’ is the only remaining medieval castle with a moat and largely intact defence system in Flanders. There is a twist if you use the audioguide. Voiced by Flemish comedian Wouter Deprez, the story will take you on a journey through the castle’s history, packed with funny anecdotes and exciting battles in the background.
Last but not least, there is food. After such a cool walking tour we have to refuel. Luckily we find Restaurant Neptune just across the castle and endulge in local delicacies.
By the way the fish soup is to die for. Now it truly feels like a holiday!
GHENT OR BRUGES?
Depends on what you are looking for. Both count as the historic gem cities of Belgium. Bruges is smaller and more charming. Ghent has more options in terms of museums and going out at night. Personally, i visited Bruges 7 years ago and the memory of how breathtakingly beautiful it is still haunts me.
GHENT OR ANTWERP?
Both are ideal for a city break. Ghent is mostly known for festivals, food and drink scene. Antwerp has twice the population and is known as the diamond capital of the world. If you want a more intimate feel, Ghent might suit you better. If you’re looking for the big city buzz, Antwerp is for you.