Ghent is an undiscovered pearl between Bruges and Brussels. Although I think undiscovered is not the right term anymore. It sure used to be. Ghent is getting more popular among tourists in the recent 20 years. That doesn’t change the fact that Ghent is still a pearl. Some argue it is one of Europe’s greatest discoveries. The city feels small and cozy. It’s actually a lot bigger than it feels and that’s what makes it vibrant. The fabulous canal side with beautiful architecture feels like a mix between Amsterdam and Bruges. Sometimes Ghent is referred to as little-Bruges. Belgians will never call it little-Amsterdam, Belgians are too proud for that. Read: Belgium’s independence
Ghent is a wonderful place. I studied in Ghent and used to live there. It’s by far my most favorite city! But before you pack, these are 5 things you should do while visiting Ghent.
1. Tour the city
Ghent has a rich history and is an architectural beauty. I heard people call it a fairytale before. Being at the right spot during dawn and dusk can leave you speechless. But what exactly are the must sees?
A huge castle built in the middle ages, still standing and well maintained. The castle as it is now was built in 1180 and is now a tourist magnet! Ghent is a big University-city, so there are tons of students. As we all know, students love to drink. Belgians love their beer (over 1,600 types of beers) and the legal drinking age is 16. On 16 November 1949 students decided to capture the castle as a protest against the rising prices of beer. The students filled the castles with rotten fruit and vegetables and barricaded the doors. After that they threw the rotten fruit at the police. The police quickly ended the ‘party’ by entering with a ladder in a blind spot. Every year the students unite and celebrate this day. They enter the castle with costumes and flags and they drink lots of beer.
St Bavo’s Cathedral
A majestic cathedral dating back to the 10th century and in the middle of the Korenmarkt of Ghent. It’s the center of Ghent with lots of restaurants and coffee places around. It’s also at the beginning of the famous shopping-street ‘veldstraat’. The Cathedral holds the famous painting ‘The Mystic Lamb’. The interior is beautiful and worth a visit, even if you’re not religious.
Want to learn more about this Cathedral? Here’s a fantastic link. http://www.sintbaafskathedraal.be/en/index.html
Belfry of Ghent
The Belfry is the proudest symbol of the city’s independence. It’s the highest Belfry of Belgium and offers a majestic view over the old city center. A lot of markets take place in front of the Belfry, which is in the back of the St Bavo’s Cathedral. Behind the belfry is a big square with fountains and a different cathedral (as seen below). This is one of my own pictures. Even though I spent a lot of time in Ghent, it surprises me how little pictures I have of it. I guess I was just used to seeing it.
There is way more to see! Ghent is filled with musea, art, parks, architecture and historical places. This website is an amazing source of information https://visit.gent.be/en/must-see.
2. Eat Gentse neuzen (cuberdon)
An ancient debate between Ghent and Bruges! In which city originated the cuberdon? No one knows for sure. Most people will say it originates from Ghent, however Bruges disagrees! It can be a misconception to say it’s from Ghent, who knows. All I know is that you buy the original and real ones in both Ghent and Bruges. Belgians call this candy ‘gentse neuzen’ or ‘Ghents noses’.
But what is a cuberdon? It’s a cone-shaped candy, which is very sweet. Every sweet-tooth will love this. The real cuberdons can be recognized by the G on the side of the candy. The G stands for ‘Geldhof’, which is the producer of the candy and the owner of the original recipe.
Cuberdons can be bought on the street at the ‘groentenmarkt’. There are 2 stands on this square. Make sure to buy them from the man in the picture below! It’s the stand on the right, closest to the ‘korenmarkt’. He sells the original ones from Geldhof and they have the G on the side of the candy. Don’t get me wrong, the other guy’s cuperdons are still delicious. They are not the same and there’s rivalry between both sellers. It’s not uncommon to see this rivalry in action.
3. Culinary treat in Patershol
Patershol is a cute and cozy area with lots of amazing restaurants. The streets are small and romantic. The food in here is amazing and pure Belgian! I recommend heading over to the Amadeus for the best ribs (all you can eat) or the typical ‘Gentse waterzooi’ – a local dish with chicken.
Ghent is a multicultural city and the street next to it is filled with foreign restaurants. You can get amazing Indian, Chinese, Japan, Moroccan, Turkish and even African food in here.
4. Explore the nightlife
Ghent has a lot to offer and the nightlife is amazing! It’s a big University-city and it’s multicultural. There are also a lot of hipsters in this city, which makes it ideal for everyone. If you’re into whisky and jazz, you can go to a jazz-bar. Rather have live performances? No problem, Ghent got you covered. Rather go clubbing? Ghent offer great clubs and even big clubs outside the center. The most famous street for partying is ‘overpoortstraat’. It’s a street filled with bars and street food! I usually go to the ‘vlasmarkt’. From a relaxing night and playing pool to dancing till sunrise, Ghent got you covered!
Here’s a great post on tripadvisor with the best nighlife spots: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g188666-c17335/Ghent:Belgium:Nightlife.html
5. Visit Bruges
Bruges is easily accessible by train and takes only a half an hour. Bruges is arguably the most romantic city of Belgium. It truly is a tourist magnet and I recommend going early so you can have the city for yourself! Check out my previous post of my trip to Bruges. https://steemit.com/travel/@beforeyoupack/a-trip-to-bruges-belgium-tour-around-the-city.
Bruges is a very cozy city. It is filled with small streets. It has a rich history and the architecture is phenomenal! There has been multiple movies shot in this city and ‘In Bruges’ is the most popular one. Bruges used to be one of the biggest and richest cities of Europe! Never leave Belgium without a trip to Bruges.