Ghent is an underrated gem in Belgium. You truly get the best of all things Belgian, particularly of the Flanders region, in this quaint little town all while avoiding the crowds and tourist traps of its rival sister city up north, Brugge.
Though it is best known as a University city here in Belgium, as soon as summer arrives, it becomes a city break paradise. A day might not be enough time to really explore what the city has to offer but in a short amount of time you can still get quite close. Let me show you what to do in Ghent in a day!
Coffee with a view
Start your trip bright and early at ‘T verschil, a cute cafe right around the corner of the canal’s bridge. Their prices are affordable (relative to prices in Belgium) and the staff is very baby friendly giving mamas a special place to feed and charge their babies.
The heart of Ghent is Korenmarkt, and it’s its citizens meeting point for a fun time out given that lots of cool restaurants and bars are around the area. You will be able to find a lot of international food places, as well as typical Ghent food. Did you know that waffles aren’t really a thing people in Ghent like? Although they love chocolate (in fact Leonidas and Neuhaus -two of the biggest chocolatiers in the world- started in this city) and beer, waffles are mostly a thing reserved for the tourists. Well, good for us and what a pity for them because they are delicious!!
Snap your own postcard: The Three Towers view
This is the epic shot you must take while in the city and one of the most famous landmarks, the one with The Belfry, St. Bavos Church, St. Nicolas Church. You can snap it over on St. Nicolas bridge.
Visit the former largest brothel of Ghent
By law, businesses are obliged to preserve the ancient facades of the Old Town in an effort to continue with the city’s peculiar and beautiful architecture. So sometimes those facades are the facades of former brothels. Swans forming a heart were the universal symbol for love, so swans looking in opposite direction of each other quickly because the symbol for.. well you get the idea. Back when Ghent was one of the most important ports in Europe, lots of lonely sailors stopped at the harbor frequently looking for a place to fix their loneliness. The swan symbol pictured above was mainly what they were looking for. Now, this place is a Marriot hotel which was of course completely renovated. Below is a picture of how it looks from the inside, quite a cool contrast right?
Meet the largest toilet paper in the world
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. This is really a giant toilet paper! If you find it, make sure then you visit Ghent’s design museum. This structure is part of the museum’s exhibition but it is located outside of it. Quite a quirky piece of art, isn’t it?
Stroll around Vrijdagsmark
Literally meaning Friday market, this plaza offer a weekly open market every Friday. The statue of Jacob van Artevelde is located right in the middle of the square. He is a symbol of prosperity in Flanders given that he helped the city during the Hundred Years’ War by enabling commerce to flourish despite the rivalries between France and England by setting up an alliance with Bruges and Ypres (later the Four Members) in order to show neutrality.
Visit the Count’s Castle Gravensteen
Most castles are build on top of the hill in order to protect the citizens from invaders. As you can see from the pictures, this castle is right on the canal’s level. This is because this castle was not made to protect its people, but its counts. Taxes in Belgium have always been high throughout history with people rebelling against them. So the counts build this castle to keep them save for those instances. The last one being in 1940s due to high beer taxes. One hundred students entered the palace and demanded to leave their beer alone. Now students visit the castle each year as a reminder of this funny but real (and very important!) historic event.
Tour the Patershol neighborhood
Patershol is the new up and coming hip neighborhood of the city. Though it used to be a part of town they advised you to avoid, with restorations taking place in the recent years, it has now become the coolest place to be. Cute cafes and bars are around the area and the canal views are THE spot to take lots of cute selfies, he.
Enjoy brunch all day long
Although we didn’t have brunch this time, lots of places advertise all day brunch menu. Three Monkeys offers a great selection of omelettes all day long plus a great beer tasting menu and fabulous finger like the one pictured above.
Fall in love with the city
If these pictures don’t convince you, I don’t know what will! I remember this being my favorite city back when I was in my exchange program but now I liked it even more because we got to see it through the eyes of a local, I love it even more! We took the Redondo & Friends Free Walking Tour and it was one of the funniest and most insightful tours we’ve been in a while. Out tour guide Nick, born and raised in Ghent, was the perfect narrator and his love for the city was contagious!
Have you ever been to Ghent? What did you love or will like to see?