Ghent, Belgium – A Unique Combination of History, Architecture, Art And Excellent Food

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium and a region with incredible history, culture, and architecture. Antwerpen and Bruges are probably the most famous cities in the region, but if you truly want to feel the essence of Flanders, then Ghent is a place for you. One of the unique places in Europe, Ghent is quite a large city that combines cosmopolitan lifestyle with quieter and more easy-going atmosphere. Its medieval streets and mansions are perfect for commencing a search for a nice restaurant or a pub. Altogether, Ghent should be on top of your list for visiting when travelling to Belgium!

ghent guide

All About Ghent

Ghent is located in the middle of Belgium and it is one of the country’s most historic cities. It lies between Antwerpen, Bruges, and Brussels and has great connections to all of these cities. This is exactly what makes Ghent a perfect base for exploring entire Belgium. Ghent is most notable for its amazing past and especially for its architecture. But it is also a city of numerous amazing parks and generally beautiful nature.

Although Ghent does not have its own airport, it can still be easily reached via the airport in Brussels. What is more, Ghent has some of the best train connections in this part of Europe – a train trip from Brussels to Ghent will take you some 30 minutes. Roaming around the city will be easy if you use public transportation, especially buses or trams. Most of the locals usually walk particularly if you are in the city centre. Bikes are also quite popular and efficient and there are bike stands on every corner to make your life easier.

ghent transport

Long History

Ghent was formed in the early Middle Ages around two large abbeys. It reached its first peak in the 11th century, thus becoming a small city-state. In the 13th century, another Golden Age started and Ghent soon became the second largest city north of the Alps after Paris. Its expansion went even faster in following centuries, particularly due to highly developed cloth and textile industry.

But in the period between 14th and the 19th-century situation in Ghent was not that great anymore. Wars between various European countries, particularly those between England and France, had devastating effects on Ghent’s economy. The city itself was severely damaged more than once during this period.

However, everything changed after the Napoleonic Wars when city’s industry flourished once again and in this period a University was opened in Ghent. Despite being occupied during both World Wars, there was no huge destruction.

Today, Ghent is a thriving city and a place where tourists from all corners of the world enjoy spending their vacation.

history of ghent

What You Should Not Miss

Ghent is an awesome city for visitors since most of its attractions are concentrated in its centre. That is why most of them can be seen during a short walk down its magnificent paved medieval streets. Belfort en Lakenhalle or the Belfry is a medieval tower and a symbol of local autonomy. Plus, it is a great place for enjoying the amazing view of the Ghent’s skyline.

St. Bavo’s Cathedral is another Ghent’s landmark located near the Belfry. This amazing building is a true time machine with architectural elements from various periods, including Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque.
Het Gravensteen or the Castle of the Counts is an absolutely incredible place built in the century by a knight who returned from a Crusade. There is a small museum within the castle with interesting artefacts, including torture chambers and other exhibitions.

Also, there is a huge number of fabulous museums you can visit but one of the most interesting is the MIAT – Museum of industry, labour, and textile. Ghent was a huge industrial center and this place is dedicated to its industrial heritage, which tells some amazing stories about the city’s past. Museum of Fine Arts and Ghent City Museum are also worth visiting since they will provide you many interesting facts about the city and its way of living.

It is hard to even count all landmarks in Ghent but these are definitively the ones you must not miss. If you have more free time, you will find it easy to investigate some other places too. In the end, one can truly say that Ghent is simply amazing and definitively worth visiting.

a guide on ghent

Find a Perfect Place to Stay During Your Visit

In comparison to other Belgian cities, Ghent is a type of active and buzzing place that abounds with bars, bistros, great events and always interesting activities. That is why younger generations yearn to visit it at least over the weekend, and tourists all over the world come back to Ghent whenever possible. For that reason, the Belgian city offers a great variety of accommodation capacities suitable for all budgets. What is more, lodging options in Ghent meet all kinds of expectations and demands.

Hence, if you are visiting Ghent for the first time and still didn’t decide where to stay, we are here to help and assist you. Depending on your budget, you need to know that you can stay in a room in a hotel, hostel, B&B, or in a private apartment.

Hotels are, as usual, the most attractive and popular types of accommodation. They can provide you with a full and most luxurious service, royal-like treatment and moments you will never forget. This kind of lodging can be quite expensive if you opt for all-inclusive services. However, as you are already familiar, there are always mid-range hotels that still provide quite a good service for smaller amounts of money. Ghent abounds with both the types of hotels. So, if you want to stay exclusively in a luxurious hotel during your trip to Ghent, you may check Ghent Marriot Hotel, Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof, 1898 The Post and NH Gent Belfort. But should you like to choose a somewhat cheaper variant of a hotel in the Belgian city, try with Hotel Drongen, Astoria, Carlton Hotel, Hotel Gravensteen, and Holiday Inn Express Gent.

Nevertheless, there are always the free, enthusiastic and leisure tourists who cut the accommodation costs at the expense of seeing more tourist attractions and staying for a longer period of time in the desired destination. That’s why hostels and B&Bs are an ideal type of accommodation. They will surely provide you with a place to stay, a cozy room with a toilet, and in some cases with a tasty breakfast. In case you choose a hostel or a B&B while in Ghent, try booking those with better locations, nearer to all the attractions you would like to see. Several great options are Hostel 47, De Draecke Hostel, Treck Hostel as well as bed and breakfast solutions like B&B Door 10, Snooz Inn, and Design&Breakfast B&B.

For all those who would like their visit to Ghent to be more private-like, there are numerous options of renting private apartments. Especially today, when Airbnb and booking websites increase in the number of satisfied clients, you will surely not be an exception when finding a suitable apartment in Ghent.

hotels in ghent

Cuisine in Ghent – Enjoy Eating Traditional Meals

It is said that Belgian cuisine is very similar to the French cuisine, but still, some of the dishes are indeed traditional, unique and recognizable only in Belgium. So, if you are visiting Ghent, try to eat at least some of the best known Flemish dishes.

For instance, fish soup in Ghent is special because of the way of preparation. Here, it includes white wine, fish stock, onions, leek, tomatoes, saffron as well as numerous other herbs and spices.

One of the meals that are regarded a luxurious delicacy in Belgian cities is White Asparagus, prepared in a Flemish Style. In Ghent, it is served steamed and boiled together with hardboiled eggs, butter sauce and parsley. In some variants, white asparagus can be cooked and served with different kinds of meat, including ham, salmon, grey shrimp or sausages.

Flemish Carbonades is a typical Belgian dish, most popular among foreign tourists especially because one of its ingredients is beer. Flemish Carbonades is usually described as beer braized beef stew. The main ingredients for the meal are beef, dark beer, onions, a slice of bread, mustard, and a great variety of spices. If you are lucky enough to eat Flemish Carbonades in a fancy and good restaurant in Ghent, you will also have the meal served with fries or salad.

There are many other traditional meals you should try, but the rest of them are left to visitors to discover and taste.

restaurants in ghent

Things To Do In Ghent

After you have found a perfect accommodation and went to see the most popular tourist attractions of the city of Ghent, you should also think of some interesting things to do while in this lovely Belgian city.

If you are a coffee lover, be sure to visit Mokabon, a local cafe that will undoubtedly wipe out all other coffee industries, including Starbucks. Here, you will have the chance to try Belgian espresso topped with whipped cream. It tastes magnificent. Apart from excellent coffee, Mokabon also offers great snacks you will simply adore.

Vrijdagmarkt is another cool spot you should not miss. In the past, the square was the place of public executions. But today, Vrijdagmarkt is an amusing market that takes place every Friday. Once you come here, be sure you will come back with hands full of bags and presents.

Of course, you haven’t visited Ghent if you did not travel by a water tram. This is also a unique way to see some of the most beautiful places in the city whose beauty usually cannot be seen otherwise.

guide on things in ghent

I hope you have a great time in Ghent, If you have any questions or you’d  like me to guide you anymore, just drop a comment in the comments section below.