Rightly termed ‘the best kept secret of Europe’ by Lonely Planet, Ghent is a true gem in the Flanders
Ghent, in the Flemish region of Belgium, is a late medieval city on the rivers Scheldt and Leie with beautiful old buildings and is often regarded as one of the most beautiful European cities. It is easy to get sidetracked in Ghent, but if you have 48 hours in this lovely city, here’s what you can do.
DAY 1 (Morning)
After breakfast head to Ghent’s most iconic building, the Gravensteen Castle, an early 12th century stone castle with beautiful turrets and walls on the river. It currently houses the Museum of Torture, a morbid collection of torture devices, including guillotine, thumb screws and dungeons.
Have lunch at Naturell and then see the city’s famous churches such as St Michael’s Church with a lovely tower, St Nicholas’ Church with Gothic architecture and St Bavo’s Cathedral with its magnificent architecture; don’t miss The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers, as well as works by the legendary Rubens and other Flemish masters.
Walk along the cobblestone streets by the river filled with cackling ducks and flanked by colourful gabled houses to reach the City Pavilion, a huge geometric structure in glass and wood. A meeting place for people and for holding concerts and performances, it has a nice buzz. Next door is Ghent’s famous Belfry, a 12th century tower topped by a dragon!
Walk along the river near Graslei where all the buildings are lit and their reflection in the river looks like something out of a fairy tale.
DAY 2 (Morning)
Catch up on some more of Ghent’s iconic buildings such as the Mason’s Guild Hall with its impressive facade, the Town Hall with its mix of Gothic and Italian Renaissance style architecture and St James’ Church, which is the location of the Ghent Festivities, the annual 10-day long cultural extravaganza in July and where a flea market is held once a week.
Visit Gruut, a microbrewery located along the river, which makes a range of drinks with medicinal herbs instead of hops. Then, step into a gondola-sized boat and cruise the river looking at Ghent’s landmarks from a different perspective.
Head to the Groentenmarkt area where the iconic Establissement Max, a lovely cafe with old world charm and furniture, is located and binge on the most sinful and light as cloud Belgian waffles topped with cream, strawberries and dusted with sugar. Taste hand-ground mustard at Tierenteyn-Verlent next door and sample cuberdons, a nose-shaped jelly and a Ghent speciality, sold on pushcarts.
End your visit
End the visit with a meal at the ancient Graanmarkt filled with restaurants and dine with fabulous views of the river and the Castle. Walking through Ghent is like walking through a historical painting, an architectural masterpiece.
Written By: Anita Rao-Kashi