Burgundian Ghent can be recognized from afar by the remarkable row of stately towers that determine the face of the city. The sparkling city has a wide variety of sights, of which the dozens of churches and medieval buildings are the most striking. Ghent has a friendly, village-like atmosphere and combines this with the ambition of a metropolis and the elegance of the many historical monuments. Ghent should not be seen, but experienced!
How to get there
The train will take you to Ghent, Belgium, in a few hours. Ghent has several stations, but the main station is Gent-Sint Pieters. This station, like the others, is quite far from the center, so it is best to take the tram towards the city center. These connections are good. One or two nights are suitable to get a good idea of the city.
Walking in Ghent
A walk through the center of Ghent is a walk through the ages. The highlight of the city is without a doubt the beautiful row of towers consisting of three buildings: St. Bavo’s Cathedral , the Belfry and St. Nicholas Church , which together give the city a special appearance. If you cross the bridge near the Graslei in a westerly direction, you can photograph the impressive series of towers.
Shopping in Ghent
The city of Ghent is great for shopping because the city center is completely car-free and you can therefore walk around undisturbed in most places. By the way, it is the city where cars actually stop for you! Well-known department stores such as INNO are of course represented, as well as many chains that you also find in the Netherlands. Ghent has the largest shopping area in Belgium. The most famous shopping street in Ghent is the Veldstraat, where you will find branches of all the major fashion chains. Brabantdam, Koestraat and Mageleinstraat are other well-known shopping streets in Ghent. For souvenirs, you can easily go to the city’s important monuments, where souvenir shops are located. There are also various markets such as the flower market, the fruit/vegetable market, the prondel market, the bird market and markets for new merchandise. However, don’t expect a city where you will get lost because there are way too many shops. Ghent is compact and well-organized and the towers are always your compass.
The three towers / Source: Waldomiguez, Pixabay
St. Bavo’s Cathedral
This is the cathedral of the diocese of Ghent. Several architectural styles are represented in the impressive Sint Baafs: the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. The famous painting from 1432 by Jan van Eyck, ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’, is located here, as well as a famous work by Rubens. Mystic Lamb is considered the pinnacle of Flemish painting in the 15th century. It consists of twelve oil-painted panels. The largest organ in the Benelux can also be found in St. Baafs, it dates from 1653 and is designed in a playful baroque style. You will also find a pulpit made of marble and oak from 1741, as well as frescoes from the 15th and 16th centuries, a large collection of church supplies and a number of mausoleums.
The beautiful and very photogenic Belfry, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, is located between St. Nicholas Church and St. Bavo’s Cathedral. The Belfry of Ghent has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. Over time there have been many innovations. As a visitor it is fun to take the elevator up (91 meters high!) and enjoy the beautiful view of Ghent. Once at the top you can see the city in all directions. The elevator also has intermediate floors that are open to the public where you can learn more about the bells and the history of the Belfry. Next to the Belfry is the Cloth Hall, which was added a century later.
The Graslei is perhaps the most famous point in Ghent. It is a long street with guild houses located on the water where there once was a harbor. The historic decorations and facades of the houses were built in various styles (Romanesque, Baroque, Gothic) because they date from different times, mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. You will find the House of the Free Skippers, the Koornstaphuis or Spijker, the Tolhuisje and the Korenmetershuis. The variety of unique houses makes the Graslei and the opposite side, the Korenlei , a unique part of Ghent. If the weather permits, it is nice to take a boat trip through the center. You will find various shipping companies here.
More sights in Ghent
- Saint Nicholas Church, early Gothic church from the 13th century.
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art (SMAK), modern and hip museum.
- Ghent Town Hall, special mix of architectural styles from the 16th century.
- Gravensteen Castle, in addition to the castle also a weapons museum and court museum.
- Design Museum, with old and modern furniture.
- Friday market, large square in the center of Ghent, around beautiful guild houses and the statue of ‘The wise man of Ghent.’
- Flemish Opera Ghent, full-fledged music theatre.
- Book Tower, an example of modernist architecture, used as a university library.
- Groot Vleeshuis, promotion center for East Flemish regional products and delicacies.
- Saint Jacob’s Church, old Romanesque church.
- Glass Street, glass-covered passage, on the list of protected heritage, but better known for its prostitutes!
- Dulle Griet, also known as the Great Cannon, a very heavy wrought iron cannon.
- St. Michael’s Church, church in late Gothic style.
- The Patershol, a best-preserved medieval district in Ghent with many restaurants.
- St. Peter’s Abbey and Our Lady of St. Peter’s Church on St. Peter’s Square.
- Saint Bavo’s Abbey, from the 7th century.
- The House of Alijn, museum about the life of the people of Ghent.
- Werregarenstraatje, colorful spectacle of graffiti!
- Gerard de Duivelsteen, the state archives.
- Carriage ride.
- Various Beguinages, including the beautiful OLV Ter Hooie Beguinage, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Flower market on the Kouter.
- Cloth Hall, 15th century trade building in Gothic style.
- Ghent Festivities, annual spectacle that transforms Ghent into a festival (July).
In the basement around the corner from the Belfry you can get a city map and a restaurant guide, and much more information about the city’s sights and history.
The Soap Story is a wonderful store at Mageleinstraat 19. If you have had enough of Belgian chocolates, you can always buy a bar of chocolate soap in this store! The business has an extensive collection of handmade soaps and the unique thing is that the soaps are sold per slab (by weight). You’ll find soap scents you didn’t even know could be turned into soap, as well as more common scents like coconut, vanilla, custard, cookies, banana, cucumber, coffee and mint. The scents are so typical and strong that you want to sink your teeth into a bar of soap. The dark brown chocolate soap is of course irresistible, and a fitting souvenir from Ghent. The store also sells sponges, soap lollipops, bath salts, body scrub, bath bombs, bath pearls, soap chocolates, washcloths, bath foam and shower gel and much more. The store, which started in 2003, has won a Shopping Award and Innovation Trophy for its unique Belgian store concept and its original products and has further expanded its successes with the opening of dozens of stores, including across the border. For the near future, Soap Story, which has also expanded to the Netherlands, has planned many more points of sale and the name Soap Story has been established.
Ghent is not just a city that will charm you for a moment and then leave you with a peaceful mind. No. As a beautiful woman who is very aware of her assets, Ghent will seduce you through her impetuosity and her fervor. When you leave her, you are left completely upside down, consumed by desire, said Le Guide Routard.