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Gent in Flandern, Bild: Mapics / shutterstock

Ghent – The flower city from Flanders

If you are planning a city trip , the city of Ghent in the northwest of Belgium is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind – a pity, because Ghent is a modern university city with many buildings worth seeing that remind us of an exciting and eventful history.

Ghent, Old Town
Image: TTstudio / shutterstock

An ideal destination for a varied short trip and a relaxing break in between. Ghent is located at the confluence of the Lys and Scheide rivers and has around 260,000 inhabitants. This makes it the second largest city in the Flanders region after Antwerp. Its striking silhouette is defined by the three adjacent towers of St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry and St. Bava Cathedral.

Few people know that Ghent was a powerful state during the Middle Ages and, along with Paris, one of the most important metropolises in Europe. Having become rich through the cloth, flax and linen trade, the merchants had impressive houses built at that time and so many of today’s sights in the medieval old town date from this time. Especially in the streets Graslei and Korenlei, one beautiful, historic gabled house follows the next. A great view of these magnificent buildings of the then wealthy Ghent is offered from the romantic St. Michael’s Bridge, from which the best photos can also be taken. A stroll through the car-free centre of the “Proud City”, as it is called, is a stress-free and interesting undertaking.

What to see in Ghent?

Gravensteen moated castle
Wasserburg Gravensteen, Image: cge2010 / shutterstock

The most important attraction in Ghent is the well-preserved Gravensteen moated castle from the 12th century. The ancient building now houses a museum, the visit of which is interesting for adults and children alike. Highlights for most kids are the prison and the torture chamber in the basement of the castle.

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One of the city’s landmarks is the Belfry, a bell tower from the 14th century, which is even on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The 100 m high tower can be climbed and from the top you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surroundings. Right next door is the imposing Gothic-style Cloth Hall, which is a symbol of the industry to which Ghent owes much of its wealth and reputation.

A visit to St. Bavo’s Cathedral is an absolute must for any art lover. The church houses a myriad of works of art, some of which are more than a thousand years old. It is famous for its 22 altars, among other things. The most famous of these was made in 1432 by Jan van Eyck. His unique altarpiece “The Adoration of the Lamb of God” is 3.75 x 5.20 m when open.

To get a good overview of the interesting history of Ghent, it is worth visiting the City Museum (STAM), which is very appropriately housed in several buildings from different eras: an old abbey from the 14th century, a monastery from the 17th century and a newly built part of the building. Ghent also offers a number of modern museums, such as the S.M.A.K. for contemporary art and a very exciting design museum.

The Ghent Markets

Ghent
cozy restaurants invite you to linger in Ghent, Image: Catarina Belova / shutterstock

If you like to stroll through markets, you should go to Bij-Sint-Jacobs-Platz on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, where a large flea market is held on these days. Here, collectors can buy all kinds of art and kitsch at low prices. In addition, numerous original antique and curio shops have also settled in the surrounding shops.

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Ghent is also known as the “flower city” because there are many nurseries and plant breeding companies in its vicinity, so of course a colourful flower market takes place here regularly. Every Sunday, locals and tourists meet at Kouter Square to shop or simply enjoy the sight and scent. However, many people also come here specifically for the pleasant atmosphere and the great music. In the centre of the Kouter is a wrought-iron bandstand from 1878, where musicians always create a great atmosphere.

Although Ghent is still overshadowed by Brussels in terms of visitor numbers, the birthplace of Charles V is a real gem among city breaks. It is worth discovering this place with its successful fusion of history and modernity. Ghent is ideal for a weekend getaway or short break throughout the year.