Almost anyone traveling in Belgium has visited Bruges, which is undeniably one of the most romantic cities in the world, but Ghent is worth your time as well. Dating back to the 1100’s, this city’s Gothic architecture, medieval neighborhoods and food scene are enough to entertain you for days. We had less than eight hours.
The City Center is just a short, scenic walk from the Central Train depot. Begin your tour there by choosing one of several street cafes to get your day started with coffee and Belgian waffles, of course. If you are as fascinated with beautiful doors as I am, you will be enchanted along the way. This was the first of many sightings and is my humble offering to Norm, the grand poobah at Thursday doors.
Even without a jolt of very strong coffee, you cannot miss the imposing presence of St. Bavo’s Cathedral. This magnificent structure isn’t just another pretty face on the landscape of Ghent, it has substance, as well. The world famous masterpiece, “Mystic Lamb” painted by the Van Eyck Brothers and completed in 1432 is housed here, along with many other significant artifacts and tombs of Bishops. The painting has been through many restorations and one panel, (the Just Judges) which was stolen in 1934, is a reproduction.
This 12th Century Romanesque church was originally dedicated to John the Baptist. In the Fifteenth to sixteenth centuries, it was converted to this stately Gothic Cathedral and remains the majestic centerpiece of Ghent.
Mystic Lamb. Read the interesting history behind the world’s most famous painting here.
From City Center, hop a tram heading in the opposite direction from the Cathedral and get off at Gravensteen, (Castle of the Counts), which was built in 1180 as a display of wealth and power, (weren’t they all). Count Philip of Alsace reigned over the region from 1157 until his death in battle in 1191. The museum houses weapons of war and devices of torture unlike anything you have ever seen – unless you watch Game of Thrones. The displays are all encased in glass and have numbers which correspond to descriptions on a card that you may pick up at the entry. Don’t miss the walk to the top of the battlement and enjoy a great view of the city. Entry fee 10 Euro.
The photo on the left is the under garment for the suite of armor on the right. It was made of woven metal. Can you even imagine???
Just a short walk from the castle you will find Patershol, which best represents the construction of villages in the dark ages. Today, it is a foodie paradise, with restaurants tucked into centuries old buildings along vary narrow passages.
Get lost among the many shops and restaurants as you wind your way toward the canal and these amazing views.
Boat, bike, walk or trolley yourself through this beautiful city – it really doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it!
Suggestion: Situate yourself in Brussels, Bruges or Ghent for up to one full week, and tour the surrounding areas by train. We stayed at the Warwick hotel in Brussels for three nights and took day trips to Bruges and Ghent, devoting one day to each of the three cities. More about Bruges and Brussels in a later post.