26 december 2015

A weekend in Ghent

A true gem in the Flanders region of Belgium

By Renate In Culture, Food 4 minutes

Ghent is a small city in the Flemish region of Belgium. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. Nowadays it is a compact but very vibrant city, just perfect for a short visit or a weekend trip. How to spend those two days best? Let’s find out!

Day 1 in Ghent
If you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t want to spend it on traveling. So let’s find ourselves a nice place to stay in the city center of Ghent, like the NH Gent Belfort Hotel, where from some rooms you will be overlooking the town hall.

> A visit to Gravensteen
Let’s start our day with a visit to the medieval castle ‘Gravensteen‘, meaning castle of the counts, in Dutch. The present castle was built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace and was modeled after the crusaders castles that Philip of Alsace encountered while he participated in the second crusade. Before its construction, there was a wooden castle on the same location, presumably built in the ninth century. The castle served as the seat of the Counts of Flanders until they abandoned it in the 14th century. The castle was then used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually decayed. Houses were built against the walls and even on the courtyard and the stones of the walls were used to erect other buildings. At the end of the 19th century, the castle was scheduled to be demolished. In 1885 the city of Ghent bought the castle and started a renovation project. The walls and dungeon were restored to their original condition and the castle was opened for public. Inside is a museum with various torture devices (and a guillotine) that were historically used in Ghent.

> City walk
Ghent has a very nice historical city center, which you’d best explore by foot. Leave Gravensteen and continue on the Kleine Vismarkt. Cross the water and enter the Groentenmarkt, with the Vleeshuis, what used to be an old meat market. Nowadays, you will find some shops here. Continue over the Pensmarkt and you will find yourself at the Graslei with the beautiful old houses. The Korenlei and the Graslei are probably the most famous streets of Ghent. Enjoy the view from one of the many terraces. Continue on the Graslei until you pass the Sint Michielsplein and turn left. Turn left again on the Korenmarkt, also a great place to have dinner later on. Turn right at Klein Turkije and visit the Sint Niklaaskerk. Right behind this church, you will find the city hall and the famous tower of Ghent: the Belfort. You can go up if you like, and enjoy the view. Cross the Sint Bataafsplein and visit the Sint Bataafscathedral. One of the star features of this church is Hubrecht van Eyck’s panel of the mystic lamb.

Graslei Gent

> De Dulle Griet
Getting thirsty after a busy day? Try de Dulle Griet and you won’t be disappointed. Pub ‘de Dulle Griet’ has the largest range of Belgian beers in all of Ghent. Try their world famous Belgian Trappists or the hidden treasures of little known brewers. Cheers! After you had enough, walk back to the hotel and pass the graffiti street, called the Werrengarenstraat.

Dulle Griet

Day 2 in Ghent
Ghent has lots of museums. One you should definitely visit is the Design Museum.

> The Design Museum
The permanent collection of the museum includes some important seventeenth and eighteenth century interiors, however, the museum focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary design. Admire the Art Nouveau and Art Deco collection or the postmodernist works.

> Vooruit and the Wasbar
Next stop is for lunch at arts center ‘Vooruit‘. Since we are very close to the university of Ghent now, you will also find a lot of students in this historical building. Have some lunch and enjoy the local beers here. Another nice place nearby is the Wasbar, a place where you can have a drink while your laundry is being done.

Brewery Gruut
Ghent of course has its very own brewery called Gruut. You can visit it and enjoy the local Gruut beers. The brewery also has some very nice meals to offer. If you visit with a group, there are also interesting activities, like a beer walk or a guided tour.