The unsung city of Ghent


With cities like Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp surrounding it, it is not hard to see why Ghent may have been overlooked by visitors to Belgium. Rosie Khdir reveals the delights of this medieval canal city.

Ghent is a historic city, filled with the weird and wonderful. It is apparently the “veggie capital of Europe” and in 2009 the city even launched ‘Donderdag Veggiedag’ (Thursday Veggie Day) to encourage its residents to give up meat and fish on Thursdays!

The most prominent part of the city as you walk around seems to be its history, visible from the gothic and medieval architecture. The scenic old Graslei harbour is elegant and striking, and medieval cathedrals and the Gravensteen castle sits grandly around the central public squares – the largest car-free area in Belgium.

Ghent is divided into two sectors, the historic centre and the artistic quarter both of which are easy to navigate by foot, with signposts at 114 locations.

As for sightseeing you can go and see The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a unique altar piece situated in St. Bavo’s Cathedral. It was painted by the Van Eyck brothers in 1432 and is considered to be a milestone in art history.

You can also visit St. Michael’s Bridge, the Old Belfry, which is an official UNESCO site, and the many old houses that decorate the historic water front.

Ghent is also filled with interesting museums such as the Design museum, which displays furnishings of all ages, from Renaissance to Art Deco, Art Nouveau and retro. There is also the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Peter’s Abbey Arts Centre, the School of Yesteryear and the World of Kina: the Garden, where you can see more than 1000 plant species and live tarantulas.

Now if that doesn’t tempt you, maybe these facts about Ghent will. It has 475 restaurants, 250 different sorts of beer, 74 parks, 56 large and small market squares, 30 hectares of pedestrian space in the city centre (this is the largest in Belgium), 19 museums, 5 abbeys, 2 medieval castles, the largest street festival in Europe (The Ghent Festivities). To top it off, no other city in Belgium has as many classified buildings as Ghent.

Convinced that it is worth a visit yet? Well I should hope so!

P&O Ferries can help you on your way with its Hull – Zeebrugge route. Alternatively you can take the Dover – Calais route from where it is just a short drive along the E40 to the Belgian border. Prices start at just £30 for a car and up to nine people.

Image credit: RussBowling

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