Ghent is one of the most important cities of Belgium, and it’s been involved in so many historical events of the old times of Europe! And you can easily see it in one day because the majority of main landmarks are situated within walking distance from each other.
If you’d like to see more of the Flemish architecture, check out my coming blog about Lille!
1. Discover the secrets of Castle of the Counts
Castle of the Counts, or Gravensteen, dates back to the 12th century – it was built on a site of a wood defence fortification. Once it was the residence of the Counts of Flanders and symbol of their terrifying power, then this mediaeval fortification was used as a court and a prison but unfortunately with time it lost its importance and was used as a cotton mill before being abandoned in the late 18th century.
Now it’s a museum where you can walk on the walls, observe the city beneath, study heraldics and have a look at the prisons, a collection of torture equipment (uuuugh!) and the armoury. For the best views of it I recommend to cross the Lys River and to observe it from the other bank. Isn’t it very impressive?
2. See Ghent Altarpiece at St. Bavo’s Cathedral
Initially St. Bavo’s Cathedral was founded around 650 by Saint Amand, one of the most important christian missionaries in Flandres. The current building is a Gothic cathedral that is on the site of the Chapel of St. John the Baptist. It’s known for the 90 metre high bell tower (one of three towers of Ghent, see more below!), a few magnificent organs, masterpieces of Rubens and of course the Ghent Altarpiece, or The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, created by brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck dating back to 1432 (you cannot take photos of it).
The story of it is quite turbulent – it’s been stolen so many times! – but still returned to its place. You can see both opened up and closed, depending on the time of your visit. Different panels were under restoration for years, and the recent revealing of the lamb has provoked lots of discussions among the critics.
3. Climb Saint Nicholas Church
The 13th century Saint Nicholas Church is situated pretty close to St. Bavo’s Cathedral and adds the second high tower to the city landscape. Its architectural style refers to Scheldt Gothic, named after the river of the same name running through Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.
4. Ghent belfry
The third tower of Ghent (the first two are Saint Nicholas Church and St. Bavo’s Cathedral) is the 14th century Belfry of Ghent, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a dragon watching over the city and the Cloth Hall, built onto it and dating back to 1907. It’s probably the best spot to see Ghent from above as you can see everything. On the way up you have a chance to explore a historical exhibition . Also you can spot a Mammelokker above the entrance to the former prison!
5. Try a cuberdon
If you’ve ever been to Belgium, you’ve probably seen the cuberdons, cone-shaped sweets with different flavours. Sometimes they are called a neus, or a nose. One of the theories on cuberdons’ creation is that a pharmacist let a syrup get thicker and it developed a crust outside while inside it was still soft and liquid. Another theory is that they were created by a priest, and so the shape is known as a cleric cap. Cuberdons originate from Ghent – you can try them at the Groentenmarkt – and are simply delicious! The purple one with the raspberry flavour is believed to be the most traditional one consisting of arabic gum, raspberry and violet flowers, but I also loved the lemon ones a lot.
Recently the real war of cuberdons flooded the streets of Ghent when two main sellers of those candies. Carl Demeestere and Sonny Breine, started a real physical fight over the customers after the years of verbal quarrelling. Oh, cuberdons might be really worth that!
6. Have a cruise
Don’t miss seeing Ghent from water because this is one of the best experiences you can have in Ghent! During a ride across the river you’ll get a chance to observe the beautiful traditional houses from the water and get another perspective on the landmarks you’ve already seen. There are many options of cruises available, and you can simply choose the one that fits you the best.
7. Vrijdagmarkt Square
Vrijdagmarkt Square is one of the most important squares of Ghent and definitely with a visit! It’s one of the best places to eat or to have a coffee because the variety of restaurants there is astonishing. At the middle there’s a statue of Jakob van Artevelde, a 14th century political leader who supported England in the Hundred Years’ War (that’s why his figure is stretching his hand towards England) and was brutally killed in 1345 after the rumours that he wanted to let the Black Prince, the heir of Edward III of England, rule the Flandres. On Fridays and Saturdays local market takes place here too – and actually the name of the square points to the weekly Friday markets too!
Another square to see is Korenmarkt Square.
You could also like my One day in Brussels post!
Hope you liked my new blog!