Belgium is a charming country to visit, and on one recent trip, I was able to explore Ghent, Belgium. The capital of East Flanders, Ghent (pronounced Gent) is a port city where the Scheldt and Leie Rivers meet. The town dates back to medieval times, and it is evident when you stroll its cobbled streets, with church spires, city walls and even a castle standing sentinel over the city.
It’s easy to explore the city over a weekend, and you’ll find it a relaxing getaway with friendly locals welcoming you to they city. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss during your visit.
Things to Do in Ghent
Get Your Steps In. A Unesco World Heritage Site, visit the Belfort of Ghent. This belfry was constructed in 1313 and is the tallest belfry in all of Belgium. You can climb 350 steps for 360-degree views of the city (or take the elevator, if you want to cheat).
Nosh on a Purple Treat. When strolling through Patershol, you will see many shops and street vendors selling Cuberdon. These cone-shaped and purple treats and raspberry candies that have been sold here since the late 1800s. Some have begun selling more flavors, but stick to the original.
Explore the Home of a Count. Visit the 10th-century Gravensteen Castle that is straight out of a fairytale. You’ll cross a moat into what was originally a home to a count. Fully restored, you’ll climb and wander through the mostly empty castle (no period furnishings here), but as it was recently restored, you’ll see the castle in its glory and imagine what life was like when it was built. Plus, you’ll find some of the best views of Ghent.
Step Back in Time. For those aforementioned cobbled streets in one of the coolest neighborhoods in which to stroll, visit Patershol. You’ll find art galleries and boutique shops, as well as charming cafes and restaurants — pick one with outdoor seating and enjoy people watching as you sip on delicious Belgian and French wines.
Discover Rubens. The gothic St. Bavo’s Cathedral is home to the diocese of Ghent and was originally constructed in 1038 with continuous updates and expansion through the 1500s. Artwork found in the cathedral includes works by Rubens and van Clef.
Where to Stay
One of the most upscale and comfortable hotels in Ghent is Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof. Within its walls are an 18th century town house as well as a modern building. Located steps from the historic sites, this premier property offers expansive suites and even apartments with kitchens and hotel service. Other amenities include bike rentals, onsite parking and Wi-Fi.