Ghent: Belgium's Medieval Marvel without the Crowds

Charming, Congenial, and Crowd-less

When one thinks of Belgium, it is usually the majestic streets of Bruges or the bustling city of Brussels that come to mind. But there lies a destination unblemished by the stampede of tourists, a medieval city that has somehow managed to retain its charm and congeniality without being crushed under the weight of our modern world: Ghent.

Beyond the winding canals, the castle fortresses and the cloud-piercing belfries, there lies a city where the inhabitants still greet you with a smile and a "gezondheid" as they share their delectable local brews. The city where the ancient cobblestones whisper the stories of centuries past and the statues gaze down upon you with a hint of mischief in their eyes. Ghent is a city that offers a glimpse into the past without losing its connection to the present.

Must-See Attractions in Ghent

From the moment you step off the train and are welcomed by the towering Gothic presence of the Saint Bavo Cathedral, you know you are in for a treat. Ghent is a city that does not shy away from showcasing its rich history and architectural splendor, and these must-see attractions will make you feel like you've stepped back in time to the glory days of the medieval era.

Gravensteen Castle

Start your historical journey by scaling the ramparts of the 12th-century Gravensteen Castle, a fortress that once housed the infamous Counts of Flanders. Marvel at the rugged walls that have survived countless sieges and listen closely as the wind carries the echoes of battles long past. If you're lucky, you might even spot a spectral knight or two wandering the halls.

Saint Bavo Cathedral

Your next stop should be none other than the grandiose Saint Bavo Cathedral, a structure so magnificent that it appears to have been plucked straight from the dreams of a medieval king. Within its hallowed walls, you'll find the world-famous Ghent Altarpiece, a monumental work of art that has inspired countless pilgrimages and, rumor has it, even a few clandestine midnight heists. One can only imagine the adventures that took place under the cover of darkness as would-be thieves attempted to make off with this priceless masterpiece.

Belfort and Cloth Hall

Continue your exploration by climbing the 91-meter-tall Belfort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that once symbolized the city's wealth and power. As you ascend the dizzying spiral staircase, take a moment to admire the view - the panorama of Ghent unfurling below you will leave you breathless and possibly vertiginous, but it's all part of the experience.

Once you've safely made your way back down to terra firma, stroll over to the adjoining Cloth Hall, a testament to the city's history as a thriving center of the textile industry. The echoes of the merchants haggling for the finest fabrics and the clatter of looms can almost be heard if you listen closely enough.

Ghent's Culinary Delights

Now, no trip to Belgium would be complete without sampling the local cuisine, and Ghent is no exception. Sink your teeth into a steaming cone of frites, topped with a generous dollop of mayonnaise, and you'll quickly understand why the Belgians are so fiercely proud of their culinary creations.

But if it's something more refined you're after, fear not - Ghent is also home to a thriving restaurant scene. From the humblest of street-food stalls to the more upscale establishments, there is something to suit every taste and budget. Just be sure to leave room for dessert, as Belgium is renowned for its mouthwatering waffles and decadent chocolates, both of which are in abundant supply in Ghent.

Enjoy Ghent by Night

As the sun sets and the city's ancient buildings are bathed in a warm, golden glow, Ghent truly comes alive. The streets come alive with laughter and music, as locals and visitors alike flock to the many bars and pubs that dot the cityscape.

Whether you prefer a quiet, candlelit tavern or a lively, bustling beer hall, Ghent has something to suit your mood. Sample the incredible variety of Belgian brews on offer - from the crisp, refreshing witbier to the complex, full-bodied Trappist ales - and raise a toast to the city that has managed to maintain its medieval charm amidst the chaos of modern life.

So, if it's an escape from the typical tourist trail you're after, look no further than the cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings of Ghent. It's a destination that will transport you back in time, immerse you in history and culture, and leave you with memories you'll treasure for a lifetime.

Article kindly provided by