Ghent City Guide: Things to Do, See and Eat traveling in Ghent, Belgium

Ghent Travel Guide

Introduction to Ghent

Possessing a history that dates back to the Middle Ages, but having a cosmopolitan population in the present day has led to Ghent being a popular alternative to the hectic pace of life that rules the day in Brussels and Antwerp. Being a key city for trade in past centuries has blessed it with architectural gems that will surprise those not expecting much in the way of tourist sights in this metropolis of just under a quarter million people, and with a number of colleges and universities, it has a youthful vibe that make it a great place for the young traveler. This all makes for a destination that shouldn’t be missed if you are looking for a place that is apart from major tourism centres in the region like Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam.

Cultural Experiences in Ghent

Start your cultural explorations of Ghent by dropping in to St. Bavo’s Cathedral. Constructed in the 10th century to resemble the chapel of John the Baptist, it has grown up to become a church that is much larger than that, with its central belfry soaring 89 metres into Ghent’s skyline.

Its key attraction is the Ghent Altarpiece, a religious painting created by Hubert and Jan van Eyck in the early 15th century, but visitors will also appreciate its many frescoes and naves constructed of fine marble.

St. Bavo’s wasn’t the only structure going up during the days of the Crusades. After coming back from from the second Crusade in the 12th century, Philip of Alsace ordered Gravensteen to be built, and had it patterned after the fortresses he had seen during his tour of duty in the Middle East.

Plans to demolish this historic structure were halted in the late 19th century, and it was subsequently renovated to allow for visitors to explore and climb atop its walls safely.

While the structure itself is quite impressive, those into artifacts of the medieval age will love this castle for the guillotine and various implements of torture that the lord within used to inflict vengeance on their enemies.

While there are plenty of historic and art museums that can be explored in the Ghent area, its most unique institution is Museum Dr. Guislain.

Located within the walls of a former mental hospital, this attraction is dedicated towards the history of psychiatry and mental health, as well as the artifacts used in treatments through the ages.

Chronicling belief in magic, witchcraft and demonic possessions through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to the weird treatments used to help bring around those with mental illnesses and photos of life on the inside over the past century are all highlights of this unconventional attraction in Ghent.

Other Attractions in Ghent

Looking for a chill place to relax on a delightful summer afternoon in Ghent? Head over to Graslei and Korenlei, which is where the port in the medieval era was located. An impressive array of buildings can be admired here, as can the placid waters of this city’s canals. There are many cafes and restaurants where you and your travel companion(s) can sit back and enjoy a quality cappuccino or a fine Belgian meal as residents and tourists go about their business.

If you’d rather sail on Ghent’s waters than admire them from a distance, there are canal cruises available that will allow you to take in this city’s best sights from a vantage point that can’t be beat. Cruises last about 40 minutes on average, but some companies stay out on the water longer than that, so be sure to ask around.

Looking for a spot where you can get a great panoramic photo of the surrounding cityscape? The Belfry of Ghent, much like the ones in Bruges, can be climbed by those seeking to get up high in search of the perfect shot. Standing 91 metres above the stone pavements of Ghent, it is the highest belfry in the country, and unlike the one in Bruges, an elevator is available in this structure, allowing to get up and down without breaking much of a sweat.

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