Provided by: Stad Gent/Visit Gent
Ghent city walk, quirky charm

Ghent city walk, quirky charm

Start your city break by visiting the heart of Ghent: the historic centre. This city walk takes about two hours. Absorb the mystery: follow your guide to the Castle of the Counts, the Graslei and Korenlei and Ghent’s famous Three Towers. Let your eyes drink in the modern architecture of the City Pavilion and the rustic charm of the Patershol, an old neighbourhood with mediaeval streets full of restaurants. Join the sociable Ghent residents and enjoy life.
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Great Butchers’ Hall

Great Butchers’ Hall

East Flanders has more than 175 traditional regional products. And in Ghent you can find them all handily displayed under one roof! The Great Butchers’ Hall houses the Centre for East Flemish Regional Products. You will find everything here, whether you want individual products or a gift hamper. Or why not put together your own delicious gift? If you can’t wait to taste our specialities, reserve a table at the restaurant across the aisle and enjoy local dishes right there on the spot! The Great Butchers’ Hall was originally a covered market. This hall, which dates back to the 15th century, was the central place where meat was inspected and traded. This was partly because selling meat door-to-door was forbidden in the Middle Ages. Delicious Ganda Ham is now hung up to dry in the magnificent exposed wooden rafters. This ham is still salted and dried by craftspeople following an age-old traditional recipe. You might want to experience Ghent on a miniature scale as well. Beside the Great Butchers’ hall is the smallest pub in Ghent, ’t Galgenhuisje. This vibrant little café used to be one of the tripe shops. Animal entrails were sold in these huts, separated off from the market hall for reasons of hygiene. The little bar fills up quickly. But not to worry. There is plenty of room on the terrace, and it’s heated in winter!
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Patershol, culinary heart of Ghent

Patershol, culinary heart of Ghent

This particularly beautiful corner of Ghent is a city within the city. Forget where you are for a moment and travel back in time to the Middle Ages. Have fun discovering centuries of history in this gorgeous part of town! Breathe in the nostalgia of old customs. Enjoy art and architecture. You will love the picturesque streets full of cosy restaurants, down-to-earth pubs and trendy bars. Ghent is heaven for foodies. But the Patershol is definitely at the top of everyone’s menu. Eateries are almost shoulder to shoulder in these tiny cobbled streets. Take a culinary trip around the world from Japanese and Indonesian food, past Turkish, Italian and Spanish restaurants to traditional Flemish cuisine. Pick your style, whether it’s modern, romantic, a bit eccentric or exclusive. You certainly won’t be leaving with an empty stomach. Real people live their lives in the shadow of the Castle of the Counts. Residents here go about their daily business. They welcome neighbours through their doors. Children play in the street. The Patershol is more than a tourist hotspot. Above all, it is a place where people live. There is a festival committee that honours local traditions. All of this gives the mediaeval streets a unique historic value. Wander down the narrow alleyways and experience the real soul of the Patershol.
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Ghent City Museum (STAM)

Ghent City Museum (STAM)

The STAM is the ideal place to start your cultural holiday in Ghent, an unmistakeably contemporary building against a historic backdrop. Ghent is a city of every era, and the same applies to the modern Ghent City Museum: the 14th-century abbey, 17th-century convent and new 21st-century building all form part of the STAM. The STAM tells the story of Ghent from the Middle Ages to the present day, with imaginative collections and interactive multimedia. The past, present and future of the city are presented in a clear and interesting way: from mediaeval metropolis to city of knowledge and culture. The eye-catcher at Ghent City Museum, the STAM, is a gigantic aerial photograph of Ghent (measuring 300 m2!) that you are allowed to walk all over. Use the multimedia app to see Ghent in detail in four different centuries. ‘Views of Ghent’ shows a view of the city in 1534, maps from 1614 and 1912 and a contemporary aerial photograph.
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St Peter’s Abbey, peaceful vineyard

St Peter’s Abbey, peaceful vineyard

This Benedictine abbey was founded in the 7th century by St Amand, who christened the very city of Ghent itself. In the 14th and 15th centuries, it grew into nothing short of an abbey village, with farms, gardens, homes and estates. The abbey owed its prosperity to the privileges it had gained and the taxes it was allowed to impose on its estates. It owned land all the way to the port in Ghent. The virtual monk ‘Alison’ will give you a virtual tour of the abbey. ‘Jean-François Alison’ is your mystery movie guide during your visit to St Peter’s Abbey. In seventeen episodes, he takes you on an exciting and mysterious journey in search of his friend’s murderer. He takes you to places you would never otherwise go. The mediaeval dining hall, the majestic abbey church, a beautiful garden and endless attics: you will stumble from one surprise to the next, between heaven and earth. It is really thrilling, and suitable for children as well. Why not take a virtual look at St Peter’s Abbey now? The garden of this abbey is a real hotspot in Ghent that is particularly popular with the city’s students who come here to chill out or revise in the sunshine. A must-see during your city break. The magnificent garden with its vineyard and ruin is an oasis of greenery in the city. Prestigious exhibitions with an international allure are held every year in St Peter’s Abbey. The dining wing of St Peter’s Abbey is authentic, dating from the Middle Ages. Visit the ground floor of St Peter’s Abbey for free (cloisters and quadrangle, as well as the permanent exhibition Between Heaven & Earth and the abbey garden).
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Citadelpark

Citadelpark

The Citadelpark is a park in Ghent on the brow of a hill between the rivers Scheldt and Lys. This city park was created in 1875 on the place where the Dutch citadel of Ghent formerly stood, built between 1819 and 1831. The citadel, one of the largest and most modern in Europe at the time, was later used as an infantry and artillery barracks. It was in use until 1870. Today it is a great place to enjoy botanical abundance. Spot the name tags that were placed in front of all the remarkable trees in 2005. Here, animal-lovers can take dogs from the rescue centre for a walk. Kids aged 10 and under can have fun in the playground. When the sun is shining, this spot is where Ghent residents and students come to chill out and have a picnic. Enjoy!
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The Krook

The Krook

This architectural work of art is a unique meeting place for residents, students and visitors. You can meet other people there, discover culture, enjoy a quiet drink or even try out innovations and technologies like 3D printing and virtual reality for yourself. As well as connecting people, the building links the Historic Centre with the Art Quarter. Various institutions work together and offer services at the site. They are known collectively as ‘the inhabitants of De Krook’. In addition to the city library, Imec (the Flemish research centre for nanoelectronics and digital technologies) and UGent are housed at De Krook. The building also includes a multi-purpose room, a study room and a reading café. The monumental building, which incorporates works by artist Michaël Borremans, was designed by the Ghent architecture firm Coussée & Goris Architecten and their partner TV RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta Arquitectes. This Spanish architecture firm also won the Pritzker Prize this year, the highest international distinction for architecture!
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The Castle of the Counts

The Castle of the Counts

A weekend trip to Ghent is simply not complete without a visit to the mysterious ‘Castle of the Counts’. This important sight in Ghent is a castle with a very turbulent past, closely intertwined with the complex—often stormy—political and social history of the city. It is the only remaining mediaeval castle with a moat and largely intact defence system in Flanders. Your visit to the Castle of the Counts will give you a complete picture of heraldic culture in the 12th century. The gatehouse, ramparts, keep, count’s residence and stables are open to visitors. Be sure to go up the long spiral staircase to the museum of torture devices on the top floor of the Castle of the Counts. Here, you will find a unique collection of instruments for torture and coercion, as well as a collection of weapons. The Castle of the Counts also hosts all kinds of cultural activities, events and activities, for example during the Ghent Festivities. It is also a popular place to get married for Ghent’s locals. Let’s not forget the time the Castle of the Counts was occupied by protesting students in 1949! Explore the castle during your weekend trip in Ghent and find out all about the ‘Battle of the Castle of the Counts’. The keep, symbol of the Counts’ power Go back in time inside this majestic fortress. Its history goes back to the time of the Roman occupation, when there was already a settlement on a sand bank by the River Lys. After a brief period of Viking plundering, the Counts of Flanders converted the earlier wooden constructions into a keep (living quarters) in the Middle Ages, with ramparts built entirely of stone, replete with 24 towers. The imposing building with its military architecture was a symbol of the Counts’ power in the turbulent city of Ghent. Count Philip and his castle: dominating the city Count Philip of Alsace wanted everyone to know that he was the boss. A Latin inscription above the entrance states that Count Philip (1168-1191) built the castle in 1180. The sense of wealth and power that his castle gave him is brought to life when you stand between the battlements at the top of the keep and gaze out over the vibrant city of Ghent. Industrial revolution banishes knights from Ghent You are bound to be fascinated by the twists and turns in the story of the Castle of the Counts during your weekend getaway. In the late 18th century, the Castle of the Counts was sold to private owners who later converted it into a factory complex. In 1807, the fortress in the heart of Ghent housed a cotton mill, and its outbuildings served as primitive dwellings for about fifty families of workers. When the mill and its workers left, the Castle of the Counts was in a state of complete disrepair, ready for demolition. By that point, the Castle of the Counts was a symbol of abuse of power, feudal repression, horrific torture methods and a cruel inquisition as far as the people of Ghent were concerned. Restoration gave the Castle of the Counts a new meaning and world fame as Ghent’s most important tourist sight, partly due to the World Expo 1913, which took place in Ghent. Do you want to dig deep into the history of Ghent? This is where you need to be. Ghent, full of charming history and modern vibrancy.
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Flower market Kouter

Flower market Kouter

A Sunday morning on the Kouter means a pleasant stroll around the flower market, stopping now and then for a klapke: a glass of white wine with an oyster. Bask in the elegance of life in Ghent. And why not enjoy a relaxed bite to eat at one of the great restaurants nearby. It is a favourite ritual for Ghent residents. You don’t need to wait for spring! Thanks to the daily flower market, you can see a bright tapestry of flowers every day of the year on the Kouter. But the best time of all to visit is on a sunny Sunday morning in spring. Stretch your legs in the first rays of spring sunshine, enjoy the colours and listen to music playing in the background. Blissful. If you’re lucky, a brass band will be playing in the bandstand. This is what we call the good life. Ghent’s most sophisticated gourmets gather at De Blauwe Kiosk at about eleven in the morning. This monument converted into an aperitif bar serves a glass of cava, fresh oysters and other amuse-bouches to connoisseurs at the market. Originally a hexagonal newspaper kiosk, this little building has stood on the Kouter since 1885, along with 38 other kiosks around the centre of Ghent. Today this one is the only survivor. Since 1990, it has had a new lease of life as an open-air bar. There is more here than just strolling, flowers and wine! The Kouter is also a hub of music. There is something here for everyone! The 19th-century Opera Gent building and De Handelsbeurs concert venue on the Kouter span the entire music scene, from pop, rock and world music to jazz, opera and classical music. Perhaps running through the entire offerings would be a bit much. Simply rest assured that the Kouter is the place to be if you’re a music lover. The Kouter is the perfect place to start a shopping spree in the Veldstraat.
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Boat trips in Ghent

Boat trips in Ghent

Stretch your sea legs: the view of Ghent from the water is absolutely charming. Take a boat ride during your city break or weekend trip. There are various boat tours organised on the rivers and canals in Ghent. Travel back in time. Immerse yourself in the city of Emperor Charles V and discover hidden secrets. Ship ahoy! Different boat companies offer enjoyable trips on Ghent’s gentle waters. Traditional boat trips are held daily. The captain on board provides a guided tour in several languages. During the weekend, Ghent also has a water tram that navigates in a circuit around the city. Jump aboard at one of the water stops. It’s free with the CityCard!
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S.M.A.K.: contemporary art in Ghent

S.M.A.K.: contemporary art in Ghent

Lovers of contemporary art absolutely can’t afford to miss a visit to the S.M.A.K. during their weekend in Ghent. The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, or S.M.A.K. for short (in Dutch), was founded in 1999 and is located opposite the MSK in a former casino building. The city of Ghent is known for its rebelliousness, and its contemporary art museum is every bit as dynamic and unconventional as Ghent itself. The collection is considered to be the most important collection of contemporary art in Flanders, with world-famous works of art from Belgium and abroad. Every four months, the museum exhibits a selection of these works in alternation with original, often daring exhibitions. Recover at leisure from the assault on your senses in the museum café. Take a look at the sculpture by Jan Fabre on the roof: the body of ‘The Man who Measures the Clouds’ is modelled on Fabre himself, but the face belongs to his dead brother. Under the inspiring leadership of the controversial curator and ‘art pope’ Jan Hoet, the former ‘contemporary art wing’ of the MSK was given its own museum, the S.M.A.K. The permanent collection at this museum for contemporary art includes top Belgian and international works of art by Cobra, pop art, minimal art, conceptual art and arte povera artists, who are now among the most famous artists in the world.
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Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent (MSK)

Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent (MSK)

The strength of the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent, one of the oldest museums in Belgium, lies in the varied nature of its collection, which is nothing short of remarkable. Never before have old masters and modernists hung side-by-side so perfectly as in this iconic museum building. At the end of the 18th century, Ghent was under French rule and many of the city’s art treasures were seized. Some of them can still be seen in the Louvre in Paris today. Rebellious Ghent wasn’t having any of it, and slowly began to establish a wide-ranging art collection, searching for years to find an appropriate building. The ideal location was found in the building designed by the architect Van Rysselberghe in the Citadelpark, a temple to the arts with a fantastic feeling of spaciousness and a lot of light. The collection, which ranges from Hieronymus Bosch to Rubens and Magritte, has never been shown more attractively than it is today. It covers an enormous variety of paintings, statues, drawings, etchings and tapestries, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. An auditorium, a library, a children’s workshop and a brasserie turn the MSK into a contemporary, multipurpose complex where you can spend many a pleasant hour surrounded by beauty during your weekend trip to Ghent.
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Portus Ganda

Portus Ganda

Ganda, as Ghent was originally called, arose at the confluence of the Lys and the Scheldt. On that site there is now a marina for passing boat traffic, Portus Ganda. Once filled in to make room for the almighty car, the Lower Scheldt has today been restored to its former glory. Bridges and parks, cosy pavement cafés and a wonderfully restored art deco swimming pool all make up one of Ghent’s most beautiful (new) little corners. Drop anchor at Portus Ganda, less than a kilometre from the heart of the city. You will find all the facilities you need in the splendid Van Eyck swimming baths.
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Ghent Town Hall

Ghent Town Hall

This schizophrenic building is in two parts, as you can clearly see, making it a fascinating sight in political Ghent. The façade on the Hoogpoort side shows you the flamboyant Late Gothic style that dates from the early 16th century. This style is in sharp contrast to the Renaissance style on the Botermarkt side. In this later wing (1559 -1618), you will see three-quarter Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns and pilasters inspired by Italian palazzi. In the niches in the façade of Ghent Town Hall, you will see the Counts of Flanders, although they were only added in the early 1900s. Behind this façade are no less than 51 rooms, including the Wedding Chapel, where Ghent residents make their wedding vows. Many a bride has been captivated by the beautiful, romantic stained-glass windows or got lost in the labyrinth of corridors and chambers inside the building. Would you like a tour of Ghent Town Hall during your city trip? Tours are only available with a guide.
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City pavilion

City pavilion

The multifunctional and open city pavilion is an architectural masterpiece designed by the architects Robbrecht & Daem / Marie-José Van Hee. The roof structure and the use of glass, wood and concrete are very striking. This location can host concerts, dance performances and markets. Discover the ‘grand café’ hidden under the city pavilion: the semi-underground ‘Belfort Stadscafé en Stadsrestaurant’ is already a bubbly establishment which can cater for 300 people. Head over there for a drink, a daily special or a selection of the à la carte menu. The city park on the lower level, The Green, is surrounded by a stone wall. This is the place to be if you’re looking to relax, read or simply hang around. Stairs and ramps connect the park with the street levels higher up. Diagonal walking paths connect the Donkersteeg with the Mageleinstraat and Cataloniëstraat, inviting you to shop and enjoy a stroll. Works of art The existing art elements – the Minne sculptures and the Mathildis clock – were given a new place in the design. Spring of the Bereaved The naked youngsters look at their reflection in the water of the fountain, just like Narcissus, the Greek mythological figure did, out of narcissism. When the statue was placed here in 1937, the bourgeoisie thought it was immoral. Today no one is shocked by these naked boys. George Minne, the artist, sought inspiration in the statues on the Gothic buildings. The Roeland Bell The song “Klokke Roeland” (Roeland Bell) is probably the most famous folk song in Ghent. This bell is known as ‘The Triumphant’ and as ‘Roeland’, after the first large bell at the Belfry. The bell cracked in 1914 and was removed from the Belfry and restored. Today it is displayed on a specially designed base next to St Nicholas’ Church. Are you interested in witnessing the Ghent carillon for yourself? Then you must visit the Belfry. De Maagd The Belgian artist Michaël Borremans donated his fresco, “De Maagd” (The Virgin), to the city. It portrays a black-haired girl against a dark background. Except for a white collar, the girl is dressed entirely in black. Two crystal-clear rays of light emanate from her eyes. You can find the painting on the bell cage above the door of the lift. The artist’s signature at the back of the work, in the bell cage.
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Graffiti Street

Graffiti Street

People sometimes say you can recognise a vibrant city by its street art. Ghent is a canvas for street artists, a hip and free-thinking cultural city where everyone is welcome and free to do their thing. The car-free Werregarenstraatje in the centre of Ghent is a graffiti tolerance zone. Officially it is not permitted to do pieces and tags here, but the authorities turn a blind eye. The tolerance zone emerged during the Ghent Festivities in 1995 as a graffiti project with a limited number of works on the walls. Werregarenstraatje quickly earned the nickname "graffiti street”. Nowadays, the street is a cacophony of colours. Werregarenstraatje is a public canvas for young street artists. Here, street artists create striking spray-can art to their heart’s content. This means that Graffiti Street in Ghent never looks the same from one week to the next. Do you like to explore off the beaten track? This alleyway is worth a detour during your weekend getaway. An alley full of colourful Instagram shots.
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The Mystic Lamb: supreme divine art

The Mystic Lamb: supreme divine art

The Mystic Lamb, or ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers, completed in 1432, is recognised worldwide as a great work of art, and one of the most influential paintings ever made. It is an absolute must-see on your weekend break to Ghent. A total of 18 panels form a magical evocation of scenes from the Bible, as well as a portrait of the church warden, Joos Vijd, who commissioned the altarpiece, and his wife Elisabeth Borluut. “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is probably the most influential painting ever made, and it is also the most often stolen work of art in history!” Noah Charney The monumental Mystic Lamb was painted on oak panels covered in thin layers of a mixture of chalk and animal glue. The figures were applied in several layers of oil paint. The combination of the painstaking work and transparent paint creates an extra dimension. Discover it for yourself as you stand in front of this masterpiece. You will see that an inner glow seems to radiate from the painting: the light of the divine. Hubert van Eyck painted part of the Ghent Altarpiece that includes the Mystic Lamb, but was never able to finish it. His younger brother Jan, an absolute master of the art of painting, is said to have finished this masterpiece a few years after Hubert’s death. On the morning of 11 April 1934, Ghent woke up to news of a disaster. Two panels of the Ghent Altarpiece, ‘The Just Judges’ and ‘John the Baptist’ had been stolen from St Bavo’s Cathedral! This daring theft has grown to become one of the most fascinating art robberies of the 20th century. It remains unsolved. Later the ‘John the Baptist’ panel was returned anonymously, but ‘The Just Judges’ is still lost without trace. Today you can find the Mystic Lamb where it belongs: in St Bavo’s Cathedral. Admittedly there is still a reproduction in the place of the stolen panel, ‘The Just Judges’. Whether or not the missing panel is ever found, this theft has given rise to all sorts of exciting stories and mysterious conspiracy theories. Head to Ghent city museum, STAM, for a spot of detective work to track down the world-famous missing panel, ‘The Just Judges’. The Mystic Lamb: devoted restoration This world-famous masterpiece by the Van Eyck Brothers in Ghent has been restored many times in the past. It has been undergoing thorough restoration and conservation work since 2012. During its turbulent history, the Mystic Lamb has survived transportation, changes in temperature and humidity, horrifying attacks with a saw and fire damage. Contemplate the intensive renovation work on this religious masterpiece right before your eyes in the MSK. Stand behind bulletproof glass to watch 11 international restorers removing layers of varnish and later additions and touching up blemishes with paintbrushes. Unique and unbelievably fascinating! Does The Mystic Lamb make you want more? You’re in luck, because once a month the restoration team gives a talk on the restoration of this masterpiece. Adore the Lamb Here’s a fascinating fact: The Mystic Lamb was rescued in 1945 by the famous ‘Monuments Men’. The Mystic Lamb was welcomed home like a king by the ecstatic people of Ghent, who lined the streets in a respectful guard of honour. There is a film of the amazing story of the Monuments Men, American art commandos who brought confiscated art back to where it belonged. The film, ‘The Monuments Men’, begins in St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. The people of Ghent adore the Mystic Lamb, and rightfully so, but they also have a sense of humour. You can see proof of this in this spoof video about the Mystic Lamb. Heavenly graffiti in Ghent Discover the graffiti version of the Mystic Lamb in Ghent during your city trip as well! When ‘The Monuments Men’ came out in the cinema, graffiti artist Bart Smeets spray-painted a huge mural on the side of the house on the corner of Van Stopenberghestraat, near St Bavo’s Cathedral. The film producer, 20th Century Fox, was looking for a contemporary way to draw attention to ‘The Monuments Men’. The city of Ghent welcomed this new painting with open arms as an ongoing promotion for the Mystic Lamb that plays a prominent role in the film. Enchanted by the Mystic Lamb? Does The Mystic Lamb make you want more? During your weekend getaway to Ghent, enjoy a guided walking tour around the city of Ghent. The Province of East Flanders and the guides’ associations also adore the altarpiece and offer city walks in Ghent on the theme of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.
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History on the Graslei and Korenlei

History on the Graslei and Korenlei

Ships have been docking here since the 11th century and Ghent wouldn’t have it any other way. It is like the song of the Lorelei. The beauty of the Graslei in Ghent brings everyone and everything to a standstill. This is the place where beautiful façades are reflected in the River Lys. Tourists and residents alike relax on either side of the water, whether dangling their legs over the quay, or sitting comfortably at a café terrace. Lovely Grasbrug This bridge is positively poetic. And it’s every Ghent native’s pride. On your visit to Ghent, it would be a sin to miss this little bridge just around the corner from the Korenmarkt. Cross the river at the Grasbrug and soak in the scenery. There are still boats moored at the quays today. Even better, nowadays you can take a boat ride yourself! There’s nothing that will immerse you more in the history of Ghent. Façades on the Graslei The houses by the water live and breathe history. The Cooremetershuys is now an accessory store. In the Middle Ages, however, the official corn measurer presided over the grain trade there. Have a good look at the completely restored façade of the Guild House of the Free Sailors as well. A lot of money has been invested in this building over the centuries, and it shows! The stately stepped gable from the old corn store has been watching over the town since the 13th century. The corn store—also known as ’t spijker—has been converted into the gastronomic restaurant Belga Queen. It’s come a long way from those old sacks of grain. Of course you don’t have to push the boat out quite that far. You can also try a cosy brasserie on the Graslei or Korenlei. Or why not just buy finger food and sit down on the quayside! Because sometimes, appreciating the little things is the most romantic. Aperitif in the sun Tempted by all those café terraces? There is nothing more blissful than enjoying an aperitif—or two—by the waterside. When the sun is shining, this is a delightful spot to hang out ensconced by beautiful old buildings. Enjoying the first warmth of a spring day with a chilled white wine, putting the world to rights…but anyway, we digress.
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Old St Elizabeth Beguinage

Old St Elizabeth Beguinage

Beguine city in Ghent: a tolerant ‘holy corner’ The beguinages of Flanders and the Netherlands are always oases of calm and stillness, where you might still expect to see an old beguine mumbling her prayers in a doorway. Two of Ghent’s three beguinages have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Although the Old St Elizabeth Beguinage, in Begijnhofdries in Ghent, is no longer enclosed by a wall, making it simply part of the city, it still has a unique atmosphere. Today the Old St Elizabeth Beguinage is known as ‘holy corner’, a place of religious tolerance, because it has no less than three different churches: one is Roman Catholic, one is Orthodox and the other is Protestant. From bleachfield to orchard This open beguinage grew into something of a ‘beguine city’ in the 13th century, with a church, the ‘Grootjuffer’s House’, an infirmary, a chapel, more than a hundred houses for beguines, a bleachfield (a field where linen was laid out to bleach) and an orchard. After the French Revolution, with increasing industrialisation, the inhabitants moved to their new beguinage in Sint-Amandsberg in 1873. The new Orthodox church in Sophie Van Akenstraat is a striking sight in Ghent. A visit here is more than worthwhile. Inside, the church is painted with frescos using the authentic Byzantine technique. The façade depicts the Twelve Apostles with mosaics in rounded niches. Heavenly art on façades in Ghent Do you want to see more of this colourful façade art during your city trip? You will find another gorgeous mosaic on the façade of the Royal Dutch Theatre on Sint-Baafsplein. Apollo, the Roman god of music and joy, is represented with his muses: song, dance and music. Ghent is full of historic charm and captivating interest.
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Ghent Belfry, world heritage

Ghent Belfry, world heritage

Look up at the magical city skyline for a moment during your weekend trip in Ghent: you can’t miss it. The Belfry is the middle tower in the famous row of three, between St Bavo’s Cathedral and St Nicholas’ Church. A fiery dragon, the proud symbol and mascot of Ghent, guards the historic heart of the city. The Ghent Belfry symbolises the city’s prosperity and independence. The Cloth Hall, built onto the Belfry, was completed in 1907. The flamboyant Brabant Gothic style of the Cloth Hall is an ode to the industry to which Ghent owes so much. On the corner of the Cloth Hall is an old jailer’s house. The Ghent Belfry, a recognised UNESCO World Heritage, is well worth a visit. In 1402, it was the place where city privileges were kept: in a chest, locked up in the Belfry safe. The dragon, which has been up on the tower since 1377, kept an eye on the city as well as being the symbolic guardian of the belfry. The Belfry also proudly carried the alarm bell, the ‘Great Triumphant’. Today you will find this bell, nicknamed ‘Roland’ by the people of Ghent, not far from the Belfort on Emile Braunplein. Until 1442, St Nicholas’ Church was the main watchtower. In 1442, the watchmen in the tower moved across to the newly completed Belfry. Along with the bell ringers, these watchmen, or the corps of ‘men who guard the city’, served until 1869. Fire was a particular danger in Ghent. The Belfry tower is an absolute must-see! Climb the stairs, listen to the chiming sound of the carillon and enjoy the view of the vibrant city of Ghent. There is a lift from the first floor. The stunning view over Ghent is bound to enchant you. However, the Belfry is not accessible to visitors with reduced mobility. The Mammelokker, a legend behind bars In 1741, a building was erected between the Belfry and the Cloth Hall, which served as the entrance to the city jail. You will see a relief sculpture above the entrance. The sculpture tells an old Roman legend of a man, Cimon, who was sentenced to death by starvation. He survived his sentence because his daughter visited every day and breastfed him. ‘Mamme’ means ‘breast’ and ‘lokken’ means ‘suck’ in an old Ghent dialect. The Belfort, great fun for little dragons Ghent wouldn’t be Ghent without children and young people, so Ghent Belfry also has plenty to offer little dragons. Here you will find activities for kids aged 6 to 18 years old. Kids up to the age of 100 are more than welcome here as well ;-). Child-friendly Ghent: have fun on your weekend trip with the whole family. Do you know about the city game with Fosfor the dragon as well?
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St Michael’s Bridge, romantic Ghent

St Michael’s Bridge, romantic Ghent

Fairy-tale view: take your Ghent selfie! Click-click. St Michael’s Bridge is the place for romantic hearts. Grab your smartphone and take some spectacular selfies. Wherever you look, there is a breathtaking view: you are surrounded by 360 degrees of Ghent’s charming beauty. Get an extra-special fairy-tale view of the heart of Ghent at twilight, when all the historic sights are gorgeously illuminated. In short, St Michael’s Bridge is where you will find out what makes the people of Ghent and everyone who has been here love Ghent so much. Pause for a view of the three towers Experience a moment to remember on St Michael’s Bridge during your weekend in Ghent. Pause here to enjoy the picture-postcard views: the Graslei and Korenlei with the Old Fish Market, the Castle of the Counts in the distance, St Michael’s Church, the back of Het Pand and, of course, all three of Ghent’s famous towers in a row. It is only from this bridge that you can capture all three of them in one single picture. St Michael’s Bridge used to be a flat turntable bridge, but it was replaced by stone arches at the beginning of the 20th century. In the middle of the bridge is a beautiful central lantern with a bronze statue of St Michael. Cameras at the ready!
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St Bavo’s Cathedral: majestic tower

St Bavo’s Cathedral: majestic tower

Powerful Ghent church and home of the Mystic Lamb This magnificent sight on Sint-Baafsplein in Ghent is a proud old lady: don’t just walk past her on your city trip. St Bavo’s Cathedral is the oldest parish church in the lively heart of Ghent. It stands on the site of a 10th century church and a 12th century Romanesque church. The latter was dedicated to St John the Baptist. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was a rich and powerful city that had the means to commission ever-larger and more opulent churches. So the Church of St John the Baptist was converted during the 15th and 16th centuries into the imposing Gothic St Bavo’s Cathedral. A history of rebellion: from church to cathedral Looking for a weekend getaway that is just that little bit different? Do you like to explore off the beaten track? Welcome to Ghent, the city of rebels! St Bavo’s Cathedral literally carries Ghent’s rebellious history in its very stones. In the crypt, the Romanesque style can still be seen in the central nave. In the 15th century, it was decided that the Romanesque structure would be replaced with a larger Gothic church that was completed in 1559. In 1540, the church became the seat of the Chapter of St Bavo, and St Bavo became the patron saint of the church. Later, in 1559, the church was converted into the cathedral of the Bishops of Ghent. Bursting with riches: Ghent’s art treasures St Bavo’s Cathedral has a rich history and it is also filled with art treasures that make many an art-lover’s mouth water: from the baroque high altar in white, black and red flamed marble, the Rococo pulpit in oak, gilded wood and marble, to a masterpiece by Rubens: Saint Bavo enters the Convent at Ghent, and the Calvary Triptych by Justus van Gent, the Gothic chandelier/sanctuary lamp, the opulent tombs of the Bishops of Ghent – and of course the world-famous Mystic Lamb. Admire the divine glow of ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers in St Bavo’s Cathedral. Read all about this famous work by the Flemish Primitives. Do you want to visit the Mystic Lamb? Find out the opening hours of the chapel where the Mystic Lamb is on display at St Bavo’s Cathedral. Fascinating fact about the Mystic Lamb: So that you have a chance to admire all the panels of the Ghent Altarpiece in all their glory, the outer panels of this masterpiece by Van Eyck are folded inwards every day between 12.00 and 13.00. Admission tickets for this chapel are sold until about 15 minutes before closing time. Souvenirs galore: the cathedral shop Of course you want memories to take home with you that are as beautiful as the cathedral itself. Pop into the cathedral gift shop for postcards, art books, posters etc. ‘Festive’ view of the city of Ghent You can only go up the tower of St Bavo’s Cathedral during the Ghent Festivities. Negotiate the stairs and enjoy the magnificent view of this unique party for the people in the heart of Ghent. At other times of the year, you can enjoy the most beautiful view of Ghent from directly beneath the golden dragon, Ghent’s mascot, on the Belfry tower opposite. From there you can continue exploring the heart of Ghent. Anything goes.
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Flea market at Bij Sint-Jacobs

Flea market at Bij Sint-Jacobs

A ten-day party around ten centuries of history A square steeped in folklore. Whether you visit during the Ghent Festivities in the summer or come to the weekly flea market, there is always something going on here. It is a real hotspot for bargain hunters at the weekend. And in mid-July, it is the epicentre of the Festivities with a capital F. The main stage at St James’ Church gets the whole city rocking! Ghent Festivities Bij Sint-Jacobs, the popular square around the stately St James’ Church, has been the centre of the Ghent Festivities for decades. This was where the festivities were given a new lease of life in 1969 at Café Trefpunt, by the folk singer Walter De Buck. An old Ghent tradition was reborn. What started out as a small affair among artists around St James’ has grown into an event that takes over the entire city centre, thanks to support from Ghent city council. The ten-day, non-stop party is packed with folklore, street theatre, puppet shows, and music, and has now grown into one of the biggest street parties in Europe! Flea market treasures Before and after the Ghent Festivities, the local atmosphere is never far away at Bij Sint-Jacobs. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, this lively square is taken over by trinkets, baubles, small antiques and old junk. The flea market is a real Ghent tradition. And the market is so firmly rooted in Ghent culture that a whole host of vintage and curiosity shops have moved into the streets around the Romanesque church of St James, beside the famous antiques gallery, Gallery St-John. Bij Sint-Jacobs is the absolute place to be for collectors! A scarred fortress The mighty St James’ Church stands in the middle of the square. A rough, Romanesque fortress of God. Its imposing architecture, dating back to the 12th century, may be the reason that this old church is still standing. It has survived desecrations and an iconoclasm. It has been damaged, scarred and then repaired, restored and extended time and again. That has led to an interesting mixture of styles. The architecture is Romanesque with Gothic and Baroque elements. It is a genuinely remarkable piece of religious architecture.
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