A Week in Belgium: Ghent

Ghent was by far my favorite city of the week.  It had all the charm of Bruges without the crowds. That’s all you need to know.  Just kidding, I’ll tell you more about why I loved this city.  First, it had a plethora of opportunities for photography enthusiasts.  Not only did the city look great in the daytime, but it got better at night.

As a way to orient yourself, we found that spending the 6.50 euros on a 40-50 minute canal tour was perfect.  There are several boat operators located near the bridges.  If you stay somewhere in the vicinity of the Gravensteen castle or the old Graslei harbor, you’re less than a 10 minute walk from everything you want to see and everywhere you want to eat or drink.

From the canal, down Sint-Baafsplein you can see the three dominating structures of the historic area:  St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry topped with its golden dragon, and St. Bavos Cathedral.  The belfry is the place to go if you’re into climbing stairs in order to get fantastic views of the city.  Bavos is renowned for having the famous Jan van Eyck altarpiece, The Adoration of the Lamb.  You may recognize this piece of art from the recent movie “The Monuments Men,” as it was one of the stolen art items recovered by the Americans from the Nazis after the war.

I spent a lot of time photographing the old harbor, located between the Hooiaard and Sint-Michielsplein bridges.  There are passable restaurants there, if you’re in need of a bit of food, but the better neighborhood to explore is the area around Gravensteen Castle or on Jan Breydelstraat. Make sure to check opening times, as some restaurants we wanted to try were randomly closed in the middle of the week.

Now that I’m done editing, I feel like my photographs barely scratched the surface of the beautiful 12th to 18th century architecture in this historic part of Ghent that we observed.  I had actually considered returning to the city to do more on my way back to Brussels at the end of the week, but just didn’t have enough time.  Fortunately, that means I have a reason to return in the future!

We opted to not tour Gravensteen castle, the Castle of the Counts, because I had already been to several castles and a torture museum in my travels.  I can imagine the fun kids can have wandering around the historic structure, and the views I hear are great without all the belfry climbing.

Of course, we were in Belgium, which means the beer tour continued in Ghent.  Our two preferred places were the Waterhuis aan de Bierkant with its canal views and Dulle Griet, where you are required to temporarily give up a shoe with your order of Kwak beer in the long, wood-handled glass.  No seriously, they lower a basket down from the ceiling, and you have to put your shoe in it before they raise it back up out of reach!  You get it back when you return the glass.

 

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