Ghent - Europe's best kept secret
Popular with those who like to avoid busy tourist spots, Ghent is possibly Belgium’s, if not Europe’s, most beautiful city. It’s Belgium’s third largest city and home to no fewer than 18 museums, 100 churches and over 400 historical buildings. It’s a student town too so there are lots of reasonably priced places to eat, drink and hang out with most places open late. The city center is closed to motorised traffic, which allows to maintain a pleasant atmosphere.
Ghent is easily accessible by a ferry from Dover to Dunkirk. Reaching Belgium will take a little over an hour (107 km). Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Dover to Calais, which is located 40 km east of the Dunkirk ferry terminal. If you live in Scotland or Northern England, we offer a relaxing overnight journey to Amsterdam, which is located 220 km from Ghent.
You can’t fail to admire the beautiful buildings (there are over 400) and monuments that are scattered across the city. Visit Gravensteen castle which dates back to the 12th century, Saint Bavo's Abbey and the Boekentoren ("Tower of Books") in which there are 3 million books that belong to the university library. Pay attention to the buildings of the city hall, the court, the opera, as well as the Royal Theater and the nineteenth century building in the city center, where once was a post office.
If you prefer you can explore the city by boat (there is a canal system), cycle, with a guide or even in a carriage.
Christmas time in Ghent
Every Christmas from around the 7th to 30th of December visitors flock to the Ghent Christmas Market, on St Baafsplein. They go to enjoy browsing and choosing gifts from the many wooden chalet-style huts selling their Christmas wares, including decorations, candles, cards and other crafted gifts.
The cobbled streets and winding canals make it a beautiful setting and you can listen to carol singers, live jazz, folk and even rock performance, as you take in the festive atmosphere. You can take the whole family skating on Emile Braunplein and at midnight on New Years’ Eve there is a spectacular firework display on the Graslei.
Tasting unique drinks and delights
If you love beer then you’ll love Belgium! There are over 400 beers to choose from so you’re bound to find a favourite. We recommend visiting the De Dulle Griet and Het Trappistenhuis pubs.
It is also worth visiting Café Den Turk, famous for Jazz music, excellent whiskeys and cognacs.
Local foods and delicacies are a must try too: waffles, chocolates, pastries and the Ghent Nose (Cuberdons) which are soft raspberry centered sweets that look like little noses.
The locals love to take to the streets and party so whatever time of year you choose to visit you’ll probably witness one of the many festivals. These include: the Music Festival, the Cultural Festival, the Jazz Festival in the park, the Light Festival, the Film Festival, the Port Festival and the OdeGand – where music is played along Ghent’s canals (which includes KidsOdeGand for children aged four and over).
For more details of what Ghent has to offer visit: www.visitghent.be/en/.