Belgium has been on my ‘list of places I HAVE to visit’ for as long as I can remember, and a few weeks ago I finally got to cross it off!
Having been invited to stay in an unopened boutique hotel ahead of its launch, I thought I’d make a full weekend of it in one of Flanders’ most underrated cities – Ghent.
Whenever I was looking at trips to Belgium, I always thought either Bruges or Brussels would be best and honestly didn’t even consider Ghent. I mean, who the hell goes to Ghent?
Well, it turns of Ghent is actually one of the prettiest, most fairytale like places I have ever visited.
We managed to pack so much into our two full days in the city, so I wanted to round everything all the things to do in Ghent in a handy blog post.
Take a Boat Ride Around the City
This was definitely one of my favourite things that we did over the weekend as it gave us a chance to view the city from a completely different perspective. The boat trip was around £7 each for just under an hour tour, with a handy guide pointing out all of the coolest spots – some of which we ended up going back to on foot afterwards!
Enjoy a Belgian Waffle from Jack’s
Waffles are one of my favourite foods, so I couldn’t go to Belgium and not have a Belgian waffle could I? Although I loved the look of all the fancy chocolate covered options, it was absolutely chucking it down and with nowhere to sit, I wanted something I could eat on the go. We went to Jack’s after a friend recommended it, and I was definitely not dissapointed with my choice of a plain sugar cover waffle. It was PERFECT.
Climb to the Top of the Belfry Tower
”The Belfry is the middle tower in the famous row of three, between St Bavo’s Cathedral and St Nicholas’ Church. In 1402, it was the place where city privileges were kept: in a chest, locked up in the Belfry safe.”
As well as holding an incredible history, you can also climb to the top of the tower for the most incredible views of the city. If you’re like me and dread the thought of climbing hundreds of steps, from the second floor onward you can even hop in a lift to the top.
The view from the top is amazing, giving you a 360 view of the city and both St Bavo’s Cathedral and St Nicholas’ Church – well worth the £5 ticket!
Visit all of the Chocolate Shops
This is another ‘when in Belgium’ situation – as you really can’t say no to Belgian chocolate!
On our second day we decided to stop off in any chocolate stop we saw along the way, sampling as much as we could! Although not all shops offered sampled, it was still amazing to see all of the different chocolate creations the city had to offer. My favourites we’re the Gent Dragons we found in Sophie’s Chocolatier and although they were expensive, they had a special meaning to the city.
Visit the Cities Castle Gravensteen
”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 medieval castle with a moat and largely intact defence system in Flanders.”
I’d heard that there was a castle in the middle of the city, however, I wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful it would actually look! It was such an odd sight to stumble upon as you wander around, but with its own little moat surrounding the entrance, it was definitely one of the most interesting spots we visited.
Although we didn’t have a chance to explore the inside – now a torture museum – we did get a chance to see the castle from a number of different angles, including from the boat on a boat tour on the first day.
Eat at the Holy Food Market
I discovered the Holy Food Market on Instagram whilst do some research on where to eat and I knew I HAD to go. This food court had an incredible twist as it was a converted 16th Century Church. With around 15 different places to eat and a bar in the centre, this was the perfect evening hangout.
Try Cherry Beer and Belgian Frites
I LOVE cherry flavoured beer and knowing it was from Belgium originally, I made it my mission to find some. I actually ended up ordering it from the Holy Food Market mentioned above, however, it wasn’t something that was difficult to get hold of. Obviously, as a lover of the drink already I LOVED it, and would probably go back to Belgium for the beer alone.
I’d had Frites in Amsterdam and Rotterdam before, however, I have heard from so many people that Belgium actually have the best fries. Of course, I wanted to put this to the test, so on our second day in the city, I ordered myself a cone of frites with samurai sauce (as much as I love the dutch sauce Joppie, I wanted something a little spicier). They were probably the best fries I’ve ever eaten, and have therefore ruined all future fries I will ever eat. Thanks, Ghent.
Look out for the Dragon at the top of the Belfry
”Legend says that the gilded dragon first featured on the prow of the ship which the Norwegian king Sigrid Magnusson left with on a crusade in 1111. Hundred of years later, the Flemish count Baldwin IX had the showpiece transported to the Flemish region, where it ended up in the hands of the people of Bruges. After the battle on the field of Beverhout in 1382, the inhabitants of Ghent took the dragon as a war trophy and put it on top of their Belfry.’
I didn’t actually spot it at first, but at the top of the Ghent Belfry, there is a gold dragon, looking out over the whole city. Although it’s not quite as impressive as the dragons in Game of Thrones, this little statue has become a symbol for the people of Ghent.
Treat yourself to some Cuberdon (from two competing stalls in the city centre)
Believe it or not, Ghent actually has a sweet/candy that is native to the city. The Cuberdon is a VERY sweet raspberry flavoured sweet that is often called a ‘Ghent Nose’ due to its shape. I didn’t buy any myself, however, the hotel I was staying in had them to try and oh my gosh, they were amazing. You can’t manage more than one or two at a time as they’re so sweet and they were definitely better when frozen and dropped in prosecco….
Wander Along the Canals for the most Magical Views
Most of Ghent is sat on a string of canals, so no matter where you walk it feels as though you’re never too far from the waterside. The buildings alongside the river are absolutely stunning, so it’s well worth spending the time getting lost along the canals. If you’re fancying a bit stop, stop off at the ‘Beer House on the Waterside‘ – somewhere that many people recommended to us for a drink!
Follow the ‘Coin Route’ through the City
While we were walking around the city I noticed lots of small, bronze circles on the floor. Most of them had a different image, so I couldn’t help but look at them as we walked around. It wasn’t until I got home and Googled them, that I realised why they were there….
”The idea behind the Coin Route (Muntenroute) is to visualise the Middle Ages’ trade route between Bruges and Cologne, which went through Ghent.”
The route is only 1km long, so I wish I’d have known and followed it around the city. Oh well, there’s always next time 😉
There were still so many things I didn’t get to do and after such a small taste of the beautiful Flanders, I’m dying to go back and visit more, with a visit to Ghent thrown in!