When planning a trip to Belgium, most people pick the cities of Brussels
and Bruges to spend their time. But the city of Ghent (Gent in Dutch,
Gand in French), which dates back to the year 630, is definitely a city
to add to the agenda.
If you only have 24-hours in the city, start your day with breakfast at
the Belfort Stadscafé located under the new City Hall. Even the smallest
breakfast option here will fill you to bursting before you head back up
the stairs and into the city.
Directly opposite you’ll find the city Belfry topped with a golden
dragon. Begun in 1313, the 320-foot high tower has had many historical
functions over the years. In 1999 the Belfry was placed on the UNESCO
World Heritage list. It is well worth paying the small entrance fee for
the views of the city alone. A small lift inside takes away some of the
physical exertion involved in getting to the top.
Next, pop over to St Bavo’s Cathedral, standing at the other end of the
square. There are a number of reasons to head inside even if you aren’t
religious. Art from the Middle Ages through to the 20th century,
including a Rubens, can be found throughout the Cathedral and in its
crypt. But the real highlight is The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, an
altarpiece painted in 1432 by the Van Eyck brothers.
If you are hungry after your visit to the Belfry and the Cathedral there
are many options open to you. Try the Ganda ham inside the Groot
Vleeshuis (the Great Butchers’ Hall), grab a bowl of soup at the Soup
Lounge or visit Chez Leontine, a restaurant located across from the
Butchers’ Hall, for a large bowl of waterzooi – a traditional stew
dating back to the Middle Ages prepared from fish or chicken, plenty of
vegetables, egg yolks, cream and butter. Or you could always just grab a
bag of soft purple cuberdons with their sticky raspberry centre from the
The choices for the afternoon are as vast and varied as your lunch
options but recommendations include visiting the Castle of the Counts,
walking along Graffiti Street (Werregarenstraat), enjoying a boat tour
of the city, trying one of the 250 beers on offer at the Dulle Griet or
buying some old-fashioned sweets at Temmerman.
For dinner head to the Patershol area where restaurants and bars along
the historical cobblestone streets come to life each evening. Before
your 24-hours in Ghent are finished, enjoy one last stroll through the
city at night when the key buildings of the city are lit up.