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Published: October 31st 2015
When asking locals about the best place to visit in Belgium everyone told me that Ghent was their favourite location. The response was "just as beautiful and medieval as Bruges but without all the tourists". It became apparent to me that Ghent was over-shadowed by it's neighbour Bruges.
My car journey from Bruges to Ghent was a short 35 miles drive down the E40. I did my research online before my trip and discovered that parking was expensive in the city centre and everyone uses the trams. Ghent has the best tram transportation in the whole of Belgium. I learnt that there was a park and ride with ample of free parking on the outskirts of the city, the tram station is called Flanders Expo and takes about 20 minutes to get you into the centre. The cost of a tram ticket was nominal compared to transportation back in the UK.
Upon arriving into the centre of Ghent, I was taken aback by this impressive medieval place. You have three grand towers that overlook the old centre of Ghent; St Bavo's Cathedral, the Belfry and St Nicholas Church. Restoration works were taking place with St Bavo's cathedral and St
Nicholas but I was fortunate enough to visit the Belfry. The Belfry is 91 metres tall and is the tallest building in Belgium. For a small fee to enter the belfry, you can take a lift to the top of the tower or steps if you're feel in the mood for exercise, like myself. The views from the top of the belfry are very impressive.
After my visit to the Belfry, I came across an old man playing a piano. The piano was chained to the ground so seems it's always there. I took some time out and sat on a nearby bench listening to popular tunes played on the piano and felt re-energized again after walking up all the steps of the Belfry.
The old centre of Ghent is magical, much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. The old centre is busy with both locals and tourists who enjoy eating out at fancy restaurants, or visiting oldy-worldy shops selling things like bakery items to antiques. Although the restaurants seemed pricey, I couldn't resist the opportunity to try the traditional Ghent Beef Stew. The sauce of the stew was delicious
and was made with Belgium beer.
There is also a river that runs through the old centre known as the River Leie, here you can go on a boat trip that takes you under the popular St Michael's bridge, past St Michael's church and back down the river to visit the castle Het Gravensteen. Although the boat trip was not as picturesque as Bruges, the views were still incredible and definitely worth doing.
The castle Het Gravensteen is not to be missed, this pretty looking castle from the middle ages was built around in 1180. Be sure to stick to the castle route in number order, or you may find you get told off, like I did, spoken in Dutch. I learnt that the castle has been used for filming over the years and most recently for a film called the Emperor, which I believe is due for release next year.
The only museum I discovered was the Design Museum Gent, it had an elegant 19th-century dining room and some very bizarre but interesting exhibitions.
Overall, I felt one and half days was too long in Ghent and could have easily seen everything in one full
day. If you are going to do Bruges and Ghent, then recommend 2 full days in Bruges and one in Ghent. I really liked Ghent though and would love to go back again someday.
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