Ghent is a medieval gem half an hour train journey from the Belgian capital Brussels. Tourists usually give Ghent a miss lured by the enticing aura of the city of Bruges. The first glimpse of Ghent as soon as we walked out of the station didn’t impress us either especially after a remarkable Bruges visit. We collected the route map and headed towards the historical center of Ghent.
The historical center of Ghent is a couple of km away from the train station and is well connected by public transport. We decided to walk all the way to the historic center inquisitive of the hidden gems we may explore on the way.
Walking through the streets of Ghent towards the historical center is like walking back in time. As we get closer to the historical center the concrete buildings, wide lanes, and the trendy cafe, bars recede into a car-free zone surrounded by splendid architecture.
The historical center dominates the city skyline with three medieval towers of St Nicholas’ Church, the Belfry, and the St Bavo’s Cathedral.
St Nicholas’ Church
The magnificent church constructed of the blue-gray stone from the Tournai area was built in the location of an earlier Romanesque church. A single large tower is situated at the crossing of the church and is flanked by turrets at the corners.
St Bavo’s Cathedral
The cathedral with an imposing tower is noted for the Ghent Altarpiece also known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb and is one of the greatest masterpieces of art. The cathedral houses several prominent paintings, sculptures and carved tombs.
Through several centuries, the belfry had served as a watchtower guarding the city and a place where the important municipal documents were kept. An elevator can be taken to the Belfry’s upper gallery to see the bells and remarkable panoramic views of the city.
Ghent Town Hall
The imposing town hall of Ghent showcasing a wonderful blend of gothic and renaissance architecture styles is one of the stunning buildings in Ghent. The cobblestone square around the town hall had lively ambiance with people lazing and kids running around. Chhavi too had her share of fun with other toddlers frolicking around the square.
The different architecture styles of the town hall can easily be noticed in the picture below. The most striking feature of the town hall is the gothic style marriage chapel adorned with beautiful stained glass windows.
Our next stop was the Sint-Jacobskerk church which is one of the oldest church in Ghent. We were by now exhausted and hungry. We stood at the junction and started scouring through the map to reckon the shortest route to the castle.
The square at the entrance of the church was jam-packed with tourists. We followed a throng of tourists walking into a narrow alley around the corner of the square. The alley was chock-a-block with tourists, souvenir shops, quaint colorful houses, and the cafes.
The narrow lane opened up into a huge square Vrijdagmarkt dominated by a statue of the Flemish political leader Jacob van Artevelde in the center. It is one of the oldest square surrounded with many outdoor cafes which makes it a favorite meeting point. The square is the busiest every Friday when the weekly Flea markets are set up.
We walked onto a street parallel to the square and were awestruck by the by the invigorating aura. A faint peppy song wafted through the air of the bustling square. The glistening emerald waters of the River Leie drifted through the canals lined with outdoor restaurants, shops, cafes and the exuberant crowds relishing the amazing vistas.
We decided to soothe our hunger pangs in one of the restaurants at the end of the bridge on the other side of the canal. ‘Soup Lounge’ serves a choice of hot soups, bread, salads and fresh fruits. The menu was just right for us tired of munching on potato fries for most of the trip. The healthy and delicious soup turned out to be little Chhavi’s favorite too.
Gravensteen castle or the Castle of the Counts
After scrumptious lunch, we followed the map to the last attraction on our list – the iconic landmark of the historical center, the Gravensteen castle or the Castle of the Counts. The stone castle dates back to 12th century and houses an armory collection and a recreated torture chamber. The climb up to the top ramparts rewards with superb views of Ghent city.
The city of Ghent is popularly known as a hipster city which leaves us in a deep wonderment at the city where the modern and the medieval times co-exist in a sheer harmony. Do you agree?
Have you been to Ghent? Do you think we have missed out something? Please share your views in comments.
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