Ghent is a beautiful and deeply historic city about half an hour away by train from Brussels. Its medieval architecture is stunning and the city is very walkable, since the city center actually is car-free. Unlike Brugges, which is beautifully quaint and idyllic yet has actually very few residents, Ghent is a living and breathing city, with an active university nearby and a much larger population. In fact, Ghent is the capital of East Flanders and the third largest city in Belgium after Brussels and Antwerp.
Ghent has a rich, rich history. I highly recommend going on some sort of walking tour so you can learn a bit about the history and architecture of the buildings. We went on a free walking tour (in English) with Ghent Free Walking Tours and I absolutely loved it. Our tour guide was a local university student who grew up in Ghent. He told wild stories about how certain buildings came to be the way they were, and also shared a lot of fun historical facts.
Best yet, he shared food tips with us, such as where to get the best Belgian waffle and his favorite bar for fantastic Belgian beer.
Despite the weather being a bit cloudy, we still had a wonderful time. The tour really helped us appreciate the history, architecture, and culture of Ghent.
Beautiful Medieval Architecture
Gravensteen is a medieval castle with a moat that also served as a prison at one time. It is right in the center of town and impossible to miss.
Beer, Waffles, and Fries!
Our tour guide shared with us many of his favorite restaurants and bars, such as his favorite beer house (pictured above), the best Belgian fries, and which stand to pick up a delicious Belgian waffle.
The Famous Giant Toilet Paper Roll
This giant toilet paper roll is both an art installation and an actual bathroom. After being rejected multiple times by the city government for approval of their proposed expansion, The Ghent Design Museum built this giant toilet paper roll in the expansion space with a sign that says “de pot op”, which in Dutch, has a double meaning that both says “go to the loo” but also “screw you.”
Ironically, the expansion has now finally been approved and will begin construction in 2021. I wonder if the toilet paper roll will meet its demise or whether it can find a nice new home.
I highly recommend coming to Ghent, even if it’s just for a few hours. We spent a Sunday afternoon in Ghent after lunch and it was perfect. We made it back to Brussels in time for dinner.
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