Only about an hour and a half from the French border, the third-largest city in Belgium– Ghent, is a bit like a fairy tale, regardless of the time of year you’re visiting. The city of Ghent, or Gent, is located on the Flemish side of Belgium. Arriving at the train station with virtually no plans, we used the handy city signs and the lovely riverside to lead us in the direction of the historical city center.
Mandatory “look, I’m crossing the border!” picture
What surprised us were the sheer number of bikes in Ghent. In fact, Ghent has the largest designated cyclist area in Europe. There are almost 400 kilometers (around 248 miles) of bike paths within the city, with over 700 one-way streets, where bikes are allowed to go against traffic. In fact, the city of Ghent is also home to Belgium’s first bikes-only street, where cyclists are given the right of way.
The historical city center of Ghent is remarkably well-preserved and intact. The Graslei Harbor is perhaps the most distinctive photograph of Ghent, and is surrounded by the Saint Bavo Cathedral, Saint Nicolas’s Church, and Gravensteen castle. Anne and I popped into Saint Nicholas’s church, whose Scheldt Gothic Style sports blue-gray stone, and an impressive alter piece. We admired the Belfry and Saint Bavo Cathedral from the outside. However, my favorite part of the afternoon was simply strolling along the canal and taking in the breathtaking Flemish architecture. When my mom and I visited a few months later, we also checked out the old meet market and took a canal ride through the city.
Saint Nicolas’s Church and the Belfry of Ghent
The picturesque harbor
I loved spending an hour inside Gravensteen Castle, and learning about all of the medieval torture instruments, including a guillotine with an original blade!
A view of the city from the top of the castle
Of course, no trip to Belgium is complete without waffles, fries, beer and chocolate. However, Ghent is also specifically known for Cuberdon, a purple, cone-shaped candy. Made from gum arabic, the outside of the candy is quite hard, while the inside is made of a sort of jelly. In Dutch, the candy is known as a neus, or nose, and in French, as chapeau-de-prêtre, or a priest’s hat. Legend has it that the recipe for cuberdons was discovered by accident, when pharmacist De Vynck attempted to preserve medicines with syrup. While the experiment was a flop, he discovered that the result was a tasty candy treat!
Photo taken by Anne
What is your favorite photo of Ghent?