Best Things to See and Do in Ghent, Belgium
The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to the Belfry, St. Bavo’s Cathedral and “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” and St. Michaels’ Bridge.
When I crave Ghent cuisine, I turn to a table for two in a romantic restaurant or a group meal in a great setting.
For complete quiet, I can hide away at some of the many parks in Ghent. The town council would like even more greenery in the city. Near St. James’ Church, an entire street has been sacrificed to this effort. Bibliotheekstraat was grassed over to make the Baudelopark even bigger and more enjoyable.
After enjoying the classic or modern art in MSK or the SMAK, you can take in some fresh air in the Citadel Park. Children will enjoy the playground in the park. Visit the pond next to the waterfall before strolling back to the city centre via Sint-Pietersplein.
The modest Muinkpark, laid out in the English landscape style, is the last remnant of the 19th century Ghent zoo. The surrounding streets still bear the animal names who once resided there. Today, you will find their likeness engraved into the ten benches around the park.
In the 1930′s, a park in neo-baroque style was laid out here on the site of the former Zuidstation. Few people, including the citizens of Ghent, realize that the city of Ghent has a nature reserve. The Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen is a 230 hectar flood area that provides a migratory winter habitat for hundreds of birds. The reserve can be explored on three different walking routes. Check out the new visitors’ center – a model of sustainability.
For exotic greenery and an extensive collection of medicinal herbs, fit in a visit to the Plantentuin at Ghent University Botanical Garden.
If you have to order one thing off the menu at Stropke Brasserie, get the Gentse Waterzooi, a soup with chicken.
Ghent is my one stop shop for mustard. Visit Tierenteyn-verlent “the best mustard in the world” according to the employees.
When I want to eat organic for a good price, I go to Brasserie Pakhuis. For something different, try the Framboos Beer.
For a huge splurge, I go to Belga Queen.
Photo ops in Ghent include the Castle of the Counts and The Belfry. The best vantage points are by walking to the top of St. Michael’s Bridge.
The most random thing about Ghent is the Ghent Festivities. This feast for the people sets the city a flame for 10 days. It opens with a parade and closes with the “day of the empty wallets.” Events include the International Street theater Festival and the Puppet Buskers Festival, free musical performances on various stages in the center with more than 700 theater performances, exhibitions, guided tours and fireworks.
In Ghent an active day outdoors involves walking.
My favorite walking route is the “Nibbling Through Ghent” tour with stops at the Grand Meat Hall for Ganda ham, Daskalides Chocolatier, Kaas Meeka and a candy shop.
On my visit, professionals from the Los Angeles, California Getty Foundation were working to restore the individual panels of the “Adoration of the Lamb” at St. Bavo’s Cathedral.
For a night of dancing visit The Culture Club. On the Oude Beestenmarkt you’ll stumble across the trendy places to be and in the city center, the Make Up Club, Tijuana and Club Central for salsa dancing. Jazz lovers will enjoy The Hot Club of Ghent.
To find out what’s going on a night or on weekends, read Weekup and “Zone 09″ also visit Gratis (if you can read Dutch) for what’s hot.
In the summer you should attend the Gent Jazz Festival and Jazz in the Park.
In the fall you should visit OdeGand. The International Flanders Festival Ghent opens with the festive OdeGand and a sparkling fireworks display. Also check out the International Film Festival Ghent where the World Soundtrack Awards are presented annually.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss the World of Kina: the Garden and The World of Kina: the House.
Also visit the Castle of the Counts. Adults find the Gravensteen imposing. Indeed the Counts of Flanders built the castle to intimidate. For children, the castle is nothing less than breathtaking. The stories of knights and ladies may even come to life on a visit.
Make time for a visit to St. Peter’s Abbey Arts Centre where the virtual monk, Alison, guides you on a mysterious journey through the abbey.
If you have teenagers, you must visit the Graffiti street.
Where are your favorite things to do in Ghent, Belgium?
Thanks to Freya Sackx and the Ghent Tourist Office for assistance with this post. For information on Brussels and Belgium Visit Flanders. Visitors, check out the Brugge City Card for attraction discounts.
Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown