We had long heard that visiting the trifecta of Bruges, Ghent and Dinant were the more sought after destinations in Belgium than the capitol city, Brussels. And so, one crisp, sunny morning, we set out early to beat the crowds and wander the streets of Ghent on one of our many “recon” missions. This means the plan was no plan at all – just explore as much as possible in the time we had and take mental notes for next time. I take that back – we did plan to find waffles (gauffres) and fries (frites) as a special snack!
We took note of the most famous buildings in Ghent, including (below) St. Bavo’s Cathedral, St. Nicholas’ Church and Het Belfort van Gent. This city is pristine, and delightfully artsy. There are statues, sculptures and art instillations hidden all over the place, including underfoot!
During lunch and into the afternoon, this lush green lawn below is peppered with people eating lunch and lounging in the sun. This park is located directly behind St. Nicholas’ church.
In downtown Ghent, you can’t go far without crossing a bridge or spying a delicious pastry shop or food cart. Grab a snack to go and stroll down along the riverside walkways to take in the colorful buildings, bridges and birds. Then, gather your wits and visit Gravensteen Castle – with one of the most colorful, hilarious audio tours around! It was arguably inappropriate for the kids (we were forewarned), but they were good sports and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!
This well-preserved 10th century moated castle has plenty to see and learn – including history that dates back to the crusades. Belgium is known for its castles and chateaus (including one right in our backyard in Beloeil!) – but this is certainly among the most epic.
The stained glass created an ethereal glow as we listened to the stories in the audioguide. The kids were riveted! Sometimes they get a little restless wandering the rooms of a giant castle, but thanks to the audio tour, they didn’t want to miss a thing. The most risqué parts of the audio stories included descriptions of punishments, but the kids good laugh out of the outdoor twin toilets that dropped right down into the moat!
After our castle tour it was lunch time and we noticed it was starting to get busier on the streets. We opted to snag our waffles and fries and eat them in the sunshine along the canal. What a glorious day to visit this picturesque city! Canal tours were cancelled during Covid, but I was able to do one later on in the year when they opened up again.
The canal tour is fairly cheap at €9/person, and its a nice way to see and learn about the historic buildings from a different perspective!
Although the light is magical at night, we loved catching Ghent on a cloud free day. Belgium is known for its fog – and in the winter, ice fog – so it’s a real gift to visit under clear skies. We enjoyed the shadows moving over the city as the sun warmed the stone streets and old buildings. In the winter, Ghent is illuminated with a light show and holiday markets. Such a regal city!