From my arrival in this historic place until I reluctantly left, I loved exploring the Belgian city of Ghent. More people talk about neighboring Bruges, but I discovered that Ghent has the same charms with far less of a touristy vibe. The centuries-old architecture fills the old town, and a lazy canal winds through the main area. Old churches beckon you to visit, and carillon bells ring out through the air. The modern mixes with the ancient. Ghent is home to a university, so plenty of lively young folks are out. Everywhere you go, students speed along the streets by bicycle.
I found Ghent a more welcoming version of Amsterdam. The city matches every plus of nearby Bruges without requiring you to dodge large groups of tourists. Even though I had researched and read about Ghent and watched videos, the city still surprised me in a good way. To give you an overview and maybe convince you to go (!), here are a few of the delights of Ghent.
A Canal Runs Through It
The Architecture of Ghent
Ghent’s history goes back nearly 1400 years. As it suffered little damage in the world wars of the last century, buildings from hundreds of years ago still line the streets and canals. You can wander the town and be constantly amazed at the sights.
The Castle of the Counts Is Right in the Middle of the City
The Castle of the Counts will give you a picture of life in the 12th century and comes complete with a moat. You can tour the castle, including the gatehouse, the ramparts, and the count’s residential rooms.
Music Fills the Air
The Bavo Cathedral is home to the well known artwork known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted in 1492 by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck. Napoleon once stole it, the Nazis tried to find it, and one of the panels has been missing for 80 years. No photos are allowed, but I promise you it’s worth a trip into the cathedral to marvel at this artwork.
Currently the existing panels are being restored a few at a time at the nearby MSK museum. We walked there after seeing the panels in the cathedral and were thrilled to watch two artists behind glass meticulously restoring these centuries-old paintings. The guide (who promptly followed us in the museum to make sure I didn’t take photos) told us that each painting will take about a year to restore. We watched the artists work with computers and microscopes to get every detail accurate. If you go to Ghent, be sure to include a visit here in your itinerary. You are watching history being made.
Belgian Beer and Food Is Outstanding
For more information about visiting the Belgian city of Ghent, check this excellent website. And these are helpful guides to help you plan your trip!
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