Surprised by Vibrant Ghent

posted by Sharon Odegaard 26 Comments
Belgian City of Ghent

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 Ghent

To me, the heart of Ghent is the water running right through it. Could this be any more appealing? Belgian City of GhentGhent BelguimGhent BelguimGhent BelguimBelgian City of GhentGhent BelguimGhent Belguim

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.  Ghent Belguim

Ghent BelguimBelgian City of GhentGhent BelgiumGhent BelgiumThe Old Post Office is now a hotel in the heart of town. We grabbed a deal on rooms months before our visit, and so we found ourselves staying right on the canal in this amazing building.

Ghent Belguim Post Office


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. Castle of the Counts Ghent Belgium

And from the rooftop of the castle, you can take in views of the city. Castle of the Counts Ghent BelgiumCastle of the Counts Ghent Belgium

Read more about the Castle of the Counts.

Music fills the air

The Belgian city of Ghent is home to a famous belfry. Bells are mechanized and play regularly. You can climb the tower and hear them up close (and very loud). Ghent Belgium BelfryGhent Belgium Belfry

The views from the top of the belfry are breathtaking, too. Ghent Belgium

Ghent BelgiumSignificant art is in Ghent

Ghent BelgiumThe 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

I enjoyed watching my husband sample the Belgian beers, even though I’m not a beer lover myself. The food in Ghent is delicious, too. Ghent BelgiumGhent Belgium

Ghent is a city full of life today while honoring its past. I loved mingling with the locals along the canal at sunset. I’m so thankful we visited here, and I would love to return!

Ghent BelgiumGhent BelgiumBelgian City of Ghent

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Sharon Odegaard bio


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Tamar A Strauss-Benjamin at

Oh my goodness, that is just an amazingly gorgeous city!

Céline at

Beautiful photos! Makes me a little homesick. Ghent has always been one of my favorite cities in Belgium. Glad you enjoyed it!

Candy at

Your photos are stunning! I visited Bruges a few years ago and loved the architecture and everything about Belgium!

Nicola Lavin at

Wow you photos are so stunning! I never knew Ghent was so pretty. Adding it to my bucket list.

Heather at

Great photos and how wonderful to find a beautiful place that’s les touristy. Thanks for sharing!

Josy A at

Goodness! Ghent looks beeeautiful, especially the photos at sunset! I can see why you loved it so much. 🙂

Heather Raulerson at

Beautiful photos! I have never been to Ghent and now I want to go this year. Thank you for sharing them and for inspiring me to visit this city!

Shiju Sugunan at

Wonderful architecture and lovely views. Your pics are outstanding!

Sallie at

We loved it too on our visit last June. Fun to visit again and see it through your eyes!

Sue Roth at

What a fascinating place! I bet it’s all but deafening to hear the bells from up there!

Thank you for joining us at

Suzy Godfrey at

Beautiful!! Your photos look like paintings!

Carol at

Another wonderfulpost Sharon – I love the history, architecture and photos

Cathy Keller at

Such beautiful photos! Would love to visit there! The colors are so vivid! Have a wonderful week!

Veronica Lee at

WOW! I never knew Ghent was so pretty. We visited Brussels but not Ghent. Love the photos.

Junieper/Jesh at

Can tell you are taken by Gent! The smaller size of a university city, with all the bikes of the students make it feel alive and vibrant. Love your canal views and the rooftops and building fronts you captured.I’ve been there once in my teens, and I cannot remember it this being so colorful – I remember it as grey-ish. Back then, Antwerp and Luik made more of an impression on me. Many thanks for sharing this wonderful experience with All Seasons, Sharon! A happy New Year to you!

William Kendall at

What a beautiful place!

Judee at

I have to put Belgium on my list of places to visit. What exquisite photos

Kelleyn at

A lovely collection of photos! So many places to go and see! Have a great week.

Jyoti basu at

Such a beautiful photo capture! Have a great week. Really it was an awesome article…very interesting to read.
it was exceptionally helpful!

Ann at

What beautiful images! 😀

Sinjana at

Such a beautiful town with canals, stone walls and mesmerising architecture. I loved your photo story here.

Kailyn at

Wow, your photos of the canal are great! I have not been to Belgium, but Ghent will be on my list when I do!

Jay Artale at

This is my kind of town and it’s fabulous that has advised that isn’t pure tourism. Looks like a great place for a weekend break or even longer. Thanks for raising its profile on my Must visit list. And I mean must!

Cecilie at

Ghent is my favorite city in Belgium, and I’m planning on moving there this summer (My boyfriend is Belgian). I can’t wait!!!

Sarah at

Beautiful! How many days do you suggest spending in Ghent?

Sharon at

Hi, Sarah! Two days is enough to visit the highlights. I wasn’t ready to leave, though. If you want to relax in a fairy tale place, you could stay longer and enjoy it!


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