A quick detour to Ghent was factored into our Brussels to Bruges drive. Not too far out of our way, I expected a cute little town where we could spend an hour or so before carrying on. What I didn’t expect was how utterly gorgeous Ghent would be. So blown away by this city, we all agreed it ranked as one of our Belgium favourites.
Signs for a Park and Ride were clear and easy, the car was soon sorted but locating the tram proved a wee bit harder. The biggest challenge though was yet to come – buying the tram tickets from a machine we had no clue how to operate. We worked out tickets could not be bought on board, the machines gave no change and our short tram ride cost well over the odds. Frazzled and stressed were apt adjectives for the start of this journey.
The mood improved when we clambered out at what we looked like the right stop and started to take in the city. Less renowned than Bruges it has so much to offer, not least a splendid array of beautifully preserved medieval buildings which dominate the centre. Breath-taking from first glance.
There are stacks of museums and galleries, however for us it was all about the architecture. Elegant and imposing every building is a beauty. Another bonus this is the largest car-free area in Belgium which makes strolling such a pleasure. Strolling was just what we did, losing ourselves in narrow streets leading to endless fascinating squares with endless beautiful churches.
At Limburgsstraat we got a great glimpse of the three towers of St Nicholas Church, the Belfort and St Bavo’s Cathedral. Ghent’s wealth in the early medieval period was thanks to the import and export of wheat and the manufacture of luxury woollen cloth. The great and good were not shy about parading their riches, the Catholic Church was often the happy recipient.
We found St Michael’s Bridge and took many pictures of that breath-taking medieval skyline, the old harbour of Gras and Korenlei- all stunning.
Our day finished with a stroll along the Graselei. The medieval port of Graselei was the best spot to feel the Ghent vibe. The guildhouses, all impressive reminders of the city’s economic growth are superb add to that a host of welcoming bars and cafes along the waterside – just what we were looking for. Sipping a beer in the late afternoon sunshine, people watching and soaking up the atmosphere of glorious Ghent – just perfect.