We weren’t sure what to expect from Ghent. We’d heard both that it was beautiful and that it was gritty. The outer parts of the city fit the gritty part, but not in a bad way. They more reminded us of, well, regular cities.
The historical city center fit the beautiful part with its huge cathedrals, ornate buildings (some of which were preserved facades with everything behind renovated – like an architectural facelift), and impressive castle. At first we balked at the castle’s 10 Euros per person entrance fee… and then realized a block later we had nothing else to do and we’d never been in a castle. It turned out to be worth the 10 Euros, with plaques in each room explaining in a few languages what the room was originally used for. The highlights were definitely the armory with hundreds of medieval weapons (Seven foot tall swords. Knights were strong.) and the rooftop with its 360 views of the whole city.
Despite the ancient castle, solid selection of Belgian beer, and beautiful cathedrals, there were some negatives to Ghent too. After seeing the relatively trash-free streets and canals of Bruges and Rotterdam, we were surprised by the litter in Ghent. It wasn’t any more than you would encounter walking the streets of Manhattan, but after the pristine streets of the aforementioned cities, it surprised us. At night, however, the buildings are lit from below, giving it a magical feel… and hiding the litter! We also had our first bad AirBnB experience. In the past we’ve had nothing but great times with our AirBnB apartments, but this one was the bad apple. It claimed to be a”charming B&B,“ but it felt more like a bad version of our college apartments.
Overall, we’re glad we made our stop in Ghent (even if it was for the purpose of having a hub to visit breweries from), though definitely it’s best experienced in the evening/night, and the city center was what had the most to offer.
Street leading to the city center.
Saint Nicholas’s Church
900ish year old Gravensteen castle
Laurel checking out the exhibits in the weapons and armor section of the castle
Seriously – how strong did you have to be to wield a two handed sword in battle?!
Replica guillotine with authentic blade
Ghent from the top of the castle
Looking down on the moat from the top of the castle
Proof as to how charming Ghent is after hours