Boasting some 230,000 people, the city of Ghent is Belgium’s third largest. It is the capital of the East Flanders province, which is found in the mostly Dutch-speaking Flemish region of the country. Ghent is an industrial port city, and as such it sometimes gets skipped by tourists. That being said, the Ghent attractions surely warrant a visit. Also, since the city is just 30 minutes by train from Brussels, Brugge, and Antwerp, it can easily be paired with these other great destinations when enjoying a Belgium vacation. Unassuming, culturally-rich, and full of fun things to do, Ghent Belgium has something for every visitor. As Ghent Belgium rests at the confluence of the rivers Lys and Scheldt, it has been a sight of human activity for quite a long time. Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, Ghent was the second largest city in Europe! Only Paris was bigger at the time. Three of the top Ghent attractions date from this Golden Age, and they are the St Bavo’s Cathedral, the town Belfry, and St Nicholas’s Church. St Bavo’s Cathedral itself is reason enough to consider Ghent travel. Ghent’s importance in the Middle Ages was largely tied to the textile industry. Trade with England was common, especially when it came to wool. In the year 1500, Charles V was born in Ghent, though he would not exactly become a favorite son. As the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Spain, Charles V effectively had control over present-day Belgium, and since the Flanders region was such an important economic center, high taxes were levied on it. The 1539 Revolt of Ghent was a result of these taxes. Clashes with authority definitely characterize Ghent Belgium history. Today, Ghent is a successful port city with a lively social scene. This has a lot to do with Ghent University, which has around 30,000 students and is one of the largest universities in Belgium.
Ghent tours come in a few different forms, and it is recommended that you at least take some time to tour the city’s historic medieval city center when in town. This center is a car-free zone, so pedestrians have the right of way, which only encourages walking Ghent tours. Among the top sites in Ghent’s historic center are the Three Towers of Ghent, which consist of the aforementioned St Bavo’s Cathedral, St Nicholas’s Church, and the Belfry. St Bavo’s Cathedral is arguably the best of the best when it comes to Ghent attractions, as this is where The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is housed. For a small fee, you can view this historically important work of art, which is also referred to as the Ghent Altarpiece. This 24-panel painting is so significant because it is one of the first works of importance to exhibit the early Northern Renaissance style. This style differs from the Classical style before it in that man and nature are portrayed in a more naturalistic form. Commissioned in 1420 and originally started by Hubert van Eyck, the Mystic Lamb was completed by Hubert’s brother, Jan, after Hubert passed away in 1426. Jan van Eyck finished the painting in 1432, and it is widely considered to be his finest work. Also housed in St Bavo’s Cathedral is a 1623 painting by Rubens that is named The Conversion of St Bavo.
While you are taking in the Ghent attractions in the historic city center, a trip to the top of the Belfry is recommended. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 295-foot tower affords some excellent views of the city. Don’t worry, there is an elevator that takes visitors up to the 215-foot-high upper gallery lookout. Other Ghent tours that you will want to consider when enjoying Ghent vacations are the city boat tours. These tours take you up and down the city’s canals, and there are multilingual guides who provide a narrative of the sights along the way. You can enjoy boat tours in Ghent throughout the year, though they are only offered on the weekends in the winter. Five-hour dinner cruises are also available in July and August for those who are interested.
Ghent travel has plenty to offer and the Ghent attractions covered so far are just the tip of the iceberg. The Gravensteen, or Castle of the Counts, is worth throwing on the itinerary too, as is the city’s Fine Arts Museum. The Castle of the Counts dates back to 1180, and the Fine Arts Museum houses works by a number of Flemish masters. Don’t forget to indulge in some divine pralines when enjoying Ghent vacations, and come sundown, the city’s healthy nightlife is an ideal complement to a full day of sightseeing. There are some nice Ghent hotels in the center of town, which helps to make Ghent travel all the more attractive, so basing yourself here for a bit is always an option.