Gent or Ghent is a historic city, yet at the same time a contemporary one. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. Today it is a busy city with a port and a university. Although many of Belgium’s visitors overlook Gent, its beauty is often compared to the more well-known Brugge.
Korenmarkt: The main Corn Market square is fringed with gabled buildings, cafés, and shops. It’s also the site of one of the city’s busiest tram stops. Adjoining the square, along Korte Munt, is the Groentenmarkt, the former vegetable market and site of the infamous pillory used in the Middle Ages.
When in Belgium, one must try the delicious waffles! Waffles have been around for centuries and while they’ve evolved over time, there is no country as passionate about these baked doughy treats as Belgium. Most of the waffles found today originated around the 17th and 18th centuries, but two in particular are found throughout the country. These were the best waffles I’ve ever tasted, light and fluffy.
This below is the Theater Documentatiecentrum Archief, which houses the Institute for the professional performing arts in Flanders. Documentation centre for theatre, dance and music theatre. Sectorial think-tank in a varied and international Flanders. Critical interface between theatre-makers, the public and the policy-makers.
We came across this beautiful building at the junction of Korenmarkt and Sint-Michielshelling. It is a “Vieux neuf” building, a modern building inspired by ancient examples. In 1912 the new row at the corner of the Predikherenlei with a neo-Gothic design by Louis Cloquet.
This is another interesting building that was built in 1432 and used to be the guildhouse of the bricklayers. It was aparently in very poor condition. The new bronze dancing figures at the top are designed by Walter de Buck, a Flemish folksinger and artist. The idea behind the dancing figurines seems to be the house being so happy that it has been saved from being demolished.
St. Bravo’s Cathedral: It is believed a wooden church stood in this spot, but it was replaced in 1038 with a Romanesque church, which was then replaced with the majestic cathedral we see today. Construction took centuries, starting in the mid 1300s and not completed until 1596. The highlight of a visit to St. Bravo’s Cathedral is a viewing of the Mystic Lamb, an unusual and mysterious altarpiece painting. Be sure to grab the audio guide – while it’s long and goes into great detail, you don’t want to miss all the weird and wonderful history of this piece of art.
St. Jacobs AKA St. James Church: This church was was established in 1093 when a wooden church was built. The oldest parts of the St. Jacobs church date back to the 12th century. Later the church was converted and made bigger in Gothic style. You can see the difference between the 2 styles in the towers. The east tower was built in the 15 century in Gothic style with hooks on the roof, the west tower is a remainder from the Romanesque style. The St. Jacobs church is located in the Lange Nieuwstraat, close to the Vrijdagmarkt(Friday Market).
The Belfy: This massive95-metere high tower has served not only as a bell tower for telling time but has also housed the city’s treasury and in times of war was a defensive location. The hall next to it is not a church, but was a trading hall for fabric, a bustling trade commodity in the Middle Ages. You can tour the hall as well as access the highest level of the Belfry.
The Town Hall (Stadhuis): Of the numerous medieval buildings of Ghent, the town hall is the one that shows most clearly the history and the fate of the city from the end of the 15th century until now. The town hall is situated on the site where until 1482 the town representatives and guild’s men met in separate houses. Because these houses were judged too small and too unrepresentative for such important people, it was decided that a new and bigger town hall had to be built. The first stone of this new hall was laid in 1482. The building was finished in 1484. Very soon, however, also this new hall was considered too small and from 1518 until 1535 a new and much bigger town hall was constructed in late-gothic style.
In 1540 Ghent suffered reprisals from emperor Charles V because the citizens had dared to refuse to pay more taxes to the emperor. By then, only one third of the planned town hall had been constructed. It was only as from 1572 that Ghent could continue to build its town hall. However, the architectural style had changed and several renaissance-style parts were added to the building until the beginning of the 18th century. In 1750 a construction in Louis XV-style was added as the seat of the ‘chamber of the poor’. In the beginning of the 19th century the staircases in front of the hall were changed for a visit of Napoleon; All through the 19th century several renovations were undertaken. The original furniture of the different rooms is either still present or has been transferred to the Bijloke museum of Ghent.
St. Nicholas’s Church: This was the first of the three towers to define the Ghent skyline. The large open courtyard in front of the church was the Corn Market, once busy with guild crafters selling their wares. Thus St. Nicholas’ was popular with traders, who had their own section of the chapel. The gorgeous organ was built by the same Frenchman whose organ graces the altar of Notre Dame in Paris.
The word Ghent derives from the Celtic word “Ganda”, indicating a confluence. At Ghent, the Lys River joins the Schelde on a journey to the North Sea. As with many cities in Belgium, Ghent’s canals are an important part of the city and influenced its layout and development. A stroll along the main canal in Gent is a must. The water is eerily still, making for fantastic photographs. Given all the nearby pubs, it is the perfect place to relax.
One way to get around town would be to take the canal cruise. There are a couple of companies running boat tours which offer a different perspective on the city as well as access to a few lanes that you can only see by boat. A cruise on the canals is a good way to view the city’s highlights and would typically last approximately 40 minutes.
Other than the obvious gigantic signboard on the cobbled street, you can see subtle inscriptions on the canal wall. It reads: “Over de lange rivier schuift moede de maan. Onder de maan op de lange rivier schuift de kano naar zee.” - translated roughly, it means “Over the long weary river moves the moon. Under the moon in the long river pushes the canoe to the sea.”
Last but not least, we couldn’t help but notice the outdoor public toilets in and around the city. This particular one was spotted at the junction of Vlasmarkt and Bij Sint-Jacobs.
This post is one of an 10 part entry of our trip to Netherlands and Belgium. See all the places we visited on this trip below:
- Zaanse Schans – Windmills & Cheese
- Volendam & Marken – Seafood & Clogs
- Lisse – Keukenhof & Flowerfields
- Amsterdam – Flowers, Food, Culture
- Amsterdam – Buildings, Places, Waterways
- Amsterdam – Graffiti, Marijuana, Prostitutes
- Brussels – Mussels & Manneken Pis
- Antwerp – Grote Markt & Surrounds
- Brugge – Museums, Chocolates, Lace
- Gent – Korenmarkt, Architecture, Waffles