12 Best Things to do in Ghent, Belgium

Martina Rosado
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Vrijdagmarkt

(Fridays Market)

Gent, the biggest city in the Flemish Region of Belgium, reflects the city’s cultural heritage in its architecture and architecture. The city has been built on a Roman road leading from the north of the Empire to the Mediterranean Sea. Brussels and Antwerp were two of the biggest cities in Europe during the Roman Empire.

Ghent’s first theater was built in 1833 at the bottom of a hill near the Ghent Public Market. The first theater here was an open-air one. The current theater was built in 1852. The Ghent Public Market, which is the Ghent for Vrijdagmarkt, is open every Friday between 3pm and 9pm except for the middle of December and the Christmas period.

The square is bordered on three sides by relatively old buildings with beautiful houses and shops, woodwork, and grates. The crossroads and surroundings are rough and dusty and people sell flowers, baskets, art work, vegetables, and food.

It is the place of meeting of everyone in the city, young and old, from all walks of life, as well as the accidental tourist who wanders there by chance while.

Out shopping. This means that even though it is a market it is not a traditional version of a market.

Museum Voor Schone Kunsten

Founded in 1785, the Museum for Fine Arts in Ghent has a rich collection of over 15,000 works of art that make it a very pleasant and valuable place to visit.

The art that is housed here covers over five centuries of art, which ranges from 17th century works to art of early 20th century.

The pieces of art on display come from all different locations. Works from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal are amongst the others.

The subjects are varied as well, ranging from landscapes and paintings of historical or biblical figures to sculptures, jewelry pieces, and tapestries.

You can also find actual documents about the artists, like letters and photos, which are displayed in the written section of the museum.

In the section of the museum that is dedicated to sculptures, you can see the works of a seemingly endless list of European influential figures.

This place of art houses some of the most notable figures in history. Jean-Baptiste Fragonard is among them, and this is one of the most visited sculptures in the museum.

Korenmarkt

This event is less of a show and more of a general parade of sorts, and it wouldn’t be the same without the people that dress up in a colorful costume, do a bit of singing, and parading through the streets in a mock scene from one of the many fairytales of Belgium.

The men dress as trolls, rogues, and elves, while the women dress in fairly demure if less colorful costumes. The parade is quite fascinating to watch and is one of the must-see sights in Ghent.

The parade happens during the summer months, and it will start at 16:00. If you are visiting Ghent during this time, do yourself a favor and consider heading out to the Korenstraat for a fun-filled and educational event that’s sure to make your visit to the area all the more unique.

Stadhuis (Town Hall)

Cutting to the chase, the best thing to do in Ghent is to stroll through the beautiful city’s town hall. This building is located on the “Biezetplaats” near the center of the city.

It was constructed in the mid-to-late 1600s as the residence of the “Drapers” Guild, but the guild moved into their new building in the late 1600s before this was constructed.

The Stadhuis is now used as the city’s municipal building where all city council meetings are held. It features some lovely wrought iron railings, as well as a beautiful building facade. All the main rooms are available for viewing, but those with the best views are the “Council Chambers” an the “Municipal Drain”.

The Stadhuis is also home to a history museum that details the history of the municipality and the city’s various institutions.

Patershol

The Dam Square is the center of the city, with all of the major attractions in one area. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the many daily activities there, as it is lined with bars, restaurants, museums, and shops. One of the most popular landmarks is the Ghent Altarpiece, a collection of artwork that is supposedly the largest altarpiece in the world.

The square also has the historic Patersholms Castle. It was built in the late 1400’s, and it is now a public library that holds various cultural exhibitions.

The Patersholms Castle is also the location of an annual festival called the “Bloedtaveer”. This festival is an attempt to celebrate the history and art of the city of Ghent, and a great way to get your feet wet with the culture of the city if you’re looking to do so.

STAM Ghent City Museum

This museum houses various exhibitions, most famously the “Obscene images” exhibition, featuring examples of unremarkable poster art from the US. It has also been the venue for several art installation performances.

It is recommended to visit this museum and take the “Obscene images” tour. The museum is housed within a Renaissance palace which took over a century to construct and is one of the largest and most spectacular Renaissance houses in Europe.

The museum is situated on “Bergse Tongerweg,” in the city of Ghent.

Saint Nicholas Church

The Gothic church Saint-Nicholas (14th century) was built at the time when Ghent was the capital of the low countries, and the members of the wealthy Brussels-Binche-Luik family were able to influence Ghent politics. The family and their descendants completed the building of this church, which still impresses visitors to the city today. The ground plan of Saint-Nicholas’s nave was very unusual in its time. Three huge slim pillars supported the barrel vault, which formed an elevated chapel. It seems as if the walls opened up towards the ground, and the light came in through the windows on either side of the pillar range, giving an impression of an open corridor.

The Renaissance doors of the church were made by Suzanna van Mansuy. They depict the Last Judgment, showing the presence of a man who is bending over at the moment when the door is about to close on his head.

The statues of the main figures in Saint-Nicholas’s interior are made by the Dutch sculptor, Pieter Coecke van Aelst. Note in particular the figure of Saint Michael, the patron saint of the choir of the church.

St Michael’s Bridge

The famous Rembrandt house is a former Rembrandt family home which now serves as a museum. The house is located in a well-ordered historical district of Ghent called Oud-Stad, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the city’s main attractions.

The house stands in the heart of a 16th century estate, but there is a thick 17th century layer of bricks above it. This made the house a symbol of medieval and Renaissance architecture. The bridge across the Dampoortstraat was completed in 1336, and it was probably Rembrandt’s favorite subject for art.

Belfry and Cloth Hall

Belfry also known as the Belfort, is a church in Ghent, Belgium situated at the North-East part of the city centre. It has a unique double belfry with two square bell towers. The tower on the left is the oldest part of the church and dates from 1360. The tower on the right is Gothic in style and the clock is from 1835. The main entrance is on the right side, but the bells don’t ring the call to prayer from there. Instead, the bells are rung from the inside of the church, from a wooden room above the nave. The small room that contains the large bells is only accessible through stairs from the side chapel on the left.

Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall was originally erected at the Vroenplaat, one of the quarters of Ghent. It was most likely built as a replacement for an earlier building after the area was expanded in 1381 by Edward of Woodstock, the son of Edward III, or possibly by Philip van Artevelde who was mayor of Ghent from 1384 to 1385. The building was restored after a fire in 1672 and stands today in its present, Baroque, structure with a rectangular ground plan and small towers on its corners.

Graslei

Ghent’s Graslei is home to two of the city’s most beautiful sites: the church of Ghent and the Graslei, a field connected to the Ghent canal in the Feyen-Le-Wout neighborhood. The mission of the church dates back to the 13th century, while the buildings of the Graslei date from the 15th to 19th centuries. Both of these are always full of people enjoying the lovely weather!

St. Bavo’s Cathedral

Location: Ghent, Belgium

St. Bavo’s Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral built in 1261. It’s one of the most important landmarks in Flanders, and is considered the burial place of several dukes and countesses.

St. Bavo’s is impressive for its size, imagery and architectural details. Built with large, scale-like Gothic arches, the towering spires and richly paneled walls are just as impressive. It’s quite possible to come here and spend the whole time looking at the architecture.

The church is considered the finest Gothic church outside France, and is also the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It’s featured in many works of art, and a favorite of photographers.

Other notable things to see at St. Bavo’s include the Flemish blast furnace (a great example of Gothic architecture), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the 14th century stained glass windows.

Gravensteen

Castle. There are many things to do in Ghent, but one of the most popular is the stunning Gravensteen Castle. This 13th-century rock fortress sits atop a mound of rugged cliffs. After taking a tour of the interior, you can climb the chain and cross the drawbridge as you leave.

Strijbeek Country Club. On a rainy day, consider heading to the expansive Strijbeek Country Club located right next to the city center. While at the club you can play a round of golf, go for a swim, or paint the town red.

Dino Mart. The Dino Mart was a popular meeting place throughout the 1960s where elderly people could sell and barter goods of their own making. In its present location between St. Jans Molen and the Canals in Ghent, the Dino Mart has been restored as a part of the Ghent Village Museum.

Scrabble. To waste some time, make your way to Scrabble in the city center. For years, this has been a popular spot for English-speakers to test out their vocabularies.

Town Hall Tower. Lastly, walk to the roof of the Town Hall Tower, known as the Belfort, to see an impressive panoramic view of Ghent. This way you can toast the Belfort, which was once the tallest structure in Belgium.