How I ended up in Gent is a story of its own. Let’s just say that it was recommended by a Belgian traveller I met during my time in Colombia.
Gent is a port city situated in the northwest part of Belgium. Disadvantageously located between Brussels and Bruges, many travellers pass through Gent without stopping, opting to make their way to one of the aforementioned cities.
But that’s OK with me….that means less people in the background of my pictures.
But even though Gent is not as visited as its neighbors, it still packs much to see and do. And the best part? Mostly everything is within walking distance. This was ideal as Gent was my first European city after 3 months in South America. Jetlagged, tired, and freaked out by the sudden change in prices, Gent was definitely what I needed as a city offering many things to see with a very reasonable budget, while allowing me time to rest.
Stroll By Leie Canal
Leie is the main canal in Gent.
A walk by Leie Canal provided me with hours and hours of sightseeing opportunities. Along the canal, the architecture surrounding it is beautiful; houses, restaurants and shops of all sorts all add on to the beauty of the scenery.
At night the views become even more picturesque and romantic. It is in times like these that travelling alone gets a bit lonely…..but on the other hand I can snap all the pictures I want 🙂
On my first night a movie was being filmed by the canal under Saint-Michael’s bridge. Even though they wouldn’t tell us the title it is still exciting to know I got to see a sneak peak of whatever was being filmed…..hopefully the movie doesn’t suck.
Gent’s Little Streets
A city’s true charm and personality is not in its touristy spots, but on its little streets. It is often in them that I’ve discovered the most amazing things.
And Gent’s little streets were all a charm. From really hidden restaurants (seriously, how do they even make money?) to some of the most charming houses, it’s as if Gent had hidden its most amazing gems and it is up to the true city explorers to find them.
I found the most charming ones to be by the canal past the Castle of Counts. A little bit of a maze, I was both charmed and lost for about an hour in these streets the size of alleyways. It took me a bit to figure out where I was when I came out.
Cathedrals and Structures
For a small city, Gent boasts a fair number of cathedrals and structures, all of which can be visited and are within walkable distance from one another. The below are some of the main points of interest in walking order starting on Saint-Michael’s bridge.
Saint-Michael’s Church (Sint-Michilsplein): Located by the bridge bearing the same name.
Saint-Nicholas’ Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk): One of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Gent.
Belfry of Gent: Medieval tower overlooking the old city center of Gent. It is located between the Saint-Nicholas and Saint-Bavo churches, each having their own tower as well.
Saint-Bavo (Sint-Baafskathedraal): Located on the eastern side of the city center.
To get to them, walk on Saint-Michael’s bridge towards the opposite side of Saint-Michael’s church. It is a 10 minute walk between Saint-Michael and Saint-Bavo.
Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen)
This medieval castle-turned-museum was one of my highlights of Gent. Albeit a bit small, it made up in size by its estate of preservation and quality of artifacts on display.
Some of the displays depict armors, weaponry, as well as artifacts used for torture of prisoners (some depicting drawings explaining the use of the tools. It might not be suitable for young children). There are even mannequins showing the original water-boarding technique, and another one showing off the chains.
My only complaint about this castle are the “rooftop” views. Most of the points of view are blocked for which I guess are security purposes, and it is hard to get a clear view, let alone a picture, of the rooftops of Gent. Luckily there were small windows through which I could sneak my camera to take some decent pictures, but it could have been better.
Right across the castle is the gateway to the old fish market, adorned by a statue of Neptune. Not much to see inside though, unless you’re looking for the tourist information office (inside).
OK, if there was a city sight I was eager to see and was letdown by it big time, it was Graffiti Street.
Having issues with graffiti all over the city, the government decided to allocate one block to street artists to let their creativity loose…..and so was born Graffiti Street.
Located on Werregarenstraat, the street itself is one short alleyway with many colorful drawings from local artists.
The reason why this was such a letdown is that many of the drawings did not make any sense, nor were they as “artistic” as I would’ve hoped. This might be as artists are allowed to paint over each other’s drawings, and thus the appearance of the street is constantly changing.
It is worth the 5-minute detour to get here, but this street does not measure up to the likes of Comuna 13 in Medellín or Valparaíso in Chile.
Coming Into Gent
Arriving in Gent is made easy, especially if you’re coming from Brussels or Bruges. Gent’s train station is Gent-Sint-Pieters station, once there you can take the tram #21 to the old city centre, or walk the 20-minutes it takes to get there on foot.
My time in Gent was short, but I felt that I got to see many of what Gent has to offer. Beautiful sights and architecture and delicious waffles, chocolates and beer….what more to ask for!!!
Have you been to Belgium? And if so did you pass by Gent?