In my previous blog about our recent long weekend spent in Bottrop, Germany, I mentioned that we visited Ghent in Belgium for a day and night en route home. I didn’t want to mix the two places in one article, so this blog is dedicated to Ghent, and Ghent alone!
Our first thought was to visit Bruges, as it seems the most obvious, but we thought we’d do things a little differently…
First of all, I was really taken aback with how beautiful the city was. It’s packed with stunning architecture including churches and cathedrals-a-plenty, and even a castle. If ‘old stuff’ isn’t your thing, however, Ghent is still definitely worth a trip. There are eateries everywhere and if you fancy a spot of retail therapy, there are some gorgeous shops selling everything you could possibly want.
Unfortunately for us, our day in Ghent was a Sunday. As is the case in a lot of Europe (even the cities), this means that the vast majority of the shops are firmly closed. The restaurants, cafes and bars tend to stay open though. So, if you do like to shop when abroad then avoid Sundays! We had no particular plans for our day so just ambled along and took in the sights.
I’d never stepped foot on Belgian soil before, so I wasn’t even sure what language to expect to hear in Ghent. As it turned out, it’s Flemish. French is spoken in much of Belgium, but Ghent is in the region where Flemish – a type of Dutch – is spoken. As you might expect, English and French is widely understood so don’t worry if your Flemish is a tad rusty.
Of course, no trip to Belgium would be complete without devouring a ridiculous amount of food. There are quaint cafes everywhere selling pancakes and waffles, and our little boy battled his way through a pancake with ice cream and salted caramel sauce that must have weighed more than he did. I, meanwhile, ‘made do’ with a coffee and ice cream truffles – well, you can’t go to Belgium and not have chocolate!
We drove to Ghent from Bottrop. The journey was, in the main, very straightforward (even though we were driving on the opposite side of the road from what we’re used to). The only slightly tricky bit was when we reached the city. Having said that, it was very doable still. Even on the Monday morning, when we departed at ‘rush hour’, there didn’t appear to be a great deal of traffic on the roads. It wasn’t anything like the M25, anyway.
It only took us around 1.5 hrs to drive from Ghent to the Euro tunnel in Calais, so very handy. If you do decide to drive to Ghent, book your hotel early, as those with car parks are fairly few and far between.
If you like history, pretty cities and food, glorious food, then Ghent should definitely be on your travel wish list.