“Ganda” in my native language means beauty. Here in Belgium, “Ganda” translates to “joining up” or “confluence”. As in the confluence of the 2 rivers: Lys and Scheldt. And GANDA is a very apt adjective to describe this once-powerful city state. Ghent’s medieval feel is palpable. So is her “university city” feel. Once so powerful, it’s prosperity and influence showed in the city’s belfry, the castle with a moat, the many guild halls, the cathedral and many historic and civil edifices. What a pleasant surprise! A pity it is often skipped as many others preferred to just pass it on the way to Bruges, another medieval village straight out of one’s dreams.

Ghent

Ghent

Ghent is actually older than Bruges. I hate to compare the 2, but let me just say that Ghent has its own charm. If you like old town feel, art and history, you won’t get disappointed. And that boat ride? I highly recommend it. Just 45 minutes of relaxation, cool breeze, old world charm and history lessons. The boat passes many centuries-old guild halls, cozy hidden by-the-canal bistros and bars, private residences and former merchants’ offices turned and repurposed into chic hotels, restaurants or corporate offices. There is no national or municipal funding to restore historic buildings but there is a law to preserve their facade. It is thus not surprising to see this old architecture housing modern interiors. From outside, one can appreciate those stepped gables and brick buildings, and then be transported back to present times as one enters such buildings. One example is the Marriott Hotel here. Formerly a whorehouse or brothel, it has since been restored and fitted with modern amenities following Marriott’s hotel brand.

Ghent

The Cathedral of Saint Bavon in Ghent is just a stone’s throw away from the Church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of mariners and traders. Just like the other historic buildings, these worship places don’t get funding from any institution. We were surprised to learn the church can be used as an events place. No wonder we didn’t find any pews, only stacking chairs which can easily be removed at moment’s notice. Can you imagine holding a concert here? Or a wedding party? We visited on a Friday and the square behind the Church is being prepped as a weekend market complete with food trucks selling all kinds of Belgian junk food and different varieties of beer. I just love how the Belgians love to eat. And take pride in what many otherwise consider as junk food : fries, chocolates, waffles, candies, meatballs, poffertjes (mini, fluffy pancakes), etc. And you can tell the locals from most tourists by the sauce they eat their frites with. Definitely no ketchup for the Belgians!

Ghent

Ghent

Ghent

The Van Eyck brothers left a lasting legacy to Ghent. Not much is known about Hubert but the younger Jan Van Eyck is the first Flemish painter who signed his works. Both are credited as founders of a school of painting in Bruges and other art schools in Northern Europe. Hubert collaborated with Jan Van Eyck in the latter’s 1432 masterpiece, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, also known as the Ghent Altarpiece. For a small fee, one can view this masterpiece inside the Cathedral of Saint Bavon in Ghent. Jan Van Eyck’s other masterpiece – The Arnolfini Portrait — is housed in the National Art Gallery in London.

Adoration of The Mystic Lamb

Marriott Hotel in Ghent

The Food Truck Market in Ghent

Ghent is fascinating to visit. It isn’t just another university town though it deserves to be taken seriously as such, ranking #69th among the world’s best schools. Students here have the best of both worlds. A world-ranking university, history and beauty all around, and yummy street food perfect for students on a budget! And there’s always the beer for every whim to celebrate. And for every good beer, there’s likewise good-quality coffee. These Belgians sure know to get a high on food and drinks! 🍺

Old Market, now a Tapas Bar in Ghent

Who wants the “noses” candies of Ghent?