If I had to choose a favourite city in Belgium, it would be Ghent without hesitation. Even though our first visit was rather wet, T and I knew we’d have to come back, it was a feeling we had since the very beginning. I’d done a lot of research before our trip – what a surprise – and I found quite a few cool cafés and restaurants, mostly vegetarian, that I wanted to try, but unfortunately, we were there on a public holiday, so most of those restaurants were closed. However, we managed to find a couple of very interesting markets and places that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. Generally, Ghent is a very chilled city with many cute local (interior) shops and bars along the river. Ghent was the first city in Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium) that I visited and it is crazy how you can see and feel the Dutch influence there. From what I’ve heard, Ghent resembles Bruges a lot in terms of architecture, but is the hipper, less touristy version, which is probably why Ghent is my favourite.
1. CRU – indoor food market
We discovered CRU by accident, but were very happy with our discovery, as they have lots of delicious organic food with tasters and the best part was the wine vending machine. We tried two different red wines – one younger, one older – and I’m still not sure, whether the wine was actually this tasty, or whether we were too blown away by the fact that we got served wine by a machine. The machines, however, allow you to choose the quantity of your wine, so it’s perfect, in case you would like to try different ones before you choose a bottle you really want to buy. You actually get a little scanner that you scan the price with and pay at the exit. CRU’s wine machines surely gave a great start to a fantastic day trip, although it’s perhaps not the best place to do your grocery shopping, if you’re short on money.
CRU is open for you from Monday to Sunday from 10.00-18.30. You can find it at Kouter 177 – 178, 9000 Gent.
2. Sunday Flower Market at Kouter Square
One thing that impressed me the most in Ghent was the amount of people that were carrying a bouquet of flowers. Those of you who know me are aware of my addiction with flowers. I think it’s something that is being passed on generation by generation in my family. We regularly send each other flower and pant updates on our family whatsapp chat, no kidding. Truth is, flowers are such an easy way to brighten up your apartment and mood. They make everything look better effortlessly. Usually, I try to buy a bouquet myself, but unfortunately, I haven’t really had the opportunity to continue my flower tradition in Brussels, due to the lack of vases. Also, flowers are quite expensive in Brussels and I didn’t really spend much time at home during those past five months anyways. However, when T and I started our traineeship, we immediately agreed on getting some nice plants for our office to give it a personal touch and make it more comfortable. So the Sunday Flower Market was the perfect location for us to buy two cute little cacti for a very cheap price. It’s impressive how a plant can change the whole atmosphere in a room, particularly an office. I especially think it’s very important to feel comfortable at work, as you spend a lot of time there. And here I am already thinking of how to decorate my new office desk.
3. Chillin by the canal
Living in Brussels has made me realise how much I love having water near me. You may now ask yourself ‘why Brussels?’ since there is absolutely no water in this city and the little canal doesn’t really count. Although I do admit that the area around the canal looks quite impressive in Brussels too. Anyways, Ghent, is the complete opposite of Brussels, as there is lots and lots of water that you can walk along, sit next to, or take a boat ride on! I loved spotting all the (s)coots in the water, building houses for their families, which is the cutest thing ever. T and I just spent all day walking along the canal, looking at beautiful picturesque houses and enjoyed the culinary of the city.
When in Ghent you should make sure to try at least one cuberdon, also known as Gentse neus (Ghent nose), as it is a specialty from the region. You can buy them pretty much anywhere in the city centre, particularly near Groetenmarkt, where they sell them on little wagons. They come in different flavours and colours, but the original is the purple one which tastes like raspberry. From what I’ve heard, you can’t really buy them anywhere else, or in supermarkets, as they make them fresh and don’t last very long, at least this way you can assume that it’s good quality.
5. Holy Food Market
Something that I hadn’t come across before is a chapel that was turned into a food market, aka the holy food market. I admit it’s quite a touristy thing to do, but I think it’s worth a visit, particularly when you’re there for the first time like I was (and the weather is freezing). I chose to eat an Italian Pizza which was amazing, T had Ramen that she enjoyed as well, but was a bit overpriced for a vegetarian soup. Even if you’re not hungry, at least go and quickly check it out.
You can find the Holy Food Market from Monday – Friday from 11.00 – 22.00, and from Saturday – Sunday from 11.00 – 23.00 at Beverhoutplein 15, 9000 Gent.
Additional advice on traveling to and around Ghent:
- Get a -50% reduction on your train ticket from SNCB on weekends and public holidays.
- Try not to go there on a public holiday, or a Sunday, as most cute restaurants and cafés will be closed, as we found out sur place and made us feel obliged to go back another time.
- Take a tram to the city centre (stops are right in front of the central station), the train station is quite far away. However, the walk to the center is also nice and you may come across some graffiti.