Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire - Visit Gent

Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire - Visit Gent

Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire5/15/12 2:57 PMWant to try the best—or most offbeat—restaurants? Some innkeepers can pointyou in the right direction. Skeptical that anyone from a city tourist office couldprovide such specifics? Well, think again. For all of Ghent’s cosmopolitanism,for all its world-class restaurants, bars, cultural institutions and dance clubs, thecity is one of Europe’s biggest small villages. As a student lucky enough toattend the university here put it, “In Ghent everyone knows each other like onebig family.” Not surprisingly, if you’re also lucky enough to be born—or togive birth—in Ghent, the streetlamps in Sint-Veerleplein, one of the old city’smain squares, will come on during the day so everyone can celebrate. Does itget more small town than that?Once you’re settled, spend your first day strolling the Old City, at Ghent’snorthern edge. Begin in Sint-Veerleplein, an L-shaped square at the y-shapedconfluence of the Rivers Lieve and Leie. The Castle of the Counts, or theGravensteen, a gray-stone authentically medieval pile topped by heraldic flagslowers over the narrow square threatening to burst its very seams. If there’stime, pop inside to visit the dungeons, and gawk at knightly arms and medievalinstruments of torture. Built in 1180, the castle is authentically medieval, butseveral windows were added for the city’s 1913 World Exhibition.A few other Ghent landmarks were similarly tweaked. In fact, there are twoMasons’ Guild Halls because overzealous reconstructionists somehowoverlooked the original 16th-century hall near Sint-Niklaaskerk and decided tobuild another along the Kraanlei, Old Town’s lovely canal-side promenade.thDon’t be surprised if a local jokingly brings up the matter of Ghent’s 20 -century “medievalization.” Gentenaars are blessed with more than their fairshare of pride, but they also don’t mind a little humor at their own expense.That, along with their intellectual and creative bent, is what makes them solikable.While in Sint-Veerleplein, stop at the new Tourist Information Office (No. 5),and surf city attractions on the state-of-the-art computerized light table designedby hip Belgian artist Arne Quinze. Be sure to pick up maps and brochures,especially the quirky USE-IT Europe “Map of Ghent: Made by Locals forYoung Travelers.” You also can purchase a Museum Pass (20 Euros), good forthree days’ admission to 14 museums and monuments as well as use of the localDe Lijn public buses and trams. Next door is one of the city’s hottest neweateries, Bord’Eau, a contemporary style seafood restaurant with big picturewindows right on the river and an outdoor terrace in summer.thHead south over the bridge to the 15 -century Groentenmarkt, or GreatButcher’s Hall, where cured Ghent hams, or Ganda hams, hang from bigwooden rafters as in days of old. Enjoy simple Ghent fare here—like waterzooi,the national stew supposedly invented in Ghent—or coffee or tea with a coupleof bagel-like buns called mastellen. While there buy Ghent gourmet specialtieslike the pyramid-shaped candies called cuberdons, various kinds of genever, orgin, and assorted mustards from Tierenteyn, whose shop is just across thesquare. 4 of 8

Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire5/15/12 2:57 PMWhen you’re done, make a left at the Langemunt, a major thoroughfare, thenhang a right into the Vrijdagmarkt. By now, you’ve probably noticed that oldcityGhent, like Bruges, is a warren of small pedestrian squares, or pleins, thatflow gracefully into one another. Some squares are named for markets heldhere in centuries past and still held today; others for medieval professionalguilds once headquartered there, and still others for various saints, like Baaf, orBavo, whom most Catholics on this side of the Atlantic have never heard of.Nowadays, the Vrijdagmarkt—site of a Friday and Saturday market forclothing and other goods and a Sunday bird market—is also known for Fridaynight blowouts in bars like De Dulle Griet, where you hand over a shoe as adeposit for using one of Ghent’s trademark tall hourglass shaped beer mugs inwooden frames.Just outside Vrijdagmarkt is Sint-Jacobskerk, or St. James Church. From there,take Belfortstraat to Sint-Baafsplein and Sint-Baafskathedraal, home of theaforementioned “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” or Ghent Altarpiece. Artlovers won’t want to miss this elaborate masterpiece. But be forewarned: Thecathedral and a separate chapel housing the altarpiece are open daily, but onSunday, the altarpiece chapel is only open 1-4 p.m. Check out several otherbuildings on Sint-Baafsplein and nearby Limburgstraat, like The Belfry, aUNESCO World Heritage Site topped by a gilded dragon. Take the elevator tothe 215-foot-high gallery for panoramic city views, or on Sunday enjoy acenturies old tradition, carillon music, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Just behind thesquare, is Bij Sint-Jacob’s, or Beverhoutplein, a pocket square shaded by planetrees. This is the centerpiece of the Ghent Festival in July. Throughout theyear, a popular flea market is held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.- 1p.m.Heading north along the crescent shaped curve of Limburgstraat, you’ll soonreach another major church, Sint-Niklaaskerk, known for its baroque altarpiecesand life sized statues of the Apostles. St. Nicholas is across from Restaurant C-Jean, where “Flemish Foodie” Jason Blankaert once reigned and which the citynewspaper once hailed as the city’s best. Peek into St. Nicholas Church, thencross the Michielshelling Bridge. From the vantage point of Sint-Michielskerke—known for masterpieces like van Dyck’s “Christ on the Cross,” the threetowers of St. Nicholas, St. Bavo and The Belfry line up perfectly for a perfectphoto opportunity. 5 of 8

Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire5/15/12 2:57 PMAt this point, if you only allowed yourself one day in Ghent, you can beforgiven for hurriedly hopping a tram or bus back to Sint-Pieters Station for theride back to Brussels or on to Antwerp. But you’ll probably never forgiveyourself. If only you had only carved out three days in Ghent! Imagine thepossibilities!Tomorrow, you might have hopped aboard a flat-bottomed boat for a dreamyriver or canal cruise. Or you could have headed to Citadelpark to browseS.M.A.K’s contemporary works or MSK’s old masters. That night you mighthave strolled just east of the Castle of the Counts to the Patershol, the medievalenclave that’s become a trendy restaurant district. Or you could have patronizedone of the many international restaurants stretching from nearby Oudburg Streetall the way to Sleepstraat.The next day, your third in Ghent, you might have spent the day visiting thecity’s old monasteries, perhaps St. Peters Abbey, now an art center with agarden and in-city vineyard. Or perhaps Old St. Elizabeth Beguinage, one of thecity’s three original beguinages—medieval religious communities wherewomen stayed, often for years, while their husbands were off fighting theCrusades. You could have wandered around the student quarter, Sint-Pietersplein, just northeast of the train station–browsing the hip shops andboutiques then sampled the many restaurants, bars and music clubs by night.What if you had chosen to spend five days—or even a full week—in Ghent?Then you really could have discovered all the ins and outs, all the narrowpassageways and hidden lanes, all the marvelous lesser known cafés and bars ofthis city many rightly call “Europe’s best-kept secret.”The country code for Flanders is 32.Where to Stay:Guild of Gent Guesthouses (Bed & Breakfast Gent) – Information onmore than 75 B&Bs, ranging from 1 to 11 rooms, with private or sharedbaths, gardens and/or swimming pools. www.bedandbreakfast-gent.beHotel Gravensteen – Overlooking the Castle of the Counts, this three-starhotel has 49 rooms in the former 1865 home of a Ghent textile baron. JanBreydelstraat 35, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-225-11-50. www.hotelgravensteen.beHotel Harmony – Right on the Kraanlei, overlooking the canal, this fourstarhotel, created from 18 and 19 -century houses, has indoor parking, ath thbreakfast room, a lounge, bike rentals, and gracious rooms as well asstudios with kitchenettes. Kraanlei 37, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-324-26-80.www.hotel-harmony.beMarriott Ghent – On the far side of the River Lieve, near the Korenlei, thefour-star Marriott has 139 well-appointed rooms, a restaurant and twolounges. Drabstraat, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-233-93-93. Gent Centrum – Centrally located near Town Hall, facing TheBelfry, this 117-room hotel, part of the well-known European chain, hascontemporary rooms as well as a bar and restaurant. Goudenleeuwplein 5, 6 of 8

Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire5/15/12 2:57 PMGhent. 800-221-4542, 32 (0) 9-224-22-30 or 32 (0) 9- 293-9002.www.novotel.comWhere to Eat & Drink:BoHo Café & Atelier – Stitch up a new frock, or a medieval-style tunic,complete with leather laces, then down snacks and a few beers here.Vrijdagmarkt 26, Ghent. www.boho.beBord’eau – Right on the river, with floor-to-ceiling picture windows andhigh metal-beamed ceilings, this is a stylish place to have a drink, or dineon fish and other Ghent specialties. Sint-Veerleplein 5, Ghent. 32 (0) 9 22320 00. www.bordeau.beCafé Theatre Restaurant/Bar – In the Arts District, next to the VlaamseOpera Ghent, this brasserie-style restaurant, with a cheery young staff,serves salads, stews and other light fare. Schouwburgstraat 5, Ghent. 32 (0)9 265-05-50. www.cafetheatre.beC-Jean – A “Flemish Foodie” restaurant offering innovative dishes madewith fresh meats, fish and vegetables, plus an extensive wine list chosen byan award-winning sommelier, served in a contemporary black-and-whitespace in Old Town, just west of Sint-Baafsplein. Cataloniestraat 3, Ghent.32 (0) 9-223-30-40. Dulle Griet – Right in the old town, a venerable, if touristy, beerdrinkingestablishment. Vrijdagmarkt 50, Ghent. 32 (0)9 224 24 55.www.dullegriet.beDe Vitrine – This “Flemish Foodie” original in an old butcher’s shop in thecity’s red light district serving upscale bistro food using fresh localingredients. Brabantdam 134. 32 (0) 9 336-28-08. – A trendy new eatery, with white walls, black lamps and simplewooden tables and chairs, recently opened by “Flemish Foodie” JasonBlankaert. Lange Steenstraat 10, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-336-80-58. www.j-e-f.beJulie’s House – In the old town, stop in the cozy upstairs salon or on therun to sample delectable cupcakes and other pastries “baked with love.”Kraanlei 13, Ghent. 32 (0) 9 233-33-90. www.julieshouse.beRaj Bathhouse – Spend 22 Euros for a three-hour sauna session, and thensnack on Indian treats. Corduwaniersstraat 4, Ghent. 32 (0) 9 223-37-32.www.saunaraj.beVolta – Another “Flemish Foodie” establishment serving dishes made fromlocal fish, meats and produce in a dramatic converted turbine hall with highceilings and tiled floors. Nieuwe Wandeling 2b, Ghent. 32 (0) 9 32-40-500.www.volta-gent.beWhat to See:The Belfry – Sint-Baafsplein, Ghent. 32 (0) of the Counts (Gravensteen) – Sint-Veerleplein, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-225-93-06.Design museum Gent- Jan Breydelstraat 5, Ghent. 32 (0) 9- 267-99-99;www.designmuseumgent.beDr. Guislain Museum – Jozef Guislainstraat 43, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-216-35-95.www.museumdrguislain.beGhent Altarpiece (“Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”) – Sint-Baafskathedraal,Sint-Baafsplein, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-225-16-26.Great Butcher’s Hall (Groetenmarkt) – Groetenmarkt 7, GhentMSK (Museum of Fine Arts) – Fernand Scribedreef 1, Citadelpark, Ghent.32 (0) 9-240-07-00. www.mskgent.beOld St. Elizabeth Beguinage – Beginjhofdries, Ghent.www.elisabethbegijnhof.beSMAK (Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art) – Citadelpark, Ghent. 32(0) 9-240-76-01. www.smak.beSTAM (Ghent City Museum) – Godshuizenlaan 2, Bijlokesite, Ghent. 32(0) 9 267-14-00. www.stamgent.beSt. Peter’s Abbey (art center, garden, vineyard) – Sint-Pietersplein 9, Ghent.32 (0) 9-243-97-30. to Contact:City Trip Planner – www.citytripplanner.beGhent Guides –Bijlokekaai 2. 32 (0) 9-233-07-72. www.gidsenbond- 7 of 8

Marvelous, Irreverent Ghent | Travel Squire5/15/12 2:57 PMgent.beGhent Tourist Information – Sint-Veerleplein 5, Ghent. 32 (0) 9-266-56-60.www.visitgent.beMax Mobiel bike rentals – Sint-Pieters Station, Ghent. www.max-mobiel.beTags: days, Ghent city, hotel, locals, Monique Burns, museums, music,restaurants, station, town, WorldPrevious Post2012 Summer Travel PredictionsNext PostThe Peninsula TokyoSUBMIT YOUR COMMENTYour nameYour name is requiredYour emailAn email address is requiredWebsiteMessageSubmit commentHotel Hot List Collection#TRAVEXPostcardsVideo LibraryGreeceFinlandIrelandQuebecAbout the SquireWho’s Who at the SquireMembershipThe Travel TherapistPrivacy PolicyFree Newsletter andExtrasContactTravel Squire © 2012 All Rights Reserved> 8 of 8

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