Green Travel and Food Awareness are very important to the Belgian city of Ghent. It has for example the largest low-traffic pedestrian zone in Europe and is 'veggie capital of Europe' as they have more vegetarian restaurants than for instance London or Paris. In 2009 Ghent started the worldwide 'Thursday Veggie Day' campaign and is working hard on reducing its ecological footprint.
In this city guide you will find travel tips about:
See and do in Ghent
The Gravensteen (castle of the counts) is one of the most iconic landmarks of Ghent.
It is a medieval moated castle from 1180. I always find it very intriguing to see such an ancient fortified building in the middle of a city centre! Most chambers are empty, but in some is an exhibition with a historical collection of arms. After climbing the spiral staircases you will have a good view over the city.
S.M.A.K. Museum of Contemporary Art. The collection of 3.000 works (dating from mid 20th century until present day) is one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Belgium.
Opposite of the S.M.A.K. museum you will find the MSK Museum of Fine Art.
It has a collection of about 9.000 works dating from the Middle Ages to the first half of the 20th century. I think the building was almost as impressive as the collection and in my opinion definitely worth a visit.
Design Museum Gent is situated in a beautiful Rococo style building with approximately 22.500 objects from art nouveau to artistic contemporary design. I was positively surprised by the diversity of the collection and the way they presented it.
De Krook is a brand new library, but it is not your every day ordinary library... It is a meeting place where knowledge, culture and innovative entrepreneurship join. It contains a café as well where you can read a good book or the newspaper while drinking a cup of coffee or have lunch.
The area around Graslei en Korenlei is probably one of the most beautiful in Ghent. These quays are situated opposite of each other and ships have been docking here since the 11th century. From here you will have a wonderful view over the old buildings and the St. Michael's Bridge.
Hotel d'Hane Steenhuyse isn't actually a hotel, but an eighteenth-century 'city palace' owned by the aristocratic family d'Hane-Steenhuyse. Nice to know: French King Louis XVIII and Russian tsar Alexander I have set foot in this beautiful building too. The French Sun King actually stayed here for 78 days when he fled out of Paris to escape Napoleons threat to claim the throne. I would highly recommend to visit this beautiful building which is 'hidden' in Veldstraat, one of Ghent's busiest shopping streets.
Are you a big fan of street art? Then you might want to check out the 'sorry, not sorry' website to find an overview and map of all legal murals. Nice to know, worldwide known artist ROA is born and raised in Ghent!
Coffee and lunch in Ghent
Broesse is a tropical plant shop and cozy little junglebar in one. Owners Celine and Brent were inspired by plant-café's in Berlin and realised this was a total new concept for the city of Ghent. So here you go; a green oasis in the middle of the city to fill your lungs with oxygen, sooth the eye with beautiful plants and fill the tummy with tasty drinks :) On the menu is coffee and tea, as well as wine, local beers and innovative cocktails.
Way Coffee Roasters is housed (at Dok-Noord 4E) on the ground floor of an old factory and has still got some original features and an industrial look. They serve very tasty (vegetarian and vegan) breakfast, lunch, brunch and sweets. I ate the 'plantenbeest' dish, a plate full of vegan deliciousness...
☞ Check out all the locations of Way here
Clouds in my Coffee lies close to train station Gent-Dampoort (about 10 minutes by foot from the city centre). Besides a coffee- and breakfast/lunch bar they also have a beautiful B&B which is located in a renovated chapel. Gluten free and vegan options are available, just ask one of the barista's.
At STEK you will sit in a cozy interior surrounded by lots of plants (which are for sale as well). Here we ate a delicious couscous bowl.
Take Five Espressobar is a specialty coffee bar where you can also have breakfast or lunch. When you are sitting at the window you will have a nice view over the beautiful building on the opposite side of the street. They work together with local coffee roaster De Witte Zwaan.
O'yo Healthy Food serves fresh, (mostly) plant-based food without refined sugars.
We tried the tasty 'golden goodness bowl' with a stew of lentils, brown rice, vegetables and seasoned cashew nuts. They serve the locally crafted Kombucha tea's by Yugen.
Moor & Moor is a nice coffee bar annex shop with local, organic, plant-based products. Here we drank a good cup of coffee and ate perfect vegan cakes. I love corner shops where you can sit at the window and see life pass by, so this is one of my favourites :)
☞ Jakobijnenstraat 7 (closed)
Madam Bakster is a guilt free bakery by Laura. So she doesn't use refined sugar, and all cakes are vegan friendly, and therefore lactose free as well.
Peaberry Coffeebar is a cozy specialty coffee bar located next to the Saint Bavo's Cathedral. Since 2015 owner Laurence serves coffee from Caffènation, combined with cakes, breakfast and a brunch on weekends.
The organic and gluten-free bread from Chambelland is made with rice and buckwheat flour, and is simply delicious. At the ground floor you will find the bakery and an outside terrace, and upstairs there is a charming sitting area where you can enjoy your breakfast or lunch.
BILLIEROSE is in my opinion the most beautiful combination of café + store in Ghent.
It is owned by siblings; brother Wolf and sister Noor. Wolf takes care of the café with coffee, tea and sweets, but also wines, beers and flatbread with dips.
Dinner in Ghent
Restaurant Lepelblad works together with local farmers who produce sustainable and organic ingredients. Besides that they only use seasonal products for their creative menu. We ate a delicious autumn-inspired 4 course menu in a very welcoming environment. Eating 'à la carte' is also possible, with several good vegetarian options to choose from as well.
Le Botaniste is a plant-based and organic food and wine bar, situated in an attractive interior. Other locations can be found in Brussels and New York City.
Local shopping in Ghent
Huiszwaluw is a beautiful Scandinavian inspired gift- and interior shop, situated in a charming 3 story high building.
I have mentioned BILLIEROSE in the 'Coffee, Drinks and Lunch' chapter, but it also deserves a place over here. As Wolf takes care of the café, Noor is the driving force behind the wonderful store with timeless fashion items and minimalistic design objects. Here you will find well known brands and local labels as well.
Paarl is the gorgeous luxury handbag brand by Pearl de Buck. Pearl designs and creates every single bag by hand and they are all unique, so not even one is the same. She adds unusual and creative materials to her designs like wood, ultra thin concrete and even real marble. Behind the shop lies her atelier where all her creations 'come to live'.
Walking through A.PUUR.A. feels like a journey along different countries and styles. Everything is carefully composed, or designed and created, by owner Katrien Buyle.
Katrien has a preference for natural and hand made products, ranging from clothes to jewellery and interior decoration.
Catalogus is owned by fabric designer Sophie Speck. She loves to collect products 'with a story', so she chooses very consciously for local (handmade) products which are developed in a sustainable way.
(only online as of July 2021)
Do you like to see an overview of local fashion and design stores? Find it out here!
Events, city walks, boat trips and so on...
Ghent is well known for its canals and it is a nice way to discover the city from the water during a guided boat trip.
I can recommend to download the free Official City Guide which contains all the information you need (sights, shops, food, drinks and even Instagram hotspots!) to enjoy your weekend to the fullest. Or get your copy at the Visit Ghent tourist information desk at the Sint-Veerleplein.
The 'Ghent in a nutshell' unguided city walk is nice to start at dusk as the city has a unique and award winning lighting plan. There is even a map for a 'light walk' in the evening which takes about 2 hours to complete. Please note: at midnight the lights will turn to normal functional lighting, to reduce light pollution and energy consumption.
The 'professional strollers' from Vizit organise guided culinary, themed and neighbourhood walks and bike tours.
CityCard Ghent has got two options; a 48h (€30) and a 72h (€35) card.
With this card you will have free access to all sights and museums, you can get on and off all trams and busses, rent a bike for one day, get 1 guided boat tour or use the hop-on / hop-off water tram for 1 day with this card.
Hotels in Ghent
We have stayed two nights at the beautiful Monasterium PoortAckere Hotel. This wonderfully hidden hotel (in the middle of the city centre) dates back from 1278 and was a monastery for centuries.
We have stayed one night in the beautiful 'Suite with Terrace', a 48m² bright and spacious room with a huge comfy bed, high ceilings and a private terrace. The hotel is conveniently situated in the heart of the city with a public parking garage around the corner.
Please note: I was invited by Visit Flanders to spend 48 hours in Ghent.
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