Today I wanted to do a little post about last weekend’s trip to the beautiful city of Ghent (or Gent, it is spelled both ways), located in Belgium in the Flanders region.
Craig and I went to Brussels to visit his cousin Bob for the weekend, and decided to go on a day trip to Ghent to go see somewhere new, as Craig goes to Brussels a lot and I have been a few times too.
Getting to Ghent
We set off from the central train station in Brussels, which was a 15 minute walk from the hotel we were staying in (the Hilton, Brussels City, which was perfectly nice) at around 11am, having wanted to take advantage of the opportunity for a lie in. There are trains every 15 or so minutes so it isn’t too hard to get to, and some of them are pretty fast trains.
We sadly managed to jump on the slow train which stopped in loads of places, but eventually made it to Ghent after around an hour. We then hopped on the Metro/tram thing that operates throughout the city. Bob had walked before but said it was a few Km and it was a pretty windy day so the Metro seemed the most appealing choice. They come once every ten minutes from outside the station, and the ticket machines aren’t the best in the world which wasn’t ideal as one was turning up as soon as we got there.
Once we made it to the right area we hopped out and went in search of some lunch. We went to a cute cafe on the river, pretty sure it was called Barrazza, which had outdoor seating practically on the river with some very cool decor such as flamingos and fairy lights. We sat indoors to warm up with some food, toasties for the boys and soup for me, and then braved the outdoors for some drinks to enjoy the view of the river and the boats going by. I had a raspberry flavoured beer (delicious but sharp), whilst the boys tried a local ‘Game of Thrones’ themed beer called the Iron Throne. It was cold so I ran across the road to a handily placed H&M which came through with a nice cosy pashmina to help me keep warm. Underdressing for European city breaks appears to be a theme for me this year…
Visiting the Castle
We then decided to go and check out the Gravensteen castle, which was pretty impressive looking. It was kind of pricey at 10 Euros a head (although it is 6 if you are under 25), but apparently was worth it for the views of the city. You could take a free audio guide but we aren’t really audio guide fans so decided to make our own way around.
There were lots of tents in the ground and apparently they sometimes have events for kids, like mock jousting and learning about knights and stuff which is quite cool. There is also a beer festival at some point, but sadly not the weekend we were there.
It was actually a pretty cool medieval castle, with displays of armour and weaponry inside, including a sword bigger than my entire body. The stained glass windows made for an excellent photo opportunity as well.
It was basically a free leg day as there were a hell of a lot of spiral stairs to climb, so make sure you feel up to that if you fancy a visit! It was absolutely worth it though, there were lots of opportunities to walk around the walls and get a 360 view of the city and its many beautiful churches. It was fun to look down into the square and people watch too.
We walked around the outer wall too feeling very game of thrones-esque, even more so when we went back into the keep and were greeted with a bunch of banners and flags. The whole castle interior was also full of drawings on banners of medieval torture too, which was kind of weird considering the family fun vibe outside but there you go! Definitely worth a visit if you are there.
The sun was poking its head out at this point, having rained while we were wandering the castle grounds, so we stopped for another outside beverage – this time I had some Hoegaarden Rose – as you may guess, I am a fan of fruity beers, how very stereotypical of me I know but what can you do. This bar had outdoor heaters and very fluffy blankets on hand so was much better for outdoor drinking, which always feels necessary when on the continent. We watched all the boat trips cruising down the river, including several hen parties, clearly it is a popular destination. The view of the river was lovely and we went for a walk along it, but not before I had purchased a giant Belgian waffle with a mountain of strawberries and nutella on it, which took about 15 minutes to eat as it was so huge.
We continued our wander through various squares and around the town, until reaching a bar Bob knew of called Troll bar, which was full of Troll statues in the window, had 3 floors of seating and lots of different craft beers. We sat downstairs in the cave area, which was quite troll like and sort of reminded me of Gordon’s, but with a disappointing lack of cheese. I had an apple beer this time which was kind of odd as it was like a cross between beer and cider.
With plans for the evening in Brussels, we headed back through the increasing cold temperatures to the metro to get to the station. FYI, the toilets at the station, like many places in Europe, charge 50cents. Our train back was much quicker, taking only about 25-30 minutes.
Thoughts on Ghent
We had a lovely day exploring and it was great to go to a new city, could only have been better if the weather had been nicer so we hadn’t frozen whilst walking around. Would definitely recommend a visit here, either to stay here or hop across for a day trip like we did. The castle is definitely worth a visit, especially if you like history and/or Game of Thrones. We didn’t do a boat trip on the river as it was really cold, but those looked like they would be good, some of them even seemed to have beers on the boats which is always a bonus. There were definitely more places to go and see, and to eat at, and I look forward to returning some day!
Also later that night in Brussels we went to a bar called Le Roi des Belges that had swings in it. I know that isn’t Gent related, but I really enjoyed drinking beer on a swing and felt the need to share that fact and let you all know of its existence in case you are visiting Brussels.