THE DRAGON TOWER
Have you seen some of those fictional films where the soldiers guarding the castles get attacked by flying dragons? Well, here, fiction could almost become a reality when you reach the top of the bell tower of Ghent. You will also get to see a dragon, the symbol of Ghent, apart from being able to enjoy some of the best views of this medieval city. The Belltower of Ghent is called Beffroi in French and Belfort in Dutch.This tower is one of the three most remarkable towers in this marvellous city. This 91-metre-tall tower had different functions throughout history. Its bells marked the passage of time for ages, warned the citizens about the arrival of enemies (or dragons) and served as a warehouse for the city’s goods, which some of these fantastic little creatures are so fond of.
Its construction began in 1313, during the medieval period, when European cities used to show off their economic and military might with the construction of tall buildings, in the Gothic age. Its plans drawn by Jan van Haelst are still preserved to this day. The golden dragon arrived from Bruges in 1377, and by 1380 the tower was completed, with a temporary wooden structure at the top above the four lower stone floors. A neo-gothic cast-iron arrow by Louis Roelandt was installed in 1851. And in 1911 it was replaced by the present structure built by the architect Van Wijck.
The main bell is named after Roland, an almost life-like character for the Belgians, as it signalled the arrival of enemies or the victories of the local armies. When Emperor Charles V retook the city in the 16th century, he ordered its destruction in retaliation. Roland also appears in the city’s hymn. “Triumphant” the bellthat replaced Roland can be found at Braun Platz. It was again replaced in 1938 by another six-ton bell. It is not the only one; 45 smaller bells have been added, and they can be played using a keyboard.
At the foot of the tower is a rectangular hall that served as a textile market, Ghent’s economic backbone in the past. It was built between 1425 and 1445. The textile trade decline meant that it was later used for other purposes such as a fencing school, a guardhouse, 1741, the Mammelokker or a jailer’s house.
You can buy the tickets online on the GANDANTE website or write to firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone 0032 (0)9/375.31.65
They cost 8 euros, are free for children under 12, and reduced for those over 65 and students. Bell concerts are held at times depending on the time of the year.
Sint-Baafsplein, 9000 Ghent
FLEMISH CUISINE AND THE MOST AUTHENTIC DISH FROM THE CITY OF GHENT
This is a genuinely Ghentse dish, something that was invented in this Flemish city.Waterzooi is very typically Ghentse although it is eaten all over the north of the country, it was born here. Despite its name, which sounds like the title of a thriller movie, waterzooi is a stewed dish, and that’s what it literally means in Dutch: a mixture of stewed fish. Zooien means boiling. It is also known as “Gentse waterzooi” (Ghent’s Waterzooi).
Waterzooi was originally cooked in a casserole for hours, made with river fish such as eel or sea fish, although you can also try it with chicken today. In that case, it would be called Kippen Waterzooi.
Originally, it was made with the unsold fish and seafood or with the fish that the locals caught from one of the city’s two rivers. Like most local dishes, it was initially a common dish. But, restrictions on free fishing made it a dish reserved only for special occasions, giving birth to a modern version made with chicken that is very popular today. Some sources say that the fish disappeared from the rivers Lys and Escalda because of water pollution.It is a simple but delicious dish, 100% Flemish that originated in Ghent. It is served with vegetables such as carrots, leeks, celery and potatoes, and herbs, egg, cream and butter.
Let’s take a look at the waterzooi recipe with fish and seafood:We’ll need about four salmon pieces weighing 30 grams each and a similar amount of cod and brill. We also bought about 200 grams of shrimp. Toss the fish into the casserole, reserving skin and head for the broth, and cover it with water. Add 10 grams of crushed pepper and a sprig of chopped parsley. Add salt and bring to the boil, removing any foam and cook for an hour. Put some clean mussels in a frying pan with a little water until they open, remove the shell and put them aside along with its stock.
Pour a cup of mussel stock and mix it with fish stock. Add some butter to a pan along with two onions, three leeks (only the white part) and a couple of stalks of celery, all chopped up, and cook over low heat, adding the fish and broth. Cook for a little less than an hour. Crush a few sprigs of parsley in a bowl, add about 125 grams of milk while stirring, add two whole lemons juiced and some butter, plus a spoonful of starch dissolved in a glass of white wine.
Mix the sauce with a spoonful of the broth and put everything on the waterzooi, moving the pan to spread it out well.Add the well-drained mussels, check the seasoning and serve hot.
Tip: There are many places to try it in the city, here is one:
Address: Sint-Veerleplein 10 (next to the castle square)
SHOPPING IN CÔTÉ CULTURE
Ghent has the largest pedestrian shopping area in Belgium, so you’ll always be able to find what you’re looking for, but we’re going to show you a beautiful shopping district, Côté Culture, the castle quarter and the oldest and most traditional part of the city.It is a historic district in the centre with excellent views of the Counts of Flanders’ castle. This neighbourhood joins the streets of Oudburg, Kraanlei and Sleepstraat, with an authentic and hospitable character, you will not only see locals from Ghent, but you will find a multicultural world that will welcome you at every corner, hence its name. What is relevant for this section is that you can find shops and articles of all kinds nearby, from gastronomic to the best brands of clothing and design in a small densely packed area.
On the Sint-Veerleplein square, you can enjoy tasty regional dishes in first-class restaurants and small, simple taverns. It is the oldest quarter of the city but still full of life. In the medieval lanes of Patershol, you’ll find fashionable shops and stylish designer goods, trendy cocktail bars and gastronomy from top chefs. Some of the neighbourhood’s famous bars serve the local favourite fried savoury peas or Kroakemandels during local festivals. Close to the castle, a shop founded in 1867 sells the famous Tierenteyn mustard, which is more than 200 years old. Mustard, produced since 1790, is pumped from the basement of the shop to a barrel in the shop. The saleswomen will fill your jar with the amount you want. This product would make an authentic souvenir or gift. There are also vendors selling cuberdon, dubbed ‘little noses’, sweets filled with raspberry syrup, in front of the shop.
Another typical item is the Roomer liqueur, a handmade liqueur made from elderflower that can be drunk as an aperitif or accompany desserts. Among this endless number of traditional shops, luxury shops, and street stalls, an old house from 1624 at 27 Kraanlei Street reflects the city’s typical architecture. Groot Veenhuis is the Old Meat Exchange built in the 15th century, replacing the one from 1332. Today it is an indoor market where you can find all sorts of typical local food. Another interesting detail to point out will be the Ganda hams hanging from the old market ceiling.
Côté Culture is undoubtedly the most attractive district of Ghent, not only for shopping but also for entertainment, and you can always enjoy the view of the Castle of the Counts from this area.
Information: This quarter is around the Castle of the Counts of Flanders, called Gravensteen in Dutch.
Address: Sint-Veerleplein 11.
TAKE THE BEST PHOTOS ROUND THE CLOCK!
Whether you are visiting Ghent, by day, or by night, I want to recommend a wonderful place to take photos. You cannot miss these beautiful views from the Grasbrug Bridge, a very poetic place where commercial ships have been arriving since the 11th century to load and unload their products, or from the nearby St. Michael’s Bridge. Many photography teachers visit these bridges at night with their students and triodes to capture these well-lit scenes.
On a clear and windless night, as all the buildings on either side of the bridges, illuminated, cast their light on the water. Less wind, less choppy river water results in better pictures. The reflection of these medieval and modern buildings over water makes it the right place for beautiful photos. St. Michael’s Bridge offers impressive views of the three main towers of the city, St. Nicholas, Belfort and St. Bavon Cathedral, with St. Michael’s church in the background.
Some of the most striking and beautiful views are offered by the houses overlooking the river Lys. Both from the Graslei quay, by the towers’ side, and from the Korenlei quay on the opposite side. The facades of the houses reflect history dating back to medieval times.
The Cooremetershuis, for example, is where the grain measurer used to do his trade, or the guild house of the Free Sailors (Gildehuis van de Vrije Schippers) where much has been invested throughout history, or finally, the staggered Grain House, which has existed since the 13th century.
Beautiful by day, delightful by night. An unforgettable sightseeing experience.
Information: Grasbrug Bridge between Graslei and Korenlei.
St. Michael´s Bridge (Sint Michielsbrug) Sint Michiel Schelling.
THE CASTLE OF THE COUNTS OF FLANDERS
Despite being a historically important 12th-century medieval castle, located in the city centre, it goes unnoticed by many average tourists visiting Ghent. Many don’t go beyond the church of St. Nicholas. If you keep craving for more views after climbing the Belfort tower,you can visit the castle’s inside for an entrance fee. While not as high as the Belfort tower, you can climb to the top of this castle and have magnificent views.
If you prefer not to pay the entrance fee and see it from the outside, you won’t be disappointed. It is a beautiful castle that is not very big and has all the properties that a medieval castle should have. If you want to tour the castle’s interior, we recommend using the audio-guide included with your ticket. The tourist office of Ghent developed this audio-guide that narrates the history of the castle in 13 episodes. Accompanied by beautiful maidens, the medieval knights and the cries of the condemned prisoners locked-up inside, and the two important characters from the castle’s history, Chrétien de Troyes and Simon Safir will transport you to the past to experience the life, customs and habits from the 11th century, with a romantic backdrop. In the end, it will be the TV characters who will bring the castle back to life.
To visit it from the outside, we recommend viewing it from the Reque Langestraat bridge, from where you will get to watch the castle with its reflection over the water. To get a different perspective, continue to Gelmunt because the light reflected on its walls, towers, and battlements can differ depending on where we are. This will always influence our photos and memories.
The castle of the Counts of Flanders is called Graveensten in Flemish. It is unique in Flanders as its defence system is almost intact.
Information: Sint-Veerleplein 11
The price is 10 euros for adults, including the audio guide. Young people from 19 to 26 years old only pay 6 euros, free for those under 19.
GRAFFITI STREETS AND STREET ART
Shall we do something different? Shall we leave the great historical monuments and go in search of street art on Graffiti Street? Let’s go!
A lively city can be distinguished by its history and remarkable monuments and its street art. Ghent is a modern city and a monumental and historic city at the same time. Above all, it is a city that is very lively to this day. Not only can it be proud of its ancient past and its great high towers, its castles and medieval houses, it is also a dynamic city that offers this freshness in many different areas. For example, in the Werregarenstraatje, an open-air canvas for the street artists who work there almost every day.
On this street, street artists unlock their creativeness and express with spray paint and bright colours. It is also an ever-changing street, very much alive for its own sake, as graffiti is continually superimposed. An unwritten law forbids the destruction or modification of certain veteran Grafitti artists’ works or drawing on top of them unless you can create something better than the current one; a very ambiguous law that is dependent on the level of conscientious of each artist.
As mentioned earlier, this street is not the only one dedicated to street art if you like street art, you can get your hands on a very different map. The “Sorry not sorry street art” offers various routes on foot or by bicycle. Do you fancy exploring the best works of street art in Ghent? Don’t hesitate; if you like innovative and lively street art, the Ghent Graffiti Routes are waiting for you.
Werregarenstraatje is two blocks from the iconic city hall building and three blocks from the two main market squares, the Korenmarkt and the Groentenmarkt.
You can find the map at newsstands, bookshops, alternative bars or on the internet.
Have a nice walk to explore and experience what only a few others will ever get to see!
THE DARKEST SECRETS OF GHENT’S OLDEST AND SMALLEST PUB
At the end of the Groetenmarkt, the former vegetable market, next to the former meat market, is Ghent’s smallest café-pub, the t’Galgenhuis. However, it can also boast for being the oldest in the city, having been a café since 1776. Just 20 people can fit inside, but many more can be seated on the outdoor terrace, ideal for a drink when the weather is fine.
However, heaters are usually set up to warm the tables during cold weather, and blankets are placed over the chairs, for those who hate cold weather.
This small pub also has two cellars which can hold many more people than in the pub itself. In the old days, the present pub was the town’s waste meat market, i.e., the only place that the poor could afford to buy meat from, where they sold animal entrails and offals. These were the items that could not be sold in the neighbouring meat market for hygienic reasons. However, “the little house of the gallows”, refers to something gloomier, reminding us of the condemned men and women who waited there for the execution of their sentences.
These sentences were carried out in public. Above this pub, you can see a metal structure on its façade that was used to exhibit the condemned before their execution. The crowd showered them with tomatoes, eggs and other rubbish before taken to the square where the local authorities finally executed them amidst great shouting and an enraged public.
Open daily from 10 am to 1 am. It is at Groentenmarkt 5, the former vegetable market and public execution square.
THE OLD GHENT MARKETS WHICH ARE NOW THE NEW ONES. ROUTE THROUGH THE CITY’S HISTORIC MARKETPLACES
The best way to get to know a city is to walk around it. Once you have seen the main monuments and have taken some great photos of the most remarkable, beautiful and monumental places, we recommend you stroll through the historic centre where you can experience a more local Ghent. Around its bustling streets, squares as well in its markets, you can experience the city’s real and day to day life as the locals live it. Besides, away from the main attractions full of tourists, you can mingle with the locals and go unnoticed as long as your clothes are not too “touristy”.
From the Belfort we cross the Emile Braunplein square and taking the Klein Turkije street that leaves the gothic church of St. Nicholas on the left, we will arrive at the Korenmarkt square so full of life. Klein Turkije itself is very lively. The square is the most vibrant in Ghent and in addition to the beauty of the historic Gothic and Renaissance buildings surrounding it, it is full of restaurants and cafés where you can drop-in for a drink. All the adjoining streets are bustling with life. Its name refers to its former use as a grain market, especially wheat. Nearby is the Groentenmarkt, where the vegetable market used to be held, and now on weekends, there is a market for handicrafts and organic products. The meat market building is also located here, and there are several gastronomic shops.
Passing the Kleine Vismarkt bridge, we would arrive at the old fish market, learn more about the city, and see the Neptune Gate, the sea god with a female figure representing the river Lys a male figure representing the Scheldt. The Castle of the Counts of Ghent is located nearby as well. And from there we could return along the river Lys to the bridge of St. Michael, passing by the oldest houses of the city, and from there to the Belford again, the tower that we will keep seeing at a distance as we reach the bridge and as long as we continue along the street of St.
Michael and the street of Catalonia. There is no way of getting lost, as the omnipresent towers will guide us. This route can be done in both directions to visit some of the points of interests mentioned above.
A STOP AT ONE OF RIVER LYS’S BANKS
The river Lys is one of the two rivers that cross the city along with the Scheldt. Even though the Lys is the smaller of the two, it is the most picturesque of the two as it flows through the city’s historic centre. It would have so many things to tell us if it could talk to us about its past.
Well, its banks have perfect places to relax; its cafés. Whether you sit on a terrace on the Graslei or Korenlei side, you can enjoy a quiet and traffic-free environment, with unbeatable views of buildings dating back to the Middle Ages. From your table, quietly sipping a coffee or one of the famous Belgian beers, you can watch the small boats pass by on the river and enjoy the tranquillity.
The river Lys is nicknamed the “River of Gold”, or “Gouden Rivier” in Flemish, a name derived from the ancient industry and linen cloth manufacturing. The river waters are rich in lime, making them ideal for retting, which is nothing more than immersing these plants’ stems in water to ferment, which gives it a golden colour. Besides, the wealth that the fabrics trade brought explains why they called it the river of gold. The river has also served as an unlimited source of inspiration for painters and other artists.
You can also take a short cruise on the river which will take you along its course through the city of Ghent and the small villages nearby where you will be able to enjoy the beautiful views, the gentle sound of the water as the boats pass by and the tranquil ambience.
A stop is recommended at one of the cafés by the riverside which is a good resting point if you are coming from the cathedral area, leaving the Belfort tower and the impressive church of San Nicolás behind. Just past the Post Office building and opposite the church of San Miguel.
A perfect place to rest if you want to and then move on to the area of the Castle of the Counts of Flanders and continue enjoying this beautiful Flemish city.
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