Clamoring for some that classic, pretty, medieval European city feel? There’s definitely no lack of options in Belgium, with Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges all a (cobble)stone’s throw away, but they say that Ghent is “Europe’s best-kept secret”. These tips by our Ghent locals might just give you a taste of why that is.
A gem of a library
Ghent locals are really proud of their new public library. De Krook, named after the location of the library on a “wrinkle” (“kreuk” in Dutch) of the river Scheldt, has an awesome view of Ghent’s three towers from the 3rd floor, and its bar comes with local Bennie’s stamp of approval. If you’re walking through the city centre in the evening, its illumination is worth dropping by for.
A city for night walks
Since we just mentioned Ghent by night (or light): are you a nighthawk? Then you’re in luck. After the sun sets, you’ll discover a new city. “It feels like you’re inside a fairytale”, according to local Dieter — “it really brings out the city’s medieval character”. The lighting has been specially designed to make it as atmospheric as possible, and there’s even a 2-hour-long “official” Illuminated Walk. Sounds touristy? Some things can be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike!
What better way to enjoy a Sunday morning?
Spending your Sunday morning at church might or might not be your cup of tea, but the market at Ledeberg is something else. The atmosphere is amazing — you’ll find people of all ages here. “I love to hang out with friends and a sparkling wine at the mobile wine bar talking to people I don’t know”, confesses local Bennie. Join him and discover the cheese stands, the music cassettes on sale and his favorite fruit & vegetable stand run by his favorite old lady who always calls him “little man” (never mind he’s almost 6’ 3”).
A used book café unlike any other
At Le Bal Infernal, you can bring your own book, exchange it with any of the books you see on their loaded shelves and pay a very small difference. But even if you don’t have a book with you you can buy anything that strikes your fancy or just enjoy a coffee surrounded by books. With one of the coziest interiors in the city center, local Tahnee promises “you won’t be disappointed”.
Some good, clean fun
Here’s another one of Tahnee’s quirky favorites: a café/bar inside a laundrette! This is just a guess, but you might be carrying with you a lot of dirty clothes from traveling around Europe. At Wasbar you can not only have everything washed and dried, but you can also have a Belgian beer or a coffee while you’re waiting. You can also have your breakfast here, a bagel for lunch, or a weekend brunch.
Belgium might be famous for its beer, but did you know they also make wine? Wine-producing St. Peter’s Abbey hadn’t been inhabited by monks one for a long time, but it was taken over by the “Ghent winemeasurer’s guild” in the ‘70s in order to safeguard the tradition. They don’t make a lot, but coming here for a sip after too many beers or to enjoy the vinyards and the view over the river is a very local thing to do. According to local Nick, this might as well be paradise.
A beer at the docks
No abbeys left, but the Belgians aren’t letting that stop them, of course. A bar-brewery at the city docks, more specifically Dok Noord, Dok Brewing Company should be your next stop after you’ve grown tired of Duvels and the next level in your Belgian beer training. Calling it simply a bar wouldn’t do it justice — it has 30 taps and a 1000-litre brewing tank in a fine industrial setting just next to its fridge full of bottles. Local Heather also likes their pizza made by Daniel from Florence.
An oasis in the centre
What really makes Ghent special is all the tiny corners you can find around the city that are just so inviting for hanging out in the open air. One such place is Appelbrugparkje. Even though it’s in the busy centre, not at all off the beaten path, Dieter and other locals worship it. Bring a nice book, your music or podcast, some drinks from the nearby store, sit on the grass (when the weather’s nice of course!) and enjoy the view over the water. Nothing quite like it.
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.
Header by Skitterphoto (Pixabay)
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