I first heard of Ghent when I was reading about Ghent Altarpiece and Jan van Eyck, second time I've heard about Ghent when my sister told me she is moving there.
I was lucky enough to visit Ghent 4 times in the last 3 years and had excellent tour guides (my sister and her Ghentian boyfriend).
Ghent is one of the largest cities in Belgium (Flemish Region) and it is also the cutest (obviously my subjective opinion). Around 10-15 years ago it wasn't one the tourist map but now it's called a hidden gem. And it is a gem indeed but not so hidden anymore.
In July the city is at it's busiest as they are hosting Ghent Jazz Festival. There are a lot of universities, art schools and Conservatorium, so lots of students and art which adds to a really nice atmosphere. Apparently it's the only European city with a socialist mayor and residents are super happy (it seems) about the way and quality of life. It's big enough to have all the fantastic things like music scene, art, concerts, exhibitions, places to eat and drink but also it's small enough to be affordable, the town has it's own herd of sheep which roam freely by the canals, central Ghent is accessible only by public transport and bikes (so no traffic jams, no parked cars in awkward places).
Ghent has such wonderful atmosphere, it's stunning, beautiful old buildings by the canals, after every turn you can find a postcard worthy view, everything is a little slower, no one is rushing anywhere, people stroll and cycle leisurely, drink coffee, beer, talk, it feels that the city is for people to enjoy life and the city itself. It's big enough that after visiting it 4 times I feel like I just started exploring the place and would love to come back and see more. People are kind and lovely. Here are some of the things to do in Ghent.
St. Bavo's Cathedral (yes, you guessed it. To see Adoration of the Mystic Lamb // Ghent Altarpiece! The Cathedral is so beautiful inside too, absolutely a must visit).
S.M.A.K Municipal Museum of Modern Art
Huis Van Alijn Museum of things that (n)ever pass (it is adorable museum and I really enjoyed visiting it)
Explore Patershol area (so so so beautiful, full of beautiful tiny houses, nooks and crannies)
Take a boat tour, the city looks even cuter from the boat
Cycle around. Ghent is a cyclist paradise. You can cycle along the canals or around the city.
Definitely eat some waffles (c'mon, I had to say it, right?!)
Try Ghent Noses (sweets which are sold on a square by the Castle). Ghent noses are a local delicacy, super sweet sweets. ;) They are sold by two vendors (in adorable green carts) and some time ago the rivalry peaked over who's noses were better or who could be in a slightly better spot ended up in an actual fight and it's the funniest story (I've heard it from Warre, my sisters boyfriend, and as I was googling to confirm the details came across this little video, it's so sweet!)
Try some beer (Belgian beer is delicious and selection is enormous)
Have some fries 🍟
Moor&Moor - excellent coffee, adorable shop, yummy food
Full Circle ☕️
Barrazza 🍻 has seating by the canal and some tables inside (with the same wonderful view) and fairy lights (one of the loveliest spots for an evening drink)
't Gouden Mandeke 🍻 by the canal if the weather is fab, or inside if less so.
I must say that if you are after a view and a drink, Ghent has so many beautiful places, I'm sure you'll stumble upon many of them.
Balls & Glory 🍝 meatballs & veggie alternatives
Souplounge cheap and soup (soup! :)
Uncle Babe's if a 🍔 is your thing
Eat some fries (🍟 THEY ARE THE MOST DELICIOUS FRIES//CHIPS IN THE WORLD, OK?!)
All the flea markets
Koperhuis one of the cutest interior design shops I've visited (next to Huis van Alijn) and just across the canal of Barrazza
Dille & Kamille small chain of kitchen (and some household) goods, must visit, the cutest, I dare you to leave the shop without buying anything
Ydee Design Shop very cute design shop, next door to the Art Supplies store, Moor&Moor, Balls & Glory and Dille and Kamille.
Last but not least is bij' De Vieze Gasten is a community cultural centre (please correct me if I'm wrong). The cutest little cafe with delicious food, beautiful yard with trees and mosaic, concerts and THE MOST AMAZING THRIFTSHOP! Don't get me started on it. Furniture, books, kitchenware, clothing, everyyything! I left with three scarves and a handmade skirt for €4, my sister left with a dress, skirt, couple of shirts, cardigan and a creamer for €15 (geometric, colour, bold, cheap!). I would highly recommend stopping by if you are at least into one of these things.
Sleepstreet (one day I'll stay here, for sure! Just look how adorable this place is!)
And while you are enjoying your time in Ghent or dreaming of enjoying time in Ghent, full of beer and fries, watch this wonderful BBC documentary The High Art of the Low Countries
Enjoy your trip! ;)