Ghent’s Best Kept Secrets
Living in Ghent, I’ve noticed that the city is becoming more and more touristy with every year – even so, it still offers a more relaxing experience than other famous cities and towns in Belgium.
Ghent has SO much to offer – from its wonderful atmosphere to its history, Sunday markets and then there’s the hidden jazz cafés…
My favourite of these is the Hot Club de Gand. It’s so well hidden that you can be standing on the Groentenmarkt and not find the entrance for some time. But look closer and you’ll see a narrow side alley leads you to this little café. It has a southern feel, with a wide choice of beers, the best apple-banana juice in the city and free jazz concerts all year round. You’re in the heart of the Ghent yet this place is really a hidden gem, a great hideaway from the crowds. This is a local’s tip, most tourists don’t even know about the place. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!
There are great music festivals too – there’s the 123-piano event, when the city places a few pianos at different locations all around town. Whoever passes by can play. You can play for 5 minutes, you can play for 2 hrs…. this always creates a wonderful feel-good atmosphere, people just passing by, or stopping to listen to the music. When my family was visiting, we were listening to two young guys playing for 2 hrs straight, it was amazing.
Another good festival is the Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festival) which also takes place in the city. This music and theatre festival lasts for ten days every summer. Alongside the main stage events there are also random small street acts.
If you get the chance, you should try to visit the Castle of the Counts while in Ghent. A fun video guide walks you through the castle, sharing some history of Ghent. The castle originates from the Middle Ages and it was also used for the 2015 movie “Emperor”, starring Adrien Brody. The views over the city are breathtaking.
Whether you like history, fun events, architecture, festivals, Christmas markets, friendly locals, just strolling the streets, enjoying some waffles by the water or a boat trip on one of the canals… Ghent has everything that can make your visit wonderful and unforgettable 12 months out of 12!
How to Get to Ghent: From Charleroi Airport, take the frequent and comfortable Flibco bus service, it’s cheap and reliable and brings you to the city in an hour. Alternatively, if you’re travelling from Brussels Airport, hop on a train and you’ll be in Ghent within an hour.
Niki is a cabin supervisor at Ryanair’s Brussels Zaventem base