There’s a square by the fish market in Ghent called Sint-Veerleplein, which is also known to locals as Death Square. It is where the executions used to take place. Now, each time a baby is born in one of Ghent’s three maternity wards, the streetlights in the square flicker to welcome new life into the world.
Ghent’s ability to reinvent the negative goes back centuries. This once thriving port spent a good part of the last 350 years as a ghost town, until they invested in a new industry – education. Ghent University is now one of the world’s top 100. The student population adds to the town’s laid-back vibe.
Eating & Drinking
Ghent doesn’t do early breakfasts – potentially the university’s influence. From 9ish, take a seat in Koffeine for delicious coffee, eggs, pastries and tarts. It’s impressively run by one man, so service can be a little slow. Please wait around – it’s worth it.
Du Progrès offer a tasty example of the local cuisine – steak. It comes with chips, of course and local beer. Located on one of the main squares, sit outside for a great bit of people watching too. Continue the drinks at De Dulle Griet, an old-school pub with too many beers to try in one night. If you’re exceptionally thirsty, give their 750ml glass a go. You’ll have to sacrifice one shoe for it though – a deposit scheme designed to stop people running off with the glass as a souvenir.
Cobbled streets which sprawl between imposing Gothic structures lead you to unexpected places, such as alleys of incredible street art. Graffiti was becoming a problem in Ghent, so they took the brave move of dedicating areas of the city to it. Now people fly in from all over the world to take part in the Sorry Not Sorry street art festival. Maps are available to download on their site.
Hostel Uppelink is a thousand years old and has played host to both scholars and nobility, including Erasmus and Philip II. It offers free walking tours which encompass all the significant historical sites, such as the former-brothel Marriott Hotel. Take the tour at 10:00 and you’ll pick up tips on how to spend the rest of your day.
1898 The Post
This small designer hotel opened in 2017 on the upper floors of Ghent’s old post office building. Located in the very heart of the city, the hotel offers its guests some of the best views with the striking 52-metre high clock tower adding an exquisite touch to the historical vista which includes the Belfry of Ghent, St Bavo’s Cathedral, and St. Michael’s Bridge.