Located in the North of Belgium in the Dutch speaking region of the Flanders, Ghent has been a pleasant surprise for us both. Not that we had any particular expectation, but we truly liked this lovely city with its very laid back atmosphere.
Ghent is full of historical buildings that have been well kept considering their age. Walking in Ghent’s streets, crossing the bridges to get to the other side of the beautiful canals, there’s an atmosphere that made us feel like we were still in Medieval Ghent, the one that once was one of the richest in Europe. Ghent doesn’t require months to be seen, in a few days you can already get a good taste of how life is in the city, as was the case for us, and we have to admit that from what we saw of Belgium, Ghent has a special place in our memories and it is probably the city we loved the most.
We’ve been lucky to have met some locals from Ghent thanks to Couchsurfing and they simply reinforce our original impression of the people being very relaxed, tolerant and open minded; exactly the kind we like to hang out with. Overall we think that if you are in Belgium you should definitely stop by Ghent even if only for a couple of days. Here are some travel tips for Ghent based on a few things we did and enjoyed the most, and that we think you might enjoy too, let’s hope they turn out to be handy.
Tip #1 – Gentse Feesten
Make sure to choose the right time to visit Ghent. In fact if you are after a great time where the city turns into a massive festival where everywhere for 10 consecutive days there are performances of every kind (mostly for free), the best time to go is in July. We accidentally were in Ghent for this crazy and amazing festival and loved it so much that we strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Take our words for it and go, we are positive you won’t regret it!
Tip #2 – Sleepstreet
Whilst in Ghent we couchsurfed and learnt about two different perspectives and sides of the city, but we also decided to have a night all for ourselves and stayed in a fantastic apartment with a lovely retro design that would be a paradise for whoever loves the vintage style. We liked staying at Sleepstreet not only for its design, but also because we felt comfortable from the moment we stepped in, it was almost like being at home. We enjoyed having our own space and especially a fully equipped kitchen to make some homemade food.
Tip #3 – de Frietketel
Whilst in Ghent we were in the second week of our vegan travel challenge and we couldn’t have been in a better place for it. In fact Ghent is often known as the vegetarian capital of Belgium due to the amount of places where you can find vegetarian and sometimes vegan meals, and also for their approach to a healthy eating lifestyle.
One day we were looking for some typical and classic Belgian food to snack on and we managed to find the famous Belgian fries cooked in vegetable oil (rather than beer) and served with vegan mayo too. de Frietketel is a great place to stop by for everybody, in fact apart from some vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, it also serves dishes for omnivores. Needless to say that we were very pleased with our vegan chips – mission accomplished!
Tip #4 – Vedge
I know this might be a bit more specific, but if you are looking to buy some new shoes and you want them to be vegetarian too then there is a shop in Ghent called Vedge that might just put an end to your search. Dale almost got his new shoes from there, but unfortunately they didn’t have the right size, better luck next time! They also sell a range of vegan food products, but they’ve a fantastic range of designer clothing too. This is certainly a great travel tip for Ghent if you love to go shopping.
Tip #5 – ROA’s street art
A part from being the Belgian vegetarian capital, Ghent is also the hometown of one of my favourite street artist, ROA. One of our Couchsurfing hosts mentioned to us that there were some works ROA did and we couldn’t help but go hunting for them. We managed to find two, but there must have been even more, we aren’t sure. If you like street art – and especially this incredibly talented artist – don’t forget to look for its pieces, happy hunting!