A city of charming facades.
A living postcard for you to walk through–better yet, with a personal tour guide, like my friend Mallory did.
Bruges looks great–and it tastes great, too. This dark chocolate bar with peppercorns and dried red onion was one of the best I’ve ever had.
But for all the character in this city, something unpalatable remains: the horde of tourists. They’re everywhere, and they make the place feel like Disneyland.
That’s one reason why I spent almost a week in Ghent, a city halfway between Brussels and Bruges, with a unique vibe all its own. It wasn’t the first time I had been here either, and after this visit I would happily come back again. Here are my top five reasons for paying Ghent a visit:
1. Ghent has a huge music scene for such a small city. I couldn’t count the number of festivals and musical acts going on if I tried.
This was in addition to the sublime Ludovico Einaudi, who I saw previously in Belfast.
2. For 10 days in July, Ghent goes party crazy during the Gentse Feesten.
The streets are filled with music, beer stands, food stalls, and performers of every kind.
6 beers might be enough for you, but not for my friend Tom–that counts for a mild buzz and nothing more.
Pretty much from dusk til dawn there’s a guarantee of good times.
Parkkaffee used to be a private mansion with sprawling manicured grounds. Now it’s a private mansion with sprawling manicured grounds that’s open to the public. Tables surround a small pond, with shady trees providing ample room for rope swing rides. The less thrill-seeking types can lounge in hammocks.
While you sip on G&Ts you can get your fortune read. Or you can just lie back in a hammock with a beer in your hand, like I did, and read a book til you fall asleep.
4. There is art everywhere in Ghent.
You can find it stenciled on walls in grimy back alleys.
You can find it on parked cars and stationary freight trains.
You can find it sitting in the cathedral–museum worthy masterpieces in plain sight.
You can find it hanging in an asylum-turned-museum. Oh, there are still inmates there? Make sure you don’t get lost.
5. If you meet the sort of people I do, you get invited to hang out on their farm just outside Ghent.
It’s Tom’s grandparents’ farm, to be precise.
Them’s a lot of termaters.
Melda–Tom’s lovely girlfriend–is quite the . . . tart.
I can’t promise you that Tom and Melda will be able to show you around Ghent if you stop by, but I can promise you’ll see more than you would in Bruges. If you’re interested in cool places that aren’t on the beaten tourist track, take a look at Maastricht for music behind the scenes, Metz for the best soup ever, Toulouse for the coolest Sunday market, and Girona for cool Roman and Medieval history. If this is your first time here, take a look around, and subscribe for free updates from all the neato-o places I go to.