See the beautiful city of Ghent
Image by Flickr user Ed Webster
The many towns and cities along northern France are ideal to visit for a day trip, but a short timeframe doesn’t have to limit you to the French coast. The beautiful destination of Ghent, in Belgium, is less than two hours by car from Calais and is one of my favourite places to visit in winter.
A medieval city, Ghent is amazingly well-preserved. While exploring the city streets on foot, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairy tale, and there are more than enough sites to see to fill up a long day of adventuring. Check out my guide to the perfect day trip to Ghent.
At the heart of Ghent stands the iconic Gravensteen castle. A must-visit when in town, the castle is known for its panoramic city views (some of the best in Ghent) and fantastic armoury museum. Built in the 10th century, the castle is a hotspot for visitors to Ghent. I love all things history and culture, so it’s always great fun to check out the impressive medieval weapons and old torture devices (although the latter can be a little scary)! There are a couple of narrow staircases to climb, so keep this in mind when visiting. Gravensteen castle in Ghent.
© Flickr user Ed Webster
Museum of Fine Arts
Housed in a beautiful neoclassical building, Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts is a great place to go if you’re a culture vulture, like me, or if you simply appreciate and admire some of Europe’s finest works of art. With a number of changing exhibitions and European works dating back to the 1350s, you’re sure to find something to suit your taste, as well as classics from master artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Jan van Eyck – there’s nothing quite like seeing ‘Adoration of the Lamb’ for the first time.
When you’ve absorbed all of this new knowledge or want to start your day exploring on foot, the Patershol region is where you want to go. Ghent’s oldest quarter, the layout of Patershol’s streets haven’t changed since medieval times, and this can be felt as you wind through its many cobbled alleyways. It’s overlooked by Gravensteen castle, and is home to quaint restaurants and cafés, which are almost hidden away from street view. Don’t miss the pretty buildings in Patershol.
© Flickr user Xuanxu
Other notable sights
Saint Nicholas’ Church
A huge Roman Catholic church can be found in Ghent, with stunning 18th century statues outside, while beautiful baroque paintings can be seen inside.
Belfry of Ghent
Ghent’s Belfry was constructed between 1313 and 1380 and boasts 360-degree views of the city from the top. You can take the steep stairway or, if you’re not feeling quite up to it, you can get a lift most (but not all) of the way to the top.
Restaurants in Ghent
For many, Restaurant Vrijmoed is one of the best fine dining experiences in Ghent – and I’d be inclined to agree. I visited for dinner (which, I think, is probably the best time to go), and each dish was beautifully presented. Dine on delicious meals such as langoustine green curry, pheasant with forest mushrooms and baked scallops with miso and parsley root. Try as many of Ghent’s quaint restaurants as you can in a day
© Flickr user Franklin Heijnen
For a more casual dining option, there are other places in Ghent to enjoy a quick bite. In the heart of Patershol next to Ghent’s Belfry, you’ll find creative sandwiches and good coffee at Caffé Rosario. The prices here are reasonable and it’s a great little place to get breakfast or lunch, so be sure to pop by when you visit Ghent.
Travelling to Ghent by car takes just 1 hour 40 minutes from Calais, so it’s the ideal day trip destination.
With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you can travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35-minutes, so start planning your trip today.