A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
If one is looking for a one day escape from Leiden and looking to go a foreign city nearby then one of the best options which you would have is to go to the charming city of Ghent located in Belgium. Ghent is similar to Leiden in many respects in that it is also a quiet laidback city filled with canals not to forget it is also perhaps most importantly a student city. One does not come to Ghent for shopping in malls, for that matter in the whole of Ghent there is only one shopping mall. Instead one comes to Ghent to relax and to be in an atmosphere which can inspire you.
Ghent falls under the Flemish part of Belgium, so essentially if one knows Dutch one can get around Ghent, unlike Brussels where French is the main language. Ghent is also home to the Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festival) which is a music and theatre festival. This festival starts in July and lasts for ten days. Besides stage events there are random small street acts such as mimickers, buskers etc. The festival starts on the Saturday before July 21 (Belgium’s national holiday) and lasts ten days.
Some of the main parts to see in Ghent would include Graslei, St Bavo’s catherdral, Gravensteen and the Belfry. I was particularly impressed by the Belfry of Ghent which was completed in the year 1380. It originally had a golden dragon on top of it. The view from the top of the belfry is worth the gruelling climb to the top. The tower is about 91 metres high and the climb would take about 10 to 15 minutes at the very least.
Apart from the Belfry I was also greatly amused by some of the paintings which were placed in the Saint Bavo’s cathedral. Saint Bavo’s cathedral also has elaborate stone and marble naves inside.
Ghent also has a very fine Museum of fine arts which has on display works by artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens and James Ensor. It also has a very interesting museum by the name of Dr. Guislain Museum which was built in 1857 and houses a permanent collection that illustrates the history of psychiatry and an international collection of outsider art or art brut.
My personal favourite location in Ghent however would be the view from St Michael’s Bridge. Not in any other place in Ghent could one observe so many marvellous buildings in one glance as from this monumental bridge.
So why wait, pack your bags and head to Ghent!