The best way to see Ghent, Belgium is on foot and so there I was; following Mark, a local tour guide hired by AmaWaterways to guide a group of cruise passengers through the streets of this beautiful medieval city.
It’s obvious from the start of the tour that this was a powerful center of business and trade with its beautiful gothic public buildings, towering churches, and well-kept homes and businesses. One of Belgium’s oldest cities, Ghent dates back to the 7th century.
It was in the Middle Ages that Ghent became one of Europe’s wealthiest towns with the cloth industry. By the 13th century the city had become a major wool-producing center. But, with prosperity came conflict between economic and state powers including the Hundred Years’ War and rebellions against the Duke of Burgundy. The city witnessed a revival in the 1800s when a port was opened and machinery was added to the factories.
Today, connected with the North Sea by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, Ghent is a major port and the chief textile and banking center of Belgium. Ghent is also a popular tourist destination—from its medieval architecture to the boat rides offered on the Leie River. It’s a feast for the eyes and a breath of fresh air for the soul.
The skyline includes the Gravensteen castle built in 1180, Saint Bavo Cathedral consecrated in 942 and continuously added to until its completion in 1569, Saint-Jacob's church built in the 15th century, Saint-Nicolas’ Church built in the 13th century, Saint Michael’s Church from the 12th century and many other beautiful churches. Each with their own unique beauty.
Flemish painting flourished in Ghent in the 15th century. Hugo van der Goes worked here most of his life, and the world-famous masterpiece of the Van Eyck brothers, The Adoration of the Lamb, is in the Cathedral of St. Bavo. The cathedral also contains a noted Rubens painting.
Everywhere interesting architectural detail can be seen whether it’s on the local fish market or modest homes. The city has a charm and a pace that are perfect for meandering through the narrow streets, along the river and past ornate buildings.
If you go:
- To learn about Ghent’s many historic attractions and other practical information: www.inyourpocket.com/Belgium/Ghent.
- AmaWaterways features river cruises in Europe, Africa and Asia. Complimentary small group excursions are offered daily with knowledgeable guides and state-of-the art headsets. For more information: www.amawaterways.com.
A few more images of beautiful Ghent follow: