The Low-Key Magic of Ghent, Belgium

Ghent at night. Photo by Nicole Horowitz
Ghent at night. Photo by Nicole Horowitz

Locals in Ghent, Belgium

People in Ghent are incredibly friendly, and speak an absurd amount of English. Where in other places one might feel a bit out of place waltzing up to a counter with a shy “do you speak English?” Ghentians were more than okay with a jovial “hello!” and often offer it up themselves. I got the distinct feeling that it’s a place that has not yet been overrun with tourists, despite the often ostentatiously beautiful canals and gothic style architecture colluding to make it an incredibly attractive tourist destination.

I ended up spending the majority of my time strolling up and along the harbor, admiring the old buildings, visiting old refurbished meat and fish markets, as well as climbing the 390 stairs of the Belfry to look at the beautiful old St. Niklaas cathedral.

I snacked on regional raspberry candy called Cuberdons (Nozen, or “noses” in Dutch), and ate some good vegetarian food (Ghent boasts the most vegetarians per capita in Europe!). I wandered into an old market turned upscale shopping center called De Post, lunched on artisan hipster Pizza at Ottomat, and repeatedly gawked at Wasbar, a brunch place where you can actually do your laundry while you eat.

I spent my last evening at the Hot Club, a bar popular amongst all ages and known for live music on the weekend, sipping a hot cider and admiring the eclectic mix around me: of people, of languages, of smiling faces peering behind drinks in all colors. And as far as Western Europe goes, I can say that there’s been no better surprise to me than the low-key magic of Ghent, (whichever way you spell it).

Beautiful Ghent Canals. Photo by Nicole Horowitz
Beautiful Ghent Canals. Photo by Nicole Horowitz

If You Go to Ghent:

The best seasons to visit Ghent (Gent) are early summer to early fall, as temperatures can get quite cold in the wintertime and it can be rainy in the spring. If coming from Brussels, train tickets can be purchased from Brussels, same day at Brussels South station for only 7 euros. The trip lasts approximately one hour and a half.

General information about visiting Ghent can be found here:

I particularly recommend visiting St. Nikolaas’ church (, Checking out Ghent’s fish market ( and snacking on some local Cuberdons (

Author Bio: Nicole Horowitz is a travel writer originally from Orange County, California. After graduating from New York University, and spending some time in Los Angeles, Nicole got on the road to pursue her dream of traveling the world and writing about it along the way. She has been published in Forth Magazine, The Penny Hoarder and NYU’s Baedeker Magazine. Her favorite things to write about are budget travel and city living. She currently lives in Madrid, Spain.