An Afternoon in Ghent

We had a quiet morning this morning. The rain and grey skies of yesterday had disappeared, and we wandered the streets of Bruges while seeking out breakfast.

Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges
Sint-Janshospitaal in Bruges

We then headed to Sint-Janshospitaal, one of the four early hospitals in Bruges where the poor and the sick would come to receive medical treatment and have the nuns who ran the hospital pray for them. Medical knowledge was limited prior to the sixteenth century, and barbers would often be brought in to help patch up people! Within the hospital museum were old records, books, religious paintings and relics, and medical implements that looked really painful to be on the receiving end of!

Afterwards, we made our way to the train station and caught the train to Ghent, which is only a half hour away from Bruges. I have to admit that our real reason for going to Ghent was because it was where the fictional character Rodmilla de Ghent, the evil stepmother to Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella in the movie Ever After, came from.

From the train station, Ghent looks bigger and a lot more modern than the picture perfect Bruges. It took us half an hour to walk from the train station to Ghent’s old quarter, but we slowly saw the tessellated façades of the older buildings.

We made a beeline for Gravensteen Castle, which was once owned by the Counts of Flanders. It was a large castle with rooms displaying enough suits of armor, weaponry and torture devices to keep Ryan entertained (one of the swords was taller than him!) and enough history and ambience to please me. The views over Ghent from the top of the keep and the castle walls were worth the entry itself (although restoration works were being carried out while we were there, to fix part of the fortress which had become dilapidated).

Gravensteen Castle in Ghent
Gravensteen Castle in Ghent

Once Ryan had pulled me away from the castle, we had a cheap and cheerful lunch at Hema, before spending the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets of Ghent, taking in the gorgeous sights of the houses along the canal, and visiting the Belfry and Cloth Guild, and Saint Nicholas’s Church, Saint Jacob’s Church and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, where the altarpiece of the Mystic Lamb is kept.

The weather was far nicer to us today, with mostly clear skies but chilly with a maximum of 12 degrees Celsius! At times during the day, I regretted leaving my gloves back at the hotel!

Ghent was easy to do as a day trip from Bruges. The Old Town was really pretty and it is off of the tourist path, away from the tour groups who frequent Brussels and Bruges.

We caught the train back to Bruges just as it was getting dark – at 5pm, and settled down for our last night in Belgium.

What you need to know:

  • Gravensteen Castle: Entrance to Gravensteen Castle costs 10 Euros per person for a self-guided tour that lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours
  • The train from Bruges to Gent-Sint-Pieter train station takes about thirty minutes. A round trip ticket can be purchased for around 16 Euros. If you’re not keen on walking to the old part of Ghent, there are frequent trams which run from the train station to the Grote Markt and Gravensteen Castle.