The port city of Ghent, sitting in the Flemish region comfortably between Brussels and Bruges, was another convenient and endearing day trip I took, being just about a 30-minute train ride away from Brussels.
When I arrived at the main train station in Ghent, I wondered which direction to take: right, left, up, down, diagonal? (I should’ve flipped a coin every time this happened, which, funnily, was often.) But once I spotted the historical centrum sign, I followed the same sign until I arrived at my destination. It took about 30 minutes to walk there, which gave me an opportunity to explore quiet, off-the-beaten tracks and sneak a glimpse of the local way of life in the process.
Once I was greeted by the imposing monuments at the historical centre, however, I was surprised to see many travellers and tourists — even more than in Bruges. I had read that Ghent is Belgium’s best kept secret, so with that in mind, I was expecting to stumble across nary a soul, but I was wrong — the historical centrum was bustling with visitors. It sounds paradoxical and rather comical, but I guess many people are highly aware that Ghent is a gem that not many people know about.
I also noted that there were many locals, young and old, riding bikes in Ghent, which I thought was a charming sight, giving the city an idyllic feel. With my appreciation of the sight of bikes and canals, I realized that I could’ve visited Amsterdam as well, which was also just a short trip away; however, time was short and I didn’t plan my trip as efficiently as I could have. More importantly, for the time being, I had Ghent, and Ghent was all I needed.
Like Bruges, Ghent sits at the top of my list of places that I adore the most. Walking along the streets of its historical centre was a feast for my hungry eyes and inquisitive soul; I felt like I was in another world altogether, with the splendid panoramic views of medieval churches, cathedrals, castles, and merchant shops, which have been so beautifully preserved.
Ghent is also a dream place for people whose favourite mode of transportation are their two feet. I walked to and fro and in numerous circles, losing myself in my immediate surroundings; after all, the port city was big in scope, with many things to do, eat, and see. Still, time wasn’t on my side, and I regret not having had the chance to fully immerse myself in the culture of this gem of a place.