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Belgium : Ghent - September 2010

Country Code: Dial ++32 for Belgium

Ghent’s merchant past and contemporary culture make for a fascinating city. The Ghent Festival of Flanders will open this month with OdeGand, a spectacular bonfi re night (18 September, festivalgent.be). The city’s cultural houses present programmes for the upcoming season at the Kouter, and the opening of the new city museum, STAM, is imminent (opens 9 October, stamgent.be/en). Adrian Mourby is our city guide

Getting around

KORENLEI AND GRASLEI

These twin quaysides with old step-gabled warehouses face each other across the river Lei.

Sleep soundly – The Ghent Mariott (Drabstraat, tel. (0)9 233 9393, marriottghent.com, rooms from €129) is a superb harbourside conversion with a medieval façade, offering gorgeous views across the river.

Culture vultures – Design Museum Ghent (5 Jan Breydelstraat) is another surprising building, hidden behind 18th-century Flemish architecture. Inside, the museum’s rooms are decorated in the style of various Flemish design periods, from the 1600s to the present.

Must eat – Korenlei Twee (2 Korenlei, tel. (0)9 224 0073) occupies a great position on one of Ghent’s many bridges. The threecourse set lunch with local produce is excellent value, and an ideal way to round off a morning canal tour. Belga Queen (10 Graslei, tel. (0)9 280 0100) is an offshoot of Antoine Pinto’s trendy Brussels brasserie, housed in a former granary known as the ‘Spijker’. Thursday in Ghent is veggie day (Donderdag Veggiedag) when the locals steer clear of meat; you can pick up a free ‘Guide To Veggie Ghent’ at the tourist office.

Dance the night away – Having sampled the cuisine at Belga Queen, descend to the ‘Club’ beneath, which occupies the former vaults of the ‘Credit du Nord’ bank. The décor is colonial Belgian Congo, with deep leather armchairs to sink into when you tire. If you need a bit more swing in your evening, try the Hot Club de Gand (Schuddevisstraatje, 15b Groentenmarkt). It isn’t easy to find, but this jazz joint down a narrow alleyway is worth seeking out.

Shop til you drop – The Temmerman (79 Kraanlei) sweet shop has been in the same family for eight generations. Try the ‘Noses’ (hard, cherry-red triangles filled with soft jelly) or the wonderfully named ‘Nun’s Buttocks’.

SINT-BAAFSPLEIN

The gothic cathedral of St Bavo dominates the centre’s commercial district, and Sint-Baafsplein provides a welcome respite if you’re out shopping. Known as ‘De Kuip van Gent’ (the heart of Ghent), the square caters for all tastes: horse-drawn carriages for tourists, traditional smoky pubs for the locals and a Christmas market in December.

Sleep soundly – Contemporary and sleek, the NH Gent Belfort (63 Hoogpoort, tel. (0)9 233 3331, nh-hotels.com, rooms from €94) is tucked beside the town hall and within easy strolling distance of the cathedral.

Culture vultures – The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is in a side chapel of the Sint-Baafskathedraal. Painted by Jan van Eyck and his brother Hubrecht, it’s thought to be one of the religious masterpieces of Northern Europe.

Must eat – For Michelin-starred indulgence try C-Jean (3 Cataloniëstraat, tel. (0)9 223 3040); the weekday lunch menu offers two courses for €35. Alternatively t’Vosken (19 St Baafsplein, tel. (0)9 225 7361) is equally convenient, but quirkier and a good place to linger.

Must drink – Dulle Griet (50 Vrijdagmarkt) has 250 beers to sample, including some of the famous Trappist variety. Don’t miss local brew Gruut, with an ancient recipe that uses spices instead of hops.

Shop til you drop – The boutique of Eva Bos (66 Vlaanderenstraat) sells a mix of the young designer’s own work, that of her students, and vintage collectables from labels such as Chanel and YSL. For more up-to-the-minute design try Het Bijhuis (66 St Baafsplein) which stocks Alessi and Scandinavian design such as Marimekko and Kosta Boda.

Market – There’s a Ghent market to explore on most days of the week, but on a Sunday there are six to choose from, including flowers at Kouter (sometimes accompanied with live music from a brass band), the flea market in Bij St Jacobs/Beverhoutplein, second-hand books at Ajuinlei and crafts at the Groentenmarkt.



Compiled by Adrian Mourby

Previous issues for Ghent
 
   
Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy,
please confirm event/venue details in advance.

 

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