Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels) to Gent St Pieters (Ghent)
Travel Time: 30 minutes
My last day trip in Belgium before heading back to Amsterdam was spent visiting Ghent and Bruges. Most people tend to visit only Bruges but I figured I could squeeze in another town to enjoy with Bruges. Ghent is a city with most of its medieval architecture wholly intact, which gives it the quaint, historical feel.
BREAKFAST IN GHENT:
Kraanlei 13, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Reservations can be made here
I actually made reservations for breakfast at this super cute breakfast house called Julie’s House. You can get choose between a variety of different breakfasts. I ordered the Sweet and Salty Breakfast (€15,50) and a gestreken mastel, which is a traditional flemish pastry with cinnamon and brown sugar. I learned that in Ghent, and other regions of East Flanders, these mastellen are a staple and are basically a bagel.
DID YOU KNOW?
Traditionally, they were thought to be immunized against rabies since every day, batches of mastellen were blessed during morning Mass.
After breakfast, I walked over to Graslei and Korenlei, a medieval port that has a unique row of historical buildings reflected in the long river where you can also see Sint-Niklaaskerk (St. Nicholas’ Church). It’s a really nice walk along the river and you can also go inside the church to view Baroque paintings and confessionals of various eras.
I didn’t go inside the church because I wanted to make time to go up the Belfry at Het Belfort van Gent. The Belfry is the proudest symbol of the city’s independence and is in the middle of the renowned three-tower row. You get to see the entire city up in the tower and the best view of Saint Bavo’s Cathedral! Saint Bavo’s Cathedral houses the famous Van Eyck painting “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” but you need to purchase a separate ticket to view it (entrance to the Cathedral, however, is free). Known as the world’s most coveted masterpiece, this unique altarpiece is a highlight of the Flemish Primitives and a milestone in art history, eventually requisitioned by Nazi Germany during World War II. It has now been recovered and hanging in the Cathedral, even though one of the panels is a reproduction since it was stolen in 1934.
Belfry Entrance Fee: €8
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Ticket Price: €4
Another famous church in Ghent is St. Michielskerk (St. Michael’s Church) which also houses amazing artwork and sculptures. To get there you cross over St. Michael’s Bridge which is incredibly picturesque. I did manage to also see the outside of Gravasteen Castle, which is a preserved 10th-century moated castle with panoramic city views, but I didn’t have time to go inside because I wanted to stop by a bakery to pick up a tarte before heading over to Bruges. I highly recommend going to both the bridge and the castle.
Les Tartes de Françoise is known for their sweet and savory tarts. I ordered their “Wittehasstaart speculoos” which is a speculoos white cheesecake!
OTHER TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- Patershol: A really cute village within Ghent that has a labyrinth of cobblestoned narrow streets and filled with local bars and restaurants (caters more towards locals)
- ‘Klokhuys: A restaurant famous for waterzooi (a creamy fish stew using eggs and butter)
- Cafe Labath: Good for coffee
Gent St Pieters (Ghent) to Brugge (Bruges)
Travel Time: 27 minutes
I picked up my cheesecake and took the train to Bruges. Bruges is the capital and largest city of West Flanders and sometimes considered the “Venice of the North” due to its many canals. I’ve always wanted to visit Bruges since that film “In Bruges” and it did not disappoint! I highly recommend taking the boat tour of Bruges (you can also get amazing photos of the city from underneath the bridges). It’s only 30 minutes long and pretty cheap and for those who love photography, it’s totally worth the price.
Boat Tour in Bruges: €8
Duration: 30 minutes
Bruges is famous for chocolate, Brugse kletskoppen (a specialty of Bruges where when the biscuits come out of the oven, they look like polished bubbles), and lace. Of course I went straight to shopping for chocolates and went to various stores around town. Chocolatier Dumon, The Chocolate Line, Leonidas, and Olivier’s Chocolate Shop & Bar are some of the well-known shops in the area. I didn’t go to Leonidas since it was more of a mass-marketed brand but the other three were really great and I ended up buying a few more boxes of chocolate despite already stocking up on them back in Brussels.
Another activity a lot of tourists tend to take part in is visiting the Frietmuseum, which is quite literally a museum for fries. They teach you about the history of potatoes and Belgian fries. Tickets are €7 and the museum closes by 17:00.
Instead of the Frietmuseum, I went to the Markt and queued up for the Belfort. There is a long line if you get there later in the afternoon and the average wait time was about 45 minutes. I know I mention belfries a lot and I’ve climbed up probably 7 or 8 of them in the four days I was in Belgium but each of them have such an interesting history! After all, the belfry of Bruges is over 7 centuries old! It was rebuilt after it burned down in 1280 and a carillon was installed in the 1600s and houses 47 melodious bells. The views of the city are also amazing.
Belfort Entrance Fee: €10
Also, Chez Albert has the best waffles ever! It’s a literal hole-in-the-wall but they have the best waffles I’ve ever had in Belgium. Their Liège waffle, called Luikse in Dutch, with fresh strawberries and “slagroom” (whipped cream) was only €3,50 and so amazing! I’ve never had strawberries that sweet or melt-in-your-mouth soft before! They also stick a mini Belgium flag into the whipped cream which I thought was pretty adorable.
There is also a Beer Museum in the main market square that has a terrace where you can get a good view of the square. I ended up there because I really needed to use the bathroom and then I found out people were just chilling by the terrace drinking beer so I went and snuck in a quick photo before heading back to Brussels to take the train back to Amsterdam.
I have one last tip before I end my post of Belgium. If you are the type that needs to use the bathroom frequently, carry around coins because you need to pay to use the restrooms in Europe. They are all well-maintained and usually cost $0.50. I didn’t have the right coins on me at the Beer Museum (sometimes they only take the 50-cent euro coin) and had to hop the turnstyle because I was that desperate but definitely make sure to have some coins on you.