We fell in love with Ghent almost immediately. Walking along the Leie river bank, we were in awe of the beautifully intricate building facades across the river. This was our third trip to Belgium and by far the best. Maybe it wasn’t just that Ghent is the most beautiful, well preserved and restored towns we have seen. Perhaps it was also because we brought my 15-year old cousin. Introducing a teenager the things you love about Europe gives one an entirely new appreciation for the little things people take for granted after living here for a bit.
Explaining why dinner can take three hours and why that’s a good thing, for example, reminded us that we love the experience of dinner in Europe. Not only was the traditional Flemish food wonderful in Ghent but every one of the Belgian beers we tried was amazing. The real reason we love dinner in Europe is the experience of just enjoying the company and atmosphere and Ghent sure has atmosphere.
We sat on the terrace at the Bierhuis, which serves up 150 different beers and enjoyed the beautiful weather and each other for a few hours after a river boat tour and before shopping for Easter chocolates.
The river boat tour guide explained that Ghent is often called the Medieval Manhattan. We thought it fit perfectly and since Ryan proposed in the actual Manhattan, we found it particularly sweet. We were passing the buildings below when the guide told us about the city’s nickname and after seeing this and the rest of the amazing skylines, we understood.
Ghent it often compared to nearby Brugge. We found ourselves doing the same. While we loved Brugge, Ghent has more to offer. It is obvious that as Ghent’s flourishing textile industry has given the city more character over the years. Brugge now survives on tourism with a lace or chocolate shop literally on every corner (not that we didn’t do our fair share of sampling & we certainly are not complaining). In contrast, Ghent is a larger city with bustling businesses and industry. There were many locals out in restaurants and bars. The night life was also vastly different in Ghent than that of Brugge, which was sort of non-existent.
Maybe the weather drew more people out than usual because it was an exceptionally beautiful weekend but one thing is for sure, the outdoor seating at every restaurant in town was completely full. After dinner, it seemed as if everyone in town was out sitting by the river or walking through the tiny cobblestone streets.