Day Trip to Ghent from Bruges

posted November 30, 2007 by Holly Hayes part of trip: UK + Western Europe 2010

View over Ghent

I'm very sorry for the delay between posts. I've been a slacker, but it sure has been nice to spend the evenings relaxing in front of the TV and then going straight to bed!

We realized today that this is the longest we've ever been on the road, and we are so ready to be settled in our new home in Germany. Sightseeing is wonderful and we're very thankful to be able to do so much of it, but it will be nice to keep it to a few days a week once we live here! We still can't believe we'll be living on the Continent soon.

Anyhoo, on Wednesday we took a day trip to Ghent, which is just over a half hour east of Bruges. David decided to drive instead of take the train and it went very well. He is getting used to the wrong-side (or right-side) thing and the roads have been even better than expected - most of them very wide and smooth. And most importantly, they have been far more empty than expected! This is especially surprising given that our guidebook says Belgium is the second-most densely populated country in Europe and the drivers are aggressive.

Ghent was very nice and we have difficulty deciding whether we like it or Bruges better. They are similar in many ways - about the same size, with cobblestone streets, multiple large churches, and canals throughout the city. But Ghent seemed to be more lively than Bruges, less touristy (we seemed to be almost the only ones there!), and had many more shops. Sadly the weather was so cold and so grey that all our outdoor pictures are pretty lame, so this is just a small selection of the highlights.


A canal in Ghent

Our first stop was Sint-Baafskathedraal (St. Bavo's Cathedral), which is 14th-century Gothic with an older Romanesque crypt underneath. Photos were not allowed inside, but we took a few anyway, of course.


Approaching the cathedral, with monument to artist Jan Van Eyck on the right


Huge Baroque pulpit (most pulpits seem to be like this in Belgium)

This is the star attraction inside the cathedral: an altarpiece called The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan van Eyck (completed 1432). We didn't take this picture; photos were very strictly forbidden. In fact, you had to pay €3 to enter a small room where it was protected behind glass, but very well-lit and low enough to get a good look. It was very impressive indeed, especially the details in the people's faces. It's also quite a unique scene, with the Lamb on an altar against a Flemish landscape. You can look at it in more detail here.


You could gaze at this Rubens painting in a side chapel for free, and David was able to capture this lovely detail of it.


Stairs down to the Romanesque crypt. This was the highlight for us, as there was no one to see us taking pictures and it was filled with medieval frescoes! Hooray! It also seemed to serve as the treasury, with lots of silver reliquaries, robes, manuscripts and such in glass cases.


Frescoes in the crypt


Fresco of a monk with a funny expression. I think he might be St. Francis.

Next stop was St-Niklaaskerk (St. Nicholas' Church), which is very close to the cathedral. I thought it was prettier on the outside than the cathedral, and we were allowed to take pictures on the inside. It had nice tall pillars, a little ambulatory where you could walk behind the huge Baroque altar and a few fragments of frescoes high on the ceiling.


View from the castle (more on that below!)


Flying buttresses on the east end


Ceiling in the ambulatory, with bits of frescoes


Back of the Baroque altar, featuring a sculpture of God "breathing the hot wind of judgment down on the world." That's one I haven't heard before.

Then we wandered down the main shopping streets, where we were diverted by an electronics store for awhile. David led us in, but it turned out to be mighty fun for me too. In the back corner of the store were the big flat-screen TVs. On one wall they were playing a video of aerial views of castles and cathedrals in Belgium - so beautiful. My website would be seriously awesome if we had our own helicopter! And then on the other wall they were playing Casino Royale, specifically the part where Daniel Craig is lying on the beach. I must have looked like I was at a tennis match as I stood in front of them.

Later, a pleasant canal-side walk led us past the large St Michelskerk (which was locked) to the Gravensteen, a cool castle built by the Count of Flanders in the 12th century.


The Gravensteen, with a canal for a moat


Spooky eye-like windows

The castle is partially ruined, but still has enough roof left (or replaced) that there are many rooms to explore, including a museum with antique weapons - some very beautifully decorated - and cringe-worthy instruments of torture and execution.


Main hall


Maiming and killing with beauty and style.


Detail of a knight's armor


Cellar, also used as a dungeon


On top of the castle, nice views of the city could be had.

next: A Drive in the Netherlands and More Bruges

previous: Bruges Day 1

Article Info

Page Title
Day Trip to Ghent from Bruges
Added By
Holly Hayes
Date Published
November 30, 2007
Last Updated
April 15, 2024