Easily accessible from the UK, just an hour and a half from Calais, Ghent in Belgium is a city with story-book architecture which offers a warm welcome for families.
This is a city made for exploring, and is easily accessible on foot or for an added dimension to the adventure – take a boat, Ghent is filled with canals. There is no shortage of places to eat or food that will delight the kids.
The City was occupied during both world wars and the medieval buildings were preserved. It has commemorated the Great War Centenary through a series of exhibitions and from 14 October 2016, ‘War in Short Pants’ tells how it was to live as a child during WWI. How was it to live close to the front or be a refugee from the war? Families can experience the exhibition through a ‘Discovery Package’ developed for toddlers and schoolchildren and an audio guide for older children.
War in Short Pants exhibition at Saint Peter’s Abbey (Sint-Pietersabdij). The exhibition tells the stories of six children, each from a different country and with a different experience; close to the front, a refugee on the other side of the world and in escape. The stories are told through diaries, letters, toys, songs and drawings. While at the Abbey, relax in the beautiful gardens.
Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen Castle). At the heart of the City is this impressive castle, with a drawbridge where a knight awaits to welcome you. Choose a private tour or explore on your own and discover the fascinating torture room and an exhibit of armour. The castle walls provide you with lovely sights of the city and the canals.
Discover Ghent’s Street Art – a concrete canvas tour! Ghent is home to graffiti and street artists and this tour is suitable for older children and can be explored on bike or on foot. Pick up a free map at the Tourist office (St. Veerleplein, Oude Vismijn) and cycle (8.7miles) or walk (4.7miles)
Explore by boat. The boat tours that leave from Graslei, Korenlei or Kraanlei give you a guided tour from the waterfront, or for more sporty types, hire a canoe. Wander around Graslei, the medieval port of Ghent.
Sample the food. Whether it’s the local specialities or must-have Belgian waffles, there’s plenty to choose from; Spaghetti in Kastart, Onderbergen – but there might be a queue at lunchtime, Balls ‘n Glory, Jacobijnenstraat, for traditional Belgian meatballs, filled with a liquid filling that changes daily. They can be eaten with ‘stoemp’ (mashed potatoes with veggies) or a salad. Their homemade lemonade is a treat! Or go for the typical Belgian fries from a ‘frietkot’ (vendor carts). The best ones in the centre are the tiny one in one of the shops tucked alongside the meathouse (Groentenmarkt) or the old stall on Vrijdagmarkt. Try to have a pack of fries with mayonnaise and a frikandel (for the adults make that a frikandel speciaal).
Check out the ice-cream and candy. Buy Ghent Neuzekes “purple nose”, cone-shaped chocolates with a burst of berry filling from the Groentenmarkt. At Kraanlei 79 you’ll find Temmerman, a tiny candy shop in a lovely old house. They make traditional Ghentian & Belgian candy. For the children nothing beats an ice cream to lick on while taking in the sights. You can find a large selection at Damass, Korenmarkt.
- Hotel Onderbergen
- Ghent Marriott Hotel
- Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof
- NH Gent Belfort
- Aparthotel Castlenou
- Hotel Gravensteen
- Ibis Gent Centrum Kathedraal
- Novotel Gent Centrum
- Hotel Orion
- Monasterium PoortAckere
- Flandria Centrum
Feature image – View from water on front of authentic houses, Ghent (c)Joost Joossen