Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Ghent
little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Ghent.
Hi! My name is Sarah, I’ve visited over 70 countries which I blog about on Journey Cake. Though I’ve traveled and lived abroad throughout my entire life, Ghent is the place I call home. I’ve recently moved back to Belgium’s most charming city after two years of living in Asia and South America. Not only has Ghent been seriously spruced up since then, I’ve also learned to appreciate the city in a completely different way. I know the city like the back of my hand yet it still has its little secrets and surprises, which make living in this city ever so enjoyable.
What makes Ghent a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
To answer this question, I have to tell you something about the Ghent mentality. Ghent despises pretentiousness. We do luxury in a different way. Forget about the glimmer and glamour and be ready to engage in a more down to earth kind of luxury. The kind without the bells and whistles, but featuring high product quality, authenticity and respect for history and nature.
Ghent is one of the most romantic cities in Europe. It’s small enough that you can visit the entire old city in just a few hours on foot without feeling stressed about ticking off must-sees. To do so, leave your heels at home as you’ll only end up ruining them (and your ankles) as you wander in the cobbled streets. The city boasts plenty of cutting edge boutiques, fabulous restaurants, hip coffee bars and has a vibrant night life. Romance, food, shopping, and people watching in hip cafés, doesn’t that sound like pure European glamour?
What 5 star hotel is the best in your town?
I would certainly not recommend staying in a 5 star hotel during your visit to Ghent as you’d be missing out on what gives the city its character. Instead, stay at a bed and breakfast or a picturesque boutique hotel.
Try “Snooz Inn” for comfort and luxury in the heart of town or “Ganda”, an 18th century townhouse turned charm hotel with unique deluxe rooms. If you’d like to stay somewhere with a sauna and a gym, I’d suggest “Hotel Verhaege”, another redesigned 18 century townhouse with ornate high ceilings and attention to detail in its design.
Do check out the Mariott hotel in the centre of town, it’s the most unique one I’ve seen so far. The hotel is set in a renewed historical house which used to serve as a brothel in the Middle Ages. Even if you’re not staying there, pop in for a quick look or have a drink in the lobby bar.
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous ?
For the culinary adventurous, Ghent will not disappoint. Go on a beer tasting adventure and discover some of Belgium’s finest or strangest beers, which are always served in their matching glass. Watch out though, Belgian beers are very heavy! Have a meal at “Bugs&Lunch” where, you can sample the latest urban culinary trend: insect based delights. If you’re looking for something more active, you can rent a kayak, a SUP board or a motorboat to cruise down the city’s waterways, it’s a great way to marvel at the city’s architecture or to visit the beautiful suburbs.
Where are the best hang outs during the day?
During the summer months there are lots of outdoor hang out places in the city. Head to “Park Café” for a drink in a fairy-like park or get a shot of contemporary art and music at “DOK Gent”. The city is full of parks, squares and terraces where locals love to catch some rays as soon as the sun is out. Just sit back, relax and do some people watching.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Ghent and what are their best dishes?
With 653 restaurant in this tiny city of 100 000 inhabitants, you can imagine choosing a few favorites is not an easy task. Try the refined 7 course meal at “Volta”, a foodie’s favourite. For some modern Flemish cooking by a Michelin starred chef, head to “JEF”. If you’re looking to be more spontaneous, go to the charming medieval neighbourhood of “Patershol”, its winey cobbled streets are full of fantastic restaurants.
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?
Belgium is internationally known for its exquisite chocolate but did you know it also boast an insane amount of fine pastries? A true desert-lover’s paradise! An all time favourite for old-fashioned Ghent delicacies is “Temmerman”, a sweetshop that has been around since the 19th century. Real chocoholics should try to find “Yuzu”, an off-the –beaten track chocolate boutique showcasing the unusual and sophisticated chocolate creations of a talented local chocolatier.
Tell us all the hot shopping spots; who’s carrying the trendy local designers?
If you’re looking for trendy local designers and unique pieces, you should definitely steer clear of the two main shopping streets: Veldstraat and Langemunt, which is where you will find the big commercial, international brands. For great boutique shopping head to “Brabantdam”, “Sint-pieters Nieuwstraat” and “Vlaanderenstraat” where you will find lots of great shops featuring brands by local as well as international designers.
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
The best place to end the afternoon and start an evening in Ghent is at the “Graslei”. This is the main hang out spot on sunny days. The riverbanks fill up with all sorts of people, drinking an “apéro”, eating, singing and having a good time with friends. Most young people sit on the ground by the river, but if you prefer to do it the luxurious way, there are plenty of higher end terraces along the water where you can enjoy the view and atmosphere with a drink in your hand. Relax as the sun sets and watch the city lights turn the old city into a magical place.
If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?
As many bars and restaurant as there are in Ghent, the clubbing scene is quite low key. Don’t get me wrong the nightlife is absolutely popping but fancy clubs are just not what the people of Ghent care for. Start with an exclusive cocktail at “Jiggers” (best to reserve in advance) or have a drink at “Bar des Amis”. Once you’re ready to bust a move, see if anything is going on the “Culture Club” or the “White Cat”. There is live music in several bars every day of the week. The best way of knowing where to go is by asking a “cool-looking” local what is going on that night and take it from there.
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Sarah is the writer and photographer behind Journey Cake. As a digital nomad, she changes home base every so often and travels whenever she can. Driven by her love for exploration, food and photography, she has visited over 70 countries a chunk of which are under the radar destinations. She is currently getting ready for a big new adventure, which you can read about on her blog. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
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