As the TR Daily Board, the three of us are constantly on the lookout for the best stories, most interesting interviews and most fascinating articles. Our days are filled with writing, editing and publishing (and a little bit of online shopping here and there), and sometimes we just want a little break from that. And this little break took us just across the border, to the historical town of Ghent! In this city guide, we share our tips and tricks with you.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are several ways to get to Gent, but unfortunately they are not all equally efficient. The best options are all either by bus or car, as the trains first have to go to Roosendaal and require at least 2 and often 3 transfers. We will go through our options from relatively great to objectively horrible. First of all, there is travel by car. 10 out of 10 would recommend this option, as it is very fast and the least expensive. Get someone to create a nice playlist and you will be there in an hour! The city of Gent offers many parking places, so no need to worry. Then, there is the ‘Gent Express’ by Connexxion, which will offer you a retour ticket for 20 euros if you don’t have an OV-chip card. The travel will be about 40 minutes longer, but it is still better than the third option; a four hour journey without any clarity whatsoever. Frodo’s journey was a trip to the Albert Heijn compared to the trip we had to suffer when going there. We took several buses and then a tram, had to transfer bus in a place called ‘Klein-Rusland’ which had nothing to offer but some angry-looking locals. The trams also did not clarify when they would show up, only that they would show up every 30 minutes. You can get around the city center by foot, but if you are planning on going a bit further, make sure to get a local GENTleman to help you out.
WHERE TO STAY
Gent is a beautiful city with a lot to offer, and the locals are aware of that. Several apartments, varying in price and aesthetic, are online on AIRBNB. A lot of these apartments are very close to the city center and are well maintained. If you choose to get an apartment this way, do make sure to pick one close to the city center, because the public transport outside of the city center is a mess (See: how to get there). The cheapest hotels, also when offering a discount, are still more expensive than an apartment via AIRBNB. However, if you do want to be fancier than a regular student, make sure to check out the Marriott Hotel, the TripAdvisors Travelers’ Choice Winner of 2016. But again, you probably are just a regular student, so if AIRBNB does not really appeal to you, you can also stay in hostels, with prices from 21 euros per person per night.
WHERE TO EAT
For breakfast and lunch, go and visit the Wasbar. This innovative café is located right in the center of town, on the corner of the idyllic Korenmarkt. At the Wasbar, you can both enjoy a delicious bagel and do your laundry at the same time. While your dirty socks are twirling around in the washing machines, you can take a seat at one of the pastel-coloured tables upstairs and order a delicious sandwich or a steaming cup of coffee.
If you fancy yourself a little afternoon snack, treat yourself to a cupcake from Julie’s House. Situated in one of the narrow, historical buildings right next to the canal, you can enjoy a piece of homemade cake or stuff your face with a beautifully decorated cupcake.
Getting hungry from all that walking around Ghent? For dinner, we definitely recommend paying Balls & Glory a visit. Besides the brilliant name of the restaurant, the food is super delicious, homemade and affordable. The idea behind Balls & Glory is pretty straightforward: you pick a ball (we chose chicken and apple, and the vegetarian option) and a side dish (either green salad or mashed potatoes).
Not in the mood for gigantic meatballs? Then gourmet burger restaurant Ellis might be more to your liking. Sit down in one of the diner boots and order yourself a delicious hamburger (or veggie-burger!) with a side of Belgian fries and a strawberry milkshake.
WHERE TO SHOP
Ghent has two main shopping streets, much like Middelburg. A store well worth a visit is & Other Stories, found on Veldstraat 2. Their minimalist style and attention to detail really brings something new to the table. Fnac, a French book and electronic store, is also well worth a visit even if just for a browse. It’s a calm environment and allows you to relax a little bit from all the shopping. If you are big on shopping, obviously a trip to Primark cannot be missed. A word of warning: don’t make this your first stop because the size and business of this store will tire you out. If you’re lucky enough to have a bath in your apartment, don’t forget to stop at Lush for their amazing bath bombs. Eden highly recommends the ‘sexbomb’ one.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
Whilst Ghent might not be the biggest city, there is so much to see and do, that it cannot possibly be done in one weekend. Before going we decided to hit up Pinterest for some inspiration, which we cannot recommend enough especially if you have no idea what to do.
If you are new to this city, we highly recommend taking a boat tour through the channels of Ghent. Not only does it give you a totally different perspective, the tour guides give you a rich and detailed history of the city. As a student you also get a discount, so you can take a tour for around €6,50.
Another must see is Kasteel Gravensteen, located in the heart of the city. This Medieval castle never served as a strategic point; it was simply built as a seat for the Counts of Flanders. You can also find the torture museum inside the castle. Entry is merely €6,- so it’s well worth a visit.
Ghent is also the home of some small art house type cinemas that are well worth a visit. I recommend Sphinx Cinema located at the Korenmarkt. The chairs are super comfortable, and there’s plenty of legroom for you to get as comfortable as possible. Because we went to a late night viewing (of Florence Foster Jenkins) the ticket prices were cheaper than usual. It’s a good way to spend an evening if you’re too tired to go out, or if that just isn’t your cup of tea.
Exploring Ghent is easily done on foot; so don’t be afraid to let the streets take you somewhere new. You might end up at Patershol or on the Vrijdagmarkt, both are framed by beautiful century old buildings, which are great places for restaurants. Take a stroll along the Lievekaai, or over one of the many bridges. Ghent is definitely a multifaceted city, and has something to offer for everyone.
So if you need a well-deserved break from the academics or if you want to do some exploring outside of the UCR bubble, we would definitely recommend visiting Ghent. You can get there pretty fast and easily by bus, the city is beautifully historic, the shopping is great and the food delicious. What are you waiting for?
Yonna Kuipers, Class of 2017, is a History and Linguistics major from Schiedam, the Netherlands.
Renske Wienen, Class of 2018, is a Cognitive Science and Chemistry major from Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Eden van der Moere, Class of 2017, is a Literature and Linguistics major from Goes, the Netherlands.