Surviving the Rain and Exploring Ghent

Ghent was the second stop of our recent whirlwind tour of Belgium and the Netherlands. If you’d like to get caught up on Part 1: In Bruges, click here.

Ghent Title Card []

We awoke the next morning in Bruges to a wall of humidity; the aforementioned forecasted rain would be a welcome reprieve from the thick, hot, moist air that greeted us that morning.

After a quick breakfast that was accompanied by everyone favourite thing, a screaming toddler, we went back to our room, repacked our backpacks and made our way to the Bruges train station, slowly saying goodbye to the city with each step.

Trains between Bruges and Ghent are frequent, so we weren’t worried about too much of a wait. We arrived with just enough time to head to the platform and spent the next five minutes being pelted with the wind and rain, which had started somewhere between our entering the station and walking up the stairs. Suddenly, we weren’t so sad to be leaving the city.

The commuter train was fast and comfortable. We were travelling at the beginning of the Eurocup, so the train was packed with excited and exuberant Red Devils fans (this would become a common theme throughout our trip). Not able to match their energy, we found seats in a quiet car and spent the next 30 minutes watching the world pass by.

The rain hadn’t completely stopped by the time we arrived in Ghent. It was that strange mix of sun, clouds and a light but sporadic sprinkling of rain, where you’re never really sure if you need to wear sunglasses or not.

We figured our where we were, where our hotel was and set off on foot. With each block the weather seemed to change: one block we’d be met with a wall light rain, the next sunshine and humidity. It didn’t make for the most pleasant walk, but we pushed on.

We checked into the hotel, dropped our bags and off we went. With only a day to explore Ghent, we wanted to make the most of it.

Our walk to and from the hotel left me cold. Grey, graffiti covered buildings lined the street and it all felt a little grungy; I was beginning to wonder why everyone had recommended Ghent so wholeheartedly. I yearned to go back to the charm of Bruges.

Just as I was beginning to write this stop off, we arrived in the historic centre and I now knew why everyone had gushed over the city. It was fantastic. Much like Bruges, Ghent was a charming and historic city filled with brick and wooden houses, canals, and more! But unlike Bruges, which was rebuilt following the war, Ghent was original. The historic houses that lined the streets and canals remained relatively untouched for centuries. As we walked the cobblestone streets, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stepping back in time.

Canal-side houses and buildings in Ghent []

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived in the centre of Ghent and dark, ominous clouds were looming. We’d so enjoyed the boat tour in Bruges that we decided to take another in Ghent, and figured we needed to do so soon.

We found a ticket kiosk, hedged our bets with the clouds, and signed up for the next open top tour.

Just like the tour in Bruges, we spent the next 40 minutes sailing along the canals, gliding past markets, homes, and even a castle. The brown, white and cream houses with their iconic crow-stepped gables were mesmerising. As we made our way, our captain shared stories, legends and tales about each one, bringing the rich history of this city to life. It was spectacular and again, the perfect way to acquaint ourselves with the city.

Canal-side houses and buildings in Ghent []

Aside from a few droplets here and there, the rain held off while we were on the boat, but our luck changed almost immediately after we disembarked.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon the skies would open without warning, nearly drenching us as we tried to see as much of the city as possible. We’d seek refuge  in a nearby pub hen the rain became too much, taking the opportunity to catch up on the Eurocup and sample more of Belgium’s delicious brews. We’d reemerge upon seeing sunshine but this often only gave us enough time to get to our next watering hole before once again being hit by a wall of rain.

Dealing with the hand we’d been dealt, we decided to take it all in stride and that the best way to stay dry and see the city would be to pub hop our way around: this proved to be a horrible idea and a stark reminder that at 30 we can’t drink like we used to or for as long, but that’s a story for another day.

From pub to pub to frite stand to pub, we bounced around the city, seeing historic sights, sampling local specialties (like very odd jelly candies that the vendor warned us were gross, but we bought and ate them anyways because we were enjoying getting the Belgian take on Donald Trump) and experiencing the Belgian way of life.

We made it back to the hotel, falling into bed around midnight, completely satisfied with our short but amazing adventures in Ghent.

Take a self-guided walking tour of Ghent

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