Ghent is really a city you have to come visit when you are in Belgium! You can see the main attractions in the city core in one or two days. I recently went for a day trip to this cozy city to visit their cat cafe, and walked around the city center. Here below some famous points you got to see when you walk around Ghent.
The Castle of Counts “Het Gravesteen”
If you come to Ghent, you have to enter the only Medieval castle left Flanders with a moat and a large intact defense system located in a city. Het Gravensteen was built in the 12th century and was home of the counts of Flanders. It had a very turbulent past, with somewhat horrific memories as it is famous for its unique torture basement and collection.
I’ve done this castle a few times when I was younger with school so I didn’t enter this time, but it’s very worth it to do so. You will get to learn all about the history of Ghent and the surroundings, visit some Medieval remaining. It is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm and the entrance fee for a self guided tour (with audio) is 10 euros. Students up to 19 years old can go in for free! You can see why it is a beloved day out for schools.
Talking about students, did you know het Gravensteen was taken over by students in 1949? The main reason of their protest was that the beer price went up! Till today students have a annual commemoration of the prostest, called “Gravensteenfeesten”.
Psst…viewpoint tip: the photo where I sit by the water, is taken in the Sint-Widostraat. It is a small street with this point around the corner.
Saint Michael’s Bridge and the row of three.
The Saint Michael Bridge is maybe the most famous bridge in Ghent. If you stand on it you have a view over some beautiful and signature buildings aligned. First you have the Saint Nicholas Church and then the Belfort of Ghent or Belfry that you can see on my picture. And behind it you have the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.
The Belfry, a UNESCO Heritage, was the watchtower of Ghent, and a safe place for important city privileges. On top of it you had the dragon statue, who has been as the keeper of the tower and guardian of the city since 1377. For an amazing view of Ghent, it is well worth it to climb the tower (or take the lift up).
Graslei & Korenlei
Under the Saint Michael’s Bridge you have the river Leie, where you can find the boat tours. Traditional boat tours are held daily. The river banks are called Graslei and Korelei. The Leftbank is Korenlei (where you see the houses) and right is the Graslei. It is a lovely place to walk around.
Charming City Center
So I showed you some main buildings, now I just wanted to share some atmospheric images of what you get when just walking around.
If you are planning to intensively visit Ghent, I suggest you to get the CityCard Gent. For just 30 euros for 48 hours, you will have entrance to most monuments and museums. On top of that, public transport is free, you can do one guided boat tour and use the hop on hop off water tram during one day in a weekend. I just wouldn’t buy one for children, as many attractions are already free for them.
For more information on tours and what to do and see in Ghent, check out Ghent’s tourism page here.
Lunch at Epiphany’s Kitchen
As a city in Belgium, you will find the basic Belgian food for tourists such as fries, waffles, chocolate, etc..
But a place I wanted to visit for a while was Epiphany’s Kitchen. The interior is a charm. It has a hidden garden feeling to it and the food accordingly. They use vegetables as main ingredients, with the basic dishes being vegetarian (with an option to add meat).
Their pizzas are quite unique, made on a yuca bottom. As I love yucca, this crunchy pizza was a delight. We took the ‘Secret Garden’ and the ‘Once upon a time in the West’ pizza, both very recommendable.
Next time I am trying one of their pasta inspired dishes, with a choice as a base between squash, sweet potato, edamame or fresh spelt pasta.
At a short walk from the city core, you will find the Graffiti Street. The street name is Werregarenstraat (but you can find it with Graffiti Street on Google maps) and it is the place some graffiti artists come to display their art. Walk through the alley if you want to take some cool photos.
The graffiti always changes, so it may be different every time you visit.
Cat Cafe “DreamCATchers”
It is a dream of mine to open my own cat café some day. When I found out that Ghent has one, I really wanted to check it out.
Their name is DreamCATchers and their fun logo suits that name. The cat café is open 3 days a week (Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday). Besides the café part, they have a small shop with biological/ecological (cat) goodies that is open every day except Tuesday. Their drinks and snacks are all organic and eco friendly too. For example they don’t sell Coca Cola, but please do try their nice capurr-chino, home made purr-onades and other healthy drinks.
The entrance is 3 euros for one hour. If you have a membership (which is 10 euros per year), you pay 1.5 euros. It is advised to make a reservation online for your visit, so it doesn’t get too busy for the cats. But if you are in town or forgot to make one, you can just give them a call to see if they have any place available.
When we entered I already felt like home. They are very nice and one of the owners Evelyne, was beyond kind to welcome us and provide us of every information we wanted to know about how she opened the café and how she keeps it running.
She explained she works with local companies, shelters, vets and other sponsors. For example all her furniture and decoration are 2nd hand or donated. She also explained that keeping the café going is very hard work! They are a non-profit organisation, which means she works with volunteers who help out at the shop and café.
I really find it amazing how she devoted everything into this business. When we asked if all was worth it, she said that even if it gets hard sometimes, that her job and passion is very fulfilling! Which made me respect her even more.
Besides the shop and café, they organise several workshops for cat owners or cat owners to be! Such as “First Aid for cats” and “How to play with your cat”. They also have a blog part in Dutch that gives all kinds of cat advises. On 29 of September they will organise an event “Catopia”, outside of the cat cafe, for a larger audience. Make sure to check out their Instagram or website, if you are interested in the upcoming workshops and events!
What I like about DreamCATchers is their less commercial approach to the cat café idea and that they have an adoption system. They work with 2 shelters in Ghent and with a special cat therapist to select the kitties that would be suitable to live in the café, in hope into being adopted soon. In the 3 years they are open, they adopted 85 cats. They keep count on their site of the ones who been adopted and the ones who are up for adoption.
I am a MAJOR fan of the “adopt, don’t shop’ principal, so if you are from Belgium or nearby and would like to have a cat companion, go visit the café first. There are so many cats in need of a good home, there is no necessity to buy a fancy (many times badly breed with health problems) kitten.
If you don’t like to visit shelters yourself, or don’t really have the time, DreamCATchers could help you find a purrfect match. You can visit the café first, interact and play with the 7 kitties there….Who knows, you might have that special furry friend you always wanted or needed, waiting for you there!
As a non-profit, all they earn with the café fee, the shop, the events, goes straight to food and care of the cats. If you are like me and support the cause and want to help them out, you can always donate something on their site. Like they explain on their site, with 10 euros you can feed one cat for a week, for 25 euros they can buy 3 new toys and catnip for them, etc..
This is non sponsored whatsoever, just wanted to share it for the cat lovers out there! So go on, go play with some kitties in Ghent. I can’t promise you won’t leave without wanting one though…
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