This morning, head back east; it’s an hour by train to Ghent. This city has been called Europe’s best-kept secret—a gem of centuries-old architecture paired with new restaurants and museums that inject it with an exciting energy.
Start by visiting the Castle of the Counts
, the 800-year-old home of the counts of Flanders that overlooks the Leie River. With its imposing stone fortifications, it’s a fairytale vision of a castle with displays of armor, as well as the somewhat gruesome torture devices used on those who faced the wrath of the counts.
Next, explore a decidedly different side of Ghent at S.M.A.K.
, the city’s contemporary art museum. Ghent is famous for its rebellious spirit, and this side of the city is on display at the museum, with thoughtful and challenging exhibitions.
For lunch, head to the Patershol neighborhood, which is filled with popular local restaurants. Afterwards, check out one of Ghent’s—and the world’s—most famous works of art, the Ghent Altarpiece, in St. Bavo’s Cathedral
. This early 15th-century painting, with 12 panels by the van Eyck brothers, is seen as marking a key moment at the dawn of the Renaissance, when the highly stylized Gothic and Byzantine traditions incorporated a focus on scientific observation and naturalism.
After seeing this artistic masterpiece, savor some of the contemporary masterpieces being created by Ghent’s chefs. The city has emerged in recent years as a culinary hotspot, with young talent serving unforgettable meals in surprising settings. Some options for dinner tonight include the Holy Food Market
, a food hall in a converted chapel; Volta
, in a former turbine hall just outside the city center; and Taxi’s
, located in a garage once used by a taxi company.