Glorious Ghent – Belgium’s best kept Secret!

New Delhi [India]: A foodie’s paradise and an Arts and History enthusiast’s hub, Flanders – the northern region of Belgium displays these characteristics at its best in the vibrant city of Ghent.

Belgium’s Best Kept Secret, as The Lonely Planet rightly calls it, Ghent is the perfect blend of old and the new with magnificent medieval architecture creating the perfect backdrop as the youth from one of the biggest Belgian Universities, the Ghent University stroll around the city playing the latest music or spend time around the famous canals of Ghent.

The undiscovered Flemish jewel of a city boasts an opera house, a handful of museums, even more ancient churches, and countless bridges spanning the two rivers that wind themselves through the city. The true joy of the town is to be found whiling away an afternoon in an outdoor cafe.

The Graslei, a scenic canal spot in the centre of town has a great view on the many bridges, grand houses and medieval buildings, if only one could find an empty seat to enjoy the breath taking view! This is also Belgium’s third largest city best explored on foot.

Those who enjoy the outdoors, one can hop on a bicycle and explore the nearby Patershol district with a small labyrinth of charming cobblestone streets; the towering Gravensteen Castle and UNESCO recognised Belfry of Ghent.

The laid back atmosphere of this liveable, lovable city means enjoying the vibrant nightlight of a university town then quaffing cava at the flower market the following Sunday morning.

– Veggie Ghent: Ghent also serves the largest number of vegetarian restaurants in the whole of Belgium. It is considered as the organic haven for vegetarians with dozens of unique little restaurants, shops and even an organic market at Groentenmarkt.

In 2009, Ghent also introduced the concept of Thursday Veggieday, a campaign developed by EVA (Ethical Vegetarian Alternative). This campaign made Ghent the first city in the world to officially stimulate people to go vegetarian one day in a week. It is also the first city in the world to have an official veggie day.

To further establish Ghent’s position as the Veggie Capital of Europe, Tourism Ghent had launched a special city map Veggie Gent. The map lists over 80 vegetarian restaurants and nine organic shops in the city and also spots them on the map which can help a traveller navigate his way through the city to the restaurant of his choice.

The map also lists five outlets in the city serving the Belgian specialty Fries cooked in vegetarian oil as well as hotels and B&Bs that offer an extensive vegetarian breakfast.

– Music and Ghent: Every year, beginning July, Ghent transforms itself into a music-lover’s paradise. Gentsefeesten, a long-established, ten-day cultural event takes over Ghent’s historic city centre. Scheduled from 14 to 20 July this year, it will feature free music reverberating at all the central squares besides hundreds of other activities.

Alongside, the city also hosts six international-level festivals: 10 Days Off, MiramirO, the International Puppet Buskers’ Festival, the ‘Jeugdcircusfestival’, Boomtown and the Ghent Jazz Festival.

Come September, another significant musical event Ghent Flanders Festival takes place from 16 to 22 September. Attracting over 55,000 visitors each year with its unique mix of diversity and creativity, the Festival has become the talk of the music scene with events like “Avanti!” – a musical cycling tour, Venetian ball, “KidsOdeGand” and “OdeGand” – the grand opening event. Each year, over 180 concerts (classical and world music) are presented by more than 1,500 internationally renowned artists.

Here’s a quick check list: 10 things you must not miss out when visiting Ghent-

1) Check out the restoration of the world’s most coveted masterpiece – The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb;

2) Try the vegetarian cuisine on Thursday Veggieday;

3) Take a bicycle ride around the car-free city centre;

4) Visit the Graffiti Street and try your hand at making a graffiti art yourself;

5) Take a boat-trip around the canals. Did you know you can use the canal system to also travel from one part of the city to another;

6) Go pub-hopping. There are even companies who organise pub crawls for you taking you around the city’s oldest and coolest pubs;

7) Lend your shoe to try the Kwak beer at De Dulle Griet;

8) Try the cuberdons and the Tierenteyn mustard – the two Ghent classics;

9) Enjoy the music festivals;

10) Visit the Gravensteen Castle that also houses the Museum of Torture.

Like most of Europe, The Ghent City Card helps you to experience a lot of these activities at discounted costs, so make sure to keep it handy. (ANI)