Walking off some of the many calories consumed in this delightful little city is easy to do.
The sweet smell of waffles wafts through the cobbled streets of Ghent.
This traditional dish along with beer, frites and chocolate are foods commonly associated with Belgium but this historical city has many more delicacies worth discovering.
The tiny store of Temmerman is a must-stop for anyone with a sweet tooth. The old-fashioned candy shop has jars of traditional treats from floor to ceiling including cuberdons, or the Ghent nose, a cone-shaped gummy confectionery.
Flemish pastry the mastel looks like a doughnut or bagel. The typical preparation in Ghent is to fill it with sugar and butter and wrap it in aluminium foil and iron it, with an iron, to caramelise the sugar. At De Nieuwe Onvrije Schipper as well as the traditional mastel there are many more interpretations including the Elvis, which is filled with banana, hazelnut chocolate and butter.
The shop may be small but Petite Normandie houses an array of delicious cheeses.
Founded in 1926, this store was a dairy and poultry shop until 1966 when the focus switched to cheese. The staff are happy to give tastings and recommendations and an award-winning gouda-style cheese is a must try.
Just around the corner from this hidden treasure is Groot Vleeshuis or the Butcher’s Hall. This medieval building is a former market and guildhall. Today meat hangs curing from the old wooden beams and visitors can sit down for a tasting of regional products from east Flanders at the restaurant or buy produce to take away.
The perfect accompaniment to ham and cheese is mustard and at Tierenteyn-Verlent a secret recipe that dates back to the beginning of the 19th century is still used. The shop was established in 1867 and the hot mustard is made in the basement — this area is out of bounds to the public to keep the long-held method out of the hands of the competition. Customers can buy a jar full or bring their own to be filled from a barrel on the shop floor. Pickles, vinegars and other condiments are also available.
The cuisine of 16 different cultures comes together at a 16th-century chapel for the Holy Food Market. A young Mozart played concerts in this grand old building but today the atmosphere is sounding a different tune. In the funked-up space visitors can order a meal at one of the many food stalls and drinks at the central bar. Take a seat at one of the communal tables on the ground floor or lounge around on the second level.
Vegetarians rejoice, Ghent is the vegie capital of Europe. It has the biggest number of vegetarian restaurants per capita of all known cities and more meatless meals are served here than anywhere else in Belgium.
Vegan food and wine bar Le Botaniste caters for diners with gluten intolerance and the healthy meals are prepared without saturated fats, added sugars, artificial flavours or preservatives. The menu is a fusion of Eastern and Western cuisine, served with organic wines and beers. As well as restaurants that only serve vegetarian fare there are top-class establishments offering grand degustation dining experiences that meat eaters can enjoy alongside their meat-free counterparts.
Karel de Stoute in the Patershol district is a foodies’ heaven not to be missed. Diners can opt to have the full experience of five courses paired with wines (tip: you may want to skip lunch) or a two-, three- or four-course dinner. The menu is seasonal and each dish delectable, the food described by Michelin inspectors as “deliciously characterful”.
If one fine dining experience isn’t enough, head to another Michelin guide inclusion Naturell. Described as all-senses cuisine this is a visual feast of top-notch food with a bi-monthly menu served in a cosy setting.
The massive range of excellent beers available in Belgium shouldn’t be overlooked. The Bierhuis on the river is the perfect setting to try one or more of these frothy beverages (if outside and inside is full an unmarked upstairs area is little known). Each drink must be served in the glass the brewer designates goes with the beer.
If you’re looking for something stronger, two doors down at ‘t Dreupelkot more than 200 jenevers, a type of gin, are available. The most famous of these homemade spirits is a vanilla-flavoured tipple.
Walking off some of the many calories consumed in this delightful little city is easy to do. From churches to museums and the stairs of Gravensteen, or Castle of the Counts, the centuries old-history of Ghent is worth exploring. If you’re looking for something a little more modern take the Concrete Canvas Trail. A 14.5km bike ride or 7.5km walk showcases the work of graffiti and street artists. You may even be able to squeeze in a few Belgian chocolates afterwards.
DisclaimerAnnelies Gartner travelled as a guest of Visit Flanders. They have not seen or approved this story.
You may also like
Travel Story: See Belgium's funny side at comic centre
Belgian cartoonists have been entertaining families for generations with Smurfs and Tintin.
Our World: Prepare your winter wonderland plan
If the excitement of the festive season quickly turned into exhaustion after preparing a summer Yuletide feast for the extended family, here’s an idea: go away. Chill out this Christmas in a winter wonderland.
Our World: 'Tis the season to be jolly — and reminisce
Our Travel Editor looks back at his year of travel adventures...