A Ghentish winter wonderland

Quirky and captivating, bubbling with cultural treasures and chilled out haunts, Ghent is a city quite unlike any other. As winter settles over its medieval cobblestone streets, Ghent sparkles into life with its unique flavour of magic. Old world vibes meet contemporary flair and energy, and the result is a city escape where you can indulge, explore and experience everything from cutting edge music, vinyl-soundtracked hipster havens and vibrant street art, to tales of knightly exploits and Renaissance masterpieces.

Wrap up warm to soak up the best of Ghent’s winter atmosphere. Crisp, bright mornings are made even better with a hot cup of coffee from a local stall and a slice of warm pie, while the River Lys reflects the centuries-old architecture around you. The viewpoint from St Michael’s Bridge is a perfect photo opportunity – with the city’s many medieval towers in the backdrop and the river flowing below, it’s a scene taken straight out of a fairy tale. For a change of pace, get your skates on and head to the picturesque ice rink, with pit stops for hot chocolate or jenever. Or make like the locals and hop on a bike through the labyrinthine cobbled streets of the pretty Patershol district, with charming local cafés and boutiques to tempt you in.

When it’s time to escape the chill, take a dive into the city’s rich arts scene, with cultural gems aplenty. Thought provoking contemporary art at the S.M.A.K. takes you on a tour of the Pop Art era and beyond, while the impressive sight of St Bavo’s Cathedral is the perfect way to travel back centuries in time, with the help of cutting edge VR technology. Ghent also has a thriving music scene with free concerts popping up all around town on a regular basis, and the colourful and eye-catching street art gives the city an air of understated cool.

Of course, while strolling Ghent’s picture-perfect street scenes undoubtedly has its own romance, there’s something undeniably lovely about its excellent culinary landscape too, where you can or sample the city’s creative flair on a plate, with everything from exquisite Belgian chocolate, eco-conscious and sustainable veggie fare and traditional craft beers. Head to one of the countless cosy nooks where you can gorge on Ghent’s finest culinary delights. Knock back a pint of Gruut, the local beer brewed with medieval herbs, with a rich and smooth taste that goes perfectly with the heartier dishes on the menu at this time of year – a plate of Stoverij – a stew of beef, onions, beer and bread, with an extra helping of carbs in the form of French fries, is comfort food at its best. If you follow your nose around local market stalls and confectionary shops, you’ll also find lots to tempt your sweet tooth, from decadent chocolate, fluffy snowballs and cinnamon flavoured pastries.

For the ultimate in winter cosiness though, it’s hard to beat a pint with the Count, or at least, his incorporeal spirit. Pull up a chair in the stables of the Castle of the Counts, aglow with soft lights and filled with lively music, and transport yourself to Ghent’s medieval past, when rowdy knights once roamed the castle paths. The city’s vibrant nightlife carries long into the evening, with live gigs, innovative cocktail joints and pop-up underground venues soundtracked by great tunes, while Sundays start with blissful gentleness – soak up the winter morning sun with an elegant stroll through the flower market, pick up a gourmet snack and pinch yourself – you’re in the perfect city, after all.

Written in partnership with Visit Gent. For more information, visit: www.visitgent.be

To find out more about their “Lovedown” app, head to: visit.gent.be/en/lovedown