Ghent: Belgium's best kept secret

If you automatically think a trip to Belgium means a trip to Bruges, think again. The September '09 issue of Lonely Planet Magazine clues you in to Ghent: the new Bruges.

It's surprising how Belgium has managed to stay so quiet abut Ghent for so long. Once medieval Europe's second largest city, over the past century this unsung treasure of a town has developed a strong artistic bent, and is now one of the best places in Europe for culture - there are many fantastic museums and galleries here, and more listed buildings than any other Belgian city.

Ghent's architecture is elegant and imposing, particularly along the scenic old Graslei harbour, and grand medieval cathedrals and the Gravensteen castle congregate nicely around the central public squares - the largest car-free area in Belgium. And when you've soaked up enough architecture, there are many welcoming bars and cafes along the banks of the canal.

How to get there:

Ghent is an easy 45-minute train ride from Brussels, with tickets costing around £5.

Recommended sight:

Ghent's Design Museum displays furnishings from the Renaissance to today in a striking modern space behind an 18th-century façade. Art Deco, Art Nouveau and retro (including some lurid '70s sofas) are all represented, and there are regular temporary exhibits. Admission £3.

Where to stay:

Lonely Planet's wide range of author-recommended hotels and hostels is bound to have something to suit in Ghent. Check out the Onderland if you want some very affordable luxury in an art-drenched setting - the hotel used to be a gallery.

Where to eat:

Canal-side cafes, providores of local produce - our list of Ghent eateries will satisfy appetites.

Want to know more about Ghent? Grab the latest Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent Encounter.