Once the country’s biggest abbey, St-Pieters was the original centre around which Ghent grew. Its fabulous wealth evaporated after French revolutionary armies confiscated all its properties, stripped its interiors and demolished the abbot’s house. At the heart of the complex, its vast baroque-fronted church survived; the shell of the main monastery was later used as a military garrison. You can stroll among ruins, vines and apple trees in the abbey gardens.

Inside, the abbey’s most impressive feature is the muralled roof of the former refectory; it's point 15 in ‘Alison’, a handheld video tour (€4) designed as 90 minutes of tangential musings by a ghost monk guide in a medieval love triangle. If you're rushed, the key tracks are 2 to 4 (history) and 10 (the garden).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ghent attractions

1. De Wereld van Kina: het Huis

0.02 MILES

This mishmash of a natural history museum is aimed primarily at school kids. Meet Pterygotus (a man-sized prehistoric lobster), walk through a human body…

2. MSK

0.31 MILES

Styled like a Greek temple, this superb 1903 fine-art gallery introduces a veritable A–Z of great Belgian and other Low Countries' painters from the 14th…

3. S.M.A.K.

0.35 MILES

Ghent’s highly regarded Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Belgium's largest. Works from its 3000-strong permanent collection (dating from 1939 to the…


0.44 MILES

Shoehorned into a 17th-century former nunnery-hospital complex, this fabulous, architecturally striking, ultra-modern museum does a very thorough job of…

5. Universiteit Gent Botanical Garden

0.47 MILES

Home to more than 10,000 species, the pièce de résistance of Ghent's 2.75-hectare botanic gardens is its glasshouses, which contain an impressive…

6. St-Annakerk

0.57 MILES

The imposing and beautiful St Anne's church was designed by architect Louis Roelandt in 1851 but never completed in the true Byzantine-style he envisioned…

7. Geeraard de Duivelsteen

0.69 MILES

This 13th-century Gothic castle has had many incarnations; it's been used as a monastery, a school, a seminary, a prison and an asylum. It also housed a…

8. Statue of Van Eyck Brothers


This statue of the creators of Ghent's world-renowned Adoration of the Mystic Lamb was unveiled here for the 1913 World Expo.