Since Antwerp was not one of our favorites, it was not very hard for us to say goodbye. Sunday morning we got up early, determined to make it to Ghent in time for their many Sunday markets. It was oh so worth it!
We made our way from the train station via tram in search of the Sin Jacobskerk Flea Market. For trinkets and thrifting we definitely recommend checking out this Sunday market. That was our first stop of the day. It was a very cold morning so we had to bundle up! After leaving the market we explored the streets of Ghent taking in the ancient looking architecture and set out to find this flower market that we saw on our tram ride from the train station. With the help of some very lovely locals, we made it to the flower market at the Kouter!
Tulips were everywhere! It was amazing! Flowers and dogs and music and people. Lots and lots of people. It was really cool to see all the locals, of all ages coming to get flowers for the house. It is one of those things I have never really thought about, but it must be so nice to constantly have fresh flowers in your house.
The Ghent City Centre is extremely walkable with multiple cathedrals and beautiful architecture everywhere you look. We stopped to listen to the bells of the Belfry, took pictures of town hall (Stadius), and marveled at the gorgeous Gothic lines of St. Nicholas Church. We also walked the square of Vrijdagmarkt. After exploring the markets and some of the city, we decided to grab some lunch. This was a lot harder than we expected. While Ghent offers quite a few Vegan restaurants, and because it was Sunday, the amount of open vegan restaurants was greatly reduced.
We ended up choosing Komkommertijd which literally translates to cucumber time. I mean how cute is that! Komkommertijd is a completely vegan restaurant set up in that buffet style that we have come very accustomed to while in Europe. The food was great, however, it was great for a very pretty penny. Also, tables here fill up pretty quickly so I suggest reserving a table if you think it might be busy.
After lunch, we headed back onto the streets of Ghent to see the sites. And we were not disappointed! As we traversed the streets of Ghent, we happened upon an alleyway named Graffiti Street. Wow, there was so much to see on this little street and we happened to luck out as an artist and his assistant were busy leaving their mark on the street. From Graffiti Street we headed toward Gravensteen Castle. This castle looked like something right out of King Arthur. Built between 1100 and 1200, Gravensteen Castle is the epitome of Medival Architecture.
After looking around the Castle, we decided to check into or hostel and drop our backpacks that we had been carrying all day. Trek Hostel was an easy sell for us for the sheer kitsch of it. Imagine little themed campsites with small travel campers but inside a large warehouse. We reserved the Zen Campsite which was quite cozy and pretty zen except for the couple in the loft above our campsite that we could hear walking back and forth and up and down their stairs. It felt really nice to lounge for a bit and rest our backs from the seven miles we had walked with our packs on.
After relaxing a bit, we headed out in search of some dinner which took us back toward Graffiti Street. We settled on Mosquito Coast. This is not a 100% vegan restaurant, but Mosquito Coast is the ultimate restaurant for travelers and backpackers alike, offering a variety of options from all over the world! The restaurant had great vibes and was very popular with diners of all ages. The restaurant and staff were very English-friendly and had English menus and website in English! No guessing or Google translating necessary! After dinner, the sun was setting so we walked back to the hostel. On the way, we got to witness some of Ghent's locals having a large block party. Let's just say everyone seemed to be feeling shiny!
The next morning we checked out of Trek and headed back across the city to check out some of the small parks we had read about. The first on the list was Citadel Park. You can easily get to Citadel Park on foot from the train station. It is a very large park in the middle of the city with it's own gardens, museums and beautiful Japanese-inspired, tranquility pond with cherry blossoms in full bloom!
Across from the pond, we spotted Leopoldskazerne. What used to be the fortified five-sided Leopold Barracks have now become home to the Higher Institute of Fine Arts. The buildings are very long covering several blocks in both directions and giving off a very stoic vibe. At first, I thought it might have been a prison of some sort. Until we looked it up, we did not realize that it actually is a perimeter of buildings with a large inner "yard" area. If you are passing by, trust me you will not miss it!
The last park we traveled to was the absolute best way to cap off our trip to Ghent, Muink Park. This sweet, serene park, right in the middle of a residential area is probably a city block in size. Just the right size for the kids to get out and play at the little playground or to sit under the blooming Cherry Trees and contemplate life, which is exactly what we did.
Before we knew it, it was time to head to the train station to catch our train to Brussels. Ghent was much harder for us to say goodbye to. There was still so much to see. Brandy vowed that she would one day return to Ghent to see more and enjoy the unhurried life it seemed to offer. We caught the tram back to the train station and headed to Brussels.
Would we find the same easy-paced life there? We didn't know, but what we did know is...
It's An Adventure!