Ghent, Belgium is quickly becoming the no longer hidden gem of Europe. Welcoming to families, this city is filled with beautiful buildings and canals to explore as well as tasty treats to try. Here are some things to look for during your visit to Ghent with kids.
When planning our trip, we had no idea the Ghent Fest, the largest draw of the city all year, would be taking place during our visit. Over 100,000 people were in town enjoying food, music, vendors, carnival rides and shopping. To have that many people in town might seem overwhelming, but with so much to do we never felt lost in a crowd or unable to see or do what we wanted.
A warm welcome
If a city makes us feel welcome with our boisterous kids, I put it in my ‘winner' column. Ghent graciously accepted my brood and the other thousands of families visiting for the festival. Kids were everywhere at cafes and shops, which put us at ease.
Ghent's most impressive and well-known structure has got to be Gravensteen Castle. Also known as the Castle of the Counts, it stands proudly in the middle of Ghent.
At Gravensteen's drawbridge you will encounter a knight who beckons you inside and directs you to the ticket counter. From there you can choose to have a private tour or simply explore on your own.
If you're up for a little macabre entertainment, explore the castle's torture museum, which houses all sorts of horrific medieval devices used for inflicting pain on wrong-doers once upon a time. The castle's stairs may be a bit challenging, but fortunately there aren't that many and even our 2.5 year old twins concurred them without much problem.
Ghent must-have treats
Food provides a wonderful and tasty way to get to know a new culture. When in Belgium, you must eat Belgian waffles, of course! Delicious pastries awaited us at every turn on vendor carts and inside little shop doors. When we finally stopped to taste our waffles, we ate them so quickly I forgot to take a picture! These waffles were unlike any other I had ever eaten—so fluffy and melt-on-your-tongue.
To find must-try cuisine, I search a destination's name using its hashtag on Instagram (ie: #Ghent). This was how I discovered the mysterious “purple noses” of Ghent. These cone-shaped candies look like strange little purple noses and are filled with a burst of berry filling. We bought a bagful for 5€ and they were gone by the end of the day.
Where to stay in Ghent with kids
I'm usually pretty skeptical if we see a “family-sized room” advertised at European hotels because hotels on the continent tend to run very small. Hotel Onderbergen, however, housed our family of five perfectly in a single large room with a HUGE bathroom and requested child's crib. I was extremely impressed with the room's cleanliness and modern decor.
The hotel shares a courtyard with Patrick Foley's an Irish pub and restaurant where we ate a scrumptious breakfast each morning. Staff at both the hotel and the restaurant went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed. With its convenient location and friendly atmosphere, I would love to stay at this hotel again on our next trip.
A must see on your tour of Europe
I feel so fortunate that this beautiful city is just an hour and a half drive from my family's adopted town in the Netherlands. I foresee another trip or two to Ghent in our future before we pack up and return to the states. The small streets held sweet surprises around every corner. If you have the opportunity to see the sights of Belgium, don't miss Ghent.
Have you ever been to Ghent with kids? What were your favorite things to do and see?
All photos by Farrah Ritter unless otherwise noted.