Belle Photo Essays

Visiting Gent, Belgium: One Part Fairytale, All Parts Real

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Ghent, Belgium, freely shows off its colorful and sassy edge. And it’s wonderful.

The name ‘Ghent’ or ‘Gent’ is believed to have been derived from the Celtic word ‘Ganda’, which means ‘confluence’. In this Belgian city where the rivers Leie and Scheldt come together, there has always been lots of  ‘Ganda’ going on.

In the vicinity of Serpentstraat, an area lined with eclectic boutiques

With its beautifully preserved medieval architecture, rounding each corner in Ghent, Belgium, is an unfolding delight. At first glance Ghent tells the story of a city with a history of great wealth. At second glance with its large university and long history since the Middle Ages it’s apparent there is more to the story than that.

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In contrast to the neighboring city of Brugge, which is better known as a medieval tourist playground, metamodern Ghent is indeed difficult to describe.

Instead of streets lined with endless lace and candy shops, Ghent is clearly a city inhabited by people with purpose beyond serving the tourist industry. This East Flander’s capital has a colorful and sassy edge.

Graffitistraatje (Graffiti Street) is known only on the map as Werregarenstraat. Skilled street artists are welcome to bring along a spray an and leave their mark on the city.

Ghent’s fairytale beauty is neither implausibly Disneyesque, nor overly gritty. If I were to compare it to one of my favorite American cities it would be to Asheville,  North Carolina. It’s a real place where it’s easy to see oneself living.

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The Graslei and Korenmarkt are considered the medieval heart of Ghent, and are a draw for both tourists and students. Until the 13th century, Ghent was Europe’s second largest city after Paris, before London and Cologne.

A quick rain shower passes with the sun out at the point from where the canal tourist boats depart near Graslei.

Historically, much of the city’s wealth from the Middle Ages and again in 18th and 19th centuries was derived from a thriving textile industry.

Bondmoyson located on the Vrijdagmarket

Situated on Vrijdagmarkt (Friday market square) the Bondmoyson is notable as a shining example of the eclectic style. While most of the buildings on this square were built in the 18th century, this structure was completed in 1902. Bondmoyson once served as the house of the socialist trade union.

Jan Breydelstraat

In addition to being the location of Ghent’s Design Museum, Jan Breydelstraat is home to many inviting shops and restaurants.  If I had been in town for just a bit longer, an afternoon spent wandering along this short, picturesque street would have been a real possibility.

My hotel in Ghent, Hotel Gravensteen, is also located at one end.

Chandelier Shop on Jan Breydelstraat

My visit to Belgium was hosted by Tourism Flanders-Brussels as part of the Flanders is a Festival bloggers’ campaign. As always, all opinions are my own. You can follow the bloggers who will be visiting various festivals in the area all summer long on Twitter with the hashtag, #fiaf12.

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All Ghent photographs Margo Millure©. We grant permission to share these photographs on social sharing sites, as long as they are properly credited and linked back to this article. Please contact for any other re-use.

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at

This article has 15 comments

  1. judith works

    Super photos as usual. This is an area not so much frequented by US based travelers so it’s nice to see some publicity.

  2. Ayelet - All Colores

    Great photos! This architecture is so different than what I see in my daily life, and you’re getting me curious about Belgium. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventure there 🙂

  3. Katy

    Wow, Margo! This is stunning – your photos and words bring this place to life. I LOVE the shot of the bike wheel and rainshower, that is something special 🙂

  4. Krista

    Absolutely STUNNING photos, Margo! Your best photo essay yet. I just love this. 🙂

  5. Turkey's For Life

    A fantastic photo essay. Great shots that have made me want to go to Belgium even more now. We used to be able to fly there easily for the UK but it’s a bit more difficult from Turkey. 🙂

  6. Zita

    Amazing photos, Margo! I have been to Belgium but never in Gent. It is a great photo essay to let people daydream! 🙂

  7. Margo Millure

    Thank you so much for all the nice comments! Love this part of the world.. and it was so amazing to have the chance to explore Gent on my own for a couple of days.

  8. Bobbi Lerman

    Your photo’s are beautiful Margo.
    I’ve never been to Ghent, but I want to now.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Abby

    Your photos are ridiculous, Margo. I could gaze at them all day!

  10. Holly


  11. Margo Millure

    Awww, such nice comments from so many of my favorite people. Thank you!

  12. Margo Millure

    Ayelet – that’s one of the things I love about traveling  – being somewhere where landscapes and architecture are totally different than what I’m used to. It also somehow makes it easier to recognize the things that are the same everywhere. And Ghent doesn’t look a thing like where I live either!

  13. rebecca

    lovely pictures and hope to visit one day

  14. Ward

    Great pictures, esp the one with the 2 coloured bikes!
    Ghent is a fab city. It has a bohemian cosmopolitan flair, for a city of its size hard to find elsewhere in Europe.

  15. Behroz Khan

    thank you dear, for nice photo.

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