Top Historic Sights in Ghent, Belgium

Explore the historic highlights of Ghent

St Nicholas' Church

St. Nicholas" Church is one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Ghent. Begun in the early 13th century as a replacement for an earlier Romanesque church, construction continued through the rest of the century in the local Scheldt Gothic style (named after the nearby river). Typical of this style is the use of blue-gray stone from the Tournai area, the single large tower above the crossing, and the slender t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Belfry of Ghent

The 91-metre-tall belfry is one of three medieval towers that overlook the old city centre of Ghent, the other two belonging to Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas" Church. Its height makes it the tallest belfry in Belgium. The belfry of Ghent, together with its attached buildings, belongs to the set of belfries of Belgium and France inscribed on UNESCO"s World Heritage List. Construction of the tower began in 1313 a ...
Founded: 1313 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteen

The Gravensteen is a castle in Ghent originating from the Middle Ages. The name means 'castle of the counts' in Dutch. Arnulf I (918–965), Count of Flanders, was the first to fortify this place, building a medieval bastion on this high sand dune, naturally protected by the river Leie and its marshy banks. This bastion consisted of a central wooden building and several surrounding buildings, also in wood. ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

St Michael's Church

Saint Michael"s Church was built in a late Gothic style. Documents from 1105 testify to the existence on the site of a chapel dedicated to St. Michael which was subordinate to another parish. The building was twice destroyed by fire early in the 12th century and rebuilt. From 1147 it was recognized as an independent parochial church. Construction of the current late Gothic church was probably commenced in 1440, and ...
Founded: c. 1440 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

St Bavo's Cathedral

The Saint Bavo Cathedral is based upon the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, a primarily wooden construction; it was consecrated in 942 by Transmarus, Bishop of Tournai and Noyon. Traces of this original structure are evident in the cathedral"s crypt. The chapel was subsequently expanded in the Romanesque style in 1038. Some traces of this phase of expansion are still evident in the present day crypt. In the subsequen ...
Founded: 11-16th century | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Geeraard de Duivelsteen

Geeraard de Duivelsteen is a Gothic building in Ghent, Belgium. It served as defense of the Portus Ganda, the city's port. The building was built in the 13th century and was named after the knight Geeraard Vilain (1210-1270), second son of the fifteenth viscount of Gent, Zeger III of Ghent. Vilain's nickname was Geeraard de Duivel ('Geerard the Devil'), which was based on his dark complexion and hair color. In the 14th c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Ghent, Belgium

St. Peter's Abbey

St. Peter's Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey in Ghent, now a museum and exhibition centre. St. Peter's was founded in the late 7th century by Amandus, a missionary sent by the Frankish kings to Christianize the pagan inhabitants of the region, who founded two monasteries in the area, St. Bavo's, and St. Peter's on the Blandijnberg. During the winter of 879-80, the abbey was raided and plundered by the Normans, and it r ...
Founded: 7th century AD | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium holds a large permanent collection of art from the Middle Ages until the mid-20th century. The collection focuses on Flemish Art (masterpieces from Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck) but also has several European - especially French - paintings. It also has a large amount of sculptures. The building was designed by city architect Charles van Rysselberghe aro ...
Founded: 1900 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Ghent City Museum

The Ghent City Museum (STAM) exposes the city history. With respect to the collection that is shown, the history of this museum goes back to 1833, the year in which the Oudheidkundig Museum van de Bijloke in Ghent was founded. In 1928 the museum was situated in the Bijloke abbey - this led to the name Bijlokemuseum. With the Bijloke collection as base and the Bijloke abbey and Bijloke monastery as buildings, the STAM fun ...
Founded: 2010 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Drongen Abbey

Drongen Abbey is a monastic complex on the River Leie in Drongen, a part of the city of Ghent. Formerly a Premonstratensian abbey, since 1837 the premises have belonged to the Jesuits. In the Middle Ages there were two legends regarding the abbey"s foundation in the 7th century. According to one, the abbey was built by a certain Basinus, king of Basotes; according to the other, its founder was Saint Amandus, who als ...
Founded: 7th century/1638 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Nieuwenbosch Abbey Ruins

Nieuwenbosch Abbey was a Cistercian community established in 1215 in Lokeren. The original site was unsuitable because of the poor water supply and the nuns moved to the site in Heusden in 1257, when the name became 'Nieuwenbosch'. The abbey was stormed and largely ruined in 1579 by the Iconoclasts, and the nuns moved for greater security inside the city of Ghent and built new premises in what is now the Lange V ...
Founded: 1257 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Palazzo Colonna

The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.

The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).

With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).

Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.

The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.

The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.