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 t ...
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

Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz

The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz, located in Saxony-Anhalt in the Middle Elbe Region, is an exceptional example of landscape design and planning from the Age of the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Its diverse components – the outstanding buildings, English-style landscaped parks and gardens, and subtly modified expanses of agricultural land – served aesthetic, educational, and economic purposes in an exemplary manner.

The grounds, which had been divided into four parts since the constructions of a railway line and the Bundesautobahn 9 in the 1930s, were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

For Prince Leopold III Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817) and his friend and adviser Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff (1736-1800), the study of landscape gardens in England and ancient buildings in Italy during several tours was the impetus for their own creative programme in the little principality by the rivers Elbe and Mulde. As a result, the first landscape garden in continental Europe was created here, with Wörlitz as its focus. Over a period of forty years a network of visual and stylistic relationships was developed with other landscape gardens in the region, leading to the creation of a garden landscape on a unique scale in Europe. In the making of this landscape, the designers strove to go beyond the mere copying of garden scenery and buildings from other sites, but instead to generate a synthesis of a wide range of artistic relationships. Among new and characteristic components of this garden landscape was the integration of a didactic element, arising from the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the thinking of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), and the aesthetics of Johann Georg Sulzer (1720-1779). The notion of public access to the buildings and grounds was a reflection of the pedagogic concept of the humanisation of society.

Proceeding from the idea of the ferme ornée, agriculture as the basis for everyday life found its place in the garden landscape. In a Rousseauian sense, agriculture also had to perform a pedagogic function in Anhalt-Dessau. Through the deliberate demonstration of new farming methods in the landscape garden, developments in Anhalt-Dessau were not merely theoretical, but a practical demonstration of their models in England. It is noteworthy that these objectives - the integration of aesthetics and education into the landscape – were implemented with outstanding artistic quality. Thus, for instance, the buildings of Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff provided important models for the architectural development of Germany and central Europe. Schloss Wörlitz (1769-73) was the first Neoclassical building in German architectural history. The Gothic House (from 1774) was a decisive influence on the development of Gothic Revival architecture in central Europe. Here, for the first time, the Gothic style was used to carry a political message, namely the desire for the retention of sovereignty among the smaller Imperial territories. The churches in Riesigk (1800), Wörlitz (1804-09), and Vockerode (1810-11) were the first Neoclassical, ecclesiastical buildings in Germany, their towers enlivening the marshland, floodplain landscape in which they served as waymarkers. In parts of the Baroque park of Oranienbaum, an Anglo-Chinese garden was laid out, now the sole surviving example in Europe of such a garden in its original form from the period before 1800. The development of stylistic eclecticism in the 19th century had its roots in the closing years of the 18th century.

Another feature of the landscape is the integration of new technological achievements, such as the building of bridges, an expression of a continuing quest for modernity. Through the conscious incorporation of the older layouts at Oranienbaum and Mosigkau into a pantheon of styles, the landscape became an architectural encyclopaedia featuring examples from ancient times to the latest developments. Nowhere else in Germany or Europe had a prince brought such an all-embracing and extensive programme of landscape reform into being, particularly one so deeply rooted in philosophical and educational theory. With the unique density of its landscape of monuments, the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is an expression of the enlightened outlook of the court at Dessau, in which the landscape became the idealised world of its day.

Through the conscious and structured incorporation of economic, technological, and functional buildings and parks into the artistically designed landscape, the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz became an important concourse of ideas, in that it facilitated the convergence of 18th century grandeur of design with the beginnings of 19th century industrial society. The reforming outlook of this period brought about a huge diversity of change in the garden layout, and this legacy can still be experienced today.