A local’s guide to Ghent, Belgium: traditional beer, fine dining and docklands clubbing | Holidays in Ghent


Ghent is blessed with an exciting food scene, with unpretentious, creative young chefs favoring local, seasonal ingredients with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. I recommend Aroy Aroy, the latest venture of chef Jason Blanckaert, who has abandoned his Michelin stars and simply cooks what he likes. It currently serves Thai cuisine that I would say is as authentic as many Thai restaurants, even though Aroy Aroy’s chefs are Flemish.

I also really like Elders, a new place just outside the center that serves simple but delicious dishes like a chilled cucumber and elderflower bouillon or oysters with rhubarb. It’s perfect for a casual Sunday brunch.

Oysters to the Elders

And Raaf, about to open, is a first venture for young chefs who will bake their own bread, grill and roast meat, fish and lots of vegetables in a beautifully renovated butcher’s warehouse. And head to the Lousberg organic market, where the dairy cooperative het Hinkelspel sells a wonderful variety of local cheeses.


Cuter flower market.
Cuter flower market. Photo: Helen Nicholson/Alamy

Running a brewery takes up most of my life, but Sundays are sacred, and I have a ritual that starts with a walk to the center of Ghent, to StJacob’s Flea Market, where I can enjoy the simple pleasure of buying affordable vintage jackets. just €5. Then it’s off to the used book market in Ajuinlei and the flower market in Kouter Square. By then, my wife and family will have joined me for oysters and bubbles at the market’s De Blauwe stand.

I recommend visitors to see the painting of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (the Ghent altarpiece) by the brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck in the cathedral. Yes, there will be long lines, but it’s unforgettable – and now there’s a 3D experience as well as the masterpiece itself.


We opened our brewery four years ago in the Dok Noord district and it has developed into a neighborhood with a similar atmosphere to the former docklands in London or New York. It’s only a 10-minute walk from the medieval center of Ghent, but it feels like a different world. The 19th-century industrial warehouses that line the canal have been transformed into a mix of creative hubs, food and drink venues and sustainable housing that attracts young locals.

Right on the canal, Eat This is an experimental exhibition and performance space, while the nearby Bar Bricolage is an outdoor bar that hosts concerts. Children can play in the newly opened Captain Zeppos water park. Don’t imagine this area is anything like Bruges or Antwerp – as we always say here: “if it’s too pretty then it’s not Ghent”.

Ghent and the River Lys.
Ghent and the River Lys. Photo: Jurgen Schulzki/Alamy

Green space

I have two favorite green spaces. Appelbrugparkje is a tiny in the historic heart of Ghent that even many locals have never heard of. Tucked away behind the Castle of the Counts, you sit quietly in a green oasis, with picturesque views of the river Lys and the medieval Butcher’s.

Keizerpark, on the river Scheldt, is very different. a large open park loved by Gantois, where you can sit for a picnic and rent a boat.


For anyone who loves techno and house, Kompass is a world-class club, a typical Ghent family affair, but attracting top DJs. Housed in an old factory with low ceilings, the atmosphere is electric. And Charlatan is a local legend that never disappoints, the best club in town for over 30 years. There’s even a movie about it, Belgica. At least once a month the whole group heads to Charlatan after the brewery closes.

For live music, Bar Lume is the place to catch young Belgian bands, while Funke is a new venue spanning three floors, a cultural hub hosting concerts, DJ sets and art spaces for exhibitions and installations.


De Draecke (dorms from €19, double rooms €70) is a simple but modern hostel right in the city center offering accommodation in dorms or private rooms.

Dimitris Messiaen is the founder of Dok Brewing Company

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