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As a merchant city thriving on the cloth trade just as Gothic architecture was all the rage, Ghent still has many masterpieces in the medieval style that have stood the test of time. Start at St Michael’s Church and its bridge smack-dab in the historic core for a walking tour of the town’s Gothic highlights.
From one side unapologetically Gothic to the other adhering to a subdued Renaissance style, it’s as if Ghent’s Town Hall is composed of two separate buildings. The reason for the mayor’s seat’s architectural craziness is the time that it took to erect. While builders completed the late Gothic part in the first half of the 16th century, construction on the Renaissance wing only started over 50 years later. Confounding façade aside, the Town Hall’s Wedding Chapel, with its stained-glass windows, is one of Ghent’s most romantic locals.
Town Hall, Botermarkt 1, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 210 10 10
The Weavers’ Chapel is a 14th-century Gothic pearl that usually goes unnoticed except for pleasantly surprised furniture shoppers headed for a visit to Bolia. The flagship store of the Danish designer only recently set up shop inside the former chapel of Ghent’s wool weavers, where the guild took care of its old and its sick. The barrel-vaulted ceiling and remaining grandeur of this forgotten monument are worth a stop, even if you’re not in the market for Scandinavian design.