Ghent is not a big city – it is just shy of 156 square-kilometers, with a student-dominated population of 242,000. But there is always time for food hunting, even if you’re just here for a day. If there’s anything that Ghent can surprise you with, it is its cafe culture. Most cafes here can be characterized as modern, sleek, stylish and most of all, cozy and warm. If you can afford the time, linger longer in each of the cafes you visit. Take in the luminescent lamps, wooden frames hung on the walls, meticulously decorated shopfronts and plush seats. Here is a list of the best cafes you’ll find within the city.
Upon entering Balls & Glory, you’ll be won over by its concept. Instead of a menu of items for you to choose from like every other restaurant, each day they present only two balls of choice from their selection of flavors, such as mushroom truffle or three cheeses. This saves you the modern-day woes of being spoilt for choice. Isn’t it such an ingenious idea? And instead of breadbaskets being served as appetizers, each table is bequeathed a basket of apples. Balls & Glory is a startup by a businessman and chef, and has branches both in Antwerp and here in Ghent. They’ve also published a recipe book.
Julie’s House is a quaint little shop selling everything to satisfy your sweet tooth. Their main highlight is their selection of cupcakes, but have a taste of their lemon tart – you’ll be addicted in no time.
After a long day of exploring, you cannot leave Ghent without entering one of Belgium’s local pubs. This pub in particular offers the largest beer selection in Ghent, and that’s not even the best part. Their main attraction is their Kwak beer. It is served in an hourglass shape, and fitted into a wooden stand, like a test tube. Because of its unique and long glass shape, they require a deposit. What deposit? You wonder. Upon ordering, the staff rings a bell and a basket drops from the ceiling. You are to surrender one of your shoes to be hung on this basket until you return the empty glass. Your shoe is the deposit. This bar policy is certainly amusing. And if that does not amaze you enough, be astounded by the height of the glasses – they are so tall you would have to grow a giraffe’s neck to reach the rim of the glass.
Gentse Neuzekes are very sweet purple candies that are typical of Ghent. Nicknamed ‘noses’ because of their cone shape, you can find these being sold in pushcarts on the square named Groentenmarkt. Here, you are right in the heart of the historical center, where you can find the famous Befry, St. Nicholas’ Church and the Town Hall.