A Half Day In Ghent

Right at the end of last year I had one of my annual trips to a Christmas market. Basing myself in Lille (France), I had my eye on a day trip to Belgium. Ghent was my chosen location and is only one hour and a quarter away by local trains. This is my account of the short visit I made to this beautiful Belgian city.

With historic, colourful buildings and a bustling Christmas market, Ghent is easy on the eye, even on a cloudy day.

St Nicholas’ Church, Ghent

Whistlestop Tour

The train ride involved one change at Kortrijk in Belgium. Having crossed the border between France and Belgium we were ready to switch trains but it turned out the same train merely changed its number and became the second train. So we basically just had to wait for fifteen minutes and carry on towards Ghent. I found this amusing as I had got off the train looking for a different one but hadn’t needed to.

Getting from Ghent station to the centre (Korenmarkt) took about eighteen minutes. It was extremely crowded as Ghent is a proper tourist trap. Arriving near a fantastic church and famous bridge (St Michael’s bridge), the view was well worth the wait and discomfort of the crouded tram.

After taking in the architecture, we walked over to a place where everyone was hopping on boats. Straight away we got onto a forty minute boat tour which took us along the canals and past the intimidating Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen).

Gravensteen Castle
View from the boat

Although it was a fairly short tour, we went down three arms of the canal and had a chance to see all of the important sites.

A woman with crab claws

Afterwards, we made our way to the nearby Christmas market which was impressive and had many of the same features as the one in Lille, such as the Ferris Wheel.

Ghent Christmas market
Ghent Christmas market

My favourite thing was sampling a hot dog and some famous Belgian fries.

In A Nutshell

Deciding to walk along the canal back to the train station rather than taking the tram, I realised that Ghent is packed with history, shops and intrigue. I know that I will visit again and spend more time enjoying this fantastic place. Although I was on a rush to get back to Lille (because Eurostar trains were on hold and I thought I would need to go to Calais), my brief hours in beautiful Ghent were satisfying and the city looked just as picturesque as instagram suggested.

Check out my Bonjour Lille article for more about my Christmas travels. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. Please follow me for similar future content.

Bonjour, Lille

My Christmas visit to a French wonder.

Lille centre

Every winter I plan to visit a different European city from now on. Last year I had the pleasure of going to beautiful Antwerp during the Christmas period and I have now gained a taste for Christmas markets. So this December I decided to visit the northern French city of Lille.

Check out last December’s Antwerp post below:

Stepping off of the Eurostar, I was excited by the large Eurolille station and surrounding city. My train journey was only one hour and twenty minutes long (from St Pancras, London) and suddenly I was in a hub of colour and decoration.

Walking across a road bridge into the main centre, I quickly found our hotel, where I dropped off my bags before going right back out to explore this intriguing setting.

My eyes were delighted by a very festive centre, hustling and bustling with people, lit by glowing decorations and immersed in a Christmassy vibe.

Lille is well connected, being on the northern France border with Belgium and having two train stations. One focuses on travel between nations while the other is for more local rail travel.

The Opera House

The Opera House was the first building I came across. Such intricate designs adorned this bold building which sat next to a few fairground rides. Nearby is the Grand Place, usually a large open square, currently filled with stalls, a stunning Christmas tree and a huge Ferris Wheel.

Greeted by such a sparkly city, I was relieved that I had made the decision to visit wonderful Lille. It had been a gamble as I knew very little about the place, but had been intrigued every time I travelled through it on my many visits to mainland Europe.

I cannot wait to find out more about this historic city. Have you ever been to this under-promoted French destination?

Check back with me for more articles about this lovely place. In the meantime have a look at my Top Five European Cities post from earlier in the year.

Paris In Autumn

The City That Never Gets Old

After five years away, going back to Paris was not only inevitable but also much needed. I always feel strangely at home in the bustling heart of France, surrounded by history, fashion and food.

OK, let’s be honest. It is mainly about food for me. Especially cheese.

This time, I took my mum with me as she had always wanted to go and my step father is not keen on walking about on holiday. My aunt also tagged along, making it a real family affair.

Bus Tours Are Great Starters

Whereever I go, I tend to first take a bus tour as an easy way to get a sense of what a city has to offer. Mum was looking forward to seeing what Paris has to look at and so we stepped onto a Tootbus near the Louvre and hopped off near the Arc de Triomphe.

We were going to walk up the steps to the roof but the wind was very strong and the queue was enormous. Plus we were feeling a bit hungry by then.

So we went for some very tasty omelettes at a nearby restaurant, where I also tried a really thirst-quenching strawberry milkshake with plenty of whipped cream. The waiter was incredibly helpful and, as with most places in Paris, they had the items written in English as well as French.

We then popped back on the bus and took in the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero before heading to the shops. I found a large UniQlo which was rammed with people. There must have been a hundred people entering the door every minute. It was great to snap up a new red jumper and some affordable but stylish socks.

In The Evening

My Mum was intrigued by Montmarte and so we got an Uber to the bottom of the Funicular. For a few Euros we were able to ascend the steep hill to the Sacre Couer. The famous church was brilliantly illuminated and the view from the hill across the whole city was wonderful.

After a walk around, we finished off eating near the Moulin Rouge and then got an Uber back to Citi Bergere. It was a lovely first evening and great way to begin the holiday.

And Finally

I would certainly recommend taking a bus tour of Paris to familiarise yourself with the most famous sights. This allowed us to plan the next few days and, because we bought a 48 hour bus pass, we could use it again the next day.

I would love to hear about your experiences of Paris in the comments. Thank you for taking the time to read my travel post. For another of my travel posts, check out Basel – A Hidden Gem.