GHENT has a string of superb Gothic buildings and a bevy of delightful, intimate streetscapes, where antique brick houses are woven around a skein of narrow canals. The city's star turn is undoubtedly St Baafskathedraal – or at least its principal treasure, Jan van Eyck's remarkable Adoration of the Mystic Lamb – but it's well supported by the the forbidding castle of the counts of Flanders, Het Gravensteen. Here also are exquisite medieval guildhouses and enjoyable museums, not to mention a regiment of lively bars and first-class restaurants clustering the cobbled lanes of the Patershol district. These central attractions are supplemented by several outlying sights, most notably SMAK, a prestigious Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Fine Art).
Throughout the year, boat trips explore Ghent's inner waterways, departing from the Korenlei and Graslei quays, just near the Korenmarkt, as well as from the Vleeshuisbrug, metres from the Groentenmarkt (March to mid-Nov daily 10am–6pm, mid-Nov to Feb Sat & Sun 11am–4pm; 6). Trips last forty minutes and leave roughly every fifteen minutes, though the wait can be longer as boats often only leave when reasonably full.
Perhaps above all, Ghent remains a quintessentially Flemish city with a tourist industry – rather than the other way round – and if you're put off by the tourists and tweeness of Bruges, this is the place to decamp.