At pretty much any time of day or night, Ghent looks every bit the historic city it is. Like Bruges — another small, art-centric medieval city in northern Belgium — it makes for an easy day trip out of Brussels. But you might find yourself wanting to stay the night, and not just for peaceful walks like this one along graceful canals and cobbled streets that shine in this photo. You'd have to stay a while to really get a feel for this place that’s been productive and prosperous, for the most part, since the Middle Ages and still continues to evolve.
By the 13th century, this was Europe’s second-largest city (behind Paris, of course), its growth fueled by the textile trade. Many grand old buildings, including Gothic-style Saint Bavo Cathedral with its magnificent altarpiece artwork, are preserved in a car-free town center. Ghent’s Museum of Fine Art hold works by artists including Hieronymus Bosch and Peter Paul Rubens, and a comprehensive textile museum tells the story of the cloth trade’s contributions.
But Ghent is not just about its history. Its research university and busy port are both thriving in very modern fashion, and events like the I Love Techno music festival add a healthy dose of cutting edge to this delightfully mature place.