GHENT, Belgium --
Its not easy being one of the most underrated cities in one of the
most underrated countries in all Europe.
even by tour operators that do think to include Belgium on Europe
itineraries, undervisited Ghent -- ignored in favor of Bruges,
Antwerp and even Brussels -- is now attracting its fair share of
attention from abroad.
With a slew of
hotel openings added to a healthy existing stock of attractions
both historical and epicurean, Ghent looks set to accommodate a new
While Ghent is in
many ways typically Belgian, boasting chocolate shops, specialty
beers and even a Bruges-like network of canals, it puts its own
unique spin on standard national fare.
And in very
un-Belgian fashion, its most famous sweet shop, Temmerman, isnt
noted for chocolates. Visitors instead clog the confectioners on
the Kraanlei canal for cuberdons, nose-shaped cones filled with
culinary calling card is mustard. Grocer Tierenteyn-Verlent makes
an extra-strong, preservative-free mustard according to a 1790
Gourmet tours of
Ghent are now popular. Vizit (www.vizit.be) offers walking dinner and tasting tours;
the official tour guides' group for the city (www.gidsenbond-gent.be) can also be hired.
picturesque canals, lined with gabled warehouses reminiscent of
Amsterdam, can be cruised with several operators, including Gent
On view from on
deck: Ghents city-center, canalside castle, the Gravensteen, and
the three towers of the Belfry, St. Nicholas Church and St. Bavos
Cathedral, home to priceless 15th century painting The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, by Jan
boasts four four-star hotels: Holiday Inn, NH Gent, Sofitel Gent
Belfort and Ghent River Hotel; a fifth, Hotel Flanders, is under
On the boutique
end of the market, family-run Hotel Harmony (www.hotel-harmony.be) opened on Sept. 10 in two 19th
century buildings on the Kraanlei canal, offering 17 posh guest
units of four types: cozy, luxurious room, luxurious room with city
view and junior suite.
Seven more units
will open by Jan. 31, bumping the room count to 24. Rates range
from about $145 to $235; notably, the hotel pays up to 20%
Marriott -- Ghents first five-star hotel -- will open on the
Korenlei canal in 2006, housed in four renovated 15th century
The town also
boasts more than 75 bed-and-breakfasts, such as the charming and
chic three-room Chambreplus (www.chambreplus.be), where nightly rates with
breakfast start at $88.
For more, contact
Ghents tourism office at (011) 32-9 266-5232 or www.visitgent.be. The
Belgian Tourist Office can be reached at (212) 758-8130 or www.visitbelgium.com.
Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].