If wealth equates to taste, then Ghent has such a reputation.
The city has existed since the Middle Ages when its spot at the confluence of the Scheldt and Lys Rivers was bound to establish it as one of Northern Europe’s great trading cities.
Ghent is a grand city, but not in the modern sense of harbouring soaring skyscrapers. Indeed, much of the old city still remains, and to wander its streets is to enjoy an architectural banquet where buildings of great beauty are seemingly crowded into a relatively small area.
To walk the city is to indulge in a visual feast as you pass ornate cathedrals, majestic castles, historic churches and dwellings that are simply gorgeous.
For anyone who enjoys collecting historical objects, Ghent is also famous for the number of antique shops which line its narrow streets. Although true bargains may be hard to procure, you will still pay a fair price for interesting knick knacks or objects that have more of a grandeur.
Ghent is truly a city for walking around, particularly as many inner city streets are virtually car free. Strolling seems to be a local institution, and it is not unusual to see whole families gently striding the charming streets.
One of the popular places to stray is the Graslei, down by the riverfront. Here you will find lines of medieval buildings, many of which are beer bars where people to gather to enjoy an ale. Belgium has more breweries per head of population than any other country in the world, and here the beer Gruut is the only to be brewed within the city still using age-old traditional methods.
One of these bars is the De Dulle Griet which sells Kwak, which is served in its own unique class. It comes in a twenty five centimetre glass tube with a flared top and a round, bulbous bottom is held by a wooden clamp. It needs the clamp because it would tip over if you tried to set it down on a table! The glass is so valuable that at De Dulle Griet you have to leave one shoe in a hanging basket as your deposit.
Ghent is a water city, and one of the best ways to view it is from a boat.
Some of the cruise companies offer straight cruises with good commentaries, whilst others let you enjoy the view with a glass of champagne in your hand, or you can sail or paddle yourself on a self-guided trip.
Ghent is considered by many to be one of the best kept secrets in Europe; and it is one of those places which really does charm the casual visitor.