When the very first rays of spring sunshine peek through the clouds, everyone heads for the Korenmarkt. It might as well be included in Ghent’s traditional customs. The newly refurbished square with restricted traffic is a real magnet for people who like to make the best of life. Visitors in search of a spot to relax sit shoulder to shoulder with born-and-bred Ghent residents sharing a chat over a cup of coffee.
Enjoy a beer in Klein Turkije
The Korenmarkt is right in the heart of the historic centre of Ghent, beside the imposing St Nicholas Church. Take a good look at this magnificent example of Scheldt Gothic architecture! Along the side of this beautiful building, you will find the pubs and bars of Klein Turkije. Ironically enough, the street where you can now enjoy a locally brewed beer was once the place where public auctions were held after bankruptcies. It is said that the name ‘Klein Turkije’, although it literally means “Little Turkey” is not a reference to the country (or the bird), but a corruption of the saying ter keie gaan, to ‘hit rock bottom’.
Donkersteeg, full of lights
On the other side of the Korenmarkt is Donkersteeg. Although the name means ‘dark alley’, it is actually a vibrant shopping street boasting everything from jewellery, leather goods and fashion to handmade chocolates. A great gathering spot for fashion lovers and gourmets. Be sure to stop for coffee at Mokabon. This legendary Ghent coffee house is a Mecca for mocha!
There’s far more to the Korenmarkt area than eating, drinking and shopping. Although the square has been extensively refurbished over the years, you will still find centuries of Ghent history right before your eyes. Almost 1000 years ago, this was the place where grain was traded after arriving in the city along the Scheldt and Lys rivers. This enabled the Korenmarkt to grow into an economic centre over the course of the Middle Ages. The square later became the place where mail coaches arrived and departed. This is why the imposing post-office building was built here at the beginning of the 20th century on the foundations of what was originally intended to be the Royal Dutch Theatre. This architectural gem, which has now been converted into a shopping centre, 4-star hotel and cocktail bar, is a real must-see!
What’s near here?
For a bountiful shopping spree, stroll due south from St Nicholas Church into the Veldstraat. This is one of Ghent’s most famous shopping streets, featured on Belgian Monopoly boards (where Piccadilly or Marvin Gardens would be on a British or American board). A stone’s throw away, you have the Graslei, and the Korenlei just across the water. At the northern end of the Korenmarkt, you are very close to the Patershol: an entire listed neighbourhood. Be sure not to miss these picturesque mediaeval streets!