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First date with our city? This hike reveals some of Ghent's highlights, wrapped up in a route that's easy to follow. There's a clear start and finish point, with lots of nice addresses along the way. There are always suggestions for breakfast, lunch, apero and dinner. Up to you to decide where to stop. To avoid disappointment, reservations may be advisable.
The suggestions are places that are on or near the route, but are definitely worth discovering if you have a little more time in our city.
It's no surprise that architect Wim Goes takes us to the most beautiful places (and facades!) our city has to offer. Of course, architects are also hungry and thirsty. This walk is a treat for all the senses!
If the name Wim Goes rhymed with architecture, it wouldn't surprise anyone. Wim Goes (1969) teaches at the Faculty of Architecture of KU Leuven and more than 20 years ago he founded an architectural firm under his own name: Wim Goes Architectuur. His work has won several awards, including the Belgian Architecture Award and the Architectural Review Award. In 2002, his conversion of an industrial building for an enterprise in Ghent was awarded the Architecture Award of East Flanders and the Architecture Award of the Order of the Architects. And that's not all, he also left his mark on the design of the Ghent museum square that will serve as a link between the MSK and the S.M.A.K.
Walk a mile in my shoes
7km - 10000 steps
No better place to start your tour than the temple of contemporary art: the S.M.A.K. Get your first caffeine rush with a cup of coffee in the SMAKcafé -double shot! - before you head through the student district towards Bar Jan Cremer. Their sunny terrace is the perfect base for a light lunch (their bagels are first class).
In the same neighbourhood, in the shadow of the Book Tower, designed by Henry van de Velde, you'll find the iconic Vooruit, a stately building with resto, café and event hall under one historic roof. Be sure to grab their programme booklet, a mix of popular and somewhat more atypical performances. Around the corner you can see (you can't miss it) the city library De Krook, an architectural play of light and shadow designed by the architects Coussee and Goris in collaboration with Pritzker prize-winners R.C.R. From the library there's a kind of towpath along the Scheldt towards the Old Palace of Justice. Between these two highlights especially ugliness. Opportunism of real estate, combined with backsides of administrative buildings with in between a beacon of architecture in the form of a bridge. A wooden battened patio bridge generates a force that completely cancels out the failure of its surroundings. A project of the Brussels office.
Follow the winding streets of the Ghent city centre to the Mediterranean cuisine of L’Apéro d’Oc. Be sure to drop in at Copyright, the perfect place to lose yourself in the large selection of art and architecture books. In the shadow of St. Michael's Church you'll find one of my favourite places: café Bornhem, a brown café where I like to drink an Orval on Friday after class with a view on the entrance gate to the city centre.
Also not to be missed: vintage shop N’Importe Quoi for one of a kind deco finds. Nearby, in the Varkensstraat, you'll find the house of architect Marie José Van Hee. The sober grey cemented brick façade is designed from a balance between horizontal and vertical lines, but is above all a project of materiality, light and humanity.
Zigzag towards the tourist centre, discover underneath the St. Michael's Bridge a pearl of architectural prowess. At the end of the bike shed is a small staircase that leads to the arthouse and cinema Sphinx. This staircase in combination with the ceiling is a masterpiece that speaks of light, space, plasticity and functionality, a work that is part of the renewed construction of the centre by Marie José Van Hee together with Robbrecht and Daem architects. The highlight of our tour, a stop at dumpling bar Steamy Windows in the Hoogpoort. What is the link with architecture? Owner and artist Manor Grunewald made our transport crates for the Venice Biennale.