Destination: Ghent
Top Ten
1 The Ghent Altarpiece
2 Gravensteen
3 Kerkhof Campo Santo
4 Kuip van Gent
5 Patershol
6 Prinsenhof
7 St Baafskathedraal
8 St Elisabethbegijnhof
9 Stedelijk Museum voor Aktuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.)
10 Vrijdagmarkt
2 Gravensteen

Ghent is not the only place with a castle like the Gravensteen, there is also one in Syria, but that is twelve times larger.

In 1180 Philip of Alsace, inspired by a castle he had seen in the Holy Land, had the Gravensteen built with walls 1.7m thick. It was the largest fortress in the world situated in the centre of a city. One side of the castle was protected by the Leie river.

Initially the Counts of Flanders lived here, but in the 15th century they looked for a better and warmer residence. After that the castle did duty as a mint, court of law and prison. Many people were martyred here during the witch-hunts as you will see from the collection of instruments of torture. The guillotine was last used to behead someone as late as 1861. Parts of the building were then converted into a textile factory with the result that it soon fell into disrepair. Restoration was carried out from 1894, and fortunately the Ghent World Fair of 1913 provided a good reason for completing the thorough renovation of the Gravensteen.

Castles usually conjure up pictures of valiant knights who repel attacks by the invaders. This fortress served to keep down the unruly local population and it was only ever overrun by the inhabitants of Ghent themselves, notably in 1948 during a student uprising in protest at an increase in the price of beer. In 1999 an unknown person broke in and stole the display of weapons. The following day this collection was found on the doorstep of the police station; the thief had simply wanted to show that security in the Gravensteen left something to be desired.

Address: St Veerleplein 11
Phone: 09-2259306
Open: Apr-Sep: daily 9-6; Oct-Mar: daily 9-5
Restaurant: Some restaurants on St Veerleplein (Moderately priced)
Bus: Tram 1, 10, 11, 13, 40, 42
Accessible: None
Admission: Cheap
Practical: Concerts take place from time to time

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