Visiting the Belfry
You can't miss the Belfry of Ghent, Belgium. At 91 meters tall, the structure dwarfs the surrounding buildings, even if you don't climb its 366 steps, you can still experience its grandeur from different points across the city.
Together with the St. Bavo Cathedral and the St. Nicholas' Church, the Ghent belfry forms part of the “Three Towers of Ghent” and is a UNESCO World Heritage site<.
Construction started in 1313 but the design of the belfry was modified several times over the years. The adjoining Cloth Hall, where fabrics were measured, cut, and sold, was added in the 15th century. The Cloth Hall is built in a gothic style and reminds us of the flourishing Ghent textile industry of times gone by.
During medieval times, the building stored the municipal privileges – important documents detailing the town's rights – and served as a watchtower. From the high vantage point, guards kept an eye on the city and would ring the bells if danger was imminent.
Stone sculptures represent the watchmen in the basement. Only one (seen on the right of the image below) is an original. If you look closely you'll see that in comparison to the three replicas, it's rather damaged.
A gilded copper dragon was added to the top of the tower in 1377 to assist the watchmen. As well as becoming a mascot for Ghent, the dragon was also the symbolic protector of the municipal privileges. In 1578 the privileges were returned to Ghent and kept in the City Hall.
The most notorious bell of the Belfry is called Roland. First used solely as an alarm bell, Roland later rang out every hour and was accompanied by a collection of smaller bells with various tones to help the locals tell the time and organize their day.
On the top floor of the Belfry, visitors can see the mechanism that rings the bells. Known as a carillon, the music-box-like machinery causes the bells to chime as it turns.
This historic World Heritage site is just one of many fun things to do in Ghent.
St. Baafsplein, Ghent
Open every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., except on January 1 and December 25.
Getting to Ghent
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Accommodation in Ghent, Belgium
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I received a Ghent CityCard from VisitGent to visit some sights during my day trip. Such partnerships will never affect how I write about a place; my reviews are always honest and accurate.