You can't miss the Belfry of Ghent, Belgium. At 91 meters tall, it dwarfs the surrounding buildings so even if you don't climb its 366 steps, you can still appreciate its grandeur from different points across the city.
Visiting the Belfry of Ghent
Construction started in 1313 but the design of the tower was modified several times over the years. The adjoining Cloth Hall, where fabrics were measured, cut, and sold, was added in the 15th century. Together with St. Bavo Cathedral and St. Nicholas' Church, the belfry forms part of the “Three Towers of Ghent” and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
During medieval times, the building stored the municipal privileges – important documents detailing the town's rights – and also 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, like if a fire broke out, for example.
You can see stone sculptures representing 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.
The watchmen weren't on their own, though. A gilded copper dragon was added to the top of the tower in 1377 and helped watch over the city. As well as becoming a mascot for Ghent, the dragon was also the symbolic protector of the municipal privileges.
The most famous 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 organise their day.
On the top floor, 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.
Belfry of Ghent
St. Baafsplein, Ghent
Open every day from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., except on January 1 and December 25.
Where to stay in Ghent
Check Booking.com for an extensive list of options for all budgets and needs.
If you're looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking Airbnb. Sign up through my link to get a discount on your first stay!
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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.