There are a lot of things Ghent isn’t short on (beer, fries, chocolate, to name a few), but quiet, grassy spots where you can sit under a leafy tree are a bit in short supply. So that’s why I love Ghent’s beguinages. ‘What’s a beguinage?’, I hear you cry. Beguinages are religious communities for women that appeared mainly in Flanders, but also the Netherlands and France, in the 13th century. The Old St Elizabeth’s Beguinage is one of three in Ghent, and is known as ‘the holy corner’ as it symbolises religious tolerance with its Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.
A beguinage tends to have a typical layout for you to explore – a church, a grassy area out front, and narrow cobbled streets lined with small cottages all around. At the Old St Elizabeth’s Beguinage I love the two-story houses with their picture-postcard step-gabled roofs and rusty red-painted facades. This beguinage is in the city centre but you wouldn’t stumble across it by accident as it’s tucked away and a cut-through only really used by locals.