The city of Ghent in Belgium is not only pleasant to visit during the famous historical Floralies events, but throughout the year it offers green spaces to visit. There are so many green oases in and around the city: from small, cozy parks, like the Appelbrugparkje and the Baudelopark, or large landscaped parks like the Citadelpark (which is home to the two main visual arts museums), the Koning Albertpark and the Groene Vallei. All Ghent’s parks are maintained without the use of pesticides.
Even in the heart of the city is possible to find green places. St Bavo’s Cathedral has a rich history and it is also filled with art treasures such as ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers, recognized worldwide as a great work of art, and one of the most influential paintings ever made. The close Maaseikplein is a green oasis with references to the Ghent Altarpiece. Have a picnic or read a book among the fruit trees, play leapfrog or have fun on the mini-trampolines built-in trampolines, hidden sitting areas and wooden sheep, everything is possible on this green, child-friendly square next to St Bavo’s Cathedral.
In 2019, no less than 1400 square meters of asphalt had to make way for a flower-filled grassy area and an orchard. This refreshing oasis features pear trees, apple trees, a fig tree, a cherry tree, an almond tree and a mulberry tree. Sweet woodruff, wild strawberries and Madonna lilies are among the species that give color and fragrance to the site. Many of the species that were planted here are also depicted in the famous masterpiece by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck.
Even the closest St Nicholas’ Church, one of the most beautiful examples of the Scheldt Gothic style, is surrounded by trees. The green space is called Emile Braunplein. This square in the heart of the city is named after Emile Braun, mayor of Ghent at the beginning of the 20th century. A few years ago it was completely redesigned and nowadays is wonderful to relax and rest under the trees and on the sidewalks.
Between the station and the city center, the Citadelpark is a park in Ghent on the brow of a hill between the rivers Scheldt and Lys. Typical of the park is the English landscape style with a hilly landscape and winding paths. Every bend in the path provides an unexpected new view. This city park was created in 1875 on the place where the Dutch citadel of Ghent formerly stood, built between 1819 and 1831. Today it is a great place to enjoy botanical abundance. There are about 1,253 trees of 100 different species. Spot the name tags that were placed in front of all the remarkable trees in 2005. Ghent’s citadel was demolished to make way for the 1913 World Expo in Ghent. The Floralies Palace is doubtless the most famous pavilion.
The park has been a protected landscape since 1984. The university’s Botanical Gardens and Ledeganck campus are on the edge of the Citadelpark. The Ghent Botanical Garden is part of the renowned educational institution “Ghent University”. More than 10,000 different plant species in the tropical and subtropical greenhouses of the University Botanical Garden are in bloom and appealing to all.
Over the past 220 years, the Botanical Garden has become a unique and valuable place for research, inspiration and tranquillity. The Botanical Garden and the GUM will join the future Museumplein together with the art museums S.M.A.K. and MSK Ghent.
At the same time, many churches or monasteries in Ghent hide green spaces. One of them is St Peter’s Abbey which is not only the exhibition hall of Historische Huizen Ghent, but also an open house well worth visiting with its exciting history, robust architecture, and luxurious abbey gardens, between the lavender, fruit trees and grapevines.
The abbey garden with herb garden, vineyard, and orchard was there in the Middle Ages. It’s a reconstruction based on historical models, built on the terraced gardens which a pretentious abbot created in the eighteenth century. The monks had grown vines on the hillside to the River Scheldt since the ninth century. The abbey has had vineyards again since 1983. Each year, four grape varieties provide a changing number of bottles of ‘abbey wine’.
Another hidden gem is the garden inside the Carmelite Monastery. It is the place to find peace and quiet. The Carmelite Monks form a living community in Ghent. The 18th-century monastery church can be visited freely and the adjoining garden by request.
The Muinkpark is a 1.3 hectare park in English landscape style, with a playground and sandbox. It is the only remnant of the 19th-century Ghent zoo. Lions, a puma, parrots, monkeys, ostriches, a crocodile and an elephant were real crowd pullers. At the same time, ordinary animals such as chickens, geese, ducks, sheep and rabbits also found a place in the zoo. The names of surrounding streets also refer to this past. For example, Zebrastraat, Olifantstraat, Hertstraat, Tijgerstraat and Leeuwstraat.
Close, with its 3.6 hectares, the Koning Albertpark or Zuidpark is still the largest park in the city center. The park has a playground, a petanque field and long rows of benches. It is a neo-baroque park and was once the location of Zuid station. It was converted into a traditional park in the 1930s. Ghent residents of all ages meet up here. The columns at the end of the park used to be at the entrance of the former station buffet. In front of the columns is a monument in memory of the war victims of both world wars.