Planning a short trip to Belgium? Forget Brussels. Ghent, a small city in the Flemish part of the country, is where it’s at, especially if you care about sustainability. Home to countless no-nonsense, plant-based restaurants, bustling local markets and chic fair fashion boutiques, it’s a great destination for the sustainability-minded crowd.
Often named one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Europe, Ghent has quite a few plant-based restaurants to offer. Le Botaniste, a restaurant that serves 100% plant-based dishes made with organic ingredients, is a popular one. But if you’re looking for a vegetarian and relatively healthy fast food option, head to Tasty World. Their specialities, vegetarian and vegan burgers, are homemade and definitely better than the bready, chewy kind from the vegetarian aisle of your nearest grocery store. If you are craving a vegetarian version of the famous Belgian fries, there are plenty of options. Frietcultuur, for example, fries theirs in plant-based oil and use some organic ingredients.
For those not following a plant-based diet, there are also plenty of restaurants that serve healthy, organic produce on your plates. Le Pain Quotidian is a great one. Cozy and family-friendly, they serve homemade bread in a variety of ways. Their specialty, the tartines, or open sandwiches, are served with fresh, organic ingredients. Their hot cocoa, served with a tiny piece of spiced biscuit, is not to be missed. The salmon and dill sandwich, with quality bread and fresh, flavorful smoked salmon, is also delicious.
There are many options for lovers of secondhand and upcycled items. The shop De Kringwinkel has a well-stocked branch near the city center. But if it’s nostalgia that you’re after, head to The Fallen Angels, a shop that sells old postcards, posters and enamel items from bygone eras. In summer months, there’s a flea market in Sint-Jacobs square that boasts great collections of antique items. Meanwhile, book lovers can browse through secondhand books at small stalls along the canal at the Ajunlei area on Saturday mornings.
Speaking of markets, Ghent also has a small organic market, hosted at the Groentenmarkt every Friday. You can get different types of local produce such as veggies and cheese. The Sint Michielsplein is also home to a market where you can browse through fresh produce on Sundays. They can be useful if you’re staying in Ghent for a few days and have access to a communal or private kitchen. If you are visiting in winter, do check out the bustling and very cozy Christmas market, where you can get a variety of locally-made food items and other Belgian specialties.
Ghent is also home to a great many fair fashion shops offering ethically-made goods. My personal favorite is Supergoods, which stocks a great variety of products from my favorite brands such as Wintervacht and People Tree. If you’re looking for Braintree‘s products, the cozy Fair Eco Fashion, run by a friendly mom and son team, is definitely the place to visit.
Finally, instead of getting uninteresting, mass-produced souvenirs at questionable souvenir shops, why not get unique locally-made stuff to bring home with you? Independent shops such as Nathalie Engels and Elle et Gand, for instance, specialize in one-of-a-kind clothes, accessories and jewelry by up-and-coming independent Belgian designers.
Have you ever been to Ghent? Have any nice recommendations? Do let me know and I might put them in the post!