On the right past Jan Breydelstraat is the rear facade of the castle of the Counts of Flanders, the Gravensteen, one of the strongest moated fortresses in Western Europe, surrounded by the River Lieve. It was built 1180-1200 on the orders of Philipp of Alsace, the former count of Flanders, on the foundation of a ninth C. structure in the style of Syrian crusader castles. Together with Bruges Castle it was the residence of the Flemish counts and still remains a unique example of the medieval art of fortification. In the 14th C. it ceased to have a military function and was used by the counts for administration of the land. In 1800 it came into private ownership and was converted into a cotton mill and flats for the workers; between 1894 and 1913 comprehensive restoration took place.
Official site: www.gent.be/eCache/THE/1/464.cmVjPTQ0MTM5.html
Address: Sint-Veerleplein 11, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Sep 30: 9am-7pm
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5pm
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5pm
Always closed on: Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee: FREE
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
The tour of the castle leaves from the gatehouse into a large courtyard surrounded by a circular wall with 24 half towers and a defense gallery which encircles the main castle. This is dominated by a massive keep or "Meestentoren", its platform being reached by a narrow spiral staircase. Outstanding views of the castle and town are to be had from here. The tour continues through the palace (living quarters of the lords of the castle), where instruments of torture and court documents are now displayed, through the Great Hall, where Philipp the Good gave a huge banquet for the knights of the Golden Fleece in 1445, then through the torture chamber, finishing with the hole down to the dungeons.
In front of the castle extends the ancient Sint-Veerleplein, possibly the oldest square in Ghent, although the neighboring facades are of 17th C. origin at the earliest. This square was a market place but also the site of executions and burnings of the victims of the Inquisition.
The superb Baroque building at Sint-Veerleplein No. 5 is the old fish market, built in 1689 according to plans by Artus Quellin. Following a fire in 1872 it was extended and connected to the new meat market in Rekelingestraat. The gateway depicts Neptune and allegorical representations of the Scheldt (male) and Leie (female).
More Gravensteen Pictures
Map of Ghent Attractions