Winter. That time of year that brings about profound existential questions like “Why are my feet still cold with three layers of winter socks?”. Yes, it’s definitely here, and there’s little we can do to escape the cold (pun intended), hard truth that the weather in Belgium can inevitably get a bit…chilly, from time to time. Or you know, all of the time. I just can’t seem to stop yearning for summer. A bit melancholic, somewhat desperate, and a whole lot disappointed by the fact that I can’t hibernate, I went in search of the impossible – summer.
The result – 5 places in Ghent to make you forget about your winter blues.
1. The Botanical Gardens
Featured image: © Mirna Pavlovic
Situated right next to the Citadel Park, this summery enclave was definitely more than I bargained for. Head on over through the main entrance to the Botanical Gardens on Ledeganckstraat and follow the path until you see large greenhouses on your left and a little house. That’s your way in.
Go through a double set of doors and into the Victorian greenhouse. You’ll be greeted by a great central pool surrounded by luscious plants as far as the eye can see. The two other greenhouses attached to this one are the tropical and subtropical ones, showcasing plants from those types of climates. A word of warning before you enter them – remove all of your clothes. Okay, maybe not all of them. Keep some on so you don’t get thrown out. But don’t make the same mistake I did and go in with your full winter attire. You’ve been warned. The temperatures inside will quickly make you forget about the temperatures outside.
Explorer’s tip: There is a little bench hidden at the far end of the subtropical pavilion. Perfect for picnics and early-afternoon lunch breaks, you say? I couldn’t agree more.
See all the opening hours here. And the best part? Entry to the gardens is completely free.
Ghent University Botanical Garden, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent
2. Mosquito Coast
If picnics are not your style, but you still want to cosy up in a place that lives and breathes summer, then Mosquito Coast is the place to be. This lovely gem feels like an eclectic rendezvous spot for weary travellers. The walls are covered in license plates from all over the world, zebra heads, maps and trinkets that look like they’ve just arrived from a safari trip through Africa. Even the lights on the ceiling are re-appropriated globes. Now that’s some serious dedication to detail.
The food on the menu ranges from Japanese and Indian to Spanish and Lebanese, while the sheer amount of cocktails on offer is sure to blow the mind of any cocktail connoisseur. There’s nothing like sipping an ice-cold mojito under a parasol, and planning where to travel next, to feed your summer-hungry soul.
Insider tip: Brush up on your knowledge of the world’s capitals. The staff like to play the game of “Guess-the-Wifi-Password”. This often results in people awkwardly leaning over your food to check the capital of Australia on the world map.
Mosquito Coast, Hoogpoort 28, 9000 Ghent
3. Hasta Mañana
Latin music, great tapas and sangria that packs a punch of a thousand summer nights? Why, yes. Yes, please. Like a siren from the olden tales, this cosy little bar & restaurant in Lammerstraat lures unsuspecting passers-by with its dimmed lights and echoes of laughter drowned in the sound of guitars roaring through the speakers. Beyond the bright streetside lettering and the creak of the door lies a warm atmosphere that seeps into every pore and crevice.
Hasta Mañana is a popular after-work mingling destination, so be prepared to see a lot of graphic designers and project managers getting loose after hours. And being loud. So very loud.
The impeccable interior design and the impressive attention to their visual style will transport you into a different world – a Spanish hacienda, to be precise. Whether you’re up for a delicious nacho fiesta con carne or the best sangria you will ever taste, you’re definitely at the right place. Que te vaya bien!
Drinking tip: For all of you firmly sticking to your New Year’s resolutions, fear not. There are some seriously savoury non-alcoholic cocktails on offer. But oh boy, that sangria…
Find Hasta Mañana at Lammerstraat 19, 9000 Ghent
4. Club Central
Since we’re in the Latin mood, this article wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of dancing. Salsa dancing, to be precise. Club Central is the place to be for those hot dancing nights when you just want to shake it out in that cute little dress that won’t see the light of day until summer.
Club Central also hosts frequent dancing lessons – on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays you can master the art of salsa and bachata. Perfect for smashing the dance floor with some killer moves on Friday and Saturday night parties in Hoogpoort. You can check out a list of their upcoming events on the events page.
Organiser’s tip: Want to host your own party? No problem. The Cirq Central, aka medieval-basement-turned-dance-floor, is available for rent for all sorts of events.
Club Central, Hoogpoort 32, 9000 Ghent
5. Lago Gent Rozebroeken
Let’s just jump straight to the point. Lago Gent Rozebroeken has a “subtropical swimming paradise”. I repeat – A subtropical. Swimming. Paradise. If that didn’t get your attention, maybe the wildwater slides, the wave pool and the hot-water pools might. Did I mention saunas? You name it, they’ve got it. If you really want to put your foot down and declare a war on winter, what better way to do it than taking a dip in a zwemparadijs. Fake palm trees and all.
If you can’t get enough splashing about time then you can spread out the fun over the winter by trying out some of Ghent’s other indoor swimming pools.
Survivor’s tip: The wildwater slide is actually quite…wild. Don’t underestimate it and slide all the way down with your feet in the air and your head under the water like I did.
Lago Gent Rozebroeken, Victor Braeckmanlaan 180, 9040 Ghent
About the author:
Writer. Photographer. Finder of ways. She caught the travel bug some years ago and hasn’t fully recovered since. Her quest for the abandoned, the forgotten and the derelict has led her all over Europe – fuelled by a fascination with the world’s lost architectural heritage and a yearning to see what lies beyond the horizon. Always on the hunt for the next hidden gem. You can follow her adventures at www.inkquietude.com.