Finding a City’s DNA! -A Cycling Tour Around Ghent

How many cities have you visited and then wondered about what you might have missed?

There’s that niggly feeling that there must be more to this. Well for me anyway, there is always a craving to find the soul of the city. I’m not satisfied checking off the list of attractions that the tourist hordes flock to. I don’t want to eat at the restaurant in the main town square where service is hasty and prices are high.

Setting off on our cycling tour with Bike Ghent
A quick pic in the old town, and we were ready to set out and explore.

I want to go where the locals go. I want to find the unusual story that not many know … the story behind the story.

It’s not often you find a tour guide who thinks like this. But if you, like me, like to see a city through the eyes of a local then Christophe of Bike Ghent is your man! If ever you find yourself in Ghent, Belgium, his bicycle tour is an absolute must!

Cycling around the park
This park has an incredible history which we wouldn’t have known without Christophe. 

We found him by word of mouth, and then by walking though the city to find his garage of bicycles. A quick handshake, an adjustment of the seat height and we were off to find the hidden gems of Ghent.

From start to finish, Christophe kept us intrigued as he stopped to tell stories, asked poignant questions and pointed out unusual little places of interest – all while keeping an eye out for traffic. All the driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road (well, wrong for us South Africans anyway) was a little daunting at first, but Ghent has wide bicycle lanes and Christophe knows his city!

The modern new library in Ghent
Ghent’s new library has won awards for its modern design. 

He has also invested in good quality mountain bikes which means a smoother ride on the many ancient cobbled streets, and the thicker tyres make crossing the city’s tram tracks easier. Christophe has been doing this bicycle tour for four years and no two tours are the same. He reads the interest of his clients and goes where his mood takes him.

I love art and so we saw the most incredible street art and graffiti sites, one of my favourites being Paul Cosmos who is famous for his insects (see this post’s banner image). He told us how Ghent was the first city in Belgium to make graffiti a legal and respected art form.

Graffiti can be seen all around Ghent, Belgium
There’s amazing graffiti and street art all around the city!

Cycling stop to enjoy the street art
Colourful street art with a story to tell.

And of course, what would a tour of a Belgian city be without a stop for a Belgian beer? But again, Christophe doesn’t take you to the pub on the city square. He takes you to the new hipster area, off the beaten track, where a warehouse setting connects work and lifestyle. There, we found a local brewery and enjoyed a Belgian Blonde.

The list is endless: he showed us the local family-owned chocolatier (not the big chain with queues lined up at the door), he pointed out another art piece – birds that turn blue at night, and the factory where the first diesel engine was invented.

Dok Brewing Company in Ghent
A well-deserved Belgian Blonde beer at a local brewery.

All of this we’d never have known had it not been for Bike Ghent. It’s the perfect tour to do at the start of your visit, as you can go back to spots that intrigued you as you whizzed past on two wheels! Or if you’re done with all the tourist attractions and feel like you’ve seen it all, this way of viewing the city will reveal new and amazing attractions.

Using Bike Ghent to see this trendy university town in Belgium was the best thing we did on our travels. Any visitor to a city can find a tourist attraction, but not everyone can discover its DNA!

– By Bridget Gardiner