This ancient city was second only to Paris in medieval times.

Here’s our suggestions for a top time in Ghent.

1. Admire the views from St Michael’s Bridge

There are some wonderful medieval buildings in Ghent, and nothing beats standing on St Michael’s Bridge where the view of the city’s skyline of three towers – St Nicholas Church, the belfry and St Bavo Cathedral – opens up.

You can also visit the interiors of these impressive buildings – the 14th-century belfry affords spectacular views across the city.

2. Explore Gravensteen

The imposing Gravensteen – the 12th-century castle of the counts of Flanders – is nowadays home to a torture museum. If you’ve ever wanted the chance to gawp at a quintessential castle with moat, turrets and arrow slits, then this is the place to do it.

3. Taste the food in Ghent

Ghent is a bit of a culinary capital of Belgium and there are countless restaurants, cafés and bars in which to sample Flemish fare.

Don’t leave town without putting together your own pick-and-mix box of praline heaven at deluxe chocolaterie Van Hoorebeke.

You can also pick up a pot of Ghent’s special mustard from Tierenteyn, by the 15th-century market building. The recipe, brought to the city by a Dijon-born Frenchman, delivers quite a kick.

4. Get your camera out at the Graslei

Wander along the waterfront promenade of the Graslei and admire the buildings with their distinctive gables.

5. Try the local tipple in Ghent

Sample some of Belgium’s best-loved export, beer, in almost any bar in town. Try the locally-brewed Augustijn Abbey Ale or give fiery jenever (gin) a go.

6. Take a trip out of town.

Just a little over an hour away by train is Ypres, with its poignant and moving history of World War I.

More than 300,000 Allied soldiers – including Australians and New Zealanders – were killed here.

You can visit a raft of memorials, cemeteries and museums dedicated to the sad history of this area.

What you need to know about Ghent

When to go: You can visit Belgium at any time of year.

Getting there: Ghent is about 90 minutes’ drive from Calais, so travelling by ferry is a good option. Eurostar (0870 518 6186; services run direct to Brussels, from where a connection to Ghent takes about 30 minutes.

Visas: South Africans need a Schengen visa.

Currency: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.25 EUR.

Language: Flemish, though English is widely spoken.

Going out: A beer costs about £2.50.

Accommodation: There are plenty of reasonably priced hotels.