In the centre of Ghent stands Saint Michael's bridge. From here you can admire the architectural wealth of Ghent. The medieval city is a rich showcase of beautiful civil gothic buildings stemming from being a centre of trade and commerce.
On the right side stands the medieval St. Michael’s church. The famous three towers compete for height. Beautiful medieval guild houses line the river. On the corner of the bridge the Post Office of Ghent draws attention. The neo-gothic building dates from the beginning of the 20th century, but the style blends with the existing beauties of the city.
On the left side of the bridge lie the 'Graslei' and 'Koornlei'. These streets run along the banks of the old harbour on the Leie River. Graslei means 'street of the herbs and vegetables'. Koornlei stands for 'street of the wheat'. Grain was traded or stocked in that area.
In the old harbour boat cruises are for hire. According to our boatman there were 52 guilds in Ghent and everyone had its own church. The total number of churches were 57 so there were some spare for none guild members.
The 'SPIJKER' is the oldest house at the Graslei. It dates from the end of the 12th century. Gent had a Charter to stock grain and wheat in the SPIJKER for two to three weeks to have reserves in times of famine. The guild house of the 'FREE BOATMAN' built in 1530 boasts a beautiful late-gothic façade - perhaps the most beautiful house. The guild of boatmen a powerful guild had the privilege for shipping through the harbour of Ghent.
On the left side of the Spijker stands the first 'GRAIN COUNTERS HOUSE'. Next door stands the 'ANGEL' with its beautiful renaissance facade.
This group of houses reflects the wealth and power of the medieval guilds. Even after the decay of the Flemish trade, they were still rich enough to change their original wooden houses into splendid stone mansions. One of the few remaining wooden facades can still be seen from the bridge of the Gravensteen, the castle of the count of Flanders.
Jan Breydelstraat branches off from the north end of Korenlei. At number 5 stands the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. Its rooms are decorated in period style. Turning right into St Veerleplein leads to Gravensteed, the castle of the counts. Between the castle and Kraalei is Sint-Veerleplein. The Fish Market a beautiful building with its baroque facade from 1689 stands in the corner of the square. On top of the façade, Neptune king of the seas dominates the doorway. The other two statues represent the two rivers that flow through Ghent, the Scheldt River and the Leie River.
Crossing the Leie River via the Zuivelbrug leads to Grootkannonplein. Here rests DULLE GRIET (Mad Meg) a large 15th century medieval cannon. The gun weighs 16,400 Kg and could fire cannon balls of 340 Kg. It cracked the first time it fired.