Gravensteen, also known as the “Castle of the Count,” is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. The castle is a characteristic medieval fortress complete with twisting staircases, a dungeon surrounded by high walls and a protective moat. In addition to being an interesting example of centuries-old architecture, the restored castle houses several museum collections. Enjoy gorgeous views over the city.
The Count of Flanders, Philip of Alsace, constructed the castle as a defensive fortress in the late 12th century. After his death, it became a luxury residence for the Counts of Flanders. The building later served as a prison and then as an industrial complex beginning in the 19th century. See how it was restored to its medieval grandeur in the early 20th century. It opened to the public in 1907.
Try the castle’s “movie guide,” a virtual tour presented by two historical figures, novelist Chrétien de Troyes and aristocrat Simon Saphi. The guide explores the history of the castle and explains various aspects of medieval tradition and culture. This interactive tour is particularly popular with families and children.
Ventureinside the castle’s former torture chamber, which now serves as a museum dedicated to judicial objects. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, the castle grounds were used for the torture, judgment and execution of prisoners. Inspect the iron collars, neck restraints and thumbscrews of the museum’s fascinating but grisly collection.
Browse the exhibits of the equally engaging but far less chilling arms museum, which showcases the various weapons once used in medieval warfare. In one of the most impressive arms collections in the country, look for pistols decorated with ivory and pearls, weighty coats of mail and powerful crossbows.
In warmer months, climb the ramparts of the castle’s tall central building. At the top, you can see a striking view over Ghent.
Gravensteen is open daily throughout the year with regular holiday closures. Arrive by bus or tram. Admission is free for children under 13 years of age.
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