Tour the Belfort (or Belfry) of Ghent in Belgium

See what the bell-ringers saw in medieval times

Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium (c) Linda Garrison

A trip to the top of Gent's Belfry is a wonderful experience and inexpensive as well. The Belfry tower is certainly one of the most impressive in Flanders.

Belfries, or Belforts, were a medieval town's way of protecting itself and its valuable records, and the bells in the tower announced weddings, attacks, market openings, fires, dawn, and dusk.

Construction of Gent's Belfort started in 1313. Wars kept it from being completed in a timely fashion, but it managed to get finished in 1380.

The building has had 7 different crownings, as folks adapted to a growing number of bells in the carillon. The current spire dates from a 1911-1913 restoration by Valentin Vaerewijck, who radically changed the profile of the tower. The tower is 320 feet high and the view is spectacular.  

The Belfry’s Six Floors

Bottom Floor - The Secrecy Room

In 1402 this room, with its cross rub vaulting, was made into a records department. Valuable municipal privileges were kept in a heavy trunk attached to the floor with a chain.

Second Floor - Watchman's Rest

In case of fire or attack, the tower keepers warned the population by chiming the bells. They also announced dawn and sunset, the start of the workday, and the putting out of fires. Watchmen watched over the town at night. In this room, the off-duty men could rest near a fireplace.

Third Floor - Halltower Watchers

This floor now hosts a bell exhibit featuring a unique collection of carillon bells, cast by Pieter Hemony van Zutphen.

Fourth Floor - Roelandzaal

Here are the huge bells used to warn when the enemy had drawn closer or to announce executions and openings of markets.

Fifth Floor, the Clock Mechanism

Like a huge music box, this mechanism controls the bells through the main clock to play arias every 15 minutes. The pins are changed every two years.

The clocks are wound daily by means of a crank used to lift the three weights of the pendulum clock.

Sixth Floor - The Bell Chamber

After a thorough renovation in 1982, the carillon is now considered one of the finest in the world. It uses 54 chiming bells in all.

Visiting the Belfry

You'll find a small ticket kiosk at the base of the tower. It will inform you as to which of the tours will be conducted in English. Ours was held in three languages, and the English portion was excellent. There is a small elevator, but most walk.

Opening Hours of the Tower, the Carillon, and the Bell Museum

March 15 until  November 15, every day from 10.00 a.m. - 12.30 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.

Tickets:

Check the latest opening hours and ticket prices

The tower is not wheelchair accessible, according to the literature.