Thursday 5 November 2015

Gent Waterside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.1 km (2.5 miles), terrain: flat

Gent Running Routes:
Old Town Route
Waterside Route
Watersportbaan Lake Route
For more running routes, see Route List.
Gent (Ghent in Dutch) is a typical Flemish town: lots of 17th century architecture criss-crossed by rivers and canals, so that you are constantly crossing a bridge and viewing old brick houses reflecting in the waters. Every few steps, you find yourself surrounded by another fascinating collection of houses, churches, bridges and market squares. I love the style of the buildings, with their richly decorated gables and huge windows for their times.
At Graslei, pedestrian lane along the river
If you're in this impressive town and want a good run and to explore it more, this short route will easily provide both. It follows rivers and canals almost the whole way, circling the western side of the town center.
Graslei at night
It starts along the Leie, a river that strikes out on a long loop around the Ghent old town. The route then turns to follow the tree-lined Coupure canal, west of the old town, and then returns to the start by following the small Lieve River with its narrow, riverside lanes. Along the way, we'll pass some of the most beautiful old-town sights, see a bit of the new town, and then go past the castle to run to the heart of the old town again.

There's nothing like getting out there in the streets with your running shoes on, so let's get to the start right now!
Graslei, seen from the other shore
We'll start the run at one of the most beautiful spots in town: at the Graslei, at the Leie River, next to the Korenmarkt. Graslei was the town's original harbor, where grain was shipped and sold, the center for the grain trade for all of Flanders. Old warehouses still line the river just north of here. Graslei itself is lined by an amazing ensemble of medieval houses, each vying for attention with their elaborate facades. 

Face south, with the river to your right and start running along the riverbank, heading under St. Michael's bridge. Make sure to take a good look around at Sint Michiels: the view to the left of the town's Three Towers is impressive! Continue until the path ends at the next little swivel-bridge, at Hoornstraat.
The three towers, seen from Sint-Michiels bridge
Now cross the bridge and continue running south along Ajuinlei. You'll pass the impressive old courthouse on the other side of the river.
The courthouse, seen from the trail
The street changes its name a few times, but then you'll come to a little triangular park along the water, and then cross a canal that heads off to the right. This is the Coupure canal. Cross the canal over the little drawbridge and the little small-boat harbor. 

The Coupure canal
Now turn right to follow the sycamore-lined canal westwards, but watch out for all the students on bikes! They are definitely in the majority on this path. 
Did I mention that there are a lot of bikes?? The other bank is quieter
The Coupure was dug 250 years ago to connect Gent with the coastal town of Brugge. It provides a nice spot to run: there are sidewalks along both banks. If the path along the left side (Coupure Links) is full of too many bicycles for your taste, you can take the right-side path (Coupure Rechts). It's quieter but the paving is not very smooth. It's your choice.

The Coupure curves towards the right, bending northwards. You'll cross a busy car- and tram-bridge at Papegaaistraat and continue until the next car bridge, at Brugsepoort.

Now turn right and run along the only few blocks of the route without water, along Begijnhoflaan. The street has tram tracks running within a green stripe between both sides of the street. This street, like Coupure, is in the new town, with houses built in the last 150 years, typical neighborhoods for most Gent residents.
Rabot gate-tower, seen along the Lieve
Follow the street as it curves to the right, still following the tram tracks towards the little, double gate-tower ahead, called Rabot. At the gate-tower, the next stretch of water begins, the Lieve River. This is the narrowest of today's waterways, and it's lined by beautiful old houses and palaces on quiet lanes. Turn right to follow the Lieve eastwards along Bachtenwalle.
Along Sint-Antoniuskaai, statues honoring the life of Emperor Charles V, Gent's most famous son
Run a block along the Lieve, but before Bachtenwalle veers off from the water, cross the bridge and continue running east along the river, on Sint-Antoniuskaai, with the water on your right side.
Along the Lieve
Continue running as the river bends southwards, until the lane ends at Lievestraat. Here, at a beautiful spot on the river with a little park across the water, cross the bridge (and watch for the castle down the river to the left side).

The castle
Now turn left and continue running south along Gewad. You'll pass the impressive castle and then run south the one long (and beautiful) block along Jan Breydelstraat, past cool restaurants, a tiny park and the Design Museum. In just a few steps you'll be back at Graslei.
One of several cool restaurants along Jan Breydelstraat

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