Gravensteen Castle of the Counts Ghent (Flanders - Belgium)

Bang opposite to the Tourist Information Office, as soon as I got out of it was the majestific Castle of the Counts aka Gravensteen. This is the oldest, medieval fortress that’s still standing in the whole of Flanders. 
The history of this too belongs to Roman settlements. This was then occupied by the Vikings and then by 10th C CE, the castle was built here but with wood, as the court of Arnulf I. Soon after that, by 11th C CE this was rebuilt as a 3 tiered stone castle with 24 towers! It became the luxurious residence of the Count’s royal household under Counts Baldwin IV & V. BY 12th C CE, this became a much elaborate castle with moats and mounds under Count Thierry of Alsace. However all of it was majorly damaged in 1176 fire. 

The present structure was built in 1180 by his son, Count Philippe of Alsace. This then became an administrative office with courtrooms, torture chambers, prison etc. By 18th C CE, this was sold to multiple private buyers and it became a mix of industrial and residential area. By 1893 this was brought under the government again and was restored under Jozef De Waele, as it was under Count Philippe. By 1913, the site was opened to the public once again!!! Till date the upkeep with the input of archeologists in on, to keep the building authentic yet withstand the furies of nature and influx of tourists.

As soon as I entered, it was through the shop located inside Great Hall, which still has reminiscence of the original stone castle of 11th C CE. Immediately the next stop was in the 1st floor where the Governer’s House! The gorgeous old, simple, circular, stained glasses, were just beautiful bringing in the sunlight in such an ethereal beauty!

The Banquet Hall today, houses one of the 2 inhouse museums - Arms Museum. This has the collection of arms from throughout the history since medieval times. Pistols inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl were just gorgeous! The cross bows & 7ft spears did remind me of Game of Thrones!!!!!

Further up from here takes you to the rooftop from where the view of the towers that form the gorgeous skyline of Ghent is so beautifully seen. 
Down again from here is the other inhouse museum - Museusm of Judicial Objects which houses all those torture instruments of the medieval era esp 14th - 18th C CE. Remember some from the Ripley’s Believe it or not and Tower of London? Here, it was just plain crazy!!! There was actual sample of the guillotine - which has a sack on the other side to hold the head after it falls off!!!!! But that’s nothing - get ready for gory……….
There was a thumb holder, which holds the thumbs of the 2 hands together to enable the prison guard to pull off the 2 nails! There was an iron chain with spikes which was originally attached to a drum which was rolled over the accused guy. There was a spiked iron neck collar which was made to wear by the accused as he is seated on a metal chair with fire beneath!!! There were plain iron neck collar which some were made to wear, as a less cruel punishment!!! 
Yes, these are branding meant for jailed inmates, which would tell what kind of forced labour they’ve been punished with. T would mean Temporary, TP would mean Life Long, TPF would mean Life Long for Forgers!!!! Today we don’t even do hot iron branding on cattle……..  

There is an underground cellar which has the remains of the original stone house. This became a dungeon under Philip of Alsace. There is another underground room which served as the toilet!!! The outer courtyard also served as the execution site for people who had to be executed without the public glare!!!

There is a room which once served as the chapel with a cross shaped window behind the altar. Later during middle ages, this room became a prison with ‘sugar drawer’ - a metal cage to lock people in! The outer wall is can be walked upon today. It once served as the protective wall from where soldiers defended the castle! Today the view of the River Lys from this wall is just pretty, esp with the people kayaking in those colorful boats, its one gorgeous view!
While you're here, check out Isabel's a list of best things to do in Ghent.

To Stay:
Hotels at all price points are available in Ghent City Centre.
Here’s my review of Ghent River Hotel where I stayed.

To Get There:
To Ghent: Refer to my earlier post
Local transport in Ghent possible with bus & tram (incl in the City Card Ghent All in).
On Google Maps: Gravensteen

Timings: 10:00AM to 6:00PM in summers; 9:00AM to 5:00PM in winters.
Entry Ticket: €10.00 for adults; Free for under-19s. 
Included in the City Card Gent All In.

My complete Gent travelogue: Illuminated night walkBelfry & BeguinagesSt.Bavo’s Cathedral & St.Michael’s CathedralHistorical City Centre

P.S: I was invited by VisitGent to experience the city and hosted by Historic Hotels Belgium for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands


  1. If it's one thing Europe aces, it's castles. This Ghent castle is no exception! However, I don't like the look of those instruments of torture. Castle people can be very cruel!

  2. The collection of torture instruments is quite frightening, thinking that those tools were actually used to torture humans in the past. Gives you shivers. The castle looks great though and I'm impressed to see that it has a moat on which you can actually kayak. The views from the top are really beautiful.

  3. Those tools are incredibly frightening ... imagining how they were used gives me chills. But what an amazing historical sight and view! So glad I stumbled across your blog x
    Abby -

  4. Wow just looking at the castle on the first photo makes it so overwhelming. The stone walls and the overall architecture has a hauntingly beautiful vibe to it. I would love to tour this castle myself - it seems to have so much story and beauty to it.

  5. Woow. The castle reminds me of Lancelot and King Arthur. I would love to visit this. It really gives you a feel of that ancient times.

  6. This place reminds me the museum I have been in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It is saddening that there aren't only one but many tragedies happen in the past. Hope everyone can learn something and always be kind.

  7. Very very nice. This is one place I hope I can visit for myself. These stately castles have so much history to look back on.

  8. For me Gravensteen Castle was the most Instagrammable building in Ghent. With the water in front of it, it made perfect reflection photography. I didn't go inside but wish I had now. I cringed when I read about the torture instruments. Tearing off the nails from the thumbs - how cruel!

  9. Wow the castle looks beautiful! I would love to visit Ghent 😊

  10. I'm so jealous that you get to travel to so many spots in Europe! The castle is almost surreal! Lovely photos! :D

    1. She is indeed an legit jetsetter Momma :)
      I wish to visit Europe someday to witness firsthand their culture, good food and interact with locals.

  11. What an amazing castle. Thanks so much for the tour!

  12. Wow castles in Belgium, I had no idea!! I have never traveled to Ghent, only to Brussels but am sad that I missed something like this!

  13. It looks like a great place to visit. Those architecture looks so stunning and breathtaking. It seems like a had a lot of history and stories there.

  14. You really bring the essence of historical structures in your post with all story and beautiful photos. Gravensteen castle looks so huge and beautiful and unique due to underground cellar. Surrounded by water makes it also more photogenic.

  15. This looks amazing. This is one of the things we love about Belgium. So much preserved historical sites!

  16. Being a girl I have always been a fan of Castles. Here in LA, It's hard to find one . Gravensteen Castle looks so beautiful and historical <3 I totally loved your picture <3

  17. That castle really looks nice. It looks massive and its architecture looks good but I got afraid seeing those instruments and thinking how they might had been used on the prisoners. Your pictures are nice as always.

  18. Castles and forts are my favorite. They have so much to say about the history and heritage. More so, I fall for their magnificence. Here, the first picture got me hooked. I would love to explore Gravensteen Castle.

  19. I am right now in Europe exploring the heritage sites for two months. I wish I had seen this post before planning my trip. Gravensteen Castle looks very interesting and I am sure would be perfect for Instagram.


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