Moated Gravensteen Castle is a circular, gray fortress built in 1180 alongside a split in Ghent’s River Leie to symbolize the power of Philip of Alsace, who was the ruling Count of Flanders. Although a wooden castle had existed here for centuries, the new fortification was built to send out a clear message of his supreme power to his political enemies. Philip had been on several Crusades and clearly modelled the design of his new home on the austere crusader castles scattered around the Mediterranean Sea from Portugal to Greece. Its two-meter (six-foot) thick walls were made of Tournai limestone and fortified with battlements while the castle’s towers and turrets housed stables, a church and state apartments as well as a torture chamber to deal with anyone brave – or foolish – enough to cross Philip. Following extensive restoration in the late 19th century, today the torture chamber is a gruesome museum displaying guillotines, branding irons and thumbscrews; there’s also an armory crammed with crossbows, spears and chain mail. Events for families at the castle include jousting in the central courtyard and a festive market at Christmas.
Sint-Veerleplein 11. Admission €10 adults, €7.50 seniors, €6 ages 19–25, free for 18 and under. Open Apr–Oct daily 10am–6pm; Nov–Mar daily 9am–5pm.