Diamonds in the Rough 8 Dark Horse Destinations – Condé Nast Traveler [Ghent, Belgium]

New “Good Life” series

For every tourist hotspot, there’s an off-the-beaten-path gem hiding in its shadow, waiting to be discovered. These “dark horses” are often easier to navigate, lighter on the wallet, and offer a more rewarding adventure. Here are our top eight picks for destinations you will want to know about.

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Ghent, Belgium

Diamonds in the Rough 8 Dark Horse Destinations - Condé Nast Traveler [Ghent, Belgium]

Somewhere in between the cosmopolitan buzz of Brussels and the Medieval charm of Bruges is one of Western Europe’s most underappreciated treasures. An abundance of Gothic architecture lines Ghent’s gently snaking canals, which are every bit as impressive as Amsterdam’s, with a fraction of the sightseers. Having survived a German occupation during both World Wars, Ghent provides a pristine portal to the past but displays a distinctly modern energy in its annual summer festival—a mix of music, theater, acrobatics, and miming—that attracts more than 2 million visitors during the last ten days of July. Although American tourists have been slow to catch on, Europeans clearly know where the party’s at.

Stay at the Best Western Hotel Cour St. Georges. Rooms start at $100 in this historic building situated in the center of town.

Eat at the Restaurant Du Progres, and enjoy a James Bond steak paired with any Belgian Trappist Ale.

© Robert Harding World Imagery / Alamy