A favorite among tourists is the stroll down the Vlaeykensgang, a small alley next to the town hall. This small historic lane is a throwback to the late Middle Ages, when many streets were no wider than a doorway. The alley was created in 1591 and was originally inhabited by shoemakers. The name supposedly comes from the Flemish word “Vlaai”, a local type of pie.
At the end of the nineteenth century, there were many such lanes in the city center. Now they may look idyllic, but at that time only the poorest residents were accommodated here. Living conditions were often appalling, with many large families crammed into small spaces. Sanitary conditions were poor, often with one pump providing water for an entire lane.
During the twentieth century, many of these lanes were destroyed and rebuilt. By the 1960s, the dilapidated Vlaikkensgang was also due to be demolished, but fortunately a local antiquary purchased the houses in the lane and restored the entire complex.
Today, Vlaeykensgang is a quiet retreat from the hectic city center and a popular place to listen to the cathedral’s carillon concerts, which are held every Monday evening during the summer. You can also have lunch or dinner here in an authentic historical atmosphere.
One of the entrances to the Vlaikkensgang is at the Oude Koornmarkt, a former corn market. Entrance number 16 is no wider than a doorway, so make sure you don’t walk past it.