The canal along the Graslei is just one of many things to do in Ghent

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21 Amazing Things To Do In Ghent, Belgium For First Time Visitors 2024

Looking for the best things to do in Ghent, Belgium? If you are a fan of medieval architecture, great food, canals, and cobblestoned streets then you will find many amazing places to visit in Ghent during your stay.

I enjoyed all of Belgium, but Ghent won as my favorite for its endless charm, laid-back feel, and dreamy cityscapes.

Gravensteen Castle and the Belfry of Ghent are just a few of the Ghent attractions that are not to be missed. But look no further on what to do in Ghent as I list the top activities, where to stay, and how to get there for easy travel planning.

I recommend spending 3 full days in Ghent to see all the top sights but if you are thinking of taking a day trip to Ghent from Brussels, scroll to the bottom where I include a Ghent one day itinerary!

The first sight of the Gravensteen Castle lit up at night I was in awe...

Why Visit Ghent?

Ghent (Gent) is a large city, yet the Ghent old town has a compact and cozy feel that invites you in and wraps its arms around you much like Bruges. I think that adds to its appeal, as it is extremely easy to get around on foot.

Most of the sights are located in the largest pedestrian-only city center in Belgium and is a huge bonus in my opinion.

Ghent is also on the tentative list to earn the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site for the entire historic city center. No matter where you stand in this historic city, you can capture a postcard photo in every direction.

As you will see from my photos, I really enjoyed photographing the city at sunset and at blue hour! Overall, it is a city that you can’t help but love and why you should visit Gent.

And it can’t go without saying that if you enjoy eating the tastiest waffles, sipping beer, and eating decadent chocolates then you are in the right city.

Tip: As you are exploring Ghent, make sure you have a reusable water bottle to fill up and stay hydrated as you go!

December days in Ghent can be cold but still so beautiful...

Best Things To Do In Ghent, Belgium

1. Stroll Along The Graslei & Korenlei

One of the most picturesque places to visit in Ghent is where the Leie River is bordered by the Graslei (Grass Quay) and Korenlei (Corn Quay).

A “quay” is a concrete platform that runs along a river and in this case the River Leie.

On the east side is Graslei and on the west side is Korenlei that was the medieval port serving ships that came in and out of Ghent.

First glimpse of the Graslei and Korenlei outside of my hotel
Along the River Leie, the Graslei and Korenlei are one of the most popular spots to be in Ghent!
Getting an early morning start and happy its not raining!

Even though it was the main shipping hub going as far back as the 11th century it is still a bustling area today.

There are a number of shops, hotels, and restaurants that line each quay. It is a peaceful spot to just sit, watch boats go by, and take in the beauty.

Spending time on the Graslei is one of my favorite things to do in Ghent. I loved getting up early before people were out and about, but sunset is also a magical time to be here.

If you are a fan of architecture, then you will love admiring the old guildhalls, many of which have stepped gable rooflines that form a lovely triangular shape. This type of architecture is distinct to many cities in Europe, but Ghent has some of the oldest in this style.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, most of the building facades have been restored in the late 1800s or early 1900s in preparation for the 1913 World’s Fair.

Blue Hour in Ghent is truly magical along the Graslei...
Looking over at the Korenlei side and my hotel, The Ghent Marriott
The blue door gives such a fun pop of color!

The building that says “Manhattan’s Burgers” is one of the oldest buildings along this stretch. It used to be where grain coming in off the ships was weighed.

Next door, the tiny building with a blue door used to be the tax office. It also happened to burn down a few times. Somehow, I don’t think that is a coincidence…

Take A Guided Boat Tour Along The Canal!

2. Explore Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen Castle is one of the top Ghent landmarks to see. Usually, you see castles high up on a hill or on a cliff away from potential threats.

What makes Gravensteen Castle so unique is its location on a flat area in Ghent’s city center.

The word Gravensteen is Dutch and translates to “Castle of the Counts” which makes sense as it was the home to the Count of Flanders.

It was built in 1180 and lived in until 1353 then later turned into a cotton mill during the 1800s.

The first sight of the Gravensteen Castle lit up at night I was in awe...
This fireplace is said to be the first one of its kind in Ghent
View from the top of the Gravensteen Castle is spectacular!
Peeping down to the town from the top of the castle

Count Philip of Alsace wanted to build the castle as a symbol of his wealth and power to the common people. The castle is surrounded on one side with what looks like a moat but really is the river Leie canal.

There is a self-guided audio tour that you must use on your visit!

No, you don’t have to, but it is the oddest, funniest, entertaining, and light-hearted audio guide I have ever listened to. It will take you through 18 points of interest throughout the castle.

For this reason, visiting Gravensteen Castle is one of the best Ghent attractions to see. At times you might be a little shocked at what the guide says but remember it is to be humorous.

I heard that he is an actual comedian which makes perfect sense!

The Count's toilet dumped out onto the River Leie!
Walking around the castle grounds
The Gravensteen Castle is straight out of a fairy-tale!

How much time to spend at Gravensteen Castle? Expect to spend between 1 – 2 hours touring the castle.

Note: The bridge to the left of the castle over the canal is called Execution Bridge. As in its name, murderers and rapists were executed by beheading right on this spot.

Hours: The castle is open from 10 am to 6 pm (April – October) and 9 am to 5 pm (November – March).

3. Take A Walking Tour

To learn more about the city, make sure you take a walking tour a local guide. Whether it is a food tour or a walking history tour I recommend going with Gent Free Walking Tours.

Not only is it FREE, but you learn a ton of interesting facts about Ghent and a really great overview of the city’s long history.

Although it is free, make sure to give a tip at the end if you enjoyed yourself as it is an excellent tour. Tours are held daily at 10 am, 1 pm and 6:30 pm in both English and Spanish.

Walking the canals reveal idyllic scenes...
A walking tour is a terrific way to learn about Ghent!

No need to book in advance, just show up about 5-10 minutes before the tour is scheduled to leave at Hostel Uppelink. It is right where the St. Michael’s Bridge meets the Korenlei side of the river.

The tour takes about 2 hours and will take you on a captivating walk to the must-see places in Ghent.

Have some comfy walking shoes on, layers depending on the weather and a travel umbrella as tours are a go even in the rain!

The monument gateway to the Old Fish Market
This is also in the lively Groentenmarkt square that used to be the vegatable market

I recommend taking a tour on your first day so that you get the lay of the land and you know where you might want to go back to spend more time.

I also love getting tips from a local on where to eat, drink and photograph a city. A few other popular walking tours to take in Ghent are:

Guided Walking Tour & Canal Boat Ride

Private 2 hour Ghent Walking Tour

From Brussels: A Full Day Ghent Guided Tour

4. Admire St. Michael’s Bridge

Not only is St. Michael’s Bridge photogenic itself, but from the top of the bridge you can see the most iconic sights in Ghent.

The views from each side of the bridge are pretty epic, especially at sunset! The bridge is named after St. Michael’s Church that stands right next to it along the Leie River.

Standing on top of the bridge and looking towards Korenmarkt, you can see the three enormous towers of St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry, and St. Bavo’s Cathedral.

St. Michael's Bridge over the River Leie and along the Graslei
View of St. Nicholas Church and the Belfort from the top of St. Michael's Bridge
The view of Leie River from the top of St. Michael's Bridge

It makes for an extraordinary shot and it is one of the top free things to do in Ghent!

St. Michael’s Church was built in phases from the 1400s to the late 1600s. Originally the plan was to build a church tower that would be larger than any other in Ghent but due to various conflicts, it never came to be. You can see that the small tower has a flat roof as it was never finished.

Note: Make sure to capture photos in every direction both on the top of the bridge and below it on the quays. You can seriously spend hours taking photos in this premier location.

5. Visit Korenmarkt Square

The Korenmarkt or the Wheat Market is a square where the buildings behind the Graslei and to the side of St. Michael’s Bridge meet. The tram makes frequent stops here which makes it easy to arrive in the historic Ghent city center.

As you walk around from the Graslei side of the canal, you will pass a gorgeous building that looks like it is from the set of a Harry Potter movie.

1898 The Post is an architectural marvel and beautifully showcased right between the canal and Korenmarkt.

The Korenmarkt is between 1898 The Post and St. Nicholas Church on the left
1898 The Post Hotel along the Korenmarkt
Beautiful architecture on these facades

It was originally a post office that has since been converted into a luxury hotel with rooms themed as “Stamp or Letter” rooms. The construction began in 1898 but wasn’t complete until a few years before the 1913 World’s Fair.

The Korenmarkt also happens to be along some of the busiest shopping streets, so there is a lot to see and buy in this area!

The square is referred to as the Wheat Market because it was the main square for the selling and trading of cereal/wheat.

Note: If you are visiting in December, a Ferris wheel and the Ghent Christmas Market stalls can be found here too!

6. See Saint Nicholas Church

Walking from St. Michael’s Bridge and Korenmarkt, Saint Nicholas Church is the first of the three big towers you will come upon.

If you can imagine these towers created a medieval skyline before high-rises were even a thing!

It is an exquisite church that has a graceful feel despite its Gothic-style architecture. The tower does not sit right above the front of the church but up above the nave.

St. Nicholas Church in the center at evening blue hour...
In contrast, St. Nicholas during the day!
Inside St. Nicholas Church
Incredible view of St. Nicholas Church from the top of the Belfry!

When you first walk inside, you will notice how bright it is, which is different from other churches that have very low lighting.

Construction of Sint Niklaaskerk (Dutch name) began in the 13th century and lasted into the 15th century.

If you are lucky enough to come in when the elegant organ is being played, then you are in for a treat! When I visited, they were practicing on the organ which made for a peaceful and enjoyable time to visit.

Hours: Open from 2 pm to 5 pm (Mondays) and from 10 am to 5 pm (Tuesday – Sunday). Free entry.

7. Climb Up The Belfry Of Ghent

After leaving Saint Nicholas Church, the next tower you will see is the Belfort or Ghent’s Belfy.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 14th-century belfry stands at 91 meters (299 feet) and is the tallest belfry in Belgium. By far, this is one of the coolest Ghent landmarks!

You can climb the 350 steps to the top for a heart-pumping cardio session or take the elevator up.

The Belfort or Ghent's Belfry tower
Can you see the dragon weathervane at the very top?
At the base of the Belfry is a gorgeously designed fireplace

On each floor, you can learn about the belfry’s history and see older versions of the dragon weathervane.

Before you go inside take a look at the dragon on the very top of the tower. He has become somewhat of a city mascot.

Years ago, there was a conflict between Ghent and nearby Bruges and there are various stories and debates about who took the dragon from who.

It is both funny and fascinating to hear the different versions depending on which city you are in.

And if it isn’t obvious, the best views of the city are at the top and are magnificent…

This is one of the tower's original dragon weathervanes
Each floor as you climb the tower showcases the Belfry's history
The hike up the tower is worth it for a view of St. Nicholas Church and the surrounding city
Aerial view of Ghent's City Hall on the left

The tower also served as a watchtower and the men that were on guard were called “kannenschijters”.

The name comes from the fact that they had to carry up a jug with them at the beginning of the day. They couldn’t risk leaving their post to climb down each time they had to use the loo!

The hall connected to the tower was the Cloth Hall and is beautiful to walk through before you leave.

And if you are visiting during the Ghent Festival (July), you might get to see the dragon breathe fire! It started in 2018 and will hopefully continue.

Hours: Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm during summer months and to 6 pm during the winter.

8. Visit Saint Bavo’s Cathedral

The third large medieval tower of the “big 3” is Saint Bavos Cathedral and is a bit shorter than the Belfry of Ghent at 89 meters (292 feet).

From the 13th to 16th centuries the cathedral was built in a Gothic style much like other nearby buildings from this period.

In contrast to Saint Nicholas Church, it is much darker inside, but it is quite spectacular to see. I took a few photos when I first walked in before seeing signs that said no photos.

So sadly, I don’t have much to share of the inside, but take my word for it that it is well worth going inside.

Approaching the tower of St. Bavo's Cathedral
It was hard to get a full shot of St. Bavo's with the Christmas Market stalls surrounding it!

You might also see St. Bavo’s referred to by its Dutch name of Sint-Baafskathedraal.

The highlight to visiting is to see The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb which is a famous painting by the Van Eyck brothers. This painting is also commonly referred to as the Ghent altarpiece.

Why is it so famous? Well, it is known to be one of the oldest known oil paintings in the world and painted in the 1400s.

It was painted as an altarpiece and is a polyptych that is a painting divided into sections or panels. Over the years it has been stolen a few times but today all panels have been found/returned except one.

The Christmas Tree ride was kinda blocking the shot...
Inside St. Bavo's Cathedral
Notice the details in the ceiling architecture...

It is one of the pieces of artwork that was rescued by the Monuments Men. So, if you happen to see a panel in an attic or basement somewhere…

Although the cathedral is free to enter, it costs 12.5 Euros to see the “Ghent Altarpiece” aka the Adoration of The Mystic Lamb in a private chapel. An audio guide is included to provide detailed info on the painting.

Hours: Open Monday – Saturday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 5:30 pm.

Visit Saint Bavo’s Cathedral On This Guided Walking Tour!

I can't help but notice striking doors...

9. Find Street Art At Werregarenstraat (Graffiti Street)

If you like graffiti art, then you are in luck as Ghent has both cool mural art and a dedicated graffiti street.

Once I heard there was a legal street that people could contribute their own graffiti art to, I knew I had to see it. Of all the Ghent attractions to see, this is the most colorful!

Welcome to Werregarenstraat or Graffiti Street!
And yes, graffiti is legal here...
Such colorful and interesting characters

Just a few minutes’ walk from the Belfry, take your time wandering down Werregarenstraat as there is an overwhelming amount to see.

It is more of a two-block alleyway between Hoogpoort and Onderstraat streets that is constantly changing.

Artwork that is there today might not be there tomorrow or next month as artists paint over each other’s work. Once and awhile, the entire wall is painted over and serves for a blank canvas to start all over again.

Love how the cats appear to form a city skyline!
Wandering the colorful graffiti road...

Not only is it a place where graffiti artists can express themselves, but it also hopefully keeps the graffiti art here and not elsewhere in town. For more info on the street art in Ghent, go to the website here.

Another nearby street to see that is void of art but so quaint is Serpentstraat. It is lined with adorable shops and if you couldn’t have guessed, the street is known as “snake street”.

Not sure why as I didn’t see any snakes around…

10. Visit St. James Church

While wandering the many pretty streets in Ghent, I came across St. James Church and immediately loved it. The architecture and the lavender-colored curtains hanging gave it a unique charm from other churches.

I walked around the entire church but didn’t see an open door and bummed to not see the inside. I’m not sure why, but this church doesn’t get the attention or love like some of the bigger churches.

The beautiful St. James Church
The lavender curtains really add to the charm!

It was built in the 12th century and in Baroque style. There is a darling square around it called Bij Sint-Jacobs that has lovely cafes and shops to visit.

This square is also where the Ghent Festivities (Gentse Feesten) kicks off which is one of the biggest festivals in Europe.

11. Hang Out At Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market)

Vrijdagmarkt or the Friday Market is an enormous square where political & public meetings, executions, and the Friday market were all held.

Thankfully the executions are no longer but you can still find a market here every Friday.

In the center of the square is the statue of Jacob van Artevelde. He is considered a hero as he helped to stop the boycott of English wool during the Hundred Years’ War in the 14th century. This allowed Ghent to prosper and dominate in the textile industry.

The statue of Jacob van Artevelde tributes him as a hero in Ghent
The Dulle Griet Pub serves up over 500 different beers!

Surrounding the square are several cafes, pubs, and shops to explore. One pub that you should make a priority of visiting is Dulle Griet as it has over 500 beers!

They happen to have a very odd tradition called the “shoe for a glass”. You hand over one of your shoes for a MAX beer in a glass shaped like a shoe and don’t get it back until you hand the glass in return!

Note: It is steps away from St. James Church and Serpentstraat.

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12. Wander Patershol Neighborhood

The neighborhood behind and around that of the Gravensteen Castle is the Patershol neighborhood.

It is like stepping back into time and walking the medieval steps of those before you! There is no specific thing to see here but don’t let that prevent you from coming here.

It is one of those neighborhoods that you could wander in for days exploring the cafes, picturesque buildings, pubs, and enjoying delicious cuisine.

An excellent spot to view from behind the Gravensteen Castle

There are many restaurants scattered on these cobblestoned streets that you can’t go wrong with any you pick.

The Patershol neighborhood is pedestrian-only so you feel the quiet and peace without the noise of cars.

Take your time to discover what might be behind the next corner as it just might surprise you. Patershol is definitely the hippest neighborhood in Ghent.

Visit Patershol On This Guided Walking Tour!

13. Taste Cuberdons & Snowballs

If you have a sweet tooth, then you can’t leave Ghent without trying a Cuberdon that translates to little nose or “neuzekes” in Dutch.

A Cuberdon is a cone-shaped Belgian treat that is a gummy candy with a harder outside and chewier inside. They kind of have a jellybean like taste to them.

Made with Arabic gum, there are many colors and flavors, but the traditional flavor is raspberry with a purplish color.

There are two main carts that you can purchase a Cuberdon from and there has been a long-standing feud between the two!

One of two Cuberdon stalls in Groentenmarkt

Found in the small square of Groentenmarkt, I visited the cart nearest the bridge and very much enjoyed them.

As I was visiting in December, another tasty delight was available for purchase, Snowballs! They are only available in the winter months but are now my new favorite dessert. I ate them before remembering to take a photo…

They are so freaking good; I wish I could’ve taken cases of them back home with me! Snowballs (Sneeuwballen) are between a cookie and a candy, but I think officially considered a candy.

Made in the shape of a cookie, it is vanilla coated with dark chocolate and sprinkled with icing sugar. They are a traditional dessert from Ghent so make sure you get some!

Book A Food & Drink Tasting Tour!

14. Take A Canal Boat Ride

Ghent is a city of canals that are so beautiful and the place to be. I’m not sure how many ways I can say how charming Ghent is, because it is!

Besides taking a stroll along the canals, one of the best things to do in Ghent is to experience the city on a canal boat ride.

Canal boat rides might be limited in the winter depending on the weather, but I went in December and they were a go!

Depending on the weather, there are both open and enclosed boats to take a boat ride on River Leie
Can it get any prettier than this?
Canal boat rides take off at the Graslei

There are both open and enclosed boat rides so in the colder months, the glass-enclosed ones are a blessing.

It is a relaxing activity to kick up your feet and listen to a bit of Ghent’s history as you float on the River Leie.

All canal rides can be accessed along the Graslei as this is where they take off and drop off at. You even get to cruise past Gravensteen Castle and the idyllic canals of Ghent old town.

Book Your Guided 50 Minute Canal Boat Tour Today

Go On A City Walking Tour With A Canal Boat Ride

15. The Great Butcher’s Hall

Before I even knew what it was, I loved the Great Butcher’s Hall building from afar as it was lit up at night.

Tucked in between the River Leie and the Groentenmarkt is the Great Butcher’s Hall dating from the 15th century.

It was basically an indoor market for buying meat, particularly Ghent’s famous Ganda ham. Even today when you walk in, there are many hams hanging from the wooden beams.

The Butcher's Hall all lit up at night is stunning...
Ghent's famous Ganda Ham is delicious!
View of the Butcher's Hall during the day

Do make sure you try this most delicious ham as you will close your eyes with a sigh of pleasure once you taste it!

You can also find other East Flemish food specialties in the hall and eat at the restaurant there.

16. Taste The Best Mustard In Town

You must not leave Ghent without trying the unbelievably yummy mustard from Tierenteyn-Verlent.

It is a tiny shop directly across the square from The Great Butcher’s Hall that looks like an old apothecary and specializes in mustards since 1883.

The best spicy mustard from Tierenteyn-Verlent!
They have been making mustard since 1883

I personally dislike mustard but love the mustard from Tierenteyn-Verlent as it has incredible flavor and is spicy!

I bought a jar to bring home and almost cried when airport security confiscated it. It was wrapped up so good that I forgot it was in my carry-on bag. I will be going back one day to get another jar!

17. Have A Pint At The Smallest Pub

After a long day of exploring, there is no better way to rest than with a beer. Right next to the Great Butcher’s Hall is ‘t Galgenhuije and it is the smallest pub in all of Ghent!

It seats a total of 8 people inside. Don’t be turned away by its pint-size (see how I slid in some humor there) as there is terrace seating too.

It is quite adorable and resembles more of a cute cottage than a pub. If you have worked up an appetite, head around the corner and across the bridge to eat pizza at Otomat.

‘t Galgenhuije is the tiniest pub in Ghent!
‘t Galgenhuije is at the end of the Butcher's Hall
Otomat has the yummiest pizza made with beer yeast!

I would never have thought about eating pizza in Ghent, but it is noteworthy as the pizza is made with the yeast of local Belgian beer.

Grab a window seat along the canal and have a clear view of the Great Butcher’s Hall. With each pizza that you select they recommend the perfect beer to pair it with too.

Go On A Beer And Sightseeing Adventure In Ghent!

18. Snack On A Liege Waffle

If you haven’t heard yet, Belgium is known for waffles! And there is certainly a good reason for that.

To be clear, I am probably ruined to eat them ever again in the United States but that just means I’ll have to go back to Belgium for them.

There are two main styles of waffles in Belgium that are the Brussels style and the other is from the Flanders region called Liege style.

The Brussels style is very light, kind of crispy and is eaten sitting down. It might have a few toppings but if eating it as Belgian’s do, you eat it with some powdered sugar and maybe whipped cream. And no, you will never find maple syrup to put on it.

Koffie 3,14 Thee (next to Tierenteyn-Verlent) has yummy Liege waffles
This warm, sugary snack is the best on the go!
"A waffle a day keeps the doctor away!" at Jack's House has got it right!

In contrast, the Liege style that is found in Ghent is smaller, served hot and can be eaten as a yummy snack as you walk.

Biting into a delicious waffle is one of the top things to do in Ghent that you don’t want to miss.

Traditionally these do not have any toppings on them as there is caramelized sugar in them that is true perfection!

The best waffles in Ghent in Liege style can be found at Jack’s House (by the bridge of Graslei) and Koffie 3,14 Thee (next to Tierenteyn-Verlent spicy mustard shop).

Note: Both of the waffle spots listed are stalls so there is no place to go inside and sit down. You order and eat it as you go!

19. Indulge In Belgian Chocolate

If you happen to be a chocolate lover like me then you are in luck as Belgium has some of the best chocolate I have ever tried!

I’m partial to dark chocolate and kept to it throughout my tastings. I am amazed at how many chocolatier shops are in Belgium including Ghent.

There is one in every direction you look, much like a Starbucks coffee shop in the United States.

There are different qualities of Belgian chocolate and usually corresponds to the price. The higher quality means you will pay more euros.

Ok, this has nothing to do with waffles, but who doesn't adore a building wrapped like a present?
The Luc Van Hoorebeke chocolatier is local to Ghent

The chocolate that Belgium is famous for is the “praline”. Praline chocolate has a soft inside or filling that is usually made of hazelnut, almonds, sugar, or milk-based pastes. Think of it as a soft creamy filled center that is very delicious.

The two chocolatiers in Ghent that have excellent quality chocolates are Neuhaus and Luc Van Hoorebeke (local to Ghent).

Both offer exceptional chocolates and don’t pass up the opportunity to have hot chocolate either. Some of the best hot chocolate I have ever had…

Take A Small Group Chocolate Tour in Ghent!

20. Castle of Gerald the Devil

So, who is this Gerald the Devil you might ask? He was the son of a knight that lived here. He of course, wasn’t the devil but that was his nickname due to his dark features and complexion.

Even though the devil never lived here, many others did, making for an interesting history.

Castle of Gerald the Devil

As one of the oldest buildings in Ghent, it started out as a fortress in the 13th century. It has since been used for several things such as a knights’ residence, a prison, a school, and a place for those with mental disorders.

Sadly, it isn’t open to the public, but it is a beautiful castle to see from the outside.

21. Explore History At The Ghent City Museum

One of the best museums in Ghent to visit is the STAM Ghent City Museum. After visiting, you will learn about Ghent’s past, present, and future through interactive media and exhibits.

The museum is located in the combination of the old Bijloke 14th-century abbey, a 17th– century monastery, and a modern 21st-century building.

It is a wonderful place to gain a more in-depth understanding of Ghent’s history and how that ties into what the city is today.

A highlight of visiting is to walk on the huge aerial photograph of the city and map out the areas you may have visited already.

Hours: Open Thursday – Tuesday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Closed on Wednesday.

Cost: Adults over 25 years old are 10 Euro, 19 – 25 years old are 2 Euro and 18 years and under are free.

December days in Ghent can be cold but still so beautiful...

Best Hotels In Ghent

Staying near the Graslei section of historic Ghent is the best location to stay as you are literally steps from everything to see.

Ghent Marriott Hotel – I stayed here and loved it especially for its perfect location on the Korenlei and along the canal across from the Graslei.

Even if you don’t stay at the Ghent Marriott, walk by and take notice of its beautiful façade and the two swans up towards the top.

Way back in the day, when sailors would come into port right in front of the hotel, they would look for the company of women discreetly.

The Ghent Marriott is in the middle along the Korenlei
The Ghent Marriott is just steps from the canal of River Leie

If they were to see two swans turned away from each other like that on the Marriott façade, then they knew it was a brothel.

I found this so interesting and something you will see more of in Ghent and Bruges if you pay attention!

Other excellent hotels are:

1898 The Post looks straight out of a movie set...
View of 1898 The Post from St. Michael's Bridge illuminated at night...

And if you are looking to start off your day with a great cup of coffee, walk over to Mokabon.

It is a local’s coffee shop that smells heavenly with fresh ground coffee beans. It is said to be the first coffee shop in Ghent!

My camera lens steamed up creating a cool effect!

Where Is Ghent?

Ghent is in the northwest area of Belgium and also the region of Flanders. It happens to be the capital and largest city in the East Flanders province.

It is pretty much in equal distance from Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp depending on which direction you are looking to go.

So, expect about 30 – 45-minutes to get to any of these cities by car. This makes it a superb location to use as a base or a stay on your way to the next city on your trip.

I wouldn’t stay less than 3 days to give Ghent the full attention it deserves even though I have heard some come for just a day.

Ghent is a little under the radar compared to Brussels and Bruges but make sure you stay a few days in this enchanting city.

Getting To Ghent

If you are flying into Belgium, then most likely you are flying into Brussels Airport (BRU) which is the largest international airport. If you are coming directly from the airport to Ghent, it is about a 45-minute drive or about 45 mins – 1 hour by train.

If you are spending time in Brussels before heading to Ghent, find out the best things to do in Brussels in preparation of your trip.

Another option might be to fly into Antwerp at the Antwerp Airport (ANR) which is about 45 minutes by car or 1.25 hours by train.

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Ghent Train Station

You can take the train from Brussels from one of three main train stations that are Brussels North, Brussels Central and Brussels South.

At first, knowing which train station to go to can be confusing as there are often 2-3 different names for each station. Catching a train is the simplest way to head to Ghent though for sure.

For example, Brussels South (English) is Bruxelles-Midi (French) and Brussels-Zuidi (Flemish).

They are all the same location, just a different name depending on the language. Having said that, I hope I haven’t scared you off to using the metro and trains as they are nice and simple to use.

When purchasing your train ticket, book it to Gent Sint Pieters station to get yourself to Ghent. Once you exit the train station, there are taxis to take you to your hotel. The drive to the historic area of Ghent is about a 15-minute ride.

Take A Full Day Trip To Ghent From Brussels

Walking along the Korenlei side of the river at dusk

Fun Ghent Tours To Take

Guided Walking Tour & Canal Boat Ride

Ghent 50 Minute Medieval Boat Ride Tour

Ghent Urban Bike Ride Tour

Private 2 hour Ghent Walking Tour

Beer And Sightseeing Adventure In Ghent

Guided City Tour With Food And Drink Tastings

Small Group Chocolate Tour In Ghent

CityCard Gent

If you know that you will be in Ghent for a few days and plan to see most of these sights, consider getting a CityCard Gent.

For a fee, it is a card that gets you into many museums, monuments, tram, and boat ride for a discount. That is, it is cheaper than if you paid for each separately.

I found out about the CityCard Gent as I was leaving but wish I had gotten it the day I arrived. There are two options, purchase a 48 hour (36 Euros) or 72 hours (42 Euros) card. You can purchase it ahead of time from their website or buy at the Ghent tourist office or any museum that is included.

Capturing the Graslei at dusk and at blue hour is so much fun!

Ghent One Day Itinerary

Although I recommend staying no less than 2 to 3 days, I have put together an essential Ghent itinerary if you only have one day.

  • Tour Gravensteen Castle
  • Eat Some Liege Waffles
  • Climb Up The Belfry of Ghent
  • Visit Saint Bavos Cathedral
  • Take a Canal Boat Ride
  • Stroll Along the Graslei And Korenlei
  • Try Cuberdons!
  • Enjoy A Dinner At Otomat For Delicious Pizza
Many of the facades of the buildings were renovated for the 1913 World's Fair

Ghent Attractions Map

Admiring the backside of the castle

FAQs About Visiting Ghent, Belgium

Is Ghent, Belgium Worth Visiting?

Yes, Ghent is definitely a city worth visiting for its stunning medieval architecture, charming canals, rich history, walkability, art, beer, and a fantastic food scene.

How Many Days In Ghent Is Enough?

Three days in Ghent is the perfect amount of time to see all the main attractions in Ghent plus have time to wander this picturesque city on foot. Although you can see the top highlights in a day, it will only give you a taste of how amazing the medieval city really is.

What Is Ghent, Belgium Best Known For?

Ghent is best known for being an idyllic historic city with an abundance of medieval architecture, Gravensteen Castle, boat rides on the canal, photographic bridges, and home to the Ghent Altarpiece.

It is a bustling city for students, artists, and people that have a love for waffles, chocolates, and beer. Ghent is also known as the vegetarian capital of the world for the volume of vegetarian restaurant options.

Is It Better To Go To Ghent Or Bruges?

There is no easy answer as both Ghent and Bruges are the two most charming and romantic cities in Belgium. They each have canals, a ton of incredible medieval architecture, gorgeous bell towers, awesome food, beer, and museums.

Although I think everyone should visit both, I enjoyed Ghent a little more as it wasn’t as touristy or crowded compared to Bruges.

What Food Is Ghent Famous For?

The food Ghent is most famous for is mussels, frites (fries), Liege-style waffles, Belgian chocolate, beer, cuberdons, Ganda ham, and Tierenteyn-Verlent mustard.

Can I Speak English In Ghent?

Yes, as a visitor to Ghent you can speak English with almost all locals as over half the population is proficient enough to speak it. That said, the three main languages spoken in Ghent and all of Belgium is Dutch, French, and German.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Ghent, Belgium?

Ghent is one of those cities you can visit year-round as it has fairly mild winters. They only seem to get one or two snowstorms a year so traveling there is pleasant even in the winter months.

I visited in December to experience the Christmas Markets and loved it. There were a number of overcast and rainy days, but I was bundled up and prepared for the chilly air.

If you aren’t coming for the Christmas Markets in December, then the spring and fall will be the most pleasant and have fewer crowds than the summer months.

More and more I try to avoid the crowds and visit during the shoulder and off-season, but you can’t beat the warm summer months as a great time to visit too.

Before You Go…

If you want to visit a small and quaint town in Belgium with a jaw-dropping church and citadel, make sure to give my post on Dinant a read!

11 Fun Things To Do In Dinant, Belgium

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Vanessa Shields

Vanessa Shields is the founder of Traveling Ness helping people with trip ideas, itineraries, travel planning, and boosting confidence for female travelers to take a solo trip. She has been a travel writer and content creator since 2019.

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64 Comments

  1. Your article on Ghent was very informative and inspiring. I loved your photos of the Gravensteen Castle and the Belfry of Ghent. They look like they came straight out of a fairy tale. Thank you for this amazing guide on Ghent.

  2. We didn’t get to Ghent when we visited Brussels. It looks beautiful so will have to try and get back to Belgium. Shoulder season is my favourite time to visit Europe.

    1. Years ago I enjoyed Europe in the summer before the mega crowds but now I love the shoulder season as it is great weather and fewer people! Ghent is probably my favorite in Belgium overall. Such a lovely town to spend time in! 🙂

  3. Oh wow, I’ve never been to Ghent, just Brussels (and only for a couple days) – I had no idea it had such great architecture! I’d love to see those churches!

    1. I hope you get the chance to go back to Belgium and see Ghent as it is one of those cities that will capture your heart! 🙂

    1. I hope you get the chance to do that walk one day! Walking along the canals is so peaceful and photogenic scenes in every direction! 🙂

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