The canal along the Graslei is just one of many things to do in Ghent
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19 Amazing Things To Do In Ghent, Belgium

I enjoyed all of Belgium, but Ghent won as my favorite for its endless charm, laid-back feel, and dreamy cityscapes. If you are a fan of medieval architecture, great food, and cobblestoned streets then you will find many things to do in Ghent. The Gravensteen Castle and the Belfry of Ghent are just a few of the Ghent attractions that are must-see!

Ghent is a good size city yet it has a compact and cozy feel that invites you in and wraps its arms around you. I think what adds to its appeal is 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.

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

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, Ghent is one of those feel-good and romantic cities that you can’t help but love. Curious on what to do in Ghent? Keep reading to explore the best Ghent attractions during your stay!

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.

When To Visit Ghent

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.

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

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.

No matter when you visit, there are so many things to do in Ghent for every season!

Why not explore the best flight deals to Ghent and book your flight today!

Flying into Brussels or Antwerp are likely the best cities to fly into and then take a train to Ghent.

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.

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

The Ghent Marriott is in the middle along the Korenlei
The Ghent Marriott is in the middle along the Korenlei

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 just steps from the canal of River Leie
The Ghent Marriott is just steps from the canal of River Leie
Notice the two swans with their backs to eachother signaled to sailors they would find pleasure inside!
Notice the two swans with their backs to each other signaled to sailors they would find pleasure inside!

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!

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

Other excellent hotels are: 

1898 The Post – next to St. Michael’s Bridge and the Graslei
Hotel Harmony – near the Gravensteen Castle

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

Mokabon serves excellent coffee
Mokabon serves excellent coffee
My camera lens steamed up creating a cool effect!
My camera lens steamed up creating a cool effect!

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!

Best Things To Do In Ghent

1. 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.

View of the buildings on the Graslei side of the canal
View of the buildings on the Graslei side of the canal
First glimpse of the Graslei and Korenlei outside of my hotel
First glimpse of the Graslei and Korenlei outside of my hotel

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

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

Along the River Leie, the Graslei and Korenlei are one of the most popular spots to be in Ghent!
Along the River Leie, the Graslei and Korenlei are one of the most popular spots to be in Ghent!
Many of the facades of the buildings were renovated for the 1913 World's Fair
Many of the facades of the buildings were renovated for the 1913 World’s Fair

There are a number of shops, hotels, and restaurants that line each quay. The Graslei and Korenlei are peaceful spots to just sit, watch boats go by, and take in Ghent’s historic beauty.

I seriously could sit here for hours and at different times of the day. Spending time on the Graslei is one of my favorite things to do in Ghent.

Capturing the Graslei at dusk and at blue hour is so much fun!
Capturing the Graslei at dusk and at blue hour is so much fun!
St. Michael's Bridge over the River Leie and along the Graslei
St. Michael’s Bridge over the River Leie

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 be in love with the buildings on both sides. These old guildhalls boast so much fascinating history!

Walking along the Korenlei side of the river at dusk
Walking along the Korenlei side of the river at dusk
Looking over at the Korenlei side and my hotel, The Ghent Marriott
Looking over at the Korenlei side and my hotel, The Ghent Marriott
Blue Hour in Ghent is truly magical along the Graslei...
Blue Hour in Ghent is truly magical along the Graslei…

Most of the buildings 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.

Although the buildings might date back to the Middle Ages, most of the facades have been updated or restored in the late 1800s or early 1900s in preparation for the 1913 World’s Fair.

Getting an early morning start and happy its not raining!
Getting an early morning start and happy it’s not raining!

The building on the Graslei side 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.

The blue door gives such a fun pop of color!
The blue door gives such a fun pop of color!

The super tiny building to the right of Manhattan Burger’s and has 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… Lol.

2. Gravensteen Castle

Usually, you see castles high up on a hill or on a cliff away from potential threats. And not typically in the middle of a city.

That’s what makes the Gravensteen Castle so unique because it is on a flat surface in Ghent’s historic city center.

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

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 beginning of the self-guided and very funny audio tour at Gravensteen Castle
The beginning of the self-guided and very funny audio tour
This fireplace is said to be the first one of its kind in Ghent
This fireplace is said to be the first one of its kind in Ghent

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

View from the top of the Gravensteen Castle is spectacular!
View from the top of the Gravensteen Castle is spectacular!
Peeping down to the town from the top of the castle
Peeking down to the town from the top of the castle
Enjoying the views from the top
Enjoying the views from the top

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 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 the Gravensteen Castle is one of the best Ghent attractions to see. Oh and make sure to go to the top for wonderful city views of Ghent!

The Count's toilet dumped out onto the River Leie!
The Count’s toilet dumped out onto the River Leie!
The townspeople would cheer when they saw that the Count took a dump... Meant he was healthy. Lol
The townspeople would cheer when they saw that the Count took a dump… Meant he was healthy. Lol
Walking around the castle grounds
Walking around the castle grounds

At times you might be a little shocked at what the guide just said in a humorous way.

He does so in a successful attempt to teach you about the castle’s history and make it entertaining. I heard that he is an actual comedian which makes perfect sense!

Admiring the backside of the castle
Admiring the backside of the castle
The Gravensteen Castle is straight out of a fairy-tale!
The Gravensteen Castle is straight out of a fairy-tale!

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 in public!

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 enhance your experience in Ghent, make sure you take a walking tour 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 cities long history.

Although it is free, I recommend giving a tip at the end if you enjoyed yourself as it is an excellent tour.

Walking the canals reveal idyllic scenes...
Walking the canals reveal idyllic scenes…

Tours are held daily at 10 am, 1 pm and 6:30 pm in both English and Spanish. 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.

A walking tour is a terrific way to learn about Ghent!
A walking tour is a terrific way to learn about Ghent!

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 an umbrella as tours are a go even in the rain!

The monument gateway to the Old Fish Market
The monument gateway to the Old Fish Market
This is also in the lively Groentenmarkt square that used to be the vegatable market
This is also in the lively Groentenmarkt square that used to be the vegetable market
Neptune stands over and watches as people pass from the Groentenmarkt to the Fish Market
Neptune stands over and watches as people pass from the Groentenmarkt to the Fish Market

I recommend taking the Gent Free Walking Tour on your first day so that you get the lay of the land and you know where you might want to go back and see more of later. I also love getting tips from a local on where to eat, drink and photograph a city!

4. 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.

St. Michael's Bridge over the River Leie
St. Michael’s Bridge over the River Leie
View of St. Nicholas Church and the Belfort from the top of St. Michael's Bridge
View of St. Nicholas Church and the Belfort from St. Michael’s Bridge

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.

It makes for a special and extraordinary shot! Not only is it free but one of the coolest things to do in Ghent.

St. Michael's Bridge at sunset and the tower of St. Bavo's peeking through
St. Michael’s Bridge at sunset and the tower of St. Bavo’s peeking through
The view of Leie River from the top of St. Michael's Bridge
The view of Leie River from the top of St. Michael’s Bridge

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.

St. Michael's Church that sits right next to its namesake bridge!
St. Michael’s Church that sits right next to its namesake bridge!
St. Michael's might be the busiest spot in Ghent day or night!
St. Michael’s might be the busiest spot in Ghent day or night!

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. Korenmarkt

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 center of Ghent.

The Korenmarkt is between 1898 The Post and St. Nicholas Church on the left
The Korenmarkt is between 1898 The Post and St. Nicholas Church on the left

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.

1898 The Post Hotel along the Korenmarkt
1898 The Post Hotel along the Korenmarkt

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

Beautiful architecture on these facades
Beautiful architecture on these facades

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 or wheat.

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

6. 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!

St. Nicholas Church in the center at evening blue hour...
St. Nicholas Church in the center at the evening blue hour…
In contrast, St. Nicholas during the day!
In contrast, St. Nicholas during the day!

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.

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

Inside St. Nicholas Church
Inside St. Nicholas Church
One of many beautiful sculptures...
One of many beautiful sculptures…

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.

Incredible view of St. Nicholas Church from the top of the Belfry!
Incredible view of St. Nicholas Church from the top of the Belfry!

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

7. 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 things to do in Ghent!

The Belfort or Ghent's Belfry tower
The Belfort or Ghent’s Belfry tower
Can you see the dragon weathervane at the very top?
Can you see the dragon weathervane at the very top?

You can climb the 350 steps to the top for a heart heart-pumping cardio session. But if that isn’t your thing, there is an elevator too that can take you up.

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

At the base of the Belfry is a gorgeously designed fireplace
At the base of the Belfry is a gorgeously designed fireplace

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.

This is one of the tower's original dragon weathervanes
This is one of the tower’s original dragon weathervanes
Each floor as you climb the tower showcases the Belfry's history
Each floor as you climb the tower showcases the Belfry’s history

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

Go on a walking tour to hear them in full detail! And if it isn’t obvious, the best views of the city are at the top and are magnificent…

The hike up the tower is worth it for a view of St. Nicholas Church and the surrounding city
The hike up the tower is worth it for views like this!

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!

Aerial view of Ghent's City Hall on the left
Aerial view of Ghent’s City Hall on the left
Love the floor and details in the Cloth Hall!
Love the floor and details in the Cloth Hall!

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

Oh, 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 6 pm.

8. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral

The third large medieval tower of the “big 3” is at Saint Bavos Cathedral and is a bit shorter than the Belfry 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.

Approaching the tower of St. Bavo's Cathedral
Approaching the tower of St. Bavo’s Cathedral

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.

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

The Christmas Tree ride was kinda blocking the shot...
The Christmas Tree ride was kinda blocking the shot…

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.

Inside St. Bavo's Cathedral
Inside St. Bavo’s Cathedral
Notice the details in the ceiling architecture...
Notice the details in the ceiling architecture…

Over the years it has been stolen a few times but today all panels have been found/returned except one.

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…

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

Although the cathedral is free to enter, it costs 4 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 daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm (6 pm in the summer).

9. 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!
Welcome to Werregarenstraat or Graffiti Street!
And yes, graffiti is legal here...
And yes, graffiti is legal here…

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.

Such colorful and interesting characters
Such colorful and interesting characters

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.

The graffiti art is constantly changing
The graffiti art is constantly changing

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.

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

To see another nearby street that is void of art but so quaint is Serpentstraat. It has adorable shops lined here 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. 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.

The beautiful St. James Church
The beautiful St. James Church

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 lavender curtains really add to the charm!
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. 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.

Vrijdagmarkt or the Friday Market is an enormous square where political & public meetings, executions and the Friday market were all held
Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market) is an enormous square where all political & social life took place

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 statue of Jacob van Artevelde in the center of the Friday Market

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!

The Dulle Griet Pub serves up over 500 different beers!
The Dulle Griet Pub serves up over 500 different 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.

12. 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.

An excellent spot to view from behind the Gravensteen Castle
An excellent spot to view the backside of the Gravensteen Castle

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

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!

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 that has a harder outside and chewier inside. They kind of have a jelly bean like taste to them.

One of two Cuberdon stalls in Groentenmarkt
One of two Cuberdon stalls in Groentenmarkt

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!

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!

14. Take A Canal Boat Ride

Ghent is a city of canals that are so charming 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, the best way to experience them is to take a boat ride.

Taking a boat ride on the canals of Ghent is a must!
Taking a boat ride on the canals of Ghent is a must!
Depending on the weather, there are both open and enclosed boats to take a boat ride on River Leie
Depending on the weather, there are both open and enclosed boats available

Canal boat rides might be limited in the winter depending on the weather but I went in December and they were a go! There are both open and enclosed boat rides so in the colder months, the glass-enclosed ones are a blessing.

Can it get any prettier than this?
Can it get any prettier than this?…
Canal boat rides take off at the Graslei
Canal boat rides take off at the Graslei

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.

Tip: Book your guided boat tour among Ghent’s idyllic canals and historic old town!

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.

The Butcher's Hall all lit up at night is stunning...
The Butcher’s Hall all lit up at night is stunning…
Ghent's famous Ganda Ham is delicious!
Ghent’s famous Ganda Ham is delicious!

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.

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

View of the Butcher's Hall during the day
View of the Butcher’s Hall during the day

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

Besides the ham, you must not leave Ghent without trying the unbelievable yummy mustard from Tierenteyn-Verlent. It is a tiny shop directly across the square that looks like an old apothecary and specializes in mustards since 1883.

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

16. 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.

‘t Galgenhuije is the tiniest pub in Ghent!
‘t Galgenhuije is the tiniest pub in Ghent!
‘t Galgenhuije is at the end of the Butcher's Hall
‘t Galgenhuije is at the end of the Butcher’s Hall

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.

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.

The entrance to Otomat!
The entrance to Otomat!
Otomat has the yummiest pizza made with beer yeast!
Otomat has the yummiest pizza made with beer yeast!

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.

17. 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 this goodie!

Koffie 3,14 Thee (next to Tierenteyn-Verlent) has yummy Liege waffles
Koffie 3,14 Thee (next to Tierenteyn-Verlent) has yummy Liege waffles

There are two main styles of waffles in Belgium that are the Brussels style and the other is from the Flanders region and called Liege style. Oh and waffles are not eaten for breakfast but as a snack or dessert.

This warm, sugary snack is the best on the go!
This warm, sugary snack is the best on the go!

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!

Ok, this has nothing to do with waffles, but who doesn't adore a building wrapped like a present?
Ok, this has nothing to do with waffles, but who doesn’t adore a building wrapped like a present?

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.

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

"A waffle a day keeps the doctor away!" at Jack's House has got it right!
“A waffle a day keeps the doctor away!” at Jack’s House has got it right!

I love both styles but if I had to pick one, I would choose the Liege style that is found in Ghent and Bruges.

A few places that had some tasty Liege style waffles are 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 I recommend are stalls so there is no place to go inside and sit down. You order and eat it as you go!

18. 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.

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.

The Luc Van Hoorebeke chocolatier is local to Ghent
The Luc Van Hoorebeke chocolatier is local to Ghent

The chocolate that Belgium is famous for is the “praline”. The 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. The best hot chocolate I have ever had…

19. 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
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.

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, explore my post How To Spend The Best Weekend In Brussels.

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.

In planning your trip to Belgium, start exploring the best flight deals today!

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.

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.

To give you an idea of some major points of interest you get access to with the card are the Gravensteen Castle, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent Belfry, and Canal Boat Ride. And of course, several museums, trams, buses, and bike rental!

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Looking For More Travel Inspiration?

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Thinking about traveling to Ghent, Belgium? Ghent is an underrated European gem that has gorgeous canals, fascinating history, delicious food and a castle! Explore the many things to do in Ghent and see why it is a photographer’s dream city!   #Ghent #Belgium #visitFlanders #europetravel #belgiumtravel

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62 Comments

    1. Thanks Linnea! Ghent is definitely underrated and a hidden gem that is so wonderful to visit. 🙂

  1. How I loved Ghent! My favorite city in Belgium, and I’ve been thinking of going back lately and your post has made me decide that I really do need to go again.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful? I loved all of Belgium but Ghent just stood out more as a favorite. It is definitely one of those cities that requires a second visit! 🙂

  2. This is such a comprehensive post about things to do in Ghent. I love how the historic and the modern street art are both such a big part of this place….and the photos are stunning!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it! There really is so much wonderful history and fun culture in Ghent to see! 🙂

    1. Ghent definitely has stunning architecture everywhere you look! All of Belgium is amazing but Ghent is a city not to miss for sure. I hope you do get there one day! 🙂

    1. Thank you Nicole! For some reason, Ghent seems to be under the radar but not sure why as it is amazing in every way! I hope you get to visit on your next trip to Europe! 🙂

    1. Oh that is exciting to hear it has inspired you to go! So many people tell me they have been to Brussels and Bruges but not Ghent. Such a shame but a good excuse to go back as it is a spectacular city. 🙂

    1. Oh no, what a bummer! Well, now you just have an excellent reason to go back! Ghent is such a fun and gorgeous city to explore! 🙂

  3. Oooh Vanessa this looks fantastic! I love the sound of the walking tour as those streets look beautiful with the architecture and those canals. I think Gravensteen Castle looks like the best part though, I love seeing a bit of history, and that castle looks so cool.

    p.s. I love the snippets of history. It’s hilarious that townspeople would cheer when they saw that the Count took a dump!!

    1. Haha, I’m glad you enjoy the snippets of history! I find it so interesting and usually a little comical as its hard to imagine how things were back then. The Gravensteen Castle is so beautiful and a fun audio to hear! 🙂

  4. Ghent looks fabulous! I just love the charm of European cities. And you were right, the views from the tower are incredible!

    1. Thanks Michelle! There really is something magical about European old towns as they are so quaint and pretty. Ghent is definitely one of those cities you can easily fall in love with. 🙂

  5. I seem to have travelled to countries around Belgium and have not got there yet. Ghent looks absolutely beautiful and I’ve added it to my must visit.

    1. I was the same way Lisa! I had been to France, Germany, and the Netherlands but had not gotten to Belgium. I am so glad I did and yes Ghent is a spectacular city to see! 🙂

    1. Oh thank you! Ghent is such a lovely city, I hope that you get the chance to go visit on another trip to Belgium. 🙂

  6. Ghent seems like a super interesting place. I would never think about visiting it without you writing about it. Now I have all the info that I need!

    1. Oh that’s wonderful that I am able to introduce Ghent to you. Yes, Ghent is a fascinating city with so much history and things to see! 🙂

    1. That’s so great to hear! 🙂 So many people have been to Belgium but not Ghent which is such a shame. That would be so fun to live there, what an experience!

  7. I have family in The Netherlands and so I’ve been to Belgium a couple times – but never to Ghent! Thanks for sharing this inspo, I’ll be sure to visit Ghent next time I am in Europe. Love your pics!

    1. That is wonderful you have family to visit there. That would be a pretty quick trip down to Ghent for sure! 🙂

  8. Love these photos! You are a great photographer. Thanks for this great guide – will keep in mind if I ever find myself in Ghent!

    1. Oh thank you so much Sarah, I really appreciate that! 🙂 I really love taking photos and hopefully capturing the beauty of a place. Yes, do go to Ghent if you get the chance one day as it is lovely!

    1. I appreciate you saying that, thank you! I think you will love it when you do get to visit Ghent. 🙂

    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! 🙂

    1. I agree, Ghent is one of those cities that needs more time to explore as it is so lovely. 🙂

  9. 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! 🙂

  10. 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! 🙂

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