Why You Should Visit Ghent: Belgium’s Hidden Gem
Ghent (Gent in Dutch) may not always be the first city on every traveller’s list when visiting Belgium, but it certainly should be. A treasure trove of history, culture, and beauty, Ghent is a charming city in northern Belgium’s Flemish region that beckons travellers with its enchanting allure. Here’s why you should consider Ghent for your next European adventure.
1. A Rich Historical Legacy:
Ghent boasts a proud history, which is evident in its unmistakably mediaeval architecture and design. The birthplace of Charles V, its storied past is woven into the very fabric of its buildings, streets, and canals. The historic centre of Ghent, which is largely pedestrianised, serves as a delightful canvas to the tales of yesteryears, with magnificent facades mirroring their reflections in the serene Lys river.
2. A Lively Student Hub:
Ghent isn’t just about its past; it is also the country’s first student city in the Flemish region. This gives it a youthful, energetic vibe that is palpable in its streets, cafes, and squares. The vibrant atmosphere is a melting pot of history and modernity, where young minds coalesce with ancient structures, bringing a unique dynamism to the city.
3. Canals and Cobblestones:
There’s something deeply romantic about walking along cobblestone streets, with historic buildings on one side and serene canals on the other. Ghent offers this in abundance. As you stroll, the gentle ripples in the water and the soft clinks of cobblestones underfoot transport you to a time of knights, guilds, and grandeur.
4. A Cultural and Shopping Paradise:
Ghent caters to every type of traveller. For the culturally inclined, there’s an array of museums that showcase everything from ancient artefacts to modern art. Shopaholics can rejoice too, with chic boutiques peppered across the city, offering a blend of high fashion and quirky local finds.
5. A More Relaxed Alternative to Bruges:
While Bruges is undoubtedly beautiful, it can often be crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. Ghent offers a more tranquil experience, with all the historical charm and fewer crowds. It’s the perfect place for those seeking a peaceful yet enriching travel experience.
Navigating Ghent is a breeze. With its clubs, eateries, and attractions strategically located, it’s easy to explore the city on foot or by bike. The pedestrianised zones ensure that your walks are unhindered and pleasant.
Ghent is more than just a pleasant weekend getaway; it’s a journey through time, a cultural feast, and an experience that leaves an indelible mark on your heart. So the next time you’re planning a trip to Belgium, make sure Ghent is high on your list. It promises memories that will last a lifetime.
Ghent: A Timeless Architectural Odyssey
Ghent, a town that seems to have halted time in its tracks, stands as a testament to the magnificent epochs of architectural evolution. Much of its mediaeval splendour has not only been preserved but also rejuvenated with a tender touch, making it a living museum of history.
As you tread its cobbled streets, a symphony of architectural styles serenades your senses. From the intricate designs of the Renaissance, the grandeur of the Baroque, to the clean lines of the Neoclassical, Ghent is an ensemble of everything one could wish for in a historical town. Each corner, alleyway, and square tells tales from times gone by, waiting for the inquisitive traveller to discover them.
Main Attractions that Shouldn’t Be Missed:
- The Saint Bavo Cathedral: A towering masterpiece, this cathedral whispers tales of divinity and artistry, reaching out to the heavens with its spires.
- The Altarpiece of Ghent: An exquisite piece of art, this altarpiece paints a story in vibrant hues and intricate details, transporting onlookers to another era.
- The Belfry: Standing tall and proud, the belfry is not just an architectural marvel but a symbol of the town’s rich past.
- The Gravensteen Castle: A fortress echoing the might and grandeur of yesteryears, its stone walls and turrets are guardians of centuries-old secrets.
- The Old Port Graslei: Once the beating heart of Ghent’s trade, Graslei’s quayside is now a picturesque backdrop for travellers and dreamers alike.
Dotted across Ghent, you’ll also find three serene beguinages—peaceful communities that once housed lay religious women. These, along with a plethora of churches such as Saint Jacob’s, Saint Nicholas, and the awe-inspiring St. Michael’s Basilica, enrich the town’s spiritual and architectural tapestry.
A crowning jewel in Ghent’s laurels is the recognition by UNESCO. The beguinages, bell tower, and the magnificent cloth hall are all graced with the esteemed title of World Heritage Sites, further cementing the town’s place in the annals of global history.
In conclusion, Ghent isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience, an immersive journey through the pages of history, and a testament to human creativity and craftsmanship. So, when you’re in Belgium, make sure to delve into the architectural wonders of Ghent. It promises to be a voyage like no other.
Best Places to Visit in Ghent, Belgium
Historically and architecturally, Ghent is a fascinating place to visit. Don’t miss these monuments and museums while you’re in the area:
- The MSK (Museum of Fine Arts of Ghent)
- The Castle of the Counts of Flanders
- SMAK (Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art)
- Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
- Graslei, the Ghent canal
- Korenmarkt the heart of the city
- Saint-Nicolas Church and Saint-Michel Church
- The Pont Saint-Michel
1. The Belfry
A visit to the historic centre of Ghent is impossible without seeing it. Ghent’s Gothic-style Belfry is a great place to start your journey in the Flemish capital of Brussels. Ghent’s former watchtower, now a Unesco World Heritage Site, was built in the 14th century. To get a great view of the city and the surrounding area, we recommend taking the stairs up to the top of the tower. Step up to the belfry and hear one of the 53 bells… Ghent will captivate you from the get-go.
2. St. Bavon’s Cathedral
If you’re looking for things to do in Ghent, you can’t miss the city’s famous Cathedral of St. Bavon. The Ghent Belfry-facing iconic building will delight art and architecture buffs. Among the paintings, sculptures, and stained-glass windows are well-known works by Rubens and Jan van Eyk, including the rococo pulpit and the Mystic Lamb.
3. The Church of St. Nicholas
Ghent’s mediaeval centre is explored further with a visit to the opulent Church of St-Nicholas. After the Ghent Belfry and St. Bavon Cathedral, this is the city’s most recognisable tower. Gothic architecture uses only Tournai blue stone for construction.
4. The Castle of the Counts
The Counts’ Castle is a must-see while in Ghent. The city’s main tourist attraction, Gravensteen (named after the castle in Dutch), has a fascinating collection of torture instruments on display. Discover Ghent’s rich cultural heritage by taking a stroll through this magnificent mediaeval stronghold..
5. Patershol District
The Patershol district is a must-see for history buffs and foodies alike. Stroll through the maze of beautiful lanes that dates from the 17th to the 19th centuries and let yourself be seduced by the location’s unique mediaeval charm. These small alleyways in Ghent are home to a variety of chic bistros, restaurants, and cafes, all competing for attention. As a result, anyone visiting Ghent should not miss seeing Patershol.
6. St. Michael’s Bridge
On Ghent’s quays and other popular tourist spots from the Saint-Michel Bridge near the city’s belfry. It’s the perfect vantage point for taking pictures of the city from above! As the day draws to a close, capture the sunset with your camera as it fades away over the city of Ghent.
7. Graslei and Korenlei
Visit the canals and the old port while you’re in town. This is Ghent’s most recognisable façade. Beautiful walks along the Lys can be had from the popular Graslei and Korenlei quays, which are popular with both locals and tourists. A stroll down River Road will show you a row of beautiful old houses… Building lights reflect in the lake at dusk, creating a rare poetic display that makes it an ideal location for aspiring photographers to explore their creative side. There are numerous cafés and restaurants with terraces in this young and vibrant part of Ghent, and it’s a pleasant place to stroll.
8. The Lily by boat
If you want to make the most of your time in Ghent, consider these suggestions. Do not hesitate to board a boat and take in the city from the water’s perspective. On a boat, a gondola, or a private boat, we let the gentle rhythm of the Lys river carry us away with it. Take a seat, relax, and prepare to be amazed by Ghent from a new perspective on this relaxing boat tour! This is a must-do if you want to have a memorable time in Ghent.
9. Museums in Ghent
Taking a trip to Ghent and visiting the city’s museums can be an excellent way to learn more about them. What are your interests, history or design? In Ghent, you can visit a wide range of museums, such as:
- The SMAK, one of Belgium’s leading contemporary art museums
- The STAM, which traces the history of the city from the Middle Ages to the present day with interactive collections
- The House of Alijn or Huis van Alijn, highlights the period objects of everyday life and the life of yesteryear in Ghent
- The Museum of Fine Arts,where international and Flemish artists rub shoulders
10. The Great Butchery
Are you looking for a trip that is a little out of the ordinary? Ghent tours would be incomplete without a visit to Het Groot Vleeshuis, or the Grand Boucherie. The massive frame and Middle Ages Gothic architecture of this covered market on the Lys riverbanks once served as a meat market. This unique eatery serves up dishes made with fresh, local ingredients, as well as craft brews and regional specialties. This must-see attraction is at the top of the list of things to do in Ghent.
11. Street art
Getting off the beaten path in Ghent is possible. Street art abounds in the city, as you may have noticed. Take a walk or a bike ride to more remote areas to get away from the hustle and bustle of tourism. You won’t miss any work if you go on the Concrete Canvas Tour. It is possible to obtain a paper copy of this guide at the Tourist Office or to download it from the internet. There will be fifty-four urban art frescoes to see along this route through the city. Ghent was explored in an engaging and eye-catching manner!
Your visit to Ghent is about to come to an end, and you’re stuck for things to do. Cuberdons are a local delicacy that you must try before you leave. They’re raspberry candies in a conical shape known as neuzekes, which means “little noses” in German. It doesn’t matter if Belgians disagree on the history of these sweets from time to time; tasting them is mandatory. Find cuberdons in the markets or at the Temmerman Confectionery to get your hands on these authentic Ghent delicacies.
How do I get to Ghent?
Ghent can be reached via a number of routes. Airports in Paris and various provinces offer flights to Brussels International Airport (BRU) (Zaventem Airport). There are numerous train connections from Ghent to Brussels, which is about 55 kilometres away. It takes about thirty minutes to get from Gent-Sint-Pieters’ main train station to the airport by direct train.
If you want to be successful, don’t be afraid to book your flights in advance using a flight comparison website. Based on your departure dates, tickets from our partner Skyscanner are available to you at incredible savings.
To get to Ghent, would you rather take the train? However, thanks to Thalys’ high-speed railway, travelling from France to Ghent has never been easier. Gare du Nord in Paris is just over an hour and a half away from Ghent on the Thalys!
Once you’ve arrived, bus and tram routes will take you right into the heart of Ghent’s city centre.
Cost of spending a week in Ghent
Ghent is a pricey city, but you can reduce your expenses by picking a higher-quality hotel and eating at the city’s restaurants more often. This is an example of a reasonable budget for seven days for a Ghent resident:
Whether it’s a shared apartment, a single room, or a room split in two, wherever you go:
- 70 euros per night, 490 euros for 7 days.
- Transport: 5 euros per day, 35 euros for 7 days.
- Visits and outings: 20 euros per day, 140 euros for 7 days.
- Meals: 7 euros per lunch, 18 euros per dinner, 175 euros for 7 days.
- Total budget: 840 euros for 7 days in Ghent.
Where to Stay in Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, with its picturesque canals, historical monuments, and bustling squares, is a must-visit city in Belgium. Whether you’re on a romantic getaway, a solo expedition, or a family vacation, Ghent offers a range of accommodation options to fit your needs. Here’s a guide to help you choose the perfect place to rest after a day of exploring.
1. Luxury Hotels:
For those looking to indulge, Ghent has a handful of luxury hotels that combine opulence with history.
- Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof Ghent: A renovated 18th-century mansion, it offers a spa, indoor pool, and a courtyard garden. It’s a fusion of historical charm with modern comforts.
- Hotel Harmony: Located in the heart of the city near the Graslei canal, this hotel offers elegant rooms, a rooftop pool, and panoramic views of Ghent.
2. Mid-Range Hotels:
Balancing comfort and cost, these hotels offer great value.
- Ghent River Hotel: Overlooking the river, this hotel is unique as it’s the only one in Ghent that can be reached by boat.
- Hotel de Flandre: A cozy hotel with historical touches, it’s centrally located and offers easy access to main attractions.
3. Budget Options:
For the cost-conscious traveler, Ghent provides various affordable stays without compromising on comfort.
- Hostel Uppelink: Located directly on the river Lys, this hostel offers a unique experience with rooms offering beautiful views of the water and the city.
- Hostel 47: Situated near the historic center, this hostel provides clean rooms, a communal kitchen, and a garden terrace.
4. Bed & Breakfast:
Experience Belgian hospitality at its finest.
- B&B Great: A family-run establishment, it offers a personal touch, delicious breakfasts, and is located in a quiet part of the city.
- B&B Door 10: Nestled near the Arts Quarter, this modern B&B provides comfortable rooms and a delightful breakfast to kickstart your day.
5. Vacation Rentals:
For those who prefer a home-away-from-home experience, there are many apartments and homes available for rent.
- Cobblestone streets apartments: Offering a range of options from studios to 2-bedroom flats, these apartments are fully equipped and centrally located.
- Historic townhouse rentals: Experience living in a piece of Ghent’s history by renting one of the many townhouses that have been modernized for comfort.
6. Unique Stays:
- Monasterium PoortAckere: Dive deep into Ghent’s history by staying in this neo-gothic former monastery, offering everything from basic rooms to luxurious suites.
7. Family-Friendly Options:
- Novotel Gent Centrum: Located in the heart of the city, it provides family rooms, a pool, and is in proximity to many attractions.
- Ganda Rooms & Suites: This boutique hotel, set in a historic building, offers spacious suites, perfect for families.
Ghent is not just a feast for the eyes but is also a city that welcomes every traveler with open arms, providing a range of accommodation options to suit different needs and budgets. So, whether you wish to live in the lap of luxury, enjoy a riverside view, or immerse yourself in history, Ghent has something special waiting for you.
Main events in Ghent, Belgium
Ghent is a culturally rich university town where there’s always something going on. Before leaving Ghent, make sure to look up the schedule of current exhibitions at the SMAK or MSK, the city’s two major museums. Ghent’s nightlife is constantly alive with concerts and live performances.
Safety in Ghent
There are no additional safety precautions other than the usual advice about valuable personal property in Ghent, which is a very safe tourist destination.
Dining in Ghent
There are numerous restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines in Ghent’s historic centre. Of course, you should eat the local cuisine, which includes dishes like stoverij, dark beer-braised beef, and Gentse waterzooi, as well as the Flemish cuisine generally.
Transportation in Ghent:
In Ghent, we get around on foot. Cars are simply prohibited in the center of Ghent, the matter which makes the city free from any traffic issues. Walking on foot and driving a bike are popular means of transport in Ghent, knowing that is not a huge one. Trams and buses come in addition if you live in a district outside the historic heart.
Best time to Visit Ghent
Ghent is a cultural destination that can be visited in all seasons. The best period for the weather is from May to September, when Ghent is alive and sometimes under the sun. Ghent’s cultural calendar is full all year round.
Belgium is dominated by a temperate oceanic climate and Ghent is no exception. The winters there are quite mild but rainy. In summer, it is not uncommon to see a few showers, but the city remains very sunny. In all cases, different types of outfit should be planned: changes in weather can occur quickly!
The best season is undoubtedly summer, when you can stroll along the canals and sit on the terrace to enjoy the sun.
Photo Tour of Ghent
Enjoy watching these great photos from the beautiful city of Ghent:
Video Tour of Ghent
Enjoy watching this great video showing the best places of the charming city of Ghent!