Ghent is located in the Flanders region of Belgium. A beautiful city, Ghent was first established in the mid-600s, and thanks to its location (at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie) it rose to through the ranks to become one of Europe’s most popular and richest cities by the late-Middle Ages.
Although it is currently the second largest municipality in Europe, Ghent is often passed over by travellers in favour of it’s more famous neighbour Bruges. While the two cities have many things in common, including intricate canal systems and homes sporting the famous crow-stepped gable, the two towns are also very distinct.
Ghent is a “city with an interesting crossover between open cosmopolitanism and the quiet atmosphere of a provincial town.” (source) Ghent has struck the perfect balance of old world charm and modern convenience and is a must-see for anyone travelling through Belgium.
We arrived in Ghent via train. The trip from Bruges was fast, cheap and the trains were frequent—it was a weekday and they were listed as running as often as every half hour. The train took no more than 30 minutes to get to Gent-St-Pieters station (the cities main station) and gave us the most picturesque tour of the Belgian countryside.
Trains also run frequently between Ghent and Brussels, Antwerp, Lille and many other destinations, making it oh-so-easy to add Ghent to your Belgium itinerary.
WHAT TO SEE:
As with Bruges, the canals are one of the city’s highlights, and the best way to experience them is by boat. Rederij Dewaele Canal Cruise operates boat which takes visitors throughout the heart of the city for approx. 40 minutes. At just €7 per adult, it’s a perfect and economical way to experience Ghent.
Explore the City Centre
Ghent is a compact city and one that I believe is best explored on foot. Navigate the cobblestone streets and explore the alleyways, because around every turn there’s something amazing to see!
Belfort en Lakenhalle
As per Wikitravel, because I can’t think of a better way to describe it: “The Belfry was a symbol of the city’s autonomy, begun in 1313 and completed in 1380. This municipal tower holds the great bells that have rung out Ghent’s civic pride through the centuries. Take the elevator to the Belfry’s upper gallery, 66m high, to see the bells and take in fantastic panoramic views of the city.”
Built by Count Philip of Alsace in the 12th century, Het Gravensteen is a stone castle complete with a moat, turrets and more, located along the canal in the middle of the city. In the 19th century, it was converted into a cotton mill, but has since been restored and is now home to a museum.
It’s not very often you happen upon a castle of this magnitude in the middle of a city, so it’s worth a look (or at least a pass by) if you’re in town.
WHAT TO EAT/DRINK:
Mussels and Spare Ribs and Olibollen, oh my!
If you’re keen to try Flemish food, Ghent is the place to do it. Not only are the local delicacies, like mussels, spare ribs and olibollen, delicious, but the prices are more than reasonable.
And, because you’re in Belgium, you must try the frites. On my first trip to Brussels earlier in the year, I didn’t have the opportunity to try frites, so when we came across a frites shop as we pub hopped around the city, I took advantage to sink my teeth into my very first Belgian frites. And, it was amazing! Soft, crunchy, perfection—and this is coming from someone who isn’t really a fry enthusiast.
Again, you can’t come to Belgium without sampling at least one beer. I won’t go into too much detail now because I have plans for a more in-depth post, but the ruby red beers (from any brand, because I sampled a few and have no complaints with any) are amazing. Sweetened with cherries or raspberries, this beer is like drinking a delicious, not super sweet juice. I ordered one on a whim and am now hooked!
WHERE TO STAY:
For our stay in Ghent, we called the ibis Gent Centrum Opera home. Not only was it decently priced, but the hotel was located just a short walk from the historic centre (and mid-way between the centre and the train station).
Our room was clean, well equipped, and even though it faced a busy street, at four floors up, we couldn’t hear a thing.
Ghent is a town that I didn’t immediately love, but after walking the streets, exploring the canals and sampling the local fares, I was sold. It’s definitely my favourite of all the Belgian towns we’ve visited, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any and all travellers.
Read other posts from this series:
- In Bruges
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Bruges
- Surviving the Rain and Exploring Ghent
- Top Ten Reasons to Take a Canal Tour in Bruges & Ghent
- Rain in Rotterdam
- Petite Adventures’ Guide to Rotterdam
- A Day in Amsterdam
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