15 Best things to do in Ghent local guide

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Ghent is a typical destination that you don’t think of first when you are thinking about doing a European city trip. We say this: Ghent surprises you! We have visited Ghent many times and we will come back because we love it. The nice thing about Ghent is that it is not yet been discovered by many tourists, there is a nice atmosphere and the historic center is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe.

Curious about what you can do in Ghent? Discover in this article: things to do in Ghent.

Things to do in Ghent
Discovering Ghent

Things to do in Ghent?

There are many things to do in Ghent. Because we visit Ghent often, we can share great tips to get the most out of your visit to Ghent. Below you can read our 15 things to do in Ghent.

Tip: use the map of Ghent below to see where the best things in Ghent can be found. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title you can save this map in your Google Maps account. In the folder, you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you are at your destination.

#1 Visit St Bavo’s Cathedral

St Bavo’s Cathedral is the largest and oldest church in Ghent. When you arrive in Ghent you probably see the tower of the church from a great distance. When you are at Sint-Baafsplein you stand in front of the cathedral and see how huge it is. When you consider that in the year 942 a small church was built on this spot, which was expanded during the Middle Ages to become the cathedral that we know today.

When you enter you will be surprised by a huge space with pillars. It is nice to walk around the church and pay close attention to all the details. The most beautiful part of the church is located at the back left of church here you can see the Mystic Lamb artwork by Hubert van Eyck. In terms of painting, this is one of the rare paintings in the world because this is one of the first large altar paintings made based on oil paint. A ticket to see this costs €12.50 / $12.50 per person.

What is also very nice about the cathedral is that you can do a tour in combination with a visit to the Mystic Lamb. During this augmented tour you will wear 3D glasses where the past of the cathedral and the Ghent Altarpiece will be shown in 40 minutes. Tickets cost €16 / $16 per person.

St Bavos Cathedral 1
St Bavos Cathedral inside 1

#2 Behold the castle Gravensteen

The nicest building in our opinion to visit is Gravensteen. The Castle of the Counts is a castle from Roman times that changed during the Middle Ages, where you can see most of the remains today. The location of the castle is beautiful because it is located on the water. The castle is also well preserved, making it worthwhile to admire the castle from the inside. It is fun to do an audio tour because this is recorded by a comedian Wouter Deprez. It’s funny how he tells about the history and the places you see.

In most cases, you can buy tickets for Gravensteen on the spot. You can also purchase tickets in advance to skip the queues and be assured of a place, in practice the queues are usually not too long. But if you want to purchase the tickets in advance, you can do this via the official website. An adult pays €12 / $12 per person.

Gravensteen

#3 Medieval boat trip

The Leie flows through Ghent, which was the port of the city during the Middle Ages. As a result, many old warehouses from that time are located on the Leie. A great way to discover Ghent highlights differently. In less than one hour you sail pass the most beautiful buildings. Also, the perspective from the water is very different making it recommended to do this.

The boats leave from the small fish market, here you will see a kiosk with yellow umbrellas. We recommended buying your tickets in advance to be assured of a place because only a maximum number of people per day can do the boat tour due to the capacity. Buy your boat trip tickets here.

boat trip
boat trip Ghent

Where to stay in Ghent

Option 1 location & excellent facilities B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum
B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum is a hip hotel with all the comforts you would expect from a 3-star hotel. Rooms are spacious, beds are excellent, the bathroom is neat and the breakfast is extensive. Perfect accommodation for a reasonable price.
Check actual prices and availability for B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum here.

Option 2 Classic & luxury Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof
Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof Ghent is a chic hotel where you can admire the Ghent allure. The hotel has been completely renovated so everything looks beautiful. Rooms are still as they were built, with high ceilings, large windows, and original artwork. With the pool and terrace, you can enjoy a wonderful stay here. If you want some luxury during your stay in Ghent, this is the best accommodation for you.
Check actual prices and availability for Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof here.

#4 Climb the tower Belfort

Opposite St. Bavo’s Cathedral, you can find Belfort, which has been an important building in the history of Ghent. During the Middle Ages it guarded the treasure of Ghent, all the money of the city was stored there. It was also the watchtower of Ghent because the towers are 95 meters high so you could overlook the entire city. Finally, the chimes in the tower were important to warm the people of Ghent when something happened like fire. A fun fact is that the oldest tower has the Dragon of Ghent, which symbolizes the defense of Ghent.

If you visit Belfort you can see all these aspects. The main reason to visit Belfort is to climb the towers due to the amazing view from the top. Tickets cost €10 / $10 per person. You can easily purchase these on the spot.

Belfort

#5 City Tour

What is also nice to do is to follow a tour where you walk through the historic center with a guide who tells you everything about the history of the city. By taking a tour you will experience Ghent differently. It is nice to learn how the inhabitants used to live in Ghent, how different rulers have left their mark, and how it is that Ghent is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe.

We recommend this tour because you will visit all the highlights of Ghent but also they show you some iconic Ghent delicacies.

#6 Saint Nicholas Church

If you like to visit churches during a city trip, then in addition to St. Bavo’s Cathedral, it is also worth visiting St. Nicholas’ Church. When you walk through the historic center you are guaranteed to walk past the Sint-Niklaaskerk, so it is a small effort to go inside.

The Sint-Niklaaskerk is located on the Korenmarkt and has become enormous due to the grain stock. In the Middle Ages, when a ship sailed past Ghent, one had to give up 25% of its cargo, the merchants of Ghent could easily earn a lot of money from trade so the Sint-Niklaaskerk grew into an impressive building.

Inside the church, you see 20 altars, a large organ, and many colorful glassworks. You can visit the church daily for free between 10:00 am and 04:00 pm.

Belfort

#7 The squares of Ghent

In addition to the many medieval buildings, Ghent is also a city of conviviality. You will undoubtedly visit squares such as Sint-Baafsplein, Poeljemarkt, and Korenmarkt when you are in Ghent because you walk past them when you visit the main sights. A pleasant square that is often skipped by travelers is the Vrijdagmarkt, despite it being only a 5-minute walk from the main places.

The nice thing about the Vrijdagmarkt is that this is one of the oldest squares in the city, where many executions used to be held. Nowadays many festivals are organized here. The square is surrounded by old buildings which are beautiful to see but there is one building where you have to stop which is Toreken. This is a building from the 15th century that has an iconic stepped gable with a spire. In the tower, you can still see the old clock of Ghent.

Vrijdagmarkt

#8 Stroll through the atmospheric streets

When you are in Ghent, it is great to walk through the narrow streets and enjoy the shops, atmosphere, and architecture. Because much has been well preserved from the Middle Ages, there is a unique atmosphere in Ghent. There are a lot of streets and buildings that are worth visiting but the two streets below can not be missed.

  • Kalandeberg: this is located just off the busy street, so you see fewer tourists here, which is nice. There is a fountain on the Kalandeberg that supplied the inhabitants of Ghent with water in the 19th century. On this square, it is recommended to grab something delicious at the bakery Le Pain Quotidien Kalandeberg.
  • Plotersgracht: this is one of the oldest districts of Ghent, from Gravensteen you can walk in 5 minutes in the Plotersgracht. This area used to be unsafe and many crimes were committed, nowadays it is lovely to walk through due to the narrow streets and old houses.
Ghent cozy street
Ghent historical center

#9 Graffiti in Ghent

Like many cities, Ghent also has several places where you can admire graffiti artwork. If you walk through the city you will come across this automatically. However, Ghent does have something unique, namely a graffiti street where artists can show their work. The rule is very simple, you can place your artwork if they are more beautiful than the predecessor. It’s worth taking a look, the graffiti street is a 3-minute walk from Belfort so you’ll be there in no time.

Graffitistraatje Ghent

#10 Have a drink on the terrace along the water

The best place to have a drink is along the water. Our favorite places to do this are Korenlei and Graslei. These are the quays that lie between the grass bridge and Sint-Michelsbrug. When the sun shines it is wonderful to relax, if you sit here you can watch the boats pass by and you have a view of the old warehouses with the churches in the background.

If you have something to drink with you, it is best to find a spot along the quay. If you prefer to sit on a terrace, you can go to Korenlei. The sun shines here in the afternoon. A nice place to sit is Allegro Moderato for a drink. We recommend only having a drink here because the food is simply very expensive.

Do you want to book a nice tour?
Check the widget below for the best tours in Ghent

#11 Shopping in Ghent

In Ghent, you will, of course, find well-known clothing brands, but in our opinion, this is not the reason to visit Ghent. In Ghent, you have several streets and alleys outside the main shopping streets where you will find local boutique shops that sell handmade items. It is precisely these shops that are fun to visit. We like to visit the four places below:

  • De Post: the best thing about this shop is that it is located in the former post office. Various shops are located in this hall that sells beautiful things, but the best thing is to look at the architecture.
  • Supergoods: a store where they only sell sustainably produced or organic products.
  • Vandekerckhove & Bar: this is a family business that has been selling coffee accessories since 1854. A good place to order coffee.
  • Billierose: a stylish store where you can find a beautiful collection of clothing and home accessories.

#12 Local delicacies

Ghent is known as the city where many delicacies can be found. In many places in the city, you will see those small shops where you can buy local delicacies. In Ghent, you can find local chocolate, candy, mustard, desserts, and much more. When we are in Ghent we always visit Confiserie Temmerman. This store is located in an old building and has an attractive interior.

If you are in Ghent you can at least try the following products:

  • Tierenteyn mustard: visit Tierenteyn-Verlent to buy different types of homemade mustard.
  • Neuzekes: these are candies with a raspberry core. You can buy these at Confiserie Temmerman.
  • Snowballs: kind of oliebol, only with chocolate inside. You can get this at the city hall.
  • Tilly’s vlaai: is an iconic flan since 1959. You can get this Tilly’s Gentse Vlaai.
  • Ganda Ham: is ham that is dried as how they did it during the Middle Ages. Normally you can get this at the vleeshuis (meat hall) but it is closed for renovation. You can now get this at the city hall.
Confiserie Temmerman
Ghent delicacies

#13 Try to be at one of the festivals

Because Ghent is a student city, there are always parties, but the best thing is to visit Ghent during a festival. The best festival to visit in Ghent is the Gentse Feesten. During this festival, you can enjoy national and international artists for 10 days by making music on different stages throughout the city.

Check the current agenda for the Ghent festivals here.

Ghent festival Gentse Feesten

#14 Citadel Park

Citadel Park is located half an hour from the center. This park is worth visiting when the weather is nice because you can escape from the noise of the city and enjoy nature for a while. If you travel with children, it is recommended because you have a lot of play equipment here.

The SMAK museum is located near the park, this is the municipal museum for contemporary art. If you like contemporary art, this museum is something you have to visit.

#15 More sights in the historic center

Besides all the activities and sights mentioned above, Ghent has a lot more to offer. If you are going to Ghent for the first time, we recommend that you visit the first 14 places and only visit the ones below if you have more time or are interested in them.

  • Market hall: you will most likely see this market hall when you walk through the historic center because it is located opposite Belfort. This market hall is notable for its architecture. They built this in a modern style.
  • Opera: you can also enjoy opera/ballet in Ghent. More information can be found here.
  • Krook: is the library and meeting place of Ghent, in this modern building you can see how the architect made this building.
  • Local beer: go to Fleur de Lee, here they have different kinds of local beer that you can taste. In addition, it is located in a nice square where it is cozy.
Krook

How many days do you need for Ghent?

There are a lot of things to do in Ghent. If you want to do most of the activities from this list, we recommend staying at least 2 days / 1 night in Ghent. In 2 days you have enough time to see the highlights of Ghent.

Where to stay in Ghent?

We recommend staying in the historic center, this is the coziest, most accommodations can be found here and you are close to all the major sights of Ghent. There are not a lot of accommodations so these are quickly fully booked. For good accommodation, you have to book at least 3 to 6 months in advance for Ghent. This tip also applies to the two accommodations below, so don’t wait too long to make your reservation. In addition, keep in mind that you pay between €100 and €170 / $100 and $170 for good accommodation. You can find cheaper accommodations, but they are often far outside the center or are simply not that good.

Location & excellent facilities
B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum

B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum

B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum is a hip hotel with all the comforts you would expect from a 3-star hotel. Rooms are spacious, beds are excellent, the bathroom is neat and the breakfast is extensive. Perfect accommodation for a reasonable price.

Classic & luxury
Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof

Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof Ghent

Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof Ghent is a chic hotel where you can admire the Ghent allure. The hotel has been completely renovated so everything looks beautiful. Rooms are still as they were built, with high ceilings, large windows, and original artwork. With the pool and terrace, you can enjoy a wonderful stay here. If you want some luxury during your stay in Ghent, this is the best accommodation for you.

Where can you eat well in Ghent?

Because Ghent is a student city, you can find many restaurants, cafes, and other types of eateries. Whether you want to go out for a luxurious dinner or prefer a typical Flemish fries, it’s all possible. Below are a few suggestions that you can visit.

Breakfast is fun to do at Simon Says or Oats Day Long. Simon Says is a small-scale coffee bar where you can order fresh juices with yogurt, sandwiches, or croissants. The coffee tastes very good. Oats Day Long is, as the name implies, the place to have an oatmeal-based breakfast. You can also order bread with different types of toppings.

You can have lunch at Bakkerij Aernoudt Groentenmarkt. This is a typical Belgian bakery where you can order different types of sandwiches. Don’t expect luxury but just everyday services, food is fine and we think it’s a nice place to grab something. Another recommendation is Le Pain Quotidien Kalandeberg. The sandwiches are better because the bread is rustic and the nice thing is that you can sit at the Kalandeberg square. This is a small-scale square where it is cozy.

Having dinner is for us to eat at Frituur Bij Filip. This is an iconic small-scale chip shop. The reason to order fries here is that the fries are a lot cheaper than in the fancy shops in the center and the quality is better. For us, this is our favorite place to visit because it is so approachable. When you arrive there is probably a big queue, this is of course not for nothing. For a large chip you pay €2.50 / $2.50, if you go get a chip from someone else, it will quickly cost €6 / $6.

If you prefer to have dinner seated, Van Wenemaer’s paradise is recommended. This is located on Sint-Veerleplein where music is often played which is nice if you have a place on the terrace. The menu is extensive and you have the choice between fish, meat, or vegetarian choices. Our recommendation is to go for the homemade Josper, this is an oven dish that you can enjoy.

Frituur Bij Filip

Transport in Ghent

When you are in Ghent, the best way to visit everything is by walking. The main sights can be found in the center of Ghent and the center is not large so you do not need buses or other facilities.

If for whatever reason you want to visit something that is outside the center, you can use the bus or tram. It’s very simple, you can buy a ticket at the machine at any station.

If you like to discover cities by bike this is also possible in Ghent. You can book a bike tour where you visit the important places of the city together with a local. More information about a bike tour can be read here< /a>.

How do you get to Ghent?

Ghent can easily be reached by car, bus, and train. If you come from far you can also reach Ghent by plane, for this, you have to fly to Brussels Zaventem and take the train from Brussels to Ghent. If you travel from the Netherlands, it is best to use the car or train.

Tickets for the train to Ghent can be purchased here. If you travel by car and are going to stay, it is best to park the car at the accommodation. If you visit Ghent on a day trip, it is best to park your car at Parking Ramen or Center Parking.

What is the best time to visit Ghent?

You can visit Ghent all year round. Of course, some periods are better than others. The best periods are spring, summer, and autumn, these are the months of March to November. The nice thing about these months is that the temperatures are pleasant. Keep in mind that during the school holidays it can be busier and therefore prices are higher. It is better not to travel during the winter months (December to February) because of the bad weather.

Ghent things to do FAQ

1. Is it worth visiting Gent in one day or is it better to stay and visit Gent for two days?

This is of course dependent on your personal preference. If you have the time and do not want to discover Ghent in a rush, it is better to stay. This simply gives you more time to do all things at a slower pace. This is not to say that Ghent cannot be visited as a day trip, you just have to make choices about what you want to see. Our advice is simple: if you have time, stay in Ghent because this is nice. You can eat at various places in the evening and then take a nice walk in the medieval center with all the lights on.

2. How much does it cost to travel for a weekend to Ghent?

If you are going to visit Ghent for 2 days and stay 1 night in the center you can assume that if you are a budget traveler you will spend €320, as a middle-class traveler €440 and if you value luxury more a budget of € 620 is sufficient.

The overview below makes it easy to see how much you spend per type of traveler per person per category.

CategoryBudget travelerMiddle-class travelerLuxury traveler
Accommodation€110 / $110€150 / $150€150 / $150
Food€25 / $25€50 / $50€80 / $80
Transport€0 / $0€0 / $€20 / $20
Activities*€46 / $46€46 / $46€46 / $46
Total per person per day€146 / $146€206 / $206 €296 / $296
Transport to Ghent**n/an/a€28
Total budget based on 2 days€292 / $292€412 / $412€592 / $592

*Activities: Don’t try to save on activities and do all these things. Specification is: visit Belfort €10 / $10 + Gravensteen €12 / $12 + boat trip €9 / $9 + city tour €15 / $15.
**Transport: this is not applicable because it can differ a lot from person to person. But as a reference: When you travel from the center of the Netherlands traveling by train costs €29 / $29 per person. If you prefer to go by car, it costs €56 / $56 (fuel €40 / $40 and parking costs €16 / $16). Assuming that you are traveling with his 2nd person, this is €28 / $28 per person.

Want to do more city trips in Europe?

After reading our article, we hope that you are well prepared and that your question ‘things to do in Ghent’ has been answered.

One last tip from our side, besides Ghent there are many more nice cities to discover in Europe. If you like to go away for a weekend, we recommend Valencia or Barcelona if you want to stay a little further south in Europe. Another recommendation is Munich, where most travelers travel to Berlin, Munich is a city with many authentic buildings and a cozy atmosphere. If you like to visit cities, just like Ghent, where many influences from the Middle Ages can be seen, then Edinburgh in Scotland is highly recommended.

What do you think of our tips about Ghent? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: the prices mentioned in this article may differ from the current situation. We regularly update our articles. Would you like to help us to provide to best possible insights to help other travelers leave a comment with the latest information. Thanks!

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