The TOP 16 Things to do in Ghent + Travel tips

In this Ghent travel guide, I’ll tell you the 16 best Things to do in Ghent and the most important travel tips for the picturesque city in Belgium.

You have only little time or even only one day in Ghent and still don’t want to miss any sights and highlights during your city trip? Then JOURNICATION is the right place for you! With the BIG5 checklists, a map with all Ghent sights and my personal experience report with the best hotels, restaurants and photo spots in Ghent you are well prepared for your trip to Flanders. You’ll see, in 24 hours in Ghent there are more sights to discover and places to see than just Gravensteen Castle, the Belfry, the Ghent Altar and Graslei and Korenlei. Let’s go for a perfect day in Ghent in 2022!

What do you learn in this article?

Checklist of the 16 best Things to do in Ghent

Here you have an overview of the 16 highlights in Ghent, so to speak your personal Ghent Bucket List to check off. This way you can make sure that you don’t miss any of the best things to do in Ghent during your city trip:

  1. Gravensteen Castle
  2. Korenlei & Graslei
  3. Belfry of Ghent
  4. Ghent Town Hall
  5. St. Bavo Cathedral
  6. Graffiti Alley
  7. Appelbrugparkje
  8. Vrijdagsmarkt
  9. Kraanlei
  10. STAM
  11. Patershol
  12. S.M.A.K. Museum
  13. Beguinage of Ghent
  14. Citadel Park
  15. Korenmarkt
  16. Dulle Griet

 

Things to do in Ghent Highlights: Sint-Veerleplein in front of castle Gravensteen

Sint-Veerleplein in front of castle Gravensteen

#1 Things to do in Ghent: Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen Castle is one of the largest water castles in Europe and, along with the “three towers”, without a doubt one of the landmarks of Ghent.

You can take an exciting guided tour through the whole castle. Here a funny audio guide (spoken by a comedian) helps you to find your way around. He tells exciting stories at every important place in the great castle, so you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. From the dungeon through all the chambers to the highest tower: you see everything on the tour of Gravensteen Castle.

Speaking of the highest tower: The castle offers a magnificent view of the old town! Definitely one of my personal highlights in Ghent!
From here, the “three towers” of the Belfry, St. Bavo Cathedral and the Sint-Niklaaskerk are also well visible in the panorama of the city.

Things to do in Ghent Flanders Belgium highlights one day itinerary travel tips hotel recommendation: View from castle Gravensteen to the 3 towers of Ghent

Insider tip: You can take particularly beautiful photos of Gravensteen Castle from the vantage point in the Sint-Widostraat

 

 

#2 Things to do in Ghent: Korenlei & Graslei

Korelei and Graslei together form the pretty postcard motif in the historic center of Ghent. The magnificent old buildings and guild houses on the left and right of the river Leie are reflected in the water, boats rush past – simply wonderful. Korenlei can be translated as “Kornkai”. Graslei hingengen as “Graskai”.

Both quays are part of the historic medieval harbor of Ghent. They are considered the oldest part of the city. The neat houses have sonorous names like Den Enghel, Eerste Korenmetershuis or Vrije Schippers Guildhall. Can you guess what the names mean? 😉

Here you will find a large number of cafes and restaurants, from which you can watch the hustle and bustle on the quays with a cool drink. Absolutely one of the best Ghent sights you should not miss when visiting the city.

 

 

#3 Belfry of Ghent

My number three Ghent landmark: The Belfry! Like many towers of its kind, it belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of…

The 95-meter-high tower stands exactly in line with the towers of St. Bavo Cathedral and the Sint-Niklaaskerk. Together they form the “drie torens van Gent” – the famous 3 towers of Ghent.

Things to do in Ghent Flanders Belgium highlights one day itinerary travel tips hotel recommendation: Belfry of Ghent and theater

Belfry of Ghent and theater

 

95 meters high… that must be a great view! Yes, absolutely. The Belfry of Ghent can be visited. And believe me, it’s worth it!
The entrance is through the Cloth Hall of Ghent, another sight in itself.
The top of the tower is adorned with a golden dragon that even breathes fire on special occasions.

Do you discover the “Mammellokker”, the breast licker in relief on the wall? The prisoner considered, according to legend, because the suckled at a breast…

The Mammellokker at the Belfry

The Mammellokker at the Belfry

#4 City Hall

The Stadhuis, or City Hall of Ghent, like so many other buildings in the city, bears witness to the power of the city-state in the Middle Ages.

Due to wars and financial problems, the construction had to be interrupted several times. And you can see that! Today, Ghent City Hall is a playful mix of Gothic and Renaissance elements.

Especially worth seeing is the magnificent bay window at the corner of Botermarkt and Hoogpoort.

Things to do in Ghent Highlights: Stadhuis and Belfry

Stadhuis and Belfry

On various occasions, the city hall can also be admired from the inside. Ask and don’t miss these opportunities.
Guided tours to the public part are available daily from the Ghent Tourist Office.

#5 Things to do in Ghent: St. Bavo Cathedral

The imposing building made of granite and regional brick is worth seeing not only for lovers of Gothic architecture.

In the interior of the mighty cathedral you will find important works of art by Flemish masters. One of the most famous Ghent sights is undoubtedly the “Ghent Altar”.

Works of art in St. Bavo Cathedral

Works of art in St. Bavo Cathedral

 

The painting was created by the van Eyck brothers, who have their own monument behind the cathedral.

For the famous Ghent Altar, unfortunately, you have to join an extra queue.

Things to do in Ghent Flanders Belgium highlights one day itinerary travel tips hotel recommendation: The three towers of Ghent: Sint Niklaskerk, Belfry and St. Bavo Cathedral

The three towers of Ghent: Sint Niklaskerk, Belfry and St. Bavo Cathedral

#6 Graffiti alley

You like graffiti and street art? Yes perfect, then you will love the Werregarenstraatje in Ghent! Here various artists show their skills. Thus, the alley is constantly changing. Timeless, but also red-hot themes are taken up. Ghent has its own map for these attractions, which you can easily download before your trip.

Things to do in Ghent Flanders Belgium highlights one day itinerary travel tips hotel recommendation: Graffiti alley in Ghent

Graffiti alley in Ghent

 

Here you can find the map of “Sorry not Sorry Street Art Ghent“.

In Ghent, street art and creative work is very popular. For the stories behind it and the hidden artworks in the middle of the city you can join the special tour.

Many street art works in Ghent you can experience with a local guide by mountain bike:

 

Here and there you can still find exciting old candy stores. So, take a relaxed stroll through the streets and see what you like!

#7 Appelbrugparkje

Applebrug Park is probably the most romantic park in all of Ghent. And this despite the fact that it is actually located in the tourist center of the city.
Right at the confluence of the Leie and adjacent canals, the park is a green oasis in the historic heart of Ghent.

From here you have a great view of the large butcher’s hall and the old fish market.

The park is located directly opposite the Tourist Info.

On the way from Gravensteen Castle to the Korenlei you will automatically pass by here – so keep your eyes open.

#8 Vrijdagsmarkt

The Vrijdagsmarkt, or Friday market, is named after the typical day of the week when the important market was held on this square. Traditionally, therefore, every Friday morning.

The square in the historic old town of Ghent is surrounded by magnificent guild houses.

Things to do in Ghent Flanders Belgium highlights one day itinerary travel tips hotel recommendation: Statue of Jacob van Artevelde on the Vrijdagsmarkt in Ghent

Statue of Jacob van Artevelde on the Vrijdagsmarkt in Ghent

 

At one corner of the market, “Het Toreken” catches the eye, a neat little tower.

Two buildings in the Art Nouveau style, built by the socialist movement in the 20th century, are striking: The buildings of the Socialist Health Insurance and the Socialist National Trade Union Confederation.

Historic houses at the Vrijdagsmarkt

Historic houses at the Vrijdagsmarkt

 

#9 Things to do in Ghent: Kraanlei

The Kraanlei is a historical landing place in the center of Ghent. It is said that wooden cranes used to stand here to load particularly heavy goods from the transport ships.

Also worth seeing here is the House of the Seven Works of Mercy. 6 scenes are embedded in the facade of the house, from “taking care of the sick” to “feeding the hungry”.

 

 

Here you will also find the “Gents manneke pis”. Yes, you read correctly! Ghent also has a Manneken Pis. It is said to be even older than its worldwide famous brother in Brussels.

You can find Ghent’s little man at the end of the Kraanlei in the direction of Gravensteen Castle.

#10 Things to do in Ghent: STAM

In such a magnificent historic city with an exciting history, a visit to the City Museum is not to be missed!

The STAM (official website) offers various exhibitions and interactive media on a large area to bring the history of Ghent to life.

One highlight is the huge walk-through map of the city. Here you can experience the development of the city over the many centuries from a bird’s eye view.

For fans of culture and history an absolute must on a city trip to Ghent!

#11 Patershol

Patershol is a cozy neighborhood of Ghent with a lot of charm. In the winding streets with the many old houses you feel really back in time.

Today the Patershol is known for its many restaurants. It is also called “the culinary heart of Ghent”. So this is the ideal place to take a well-deserved break after a busy day of Ghent sightseeing.

Patershol with restaurants and historic houses

Patershol with restaurants and historic houses

 

Here and there you can still find exciting old candy stores. So, take a relaxed stroll through the streets and see what you like!

#12 Ghent Sights: S.M.A.K. Museum

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent is one of the largest museums in all of Belgium! S.M.A.K. stands for Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst. It is quite a young museum.

Here you will find a permanent exhibition of many well-known artists in a large space.

There are always temporary exhibitions, which also like to take up provocative topics.

#13 Beguinage of Ghent

Beguines are women who live a pious and ascetic life in a lay order.
Particularly in the Netherlands and Belgium, they founded beguinages, in some cases entire quarters with their own administration.

The Old Beguinage of Ghent is located near the center at Gravensteen Castle. Just follow the Burgstraat and turn right.

In the center of the listed complex is the Sint-Elisabeth church. Especially typical of the beguinages of Flanders in Ghent is the Provenierstersstraat.

#14 Things to do in Ghent: Relax in Citadelpark

Looking for some peace and quiet and a change from the touristy city center? Then a walk in Citadel Park is just the thing!

Especially in summer, the park is popular with locals who come here for a picnic or sports activities. The park features several ponds, kiosks, an outdoor theater, and the famous S.M.A.K. Museum.

Admission to the Citadel Park is free of charge.

   Insider tip: No problem during the day, but avoid the park alone in the dark.

#15 Korenmarkt

The historic Corn Market was once one of the most important trading centers of Ghent. Even today, its size and the splendor of the surrounding guild houses give an idea of its importance.

Things to do in Ghent Highlights: t'Galgenhuis, Korenmarkt and Gravensteen Castle

t’Galgenhuis, Korenmarkt and Gravensteen Castle

 

Every year at the end of July, the Gense Fieste takes place on the Korenmarkt. It is the most important festival in the calendar of Ghent and offers a wealth of music, theater and cultural events.

#16 Things to do in Ghent: Visit Dulle Griet

What a projectile! In the truest sense of the word! The giant gun from the Middle Ages weighs a whole 12,500 kilograms and is almost 5 meters long.
The cannon was actually used during sieges in the 16th century. However, without firing a shot.

Today you can admire it in the open air near the Vrijdagsmarkt.

It stands on the Grootkanonplein – you don’t really need to know Flemish to translate that.

The giant gun Dulle Griet

The giant gun Dulle Griet

Insider Tip Ghent: Wait until sunset!

The light of the sunset bathes the city in a very special light! One of the best photo spots: The St. Michaelis Bridge!

 

 

You do not want to take care of everything yourself? Just enjoy your vacation and still not miss any sights in Ghent? No problem, there are great tours and excursions offered on site:

 

As an additional source of inspiration and practical local travel guide, I recommend the Lonely Plant for Belgium: 

 

Dulle Griet cannon and Kraanlai

Dulle Griet cannon and Kraanlai

BIG5 Things to do in Ghent, Belgium & Travel Tips

You don’t want to miss any Ghent highlights in one day? Find all travel tips and your city trip checklist for one day in Ghent here:

BIG5 Ghent – Speed Date

What should you know before your trip to Ghent? So let’s go on a speed date:

What is outstanding in Ghent?

In Ghent you will experience a great atmosphere with a historic old town, lots of water and great views from Gravensteen Castle and the towers!

What sucks in Ghent?

The historic city center is very popular with tourists and can be accordingly crowded. Therefore, a trip to Ghent is not suitable for the high season in summer, but already in May or September-October.

What you should definitely DO in Ghent?

A round trip by boat! See Ghent from a very special perspective during a boat tour on the river Leie and the canals

What NOT TO DO in Ghent?

Don’t limit your city break to Ghent to the historic old town around Gravensteen Castle and Graslei, but also see Ghent sights off the beaten path like Citadelpark, the S.M.A.K. Museum or the Krook Library.

What not to tell your mother about Ghent?

Ghent has a very strong student life and many pubs, bars and parties. Some parks and streets you should avoid in the dark.

BIG5 Ghent – Rapid Fire Q&A

How many days should you plan for Ghent?

One day is enough to experience the best Ghent has to offer. If you want to dive a little deeper into the exciting Flemish city and experience more highlights like the numerous museums, you should plan two to three days.

What should you have seen in Ghent?

The most important sights in Ghent are the Gravensteen Castle, Graslei and the Belfry. These are the highlights you should not miss, even if you only have a short time in Ghent.

What is Ghent known for?

Ghent is called the “city of three towers”. The Belfry as well as the towers of the Sint-Niklaaskerk and St. Bavo Cathedral have shaped the cityscape of the magnificent Flemish metropolis for centuries. They form the “drie torens van Gent”, as the Fleming says.

Where is a good place to park in Ghent?

The city center is completely traffic-calmed, so it is less recommendable to drive all the way into the city center by car. In addition, the parking garages are correspondingly expensive. Good for sightseeing, bad for parking! It is particularly practical to park the car in the hotel outside the city center and walk into the old town of Ghent.

What is your favorite place in Ghent?

Besides the view from Gravensteen Castle (sure, me and my views…) I liked the bar right below the Tourist Info the best. You sit at the height of the boats directly on the water and have a great view of the old town of Ghent

BIG5 Ghent – Orga

What is the best travel time for Ghent?

The best time to visit Ghent is the warm summer in June, July and August. Pleasantly warm temperatures and little rain you have also in May, September and October.

How to get to Ghent?

Do you need a visa for Ghent, Belgium? 

Visa: Check here whether you need a visa for Belgium with your passport

  • Flight: Ghent does not have its own airport, but is well connected to Brussels Zaventem (IATA: BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi (IATA: CRL).
  • Bus: There are several daily buses to Ghent from all over Belgium.
  • Train: Ghent is well connected by train, for example it takes only 30 minutes from Brussels. Exact departure times can be found on the official website of Belgiantrain.

Next it goes to … Bruges, Antwerp, Leuven or Brussels (all in Belgium)

Where to stay in Ghent?

Where should I book a hotel in Ghent? Recommended location: The best location for a hotel in Ghent is the city center so you can easily explore the city by walking and without a car. Nice hotels with good parking spots are a bit outside the very center.

  • Budget with great location, garden & terrace: KaBa Hostel (Filips van Arteveldestraat 35, Binnenstad, 9000 Gent; from 30 euros in a dorm room, from 60 euros in a double room) – excellent basic hostel with lockers and a nice public area. The property has an own garden with nice terrace to chill
  • Budget fun sleeping in a trailer: Treck Hostel (Groendreef 51, Brugse Poort-Rooigem, 9000 Gent; from 30 euros in a dorm room, from 75 euros in a double room) – fun experience sleeping in a trailer: Not on a camping ground, but safely indoor

 

  • Medium city center location: Hotel Cathedral (Sint Jacobsnieuwstraat 87, Binnenstad, 9000 Gent; from 110 euros in a double room) – top rated hotel with bike rental and great location to start discovering the best things to do in Ghent
  • Medium full equipped apartment: Studio 17 (Hugo van der Goestraat 17a, Sluizeken-Tolhuis-Ham, 9000 Gent; from 100 euros in a double room) – nice apartment in great location. Fully equipped with all devices you need during your city trip to Ghent

 

  • Noble with premium view on the famous Graslei houses: Ghent Marriott Hotel (Korenlei, Elisabethbegijnhof-Papegaai, 9000 Gent; from 200 euros in a double room) – unbeatable location at Korenlei with phantastic view on the Graslei houses, Ghent’s postcard motif
  • Noble with Wellness & Spa: Pillows Grand Boutique Hotel Reylof (Hoogstraat 36, Elisabethbegijnhof-Papegaai, 9000 Gent; from 210 euros in a double room) – treat yourself to some luxury during your trip to Ghent and relax in the spa or in the room with castle-like high ceilings

What is the Price Level / Budget for Ghent?

Withdraw money: In Ghent you will find many banks and ATMs where you can easily withdraw money. To save money when traveling, you should use a credit card that does NOT charge additional fees abroad. I have been using the free DKB VISA credit card for many years.

Beer indicator: For one of the many Belgian beers you pay depending on the size 3-4 euros

What is the Taxi fare in Ghent? A cab in Ghent costs a proud 8.50 euros basic fee with 3 kilometers included. Each additional kilometer then costs 2.30 euros

What is the cost of public transportation in Ghent?

  • The single ride from “De Lijn” costs 3.00 euros and is valid for 60 minutes.
  • A day ticket costs 7,00 Euro, a ten ticket costs 16,00 Euro.

Do you need a travel adapter plug for Ghent, Belgium?

In Belgium, E & F sockets are used with a voltage of 230 V with a voltage of 50 Hertz.

Do you need a travel adapterfor the sockets in Belgium? Then I can recommend you SKROSS Pro World travel adapter, which I myself have in my luggage for some time:

What are the best Restaurants, Bars & Cafés in Ghent?

  • Tuin Teras
  • t’Galgenhuis
  • Small cafe downtown

For great travel tips around the gastronomy of Ghent, visit the Visit Ghent website

BIG5 Ghent – The must do Activities

What activities should you not miss in Ghent in any case? Here are my BIG5:

  • [What are the BEST activities in the city? This could be also “visit main sightseeing spot XY”! What should be missed out??]
  • Admire world-famous Flemish works of art such as the “Ghent Altar” with the Lamb of God
  • Enjoy the view from the Belfry over all of Ghent and its surroundings
  • Visit the medieval castle Gravensteen with an interactive tour or audio guide
  • See Ghent from the water on a round trip by boat
  • Relax on the waterfront with a cool Belgian beer: either under the Tourist Info or at the Reep en Bisdomplein

BIG5 Ghent – The best Photo spots

You may wondering about the best photo locations to take pictures for Instagram or your holiday album. Here we go:

  • [Please list here the BEST photo spots for the nicest pictures?]
  • The castle Gravensteen from the viewpoint in the Sint-Widostraat
  • The old of the Kraanlei directly on site or from the Vleeshuisbrug
  • In the impressive graffiti alley of constantly new works of art are created
  • The three towers of Ghent are best seen from the castle Gravensteen
  • The best place to take pictures of Graslei and Korenlei is from the St. Michael Bridge.

 

 

BIG5 Ghent – Insider Tips / Things to do off the beaten track

  • The Vooruit: built as a socialist palace, the building is now an art center and a popular meeting place for locals with restaurants and a neat roof terrace
  • Krook: city library and awarded with high prizes in the field of architecture
  • Reep en Bisdomplein: A part of the Schelde river made visible again. Here you can relax
  • Flower market on the Kouter
  • ‘t Dreupelkot: Quaint gin bar off the typical tourist track

 

Krook city library has won many architecture awards

Krook city library has won many architecture awards

BIG5 Ghent – Culinary Journey: What to eat in Ghent?

  • Tierenteyn mustard – famous spicy mustard from Ghent.
  • Gentse Waterzooi – stew of fish and vegetables. Originally a typical “poor people’s food” used to be mainly cheap fish like turbot.
  • Stoverij – typical Belgian stew, usually with beef
  • Muilentrekkers – popular sweet dish
  • CuberdonsGentse Neuzekes, i.e. little noses, are a popular candy among young and old

Insider tip: You can taste the Ghent delicacies especially well at the relaxed Groentenmarkt

BIG5 Ghent – Communication

What language do you speak in Ghent, Belgium?

In Ghent, Belgium, people speak Dutch, called Flemish (“vlaans”) in Belgium.

Here is an overview of the most important expressions for a nice word in the local language:

  • thank you – Met dank
  • yes – ja
  • no – nee
  • hello – hallo
  • goodbye – Tot ziens

BIG5 Ghent – Helpful Websites / Links

  • Official website of Visit Ghent
  • You don’t want to take care of everything yourself? Just enjoy your vacation and still not miss the best things to do in [City / Destination]? No problem, great tours and excursions are offered on site:

 

  • As additional inspiration source and a local travel guide, I recommend the Lonely Planet for Belgium:

 

What are the best day trips from Ghent?

There are so many things to do in Ghent and the region – easily too much for one day.

Ghent is very centrally located and is well connected to the freeways and the Belgian rail network. You can make great day trips from Ghent to e.g. Brussels, Leuven, Antwerp or Bruges.

The 16 best Things to do in Ghent 🇧🇪

Once again summarizing the Ghent Highlights as checklist for you at a glance:

  1. Gravensteen Castle
  2. Korenlei & Graslei
  3. Belfry of Ghent
  4. Ghent Town Hall
  5. St. Bavo Cathedral
  6. Graffiti Alley
  7. Appelbrugparkje
  8. Vrijdagsmarkt
  9. Kraanlei
  10. STAM
  11. Patershol
  12. S.M.A.K. Museum
  13. Beguinage of Ghent
  14. Citadel Park
  15. Korenmarkt
  16. Dulle Griet

 

Now you know the best Ghent sights in one day and see what a great destination this exciting city in Flanders is. Are Ghent, its three towers and canals now on your bucket list?

If you want to know even more about Ghent sights or need more info, feel free to let me know via message or in the comments.

 

Want to discover more great sights and destinations in Belgium? Then JOURNICATION has exciting articles for you:

Flanders: 

Wallonia:

 

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2 Comments

  1. Betty

    Thanks Phil for the great summary!
    Looking forward to our Belgium trip!

    Betty

    Reply
    • Phil

      Thanks a lot Betty!

      Reply

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