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Explore Picturesque Ghent, The Hidden Gem of Belgium

Ghent (also known as Gent) is a port city (dating back to the year 630) in northwest Belgium, where the Leie and Scheldt rivers meet.

From a prominent city-state during the Middle Ages, Ghent has evolved to today’s cultural hub and university town. Its nightlife and town events are geared towards its students and so this medieval city is an amazing mixture between young and old. This amazing blend does not only apply to its residents but also its architecture.

Ghent Twilight time Belgium travelandhome
Twilight time

Things to do in Ghent

  • Museum voor Volkskunde” is a former children’s hospital dating back to 1363 and one of the last remaining Godshuizen in Belgium. Have a look into Flemish folklife around 1900 in a picturesque courtyard with 18 typical Flemish cottages – all inter-linked.

  • Visit the 10th-century Gravensteen Castle at Sint-Veerleplein 11.

  • Founded by Belgian art pope Jan Hoet, S.M.A.K. museum in the Citadelpark has the biggest collection of contemporary art in Belgium.

  • Town Hall (Stadhuis) combines a variety of architectural styles. Of particular interest is the Peace Hall (Pacificatiezaal) and the Marriage Chapel, both constructed in 1535, as well as the 16th-century Throne Room. Address: Botermarkt, Central Ghent.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gravensteen castle Gent Belgium travelandhome
Medieval Gravensteen Castle (Castle of Counts)
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome bierhuis flanders

What it's known for

In addition to being a university city, Ghent is famous for its large public squares, marketplaces, and many famous medieval monasteries of which the most notable is probably the 7th-century St. Bavo’s Abbey (Sint-Baafsabdij).

 

Is it worth visiting?

Ghent sits halfway between Brussels and Bruges, and so it often gets overlooked since its big brothers are more well-known. It definitely is an under-subscribed travel destination, and one well worth visiting.

St Bavo Abbey Ghent Gent travelandhome Belgium
St. Bavo’s Abbey, founded in 630 by St. Amandus, can be visited at Godshuizenlaan 2.
  • Het Belfort van Gent: The 14th-century belfry and watchtower are symbolic of Ghent’s independence. Address: Sint-Baafsplein, Central Ghent.

  • Adjacent to the belfry is the Cloth Hall (1426-1441), once a popular gathering landmark of wool and cloth traders. The Cloth Hall was used as a prison in the 18th century. But when you travel to Ghent today, you can relax in the charming café-restaurant. Address: Sint-Baafsplein, Central Ghent.

 
 
 
 
Het Belfort van Gent belfry watchtower travelandhome Belgium
Het Belfort van Gent
  • Once a fish market, the Old Market (Groentenmarkt) is immersed in cultural heritage. At the west side is the long Groot Vleeshuis (constructed 1406-1410; restored in 1912), a medieval covered meat market with a guild house, chapel, and gables in the roof.

  • The Penshuizeken (south of the Vleeshuis) is where the poor were given the insides of slaughtered animals. Today, the Vleeshuis is a fine restaurant and worth seeing even if you don’t plan to dine there. Address: Groentenmarkt, Hoogpoort, central.

 
 
 
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome graffiti
Gent street art Belgium travelandhome
  • Werregarenstraat is known as the ever-evolving “graffiti alley” and boasts the work of the Ghent’s native and acclaimed graffiti artist ROA (spot his signature napping rabbits and fierce birds). Along with the old grain pits at Dok Noord you’ll find more street art and also underneath the highway at the Keizersviaduct.

  • The flashing streetlights of Ai Nati Oggi on St. Pharaildis Square are unique to Ghent. Every time a baby is born in Ghent, these street lanterns flash in silent celebration for 40 seconds to welcome the newborn.

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Fridays are Vrijdagmarkt (“Friday Market”)-time when you can buy anything from clothes to cheese.

  • A must-do on Sundays is to meander around the amazing Kouter flower market with a pitstop at the picturesque Blue Kiosk to indulge in oysters and champagne.

  • More outdoor activities include the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen Nature Reserve, Blaarmeersen, Sports and Recreation Park, Ghent University Botanical Garden, and Citadel Park (home to two main visual arts museums).

  • Graslei boasts plenty of historic guildhalls beside the Leie river, with Grasbrug adding the final touches to a picturesque setting in central Ghent. On the opposite side of the canal is Korenlei.

  • Korenlei canal. See how quickly you can spot No. 7 along the Korenlei which is the Gildehuis der Onvrije Schippers (House of the Tied Boatmen), a Baroque building dating to the 18th-century. Number 24, Lintworm en Krocht, was a 12th-century Romanesque château, rebuilt in the early 20th century.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome Graslei Korenlei promenade
Graslei and Korenlei with Grasbrug
  • Each year in late July, the historic Korenmarkt (wheat market) square along the Leie River is the center of the ten-day-long Ghent Festival (Gentse Feesten in Dutch or Gense Fieste). The city is bustling with an exciting gathering of music, theater, and other entertainment, as well as plenty of food, attended by about 1–1.5 million visitors. The “Gense Fieste” is one of the biggest festivals in all of Europe.
 
 
 
 
Ghent old post office building Belgium Korenmarkt Flanders travelandhome
The old post office building and Korenmarkt square
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome Saint Bavo Cathedral
  • The 10th-century Romanesque Saint Bavo’s Cathedral (Sint-Baafskathedraal) is home to the Ghent Altarpiece (also known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb), the most stolen artwork in the world. The giant polyptych (created in 1432) is considered the first Renaissance masterpiece.
 
 
Saint Michaels Church Gent travelandhome
Saint Michaels Church
  • The glorious Gothic-style Saint Michael’s Church is constructed of Belgian sandstone. Mary Queen of Scots gave the Relic of Doorn as a gift to the church, which can be seen as well as numerous 18th-century statues and Baroque paintings.  Address: Sint-Michielsplein 4.

  • Vismarkt and Kraanlei in central Ghent. The superb Baroque building at Sint-Veerleplein No. 5 is the old fish market, constructed in 1689. Here you have magnificent views of elegant houses in Brabant Gothic and Baroque styles dating back to 1500. At Kraanlei 65 you’ll find restored workshops and living rooms, a dining room, a barber’s shop, a cobbler’s workshop, an apothecary’s shop, a confectioner’s bakery, and a candlestick maker’s workshop. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • The Museum of Ghent (STAM) tells the story of Ghent with exhibits including jewelry, weapons, textiles, books, paintings, religious icons, and ceramics all enhanced by state-of-the-art multimedia displays. It also boasts a magnificent 10-meter-long painting of the Last Supper. 

  • At the Museum voor Schone Kunsten you’ll view a collection of classical art covering the 15th to 20th centuries. In the central hall are eight beautiful 18th century Brussels wall tapestries. Address: Fernand Scribedreef 1, Liemaeckereplein.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
St Michaels Bridge Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome cityscape
  • Sint-Michielsbrug (Saint Michael’s Bridge)  is a beautiful medieval stone-arch bridge and a popular Instagram-selfie-spot.  Address: Sint-Michielsplein 4.
 
St Nicholas Church Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome city church
  • The exterior of Saint Nicholas Church (bordering the southern side of the Korenmarkt) is constructed of Tournai bluestone in the Scheldt Gothic style, dating back to the 13th century.
 
 

Culinary specialities

  • Cuberdons or the ‘Gentse Neuzekes’:  Cone-shaped, purple candies with a hard shell and a raspberry-flavored filling.

  • Gentse Waterzooi: A Middle Ages traditional soup with chicken or fish.

  • Gruut: The Ghentian beer, a mixture of herbs (called ‘gruut’) as opposed to the usual hops! The city was a beer-brewing centre for many centuries. Visit Ghent’s Gruut Brewery, if you have the time. 

  • Roomer: An elderflower-flavored drink, containing 15 percent alcohol and bottled in round bottles bedecked in elegant flowers.

  • Tiereney mustard: Ghent’s mustard.

 
 
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What language is spoken in Ghent?

Belgium’s official language is Dutch. Generally, most people also speak English.

 
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome flanders canal

Is Ghent a safe city?

In today’s turbulent times it is a natural concern wherever travelers go. “Travel and Home” always recommend you travel being aware of what might (without being paranoid) happen since there are no guarantees to a perfect crime-free world. In other words, take normal travel precautions.  Like using recommended forms of transport such as the public transport system – a pleasure to use. 

There are indications of crime levels in Ghent available on the internet to read up on before your travel to Ghent.

Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome tramway

The best time to visit

April (spring) to June, and again September and October (fall) are great months for tourism in Belgium. July (also the rainiest summer month) and August are the high-season months and you can expect raised accommodation rates and longer queues at sightseeing landmarks.

That said, June to August is usually the festival period with plenty of activities. The average day-time temperature during the summer months is around 22°C. 

The winter months do not bring snow and have an average low of about 1°C. The rainiest month during winter is December.

Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome canal

How many days do you need in Ghent?

Three days (two nights), that is if you don’t want to be rushed. 

However, if you want to include day-trips to Brussels, Antwerp, or Bruge, you can easily do so from here. In which case, I recommend a day or two as add-ons.

It’s so worth-it to book guided tours in and around Ghent because of its rich heritage. If you want to get the most from your visit, you can enquire and book direct (and save on having to pay agent’s fees) from reputable providers such as Viator and Get Your Guide. From personal experience, these two providers are not only reliable but they’re also the best.

Ghent Riverside Gent Castle Belgium travelandhome

Does Ghent have an airport?

No. 

The nearest main airports are Brussels Airport (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport. That said, you can also fly to and from Ostend, Antwerp and Liège.

Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome blue bridge

The nearest city

The Brussels to Ghent distance is around 49 km (30 miles).

How to get to Ghent

From Brussels Airport-Zaventem, book a direct train or bus to the city center, i.e. Gand-Saint-Pierre / Gent-Sint-Pieters (duration: 1h 23m by Train, every 30 minutes).

It’s quite a walk from Gent-Sint-Pieters to the downtown area. You may want to take a tram (buy a return ticket from one of the automated machines at the tram stop) or a taxi instead of the 30-minute walk. There are trams in front of the train station.

From Bruges (Brugge) it’s about 30 minutes by train

From Maastricht, it’s about 2 hours by car.

Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome doors

Visa requirements

European Union, European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein), and Switzerland citizens qualify for visa-free entry to Belgium. Travelers should not intend to take up employment and should not stay longer than 90 days per 180 days.

South Africans can travel to Belgium visa-free for up to 30 days.

Visa-free entry (or visa-on-arrival) valid for 90 days is available to passport holders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Moldova, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US.

Passports must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the period of their stay in Belgium.

Where to Stay

Save and book direct at Booking.com who has dozens of lodging options, ranging from luxury hotels to budget hotels, to apartments and bed-and-breakfast guesthouses.

Luxury stays in Ghent

  • Marriott Ghent Hotel has stunning views of the Korenlei and Graslei canals and is 0.61 km from the city center.
  • Pillows Grand Hotel Reylof also has long-stay apartments and is near the city’s historic center.
  • Hotel Harmony, in the old town, also has picturesque canal views and is 0.9 km from the city center.

Pet-friendly hotels

  • Novotel Gent Centrum (0.69 km from the city center) and Ibis Gent Centrum St. Baafs Kathedraal (0.73 km from the city center) are both 3-star hotels with WIFI. 
  • The Holiday Inn Gent Expo is a 4-star hotel about 3.4 km from the city center.
 
 
 
 
Gent Belgium travelandhome
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome water fountain
Ghent Gent Belgium travel holiday vacation travelandhome medieval evening

And that is the beautiful hidden gem of Belgium! Definitely, a travel bucket list destination if you have not yet been.

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