We have fallen in love with Ghent.
While people often decide to stay and visit Bruges, we were curious to see Ghent. And we do love Bruges, having enjoyed a wonderful visit. It’s just that we were totally amazed by the old town of Ghent. And one of the reasons we spent three days in Ghent.
You can read about our visit to Bruges here ➡ Discover Bruges Medieval Charms
There is so much to see and do here; a walk through Ghent will leave you wanting more. More coffee in cool cafes, more visits to historic buildings, more exploration of old neighbourhoods, more beer, and especially more waffles!
Ghent’s old city is small enough to easily get around yet big enough to provide days of interesting discoveries.
Let us show you the Best of Ghent and 15 places to see on your visit.
How to Get to Ghent
The train is the easiest option, with trains arriving at Ghent St Pieters train station, only 30 mins from Bruges and Brussels.
From the train station, take the tram to the old town of Ghent.
If you have a car, there is plenty of underground parking near Vrijdagmarkt, which is the best option to save on parking.
Where to Stay in Ghent
Our accommodation was an Airbnb; you can never predict what an Airbnb will be like, even after reading reviews.
This Airbnb was a modern townhouse with a steep spiral staircase reaching four levels. As we were early and our apartment wasn’t ready, the hostess offered the much bigger top apartment spread over two levels.
Of course, the bigger top apartment would incur an extra charge, that was until Terry smashed his head on the door frame at the top of the stairs, which was only 5 foot high. The hostess couldn’t apologize quickly enough for failing to mention the low barrier and immediately advised there would be no additional charge.
Terry, while rolling on the ground trying to stem the blood flow, spitting out a chipped tooth and worrying about the compression on his neck the impact had caused, agreed.
After a lie-down, a self-medical check confirming no major damage, and some lunch, we headed out to explore the old town.
A Walk Through Ghent Will Leave You Wanting More
We explored Ghent for two days and have put together the following self-guided walk to help you navigate this beautiful and historic town.
This 2.3 miles (3.7km) walk around historic Ghent will take you along canals, past churches and guildhalls, and even to a huge castle in the middle of the town.
Ghent is a beautiful city. One of the best experiences was the food and drink.
Here are 15 Reasons to Visit Ghent
We started our walk at Gravensteen, or The Castle of the Count.
Built-in 1180, the castle is impressive and was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1353.
After this period, the castle was used as a courthouse, a prison, a mint and a cotton factory.
You can visit the castle to see medieval armour and torture devices for €10.
2. De Oude Vismijn or Old Fishmarket
Directly opposite Gravensteen is De Oude Vismijn or Old Fishmarket in the square of Sint-Veerleplein. It is one of the oldest markets in the city and now houses the tourist information office.
And, of course, visiting a chocolate shop was a compulsory stop. It is very difficult to pass by any Belgium chocolate without trying a sample of the delicious chocolates they create.
The recommendation of Daskalides Chocolatier was superb; the chocolates were so smooth and tasty.
This stretch of canal path is probably the best spot for taking pictures in Ghent.
On the opposite side of the Leie is Graslei, a row of Guild Houses such as the Grain Weighers, the Guildhall of the Free Boatmen, and many more.
Saint Michael’s Bridge, built 1905-1909, offers some great photo opportunities because of its height.
From here, you will have views down the canal and of the three towers of Saint Nicholas Church, Belfry Tower, and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.
Saint Michael’s Church, located next to Saint Michael’s bridge.
Construction of the church began in 1440 and was originally planned to have a 134-metre-high spire. But due to cost restraints, a flat roof was used to cover the place where the spire was to go.
Saint Nicholas’ Church is a 13th-century church, one of the oldest in Ghent and famous for its 19th-century organ.
At the rear of the church, you will see Fontein der Geknielden or The Fountain of the Kneelers.
This sculpture depicts five naked youths staring at their own reflection in the water, signifying Narcissus from Greek mythology, who did the same thing.
Today it’s probably selfies!
7. Metselaarshuis Masons Guild Hall
Across the road from the Fontein der Geknielden, look up at the Metselaarshuis Masons Guild Hall.
The stepped cable is decorated with six dancers who look like they are merrily frolicking around on top of the building.
8. Het Belfort van Gent
At approximately 91 metres, The Belfry of Ghent is the tallest bell tower in Belgium and a UNESCO World Heritage Listed building.
Construction began in 1313 and was only finished in 1380.
On an annexe to the Belfry of Ghent, you will see an interesting fresco from 1741.
A Roman legend tells about an old man Cimon, who was sentenced to life in prison. His daughter breastfed him daily, which saved his life and gained his release.
You can see the fresco in the photo above the green door and window.
The 89 meters high Saint Bavo Gothic cathedral is the seat of the diocese of Ghent.
For more than 1000 years, there has been a house of prayer on this site; the current building was completed in 1569.
The cathedral’s most famous artwork is the 12-panelled The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, said to be the most stolen artwork of all time.
Ghent’s town hall is impressive, with its main feature being the contrast between the two sides of the building.
Running down one side is the flamboyant Gothic style, with the Renaissance style on the other.
And on the opposite corner is Sint Jorishof, one of the oldest hotels in Western Europe, built between 1469 and 1477.
12. Werregarenstraat or Graffitistraatje
This laneway is open to graffiti artists to ply their trade on the walls.
The walkway is colourful, and the art is interesting.
The core of Saint Jacob’s Church dates to 1120, but the church has gone through many renovations since then.
Friday Market is one of the oldest squares in the city, where most of the political and social activities occur.
There are many cafes and restaurants surrounding the square, including Tavern Dulle Griet, serving more than 250 Belgian beers.
Here they say you give your shoe as a deposit for a pint, getting it back when you return the glass!
15. Dulle Griet
Taking a walk down by the River Leie, you will find Dulle Griet or Mad Meg, a massive canon built in the 15th century.
The canon was used by Ghent in the siege of Oudenaarde, a nearby town.
Where to Eat in Ghent
Always an important consideration for any traveller, and luckily Ghent doesn’t disappoint. Who can refuse Belgium beers, waffles and fries?
1. Groentenmarkt is the Place for Food
This square always has plenty of activity, mainly because all the places to eat and drink are here.
Waffles (these are so good) but so are the beer, the fries and the cuberdons (a Ghent sweet treat).
All this great food will keep your taste buds satisfied.
2. Beer Selection at The Bierhuis
We stopped at The Bierhuis as we decided a beer was needed to quench our thirst.
The beer selection was vast, and the view was superb. And we just loved the variety of glasses to serve the various types of beer.
3. Visit Patershol for Restaurants
Kleine Vismarkt Brug has been here since 1274 and is the access to Patershol.
The Kraanlei (street) runs along next to the River Leie, and here you will find lots of good restaurants and cafes.
4. Simon Says Cafe
If you enjoy good coffee and a slice of cake or pastry, with great service, then we can recommend Simon Says Café.
If you love to eat spare ribs, Amadeus for a plate of ribs at €17.50 is the deal for you. While not the best ribs we have tasted, they were pretty good, and plenty of them on your plate.
And if you fancy a wine instead of a beer with your ribs, a bottle of wine is left on the table for you. When you have finished your meal, the amount consumed is measured and charged by the centimetre. Very unique.
Have you been to Ghent?
Do you love Canals?
You won’t be disappointed.