9 Things to Do in Ghent + All My Best Travel Tips
I love living in Europe. It’s not uncommon for me to decide on an ordinary Saturday that I’m going to drive to another country. Ghent is a great option for a day visit or even a weekend stay. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s super affordable. Here’s my guide to the best things to do in Ghent plus some of my tips for your visit!
Map of Ghent
Best Things to Do in Ghent
1. Go for a Boat Ride
I know it’s super touristic, but I just love boat trips! In my opinion there’s no better way to spend a sunny day. Sure, you’re packed onto a boat with 20 other tourists whose legs are sweating against yours, but there’s still something about admiring a city from the water.
And the nice thing is that you learn a lot about the city’s history at the same time, which is always my favorite part of visiting somewhere new.
Thereare two boat companies in Ghent, and I went with De Gentenaer. It was a good experience. They sail a lot of times during the day and they give you clear extensive explanations.
You can also book a 50min medieval center boat trip here or a 40min historical boat tour here.
2. Climb Belfort
You can’t miss it! Of the three churches built in a row in the centre of Ghent, the Belfort tower is the one that stands out. The construction started in 1313 and over the years the church has had different rooftops. Sometimes they were made out of wood, sometimes out of iron.
Though the adjacent Sint-Niklaas Church used to be the lookout point, Belfort deserved that title later on. You can visit the tower; this way you’ll learn all about how the building was made and the societal importance it still has.
Thank God you don’t have to climb all the stairs yourself: there’s an elevator for that. Once you’re at the top, push yourself through a really small alley and voila: the most beautiful view of the whole city of Ghent.
3. See the Ghent Altarpiece (the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb)
Believe me… I don’t like art all that much. I appreciate it, but one afternoon a year of visiting museums and I’m pretty much done. I’m a barbarian, I know.
But then I got myself a CityCard Ghent, which gives you free access to all museums. And then I heard about 20 different locals tell me that this painting is the raison d’etre of Ghent. So in the end we got our butts into the church.
And… I was converted. I’m serious. What a beautifully detailed painting. It’s almost like a photo, that’s how sharp and colorful it is, and so many different things going on! The guide on the audio tour told us exactly what everything in the painting stands for. And then it turns out that almost every splatter of paint has a meaning.
4. Explore the City Centre
The city centre of Ghent is really nice. That’s about as much as I can say about it. As soon as the sun starts shining all the Belgians crawl out of their caves and settle down at one of the many terraces to take in the sunshine and have a tasty Belgian beer. My kind of life.
5. Try some Neuzekes
Ladies and gentlemen: here’s a video of me having a taste of some real Belgian Neuzekes. Please mind: I had no idea what it was and what it would taste like (the video is in Dutch but still, you’ll get the idea).
Neuzekes are a special type of candy from Ghent. You can get them at basically every tourist shop, and I always say: you only get to know a city really well if you know its kitchen! A whole bag of Neuzekes was a bit too much in my opinion (I think they taste a bit artificial) but you definitely have to taste one or two when you’re in Ghent.
The outside of the Neuzekes are hard, while the inside is some sort of jelly. Because they expire after about 3 weeks, they’re not being exported so you’ll only find them in Belgium.
6. Have lunch at True Beans
Running a website full of hotspots must be super glamorous, but also a hell. I’m really not good at it: finding the coolest and hippest places in a city. The real hipster spots where you drink biological coke from a tea cup with stuffed animals in the corner.
Now True Beans doesn’t have any of those, but it’s still ridiculously hip. I accidentally discovered it when Marieke were on our way to Gravensteen. True Beans had just opened its doors five days earlier, and they hadn’t hung up all the decorations yet, but you could immediately see it was a great spot.
And you could taste it too! The club sandwich with salmon was superb, and if you order a green tea not only do you get a Neuzeke, but also a cookie and a chocolate bonbon. Brilliant. (Cash only)
You can see more of my restaurant picks below.
7. Visit Castle Gravensteen
Castle/Stronghold Gravensteen has a real castle-y name (literally it would be ‘Castle Gravestone’) so I was excited straight away. When we got there and Marieke yelled out: “I’ve been here before!” and then: “I’ve been here twice before!” it could only mean two things: A) it’s not a memorable castle, B) she has a bad memory.
Luckily (sorry!) it turned out to be the latter, because not often I’ve seen a castle that stood through time so beautifully. The castle originates from around 850, but the real start was made from 1180. And you definitely don’t notice that at all.
Usually when a castle is this old you’re mostly walking through ruins, but this castle has been totally preserved. Beautiful. This way you can imagine what life must’ve been like inside.
The interesting information signs in every room definitely give you a helping hand. What I found most interesting was the torture chamber, where there was an exhibition about medieval torture instruments. Super fascinating!
8. Watch boats drift by at the Graslei and Korenlei
What more can I say? There’s no better way than to spend an hour sitting at the water and watching boats drift by. What’s nice too is that you’ll find a lot of locals sitting by the water side having an ice cream and catching up with friends.
9. Take pictures at the St Michiels Bridge
If you want to play fashion blogger for a bit (like me): this is your hot spot. If you don’t feel the urge to take photos of your outfit, you can also just take pictures of other things at the St Michiels Bridge. Without a doubt the most beautiful spot in Ghent, you’ll find more than enough pretty things to take photos of. Ghent is so pretty!
I was in Ghent for only one full day, so I didn’t manage to do that much. If I were to go back, these are the things I’d like to do: a private tour, like this one with a local, visit the monasteries, discover the House of Alijn, and visit the Museum Dr. Guislain: a museum about psychiatry. There’s more than enough to do in Ghent! I’d highly recommend it for a weekend getaway.
Tips for Visiting Ghent
Where to Stay in Ghent
€ – Hostel Uppellink
In my budget days I once stayed at Hostel Uppellink, a comfortable hostel with undoubtedly the most beautiful location in Ghent: overlooking the beautiful churches in the center. Check here the most recent prices & availability.
€€ – Ibis Gent Centrum St. Baafs Cathedral
Staying just five minutes from the heart of the city, in a comfortable hotel with comfortable beds? Then have a look at ibis Gent Centrum St. Baafs Cathedral. The rooms are fully equipped, and also offer free Wi-Fi. Check here the most recent prices & availability.
€€€ – 1898 The Post
The most stylish hotel in Ghent is perhaps 1898 The Post, a luxury boutique hotel that is located in the old post office of Ghent. The 38 rooms are elegantly decorated with antique furniture and have beautiful high ceilings. All rooms have city views, spacious and comfortable beds and free Wi-Fi. Check here the most recent prices & availability.
Where to Eat in Ghent
At Otomat you will find original pizzas in an urban interior. What else do you want? The inventors of this concept, previously invented Ellis Gourmet Burgers, one of my favorite places.
You can never go wrong with a good crepe, and you will find the best at Crepes Atelier. You can get them both sweet and savory.
Oh my Poké
Also a fan of Pokébowls (a kind of sushi salad)? Then you have to join Oh My Poké for a light meal.
The funny name already gives it away, but Mexican food is served here. It is a Mexican fast dining restaurant, where you can choose your ingredients yourself.
Go to this restaurant for the best steak in Ghent. This restaurant is decorated in a 1930s style.
For the best restaurants it is best to visit this website that shares the very latest tips.
And there you have it! All the my picks for the best things to do in Ghent as well as a bunch of tips to make the most of your trip! If you’re still planning your trip to Belgium, don’t miss my other city guides of Leuven, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, and Mechelen!
What are your tips for the best things to do in Ghent?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe and Tiqets for specific attraction deals.