Things to do in Ghent – Belgium

Welcome to Ghent, one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets. This charming city boasts a rich history, vibrant culture, and an abundance of things to do, making it a must-visit destination for any traveller. From stunning medieval architecture to delicious cuisine and bustling markets, Ghent has something for everyone.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explore Ghent’s historic centre and its architectural marvels
  • Discover the city’s vibrant art scene and cultural offerings
  • Indulge in the local cuisine, including traditional Flemish dishes and craft beers
  • Uncover hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path attractions
  • Take a leisurely stroll along the picturesque canals and waterfront views
  • Escape the city bustle and relax in Ghent’s parks and green spaces
  • Shop at unique boutiques and trendy concept stores
  • Experience Ghent’s lively nightlife scene
  • Expand your exploration with nearby day trip options
  • Choose accommodation options from luxury hotels to affordable guesthouses
  • Discover the best dining spots, from Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy local eateries
Gravensteen Castle Source: Flickr

Exploring the Historic Centre

As we wander through Ghent’s historic centre, we are transported back in time to an era of grandeur and opulence. This area is the heart of the city, and it’s no surprise why. The stunning architecture and picturesque scenery make it a must-visit destination.

The historic centre is home to several notable landmarks, including the iconic Ghent Altarpiece in the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral. This magnificent piece of art is a must-see for its intricate details and captivating beauty. The cathedral itself also features stunning Gothic architecture and houses other artistic treasures like the “Lamb of God” sculpture.

Another must-see is the Gravensteen Castle, a medieval fortress located in the heart of the city. Visitors can explore the castle’s towers and dungeons and learn about its fascinating history. The castle also features a museum dedicated to the art of torture, providing visitors with a glimpse into the harsh realities of medieval life.

Exploring the Historic Centre

For those who appreciate a leisurely stroll, taking a walk along the canals of the historic centre is a must. The Graslei and Korenlei areas offer picturesque views and charming cafés and restaurants.

Must-see Attractions:Location:
Saint Bavo’s CathedralKorenmarkt 9000, Ghent
Gravensteen CastleSint-Veerleplein 11, Ghent
Ghent AltarpieceSint-Baafsplein, Ghent

Overall, the historic centre of Ghent is a captivating destination for anyone who loves history, architecture, and culture. With so many attractions to explore, visitors will undoubtedly be captivated by this hidden gem of Belgium.

Admiring Medieval Marvels

As we delve deeper into Ghent’s rich history, we can’t miss out on the city’s medieval architecture, which is a true marvel in itself. The city’s stunning landmarks take us back in time and are a testament to the city’s cultural heritage.

One such landmark is the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, a magnificent Gothic structure that is almost a thousand years old. This cathedral is home to some of the most significant art treasures in Belgium, including the world-famous painting Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan van Eyck. The cathedral’s imposing tower offers a panoramic view of the city, making it a must-visit attraction.

Another notable attraction is the Gravensteen Castle, a medieval fortress that stands tall in the heart of the city. Built in the 12th century, this castle has a rich history and served as the residence of the Counts of Flanders. Today, it is a museum that is open to the public and gives a glimpse into medieval life in Ghent. Visitors can climb to the top of the castle for stunning views of the city.

Other Ghent Landmarks

No visit to Ghent is complete without visiting the Castle of the Counts, another imposing fortress that was built in the 12th century. Its dungeons and torture chambers are now open to the public, offering a unique and eerie experience.

The Belfry and Cloth Hall are also noteworthy landmarks that showcase the city’s rich heritage. The Belfry is a tall bell tower that was built in the 14th century and offers panoramic views of the city. The Cloth Hall, on the other hand, was a bustling center for the cloth trade in the 15th century and is now a museum.

Other notable attractions in Ghent include the medieval Graslei and Korenlei quays, the impressive Saint Nicholas’ Church, and the unique Dragon Fountain, each offering a unique glimpse into Ghent’s past and culture.

Immerse in Art and Culture

When it comes to cultural experiences, Ghent is a city that truly delivers. With a rich history and vibrant art scene, there is plenty to explore for culture enthusiasts of all kinds. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top cultural attractions in the city.

Museum of Fine Arts

If you’re interested in art, the Museum of Fine Arts is an absolute must-visit. This museum houses an impressive collection of works from the Middle Ages to the present day, including pieces by Flemish masters such as Jan van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens. From paintings and sculptures to drawings and prints, the collection is diverse and captivating.

AddressCitadelpark, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Opening hoursTuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm (closed on Mondays)
Admission€14 for adults, €4 for under 26

Make sure to check out the impressive collection of Flemish Expressionist art, as well as the temporary exhibitions, which change regularly.

Ghent Light Festival

Every three years, the city of Ghent transforms into a glowing wonderland during the Ghent Light Festival. This four-day event brings together artists and designers from around the world to create stunning light installations and projections throughout the city. From the historic buildings of the city center to the tranquil waterways, the festival transforms Ghent’s landmarks into magical works of art.

“The Ghent Light Festival is a must-see event that showcases the city’s creative spirit and cultural heritage.”

Theatre and Music

Ghent also has a thriving theater and music scene, with a range of performances on offer throughout the year. From classical opera and ballet to experimental theater and contemporary music, there is something for everyone. Check out the program at the Opera House, the Vooruit cultural center, and the Handelsbeurs concert hall for a taste of the city’s cultural offering.

Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or music enthusiast, Ghent has something to offer. Be sure to immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural experiences.

Canals in Ghent Source: Flickr

Indulge in Gastronomic Delights

When it comes to food, Ghent is a true paradise. The city boasts a rich culinary heritage with an abundance of local delicacies and a thriving food scene. From hearty stews to artisanal chocolates and craft beers, there’s something for everyone.

One of the must-try dishes is the famous stoverij, a savory beef stew made with a dark beer sauce and served with fries. For seafood lovers, the city’s proximity to the North Sea means a variety of fresh seafood dishes are available, like the classic shrimp croquettes or the North Sea fish stew.

But Ghent’s gastronomic offerings go beyond traditional Flemish cuisine. The city has a vibrant food culture, with plenty of trendy cafés, hipster bistros, and innovative restaurants offering fusion cuisine and inventive twists on classic dishes.

You can also satisfy your sweet tooth with Ghent’s famous sweets. The city is home to many artisanal chocolatiers, producing some of the finest chocolates in Belgium. And for beer connoisseurs, Ghent has a long history of brewing, with a wide range of craft beers to sample.

Make sure to explore the local markets like the Vrijdagmarkt or the Sunday morning flower market, to discover fresh produce, cheeses, and other local specialties. And don’t forget to indulge in some of the city’s sweet treats, like the melt-in-your-mouth cuberdons or the crispy Belgian waffles.

Discovering Hidden Gems

While Ghent boasts many popular attractions, some of the city’s true hidden gems lie off the beaten path. These lesser-known spots offer a unique and authentic experience for those willing to explore beyond the main tourist areas.

1. The Holy Food Market

Tucked away in a renovated church, the Holy Food Market offers a unique culinary experience. A variety of food vendors provide everything from tapas and pizza to sushi and oysters. The market’s charming atmosphere and communal seating make it a must-visit spot for foodies and those seeking a more relaxed dining experience.

2. Ghent Street Art

Ghent is home to a thriving street art scene, with murals and graffiti adorning many of the city’s walls. Taking a self-guided tour of Ghent’s street art can lead to unexpected discoveries and a deeper appreciation for the city’s urban landscape.

3. The Beguinages

The Beguinages, historic communities of single women who dedicated themselves to a religious life outside of a convent, are scattered throughout Europe. In Ghent, the Beguinage of Saint Elisabeth offers a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Its lovely garden and tranquil atmosphere provide a glimpse into a unique slice of Ghent’s history.

4. The Ghent City Archives

History buffs will appreciate a visit to the Ghent City Archives. This hidden gem houses an impressive collection of documents and artifacts, including maps, manuscripts, and photographs, that offer a fascinating look into Ghent’s past.

Exploring Ghent’s hidden gems can add depth and richness to your visit, offering unique experiences often missed by the average tourist. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path and discover the many treasures Ghent has to offer.

Enjoying Riverside Views

One of the most charming aspects of Ghent is its delightful canals, which offer stunning waterfront views of the city’s historical architecture and picturesque neighborhoods. Take a leisurely stroll along the canals and bask in the beauty of Graslei and Korenlei, two charming quays lined with colorful buildings housing cozy cafés, lively bars, and local shops.

The canals are also home to several must-visit attractions, including the iconic Gravensteen Castle, which sits on the banks of the Leie River, and the majestic Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, which boasts stunning Gothic architecture and is home to a world-renowned altarpiece by Jan van Eyck.

Hop on a boat tour to experience Ghent’s canals from a different perspective, or simply enjoy a riverside picnic in one of the many parks and green spaces lining the waterways. Don’t forget to snap a photo of the famous “Three Towers of Ghent”, a group of iconic buildings that dominate the city’s skyline and can be best seen from the water.

Waterfront Attractions

The canals are not only a scenic backdrop but also offer a variety of activities and attractions. Alongside the historic buildings, there are plenty of museums, galleries, and cultural centers to explore. The MIAT Museum, situated in an old cotton mill along the canal, offers an insight into Ghent’s industrial past, while the Design Museum Ghent showcases contemporary design and art.

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, be sure to check out the floating restaurant, Ghent in the Water, which offers panoramic views of the city’s canals while you enjoy delicious Flemish cuisine.

Whether you’re looking to explore historic landmarks, enjoy scenic walks, or simply relax and take in the breathtaking views, Ghent’s canals and waterfront attractions are a must-see for any visitor to this charming city.

Nature Retreats and Parks

When we think of Ghent, we often picture the enchanting historic centre, but did you know that there are plenty of beautiful parks and green spaces to explore? Whether you want to take a break from the bustling city or enjoy some outdoor activities, Ghent has something for everyone. Here are some of our favorite nature retreats and parks:

Citadel ParkA beautiful park with flower gardens, fountains, and sculptures. Perfect for a leisurely stroll or a romantic picnic.
Blaarmeersen Recreation AreaEscape the city and relax by the lake, go for a swim, or try your hand at kayaking or paddleboarding.
Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen Nature ReserveA haven for bird watchers and nature lovers, this nature reserve offers walking trails and scenic views of the wetlands.

If you’re looking for more outdoor activities, why not rent a bike and explore the city’s canals and parks? Or visit the Ghent University Botanical Garden, home to over 10,000 plant species from around the world. Whether you want to immerse yourself in nature or enjoy some outdoor recreation, Ghent’s parks and nature retreats won’t disappoint.

Shopping in Style

When it comes to shopping, Ghent offers a unique and trendy experience that can be hard to find in other cities. From chic boutiques to artisanal markets, there is something for everyone.

One of our favourite places to shop is the Veldstraat, a bustling shopping street in the heart of the city. Here, you’ll find everything from high-end fashion to quirky gift shops. For a more boutique experience, head to the nearby Oudburg neighbourhood, where you’ll find trendy concept stores and artisanal shops.

Maison ElzaThis boutique offers a carefully curated selection of women’s clothing and accessories from independent designers.
Superette NinetteA local favourite, this vintage-inspired shop offers a mix of new and retro clothing and accessories for both men and women.
Ghent MarketHeld every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Ghent market is the perfect place to pick up fresh produce and local specialty foods.

If you’re looking for unique souvenirs, head to the nearby city of Gentbrugge, where you’ll find the DOK market. This outdoor market is filled with up-and-coming designers and artists, offering everything from handmade jewellery to vintage furniture.

With so many options for shopping, Ghent is the perfect place to indulge in some retail therapy during your visit.

Unwind in Ghent’s Bars and Cafés

When the sun starts to set, Ghent comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that caters to all tastes. Whether you’re looking for a quiet drink with friends or a lively night out on the town, there’s something for everyone here.

Experience the Café Culture

In Ghent, café culture is a way of life. Locals and visitors alike flock to the city’s countless cosy cafés to sip on a cup of coffee or a refreshing beer and watch the world go by. From trendy spots like the Bar Bidon to the historic Dulle Griet, there’s no shortage of options to choose from.

Explore Ghent’s Nightlife

Ghent’s nightlife is second to none, with a wide variety of bars and clubs to suit all tastes. For a taste of the local music scene, head to the Charlatan or the Trefpunt. If you’re looking for something more upscale, check out the stylish Jigger’s cocktail bar or the trendy Club 69.

Enjoy a Beer by the Canal

No visit to Ghent is complete without enjoying a pint or two of the local brew. There’s no shortage of quaint outdoor bars and terraces dotted along the city’s canals, offering the perfect spot to kick back and relax with friends.

Take a Late Night Stroll

Ghent’s charming streets and canals take on a whole new level of beauty after dark. Take a leisurely stroll through the city’s cobbled streets, enjoying the romantic atmosphere and the stunning views of the illuminated landmarks.

Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, Ghent’s nightlife scene has something for everyone. Experience the city’s café culture, explore its bars and clubs, enjoy a beer by the canal, or take a late night stroll through its charming streets and canals.

Day Trips from Ghent

While Ghent offers plenty to see and do, it’s also a great base for exploring nearby attractions. Here are some of the best day trips from Ghent:


Just a short train ride from Ghent, Bruges is a must-visit destination for any trip to Belgium. With its charming cobblestone streets, picturesque canals, and well-preserved medieval architecture, Bruges feels like a fairytale come to life. Take a boat tour, visit the iconic Belfry tower, and indulge in some of the best chocolate in the world.


Known for its vibrant fashion scene and diamond district, Antwerp is also home to a wealth of cultural attractions. Visit the stunning Antwerp Cathedral, explore the Rubens House museum, and enjoy some shopping in the trendy Het Zuid neighborhood. Antwerp is just an hour away from Ghent by train.


The capital city of Belgium, Brussels is just a short train ride from Ghent and offers plenty to see and do. Visit the iconic Atomium, enjoy some of the world’s best beer and chocolate, and explore the charming Old Town. Don’t miss the chance to see the famous Manneken Pis statue.

The Belgian Coast

If you’re in the mood for some seaside relaxation, head to the Belgian Coast. Just a short train ride from Ghent, you’ll find charming coastal towns like Blankenberge and Zeebrugge, as well as miles of sandy beaches. Enjoy some seafood and watch the sunset over the North Sea.

The Ardennes

If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, head to the Ardennes region. Located southeast of Ghent, this rugged area is known for its rolling hills, dense forests, and outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. Don’t miss the chance to visit the picturesque town of Durbuy, often called the smallest city in the world.

Accommodation Options

Choosing the right place to stay in Ghent can greatly enhance your travel experience. Fortunately, the city offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference.

For those seeking luxury, Ghent boasts several high-end hotels, such as the historic Hotel de Flandre and the elegant Marriott Ghent. These hotels offer top-notch amenities, including spas, fitness centres, and fine dining restaurants.

Travellers on a budget can find affordable and comfortable guesthouses and hostels throughout the city. The Ghent Hostel is a popular choice, offering both private and shared rooms with basic amenities.

If you’re looking for a more unique and personalised experience, Ghent also has a variety of boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts. The charming Casa Monica and the stylish B&B De Waterzooi are just a couple of the many options available.

Where to Stay in Ghent

The best area to stay in Ghent depends on your preferences and travel plans. If you want to be close to the city’s main attractions, the historic city centre is the perfect location. Here, you will be within walking distance to many of Ghent’s landmarks, museums, and restaurants.

For a quieter stay, consider the neighbourhoods of Sint-Pieters or St-Amandsberg. These areas offer a more residential feel, with easy access to public transportation and a variety of local shops and restaurants.

No matter where you choose to stay in Ghent, you are sure to find a comfortable and convenient home away from home.

Dining in Ghent

Ghent is a city that delights the senses, and its culinary scene is no exception. With a mix of traditional Flemish cuisine and international flavors, dining in Ghent is a culinary adventure that promises to please even the most demanding palates.

Ghent Restaurants

Ghent boasts a wealth of restaurants that cater to different tastes and budgets. From Michelin-starred establishments to cozy local eateries, there is something for everyone.

For a unique fine dining experience, book a table at Chambre Séparée , where Chef Kobe Desramaults serves a creative tasting menu in an intimate setting. For an explosion of flavors, head to De Vitrine , where Chef Kobe Desramaults’ innovative cuisine showcases the best of local ingredients.

Culinary Experiences

In Ghent, dining is not just about the food, but also about the experience. Venture to Pakhuis , a trendy restaurant located in a former warehouse, where you can enjoy delicious food and craft beers in a relaxed atmosphere. For a more casual setting, grab a sandwich at Holy Food Market , a hip and vibrant food hall that features a variety of street food stalls.

If you’re looking to learn more about Ghent’s culinary culture, join a food tour with Ghent Authentic , where you can explore the city’s food markets, taste local delicacies, and learn about the traditions behind Flemish cuisine. To indulge your sweet tooth, visit the renowned chocolatier Yuzu , where you can taste artisanal chocolates with unique flavors.

As we wrap up our Ghent travel guide, we hope we’ve inspired you to explore this hidden gem of Belgium. From the historic centre and medieval marvels to the vibrant art scene and culinary delights, Ghent offers something for every type of traveler.

Don’t be fooled by its small size; Ghent is a city bursting with culture and charm. Whether you’re strolling along the canals or immersing yourself in the local café culture, you’re sure to feel the city’s enchantment. And with nearby day trip options to Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels, you can easily expand your exploration beyond Ghent.

Choose from a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to affordable guesthouses, ensuring a comfortable and convenient stay. And with a plethora of dining spots, from Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy local eateries, you can indulge in a wide range of culinary experiences.

In summary, Ghent is a hidden treasure of Belgium, waiting to be discovered by travelers like us. So go ahead, book your trip, and experience the enchantment of Ghent for yourself!


Q: What are some must-visit attractions in Ghent’s historic centre?

A: Ghent’s historic centre is filled with architectural marvels and landmarks such as Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and Gravensteen Castle.

Q: What cultural experiences can I enjoy in Ghent?

A: Ghent offers a vibrant art scene and cultural offerings, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the iconic Ghent Light Festival.

Q: What are some popular dishes and drinks in Ghent?

A: Ghent is known for its traditional Flemish dishes like stoverij, as well as artisanal chocolates and craft beers.

Q: Are there any hidden gems in Ghent?

A: Yes, Ghent is full of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path attractions that offer a unique and authentic experience away from the crowds.

Q: What can I expect when exploring Ghent’s picturesque canals?

A: When exploring Ghent’s canals, you can enjoy scenic waterfront views and visit charming neighborhoods like Graslei and Korenlei.

Q: Are there any parks or outdoor activities in Ghent?

A: Yes, Ghent has beautiful parks and outdoor spaces like Citadel Park and Blaarmeersen Recreation Area, perfect for nature retreats and outdoor activities.

Q: Where can I go shopping in Ghent?

A: Ghent offers a vibrant shopping scene with unique boutiques, trendy concept stores, and bustling markets.

Q: What is Ghent’s nightlife like?

A: Ghent has a lively nightlife with cozy bars, trendy cafés, and lively pubs, making it an exciting destination for those who enjoy social scenes.

Q: Can I take day trips from Ghent to nearby attractions?

A: Absolutely! Ghent is well-connected and offers easy day trip options to nearby cities like Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels.

Q: What are some accommodation options in Ghent?

A: Ghent offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to affordable guesthouses, ensuring a comfortable stay for every traveler.

Q: Where can I find the best dining spots in Ghent?

A: Ghent boasts a diverse dining scene, with options ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy local eateries, offering a wide range of culinary experiences.

Church in Ghent Source: Flickr

10 interesting facts about Ghent Belgium

  1. Ghent is a city in Belgium located in the Flemish region of the country. It is the capital of the East Flanders province.
  2. Ghent has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages and is home to a number of historic landmarks, including the Gravensteen castle, the Saint Bavo Cathedral, and the Saint Nicholas Church.
  3. The city is home to the Ghent University, which was founded in 1817 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Belgium.
  4. Ghent is known for its vibrant arts and culture scene, and the city hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Ghent Festival and the Ghent Film Festival.
  5. The city is home to a number of museums and galleries, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Design Museum.
  6. Ghent is known for its gastronomy and is home to a number of local specialties, including waterzooi (a creamy seafood stew) and tarte flambée (a thin, crispy pizza-like dish).
  7. The city has a well-developed network of canals and waterways, and is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North.”
  8. Ghent is home to a number of green spaces, including the St. Michielshelling and the Citadelpark.
  9. The city is home to a number of sporting clubs, including the Ghent Hawks (baseball) and the Ghent Giants (basketball).
  10. Ghent is located in the heart of Belgium and is within easy reach of Brussels, Antwerp, and other major cities in the region.

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