Ghent is one of Belgium’s lesser-known gems. Where most tourists focus on Bruges and Brussels, beautiful Ghent is even less well discovered. The historic center with characteristic streets, monumental churches and cozy alleys is wonderful for a stroll. But you don’t have to look far for modern elements either. We give you all the tips you need for your weekend in Ghent. From practical tips about transport, cheap train tickets and hotel tips to the best sights in Ghent.
The My Maps map above summarizes all our tips. The menu on the menu has separate layers that mark the best coffee spots, sleeping places and highlights. Click on the star to save the map to your own Google Maps or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!
How to get to Ghent from Brussels, France or the Netherlands?
From Brussels to Ghent
Take the train! You could take the car, as the drive is less than one hour. But parking isn’t cheap and the train is much more convenient than organizing a rental car. So we’d recommend you taking the train from Brussels to Ghent.
There’s a direct train connection from Brussels to Ghent. It takes about half an hour and tickets aren’t very expensive.
From the Netherlands to Ghent
Ghent is not far across the Dutch-Belgian border. From our hometown Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Ghent is less than two hours away. So we can recommend Dutchies to take the car as we did. But keep in mind parking in Ghent is not cheap.
It is a lot cheaper and easier to travel to Ghent by train. You can buy tickets from the Netherlands up to four months in advance. The sooner you are there, the cheaper the train tickets. For example, a ticket from Rotterdam to the heart of Ghent is only € 16,50.
From France to Ghent
Did you know Ghent is only a three-hour drive from Paris? And the train is even faster? We’d recommend you to take the train from Ghent to Paris, transferring to the speed train Thalys in Brussels.
Best hotels in Ghent
Looking for a place to sleep in Ghent? Ghent has it all. From trendy hostels to luxury boutique hotels and everything in between. These are the best hotels in Ghent for your Belgium trip.
# 1 Hotel Verhaegen
Current prices and availability | This B&B in the heart of Ghent is located in a beautiful townhouse from the eighteenth century with a green garden. Breakfast is included and served in an authentic dining room with classic paintings by P.N. van Reysschoot.
# 2 Ganda Rooms & Suite
Current prices and availability | This small-scale gem in Ghent has stylishly decorated rooms and a terrace on the second floor with a view of the cathedral. There are only eight rooms and suites.
# 3 Unique glass roof garden studio on Airbnb
Current prices and availability | This special Airbnb makes you want to stay in all day. A glass roof, arched windows and beautiful design make this a unique, but affordable acommodation in Ghent.
# 4 Monasterium PoortAckere
Current prices and availability | Pretty much everything about this special hotel in Ghent is stunning. The location in an old neo-gothic monastery is unique. The rooms are modernly furnished, but the centuries-old stained-glass windows will take you back to the old days.
# 5 Entrenous B&B Ghent
Current prices and availability | This cozy B&B has bright and modern rooms with king-size beds. There is also a wellness area with a steam bath and sauna.
# 6 Airbnb in an old monastery
Current prices and availability | Hosts Ruth and Etienne live in an old monastery they restored themselves. You can stay in their special house in a private room with its own bathroom.
# 7 Hostel Uppelink
Current prices and availability | This is by far the best hostel in Ghent. It is located in a beautiful historic building with authentic details. It has a prime location in the heart of Ghent, near the Sint Michielsbrug and the Graslei.
What to do in Ghent: 10 best things to do
#1 Visit Gravensteen, the Ghent castle
The Gravensteen Castle is one of the oldest castles in Belgium. The castle is located in the middle of the historic city center and with its imposing appearance, it’s hard to miss. During your visit, you’ll wander through the medieval rooms, learn about the history of Ghent, see gruesome instruments of torture and enjoy a beautiful panorama of Ghent.
#2 Admire the street art in Ghent
Ghent is not just a city of monuments and historical buildings. The city is also known for its amazing graffiti. You can see beautiful street art and artistic murals all over the city.
Read more: Ghent is one of the recommendations on our bucket list of 25 coolest street art cities in the world.
You will probably spot street art everywhere, but if you want to be really thorough, use the free street art map from ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’. You can take this street art map with you for free at the tourist office near Gravensteen castle. As the street art in Ghent is quite far apart, a 3 hour Urban Mountain Bike Tour is a good option to admire more murals in a short time.
In the city center, Werregarenstraatje street is the best place to see street art. It is also called the Graffiti Alley and as a tolerance zone for graffiti, it is completely covered with murals. Another must-see in the center is the mural in the Jan van Stopenberghestraat. It shows part of the famous Ghent Altarpiece (see recommendation 7!), created by artist Bart Smeets. The Tweebruggenstraat is the best place to spot graffiti just outside the city center.
#3 Modern art at the S.M.A.K. Museum
As huge fans of modern art, the S.M.A.K. is our favorite museum in Ghent. S.M.A.K. is short for Stedelijk Museum for Contemporary Art, so you already know from its full name what to expect. This world-class modern art museum has changing exhibitions, so you’ll always have a reason to come back each visit to Ghent.
#4 Climb the Belfry of Ghent
This 95-meter high tower offers a fantastic view of the historic city. The tower was probably built in the fourteenth century. The gothic spire was only added last century. The Belfort tower was built for its splendid view. From the tower, the city was monitored by the city guards, especially looking out for fires.
It is quite a climb to the top, but you can stop on each floor for a short history lesson about the Belfry. Upstairs you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panorama of Ghent.
#5 Stroll through the historic downtown
The real highlight of Ghent is the unique vibe in the historic city center. It is wonderful to walk around the cozy streets and along the canals, watching the beautiful architecture. Almost every street corner is equally photogenic and the views of the old townhouses, the Gravensteen castles, the squares and churches never gets dull. Plan in enough time to stroll through the historic city center of Ghent to fully absorb its streetscape.
#6 Spot the best hotspots in Ghent
Ghent may be known for its historical monuments, but the center is full of trendy hotspots as well. From nice concept stores to trendy restaurants, Ghent has the best hotspots you could wish for. These are some of our favorite concept stores for souvenir shopping:
- Louise & Madeleine, Kraanlei 61
- Sparrow in a Plas, Serpentstraat 22
- Roark & Ampersand, Serpentstraat 5
- Piet Moodshop, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 94
#7 Admire the famous Ghent Altarpiece
You can’t leave Ghent without seeing the famous Ghent Altarpiece – although we must admit that we skipped it. This famous altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers dates to the fifteenth century and is the showpiece of Ghent. The panels can now be admired in St. Bavo’s Cathedral.
Or well, not all panels. One of the most famous art thefts in Belgium is the robbery of two of the panels in 1934. One of them has never been recovered. The Ghent Altarpiece survived the Second World War, as you might know from the Hollywood movie Monuments Men named after the people rescuing the famous artwork.
Tip: if you’d like a sneak peek and see a modern version? Then head to the mural in the Jan van Stopenberghestraat that we already mentioned.
#8 Drink specialty coffee at unique coffee bars
Ghent is home to the best coffee. From local coffee roasters to coffee spots with their own brand of coffee beans. One of our favorites is Café Barista in the heart of the city center near the Leie street. The small Vandekerkhove & Bar not only serves top coffee, but also sells high quality beans for reasonable prices to bring home with you.
- Café Barista, Meerseniersstraat 19
- OR Espresso Bar, Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 126 A
- Vandekerckhove & Bar, Brabantdam 55
- Take Five Espresso, Voldersstraat 10
- Peaberry Coffeebar, Limburgsestraat 24
#9 Stroll through the ruins of St. Bavo’s Abbey
The Sint-Baafsabdij – or Sint Bavo – is a hidden oasis in Ghent. For centuries, it was one of the largest and richest abbeys in the area. As revenge after a major uprising in Ghent, the abbey was completely demolished in 1540. Now a green oasis remains, but you can still recognize the old abbey. The contours of the old abbey have been formed with hedges. The ruins aren’t open all year round, so check opening times in advance.
#10 Take a trip to Park van Beervelde
At a 30-minute drive from Ghent, is one of Belgium’s most beautiful fairytale places located. The castle park in Beervelde was created in 1873. The landscape park had to combine all the elements of an ideal natural landscape. From fairytale forests to monumental buildings, from winding paths to romantic bridges, from a large lake to vast meadows. This is how the Park van Beervelde still looks today, still owned by the same noble family.
This summer you can visit the park for € 5 – you also get two drink coupons for the same amount – and enjoy the summer weather at the lounge bar. There are also five tortigas – special cottages in hotel room style – you can book to spend the night in the castle park. We wrote about this unique experience at Park van Beervelde in another blog.
Tip: you can visit the park for the rest of the year as well (for free), but only if you contact the park staff in advance.
Tip: the CityCard Ghent
If you want to visit several Ghent highlights, you should consider buying the CityCard Gent. The card costs € 36 for two days (48 hours) and € 42 for 3 days (72 hours).
The CityCard Gentgives free access to almost all museums, sights and monuments, such as the Ghent Altarpiece, Gravensteen, the Belfry, the S.M.A.K. and so much more. Public transport in the city center, the water tram, a rental bike for a day and a boat trip are also included.