To be honest, when I was creating my trip itinerary to Belgium, my plan was to visit Brussels and Brugges, and that’s it. However, the most convenient way to get from Brussels to Brugges is by train and our route passed through Ghent. By looking only for a moment at a few photos of Ghent, I realized that I should definitely visit this amazing city and spend, at least, one day in Ghent. When I told Dimitris about this, he was very excited, as one of his old high school classmates lives in Ghent. Therefore, I made a few tweaks to my travel plan and the next day we were on our flight to beautiful Belgium…
How to get from Brussels to Ghent
Since Belgium is not a big country, getting from one city to another is not complicated and it’s very fast. If you decided not to rent a car, the fastest and most economical way is by train, especially since trains from Brussels to Ghent depart every 15-20 minutes. You can check the train schedule on the website and book a ticket in advance, as it is valid for the whole day.
The train station Bruxelles-Central was close to our hotel Warwick Brussels and therefore, from the hotel to the train station we arrived on foot. Two classes of seats are available for booking, we chose the second one, which was quite comfortable. The ticket costs 11 euros per person and the travel time is approximately 27 minutes.
By taxi, a trip from Brussels to Ghent will take about 40 minutes and will cost you 110-140 EUR.
How to spend One Day in Ghent: the best itinerary
Ghent is the largest city in the province of East Flanders and its administrative center. Nowadays the population of Ghent is about two hundred thousand people and it is not even the largest in Belgium. But, as history tells us, Ghent actually outnumbered Paris in terms of population and was the center of Flemish during the 14th and 15th Centuries. At this time, the wealth of the free city of artisans was based on the production of high-quality wool and cloth.
Nowadays, Ghent is a port city located at the confluence of two rivers: Lys and Scheldt. It has a university and four higher schools. Here, you will find many attractions, which we were able to visit in one day. So, LET’S START…
Ghent is located only 2.5 kilometers from the railway station, so the center can be reached on foot (around 30 minutes), by tram or taxi. There is a locker at the train station for your suitcases so you can explore the city light. We were lucky because a friend of Demetris took us by car from the station, and further, as a local, showed us the most interesting spots in the center of Ghent, and I am super excited to share their locations with you!
What to see in Ghent in One day – the main attractions
Our adventure of one day in Ghent began from the main square of the city. Since it was the Christmas period, the Christmas markets and all the entertainment were located around here.
On the western side of the main square, which immediately catches your eye, there is a 91-meter bell tower (Het Belfort van Gent), a symbol of the independence of the city. The construction of the tower began in 1313 according to the project of the master Jan van Haelst. His drawings are still preserved in the city museum of Ghent. Pay attention to the spire, the golden dragon that adorns the tower. Once it was an attraction of Bruges, but Ghent residents stormed into the city and stole this symbol on a donkey from Ghent. The Βelfry tower is known for its famous observation deck and magnificent views of the city, so if you have enough time, be sure to get there and book your ticket in advance.
The next stop is the Cathedral of Saint Bavon. The Cathedral of St. Bavon (Sint Baafskathedraal) is considered the main temple of Ghent. The magnificent building of the cathedral is made in the best traditions of the Gothic style. But, the most interesting and precious lurks are found inside the Cathedral. This is the famous Ghent Altar – a masterpiece of the pictorial art of the Middle Ages. In addition, inside the Cathedral is no less unique cathedra and paintings by famous artists. There are also 4 organs, therefore, concerts are often held here, open to the public.
Nearby is St. Nicholas Cathedral, which is not a functioning church now. However, you could take a look inside! Today the building is used for various exhibitions and flea markets, so this place is definitely a MUST VISIT.
Opposite the Cathedral is a former post office building (Oud Postkantoor) with a magnificent facade depicting the history of Belgium. There is also a shopping center there, so if you have a few hours, go inside, at the lower level you will find also a supermarket.
Next, we continued to St. Michael’s bridge (Sint-Michielsburg), which offers a magnificent view of the city. We walked along the promenade and reached another famous Gras drawbridge (Grasbrug), next to which there are the marinas of companies that offer boat trips along the canals. The trip lasts about 50 minutes, so you can make it by booking a ticket in advance.
Next, we headed for the small but pretty Verleplein square (Sint Veerleplein). Take a look at the facade of the building, decorated with statues. Can you find Neptune? There used to be an entrance to the fish market, and now a tourist office of Ghent is here.
Across the road is one of Ghent’s most impressive attractions – the Gravensteen Castle. The castle was built in 1180 by Count Philip van den Alsace. The stone fortification of the 11th-12th century was here before, which at one time replaced the wooden structure. The Gravensteen Castle lost its significance in the 14th century when the Count decided to move to Prinsenhof. Later various institutions were founded in the castle, including the Count Mint and the Council of Flanders with a courtroom and a prison. Tickets to the castle can be purchased on-site or booked online in advance. For the most beautiful photo on the background of the castle, it is better to go to the bridge, which is located nearby.
After that, we went to a quieter historical part of the city located on the Lievekaai embankment. Here you feel like you are in another world, away from the bustle and crowds. We stayed there a bit, taking a walk among the weeping willows and taking pictures on a bridge overlooking the city.
We didn’t have much time left, so we had to go back. We decided to return through the old quarter of Petershol. Here on Kraanlei street, we came across some pretty pastry shops and decided to drop in one of them to buy the famous “Ghent noses“. Traditionally, these sweets are made in the form of cones, but in this shop, you will find them in the form of faces. For 9 candies we paid 5 euros, but it was worth it. Their taste is reminded to me of marmalade with liquid blackcurrant filling, therefore, the shelf life of such sweets is only 2 months, then they harden.
If you feel hungry, the opposite of the shop you will find the Souplounge – a soup restaurant, one of the most famous places in Ghent! Believe me, in Belgium they know a lot about soups! But, alas, we had absolutely no time left and we moved on.
Then, after passing over the bridge, we went to the famous market square Vrijdagmart, where every Friday the food market unfolds. Since we were already quite hungry, in the square we found a kiosk with the famous french fries and decided to take one portion for two. Mmmm…it was delicious!
We had just a little time left, so we quickly went to the popular Graffiti Street, with the help of our phone GPS ‘s (not even the locals knew where this was located at! ) Ultimately, it turned out to be a narrow tunnel, with graffiti that was not very skillful (in my opinion).
Then we went back to the parking, passing through the beautiful Ghent Town Hall (Stadhuis Gent), located also near the main square, from where we started our tour of one day in Ghent. The three-story building attracts attention primarily with its unusual architectural style. On the one side, the Ghent Town Hall is made in the best traditions of the Gothic style, and on the other, you can notice the luxurious Renaissance style. Today, the Ghent Town Hall serves exclusively for tourism purposes. A hall for ceremonial receptions, a throne room, an office of the head of the city administration and other facilities are open for visitors. And again, unfortunately, we had no time left and we went to the car.
Last moments in Ghent…
Fifteen minutes later, we were already at the train station, thanked our friend for such a wonderful day and regretting that we could not stay longer. In ten minutes, our train arrived and we set off for Bruges. Bruges has been for many years on my bucket list… Well, that’s another story coming soon…
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