LAST UPDATED: 6/10/2020
While France and Germany might get more accolades from travel publications and travel shows, Belgium has every bit as much charm and beauty as its neighbors. The cities have an abundance of charm, the food is fantastic, and the people could not be any nicer. I simply fell in love with the country the moment I landed. But it wasn’t the big cities of Brussels and Antwerp that really won my heart. Instead, it was the smaller towns like Ghent and Brugge that really made me fall in love with Belgium.
Ghent is an absolutely stunning city that sits at the confluence of the Scheldt and Leie rivers. In fact, much of the city is built up around these rivers, which intersect the city and give it the charm that has made it such a popular tourist destination. In addition to its stunning city landscape, the city of Ghent is also well known for its cuisine and its beer.
In fact, according to the local tourism industry, there are roughly 653 restaurants, 620 cafes, and 250 kinds of beer available in Ghent. And that doesn’t even include the amazing chocolate that is found in chocolate stores scattered about the city and the amazing Belgian style waffles that you can buy from street vendors. In short, Ghent is a foodie’s dream come true.
In this guide, I am going to give you all of the information you need to plan a successful trip to Ghent, Belgium. I cover the best times to visit and the best ways to get there so that you can maximize what you are able to see and do on your trip. In addition, I outline the top things to see and do while you are there and where the best places to stay and eat are. With this information in hand, you can be confident that your trip to Ghent will be one that you remember for the rest of your life.
|At A Glance|
|Top Things to See|
|How to Get There|
|Best Time to Visit|
|Where to Stay|
|Where to Eat|
|Recommended Tours and Excursions|
At a Glance
Before you start making any travel plans, you will want to make sure to take care of all of the passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for your trip. In addition, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what language they speak in Belgium and what currency they use so that you can plan any translation needs you might have for your trip and exchange currency before your trip if necessary. I have included some of this key information below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.
|Passport requirements exist. See below for details.|
|Immunization recommendations are listed below.|
|The official languages in Belgium are Dutch, German, and French.|
|The official currency in Belgium is the Euro.|
Passport, VISA, and Immunization Requirements
In order to assist you in navigating the legal requirements for visiting Belgium, I have included a link to my Belgium Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors Guide as well as some information on the EU’s new ETIAS VISA requirements below for you to review. These guides will give you all of the information that you will need to meet the VISA, passport, customs, and immunizations requirements and recommendations for visiting Belgium.
|Belgium Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors|
|New Visa Requirements for Americans to Visit Europe Starting in 2021|
Outside of taking care of the passport, visa, and immunization requirements so that you can get into Belgium and don’t get sick, there is no more important pre-travel planning task than making sure you pack the right clothing and gear for your trip. To help make sure you are properly packed and prepared, I have included links to some of my packing resources below for you to review.
|The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List|
|The Essential Carry-On Checklist|
Top Things to See and Do
Before you start planning your itinerary, you are going to want to make sure you have an idea of what you would like to see in Ghent. There is a lot to see and do in the city, so you are going to want to plan your time wisely. In order to assist you in this planning, I have included my list of the top attractions below, along with a map of where these attractions are located.
|St. Michael’s Bridge|
|St. Bavo’s Cathedral|
|St. Bavo’s Abbey|
|Ghent Belfry (Belfort)|
|The Ghent Canals (Graslei and Korenlei)|
The Gravensteen, which translates to mean the “Castle of the Counts” is a really neat medieval castle in Ghent that dates all the way back to 1180. The castle was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1354 and has served various other purposes throughout its life. While the castle is really impressive to see from the outside, especially from the water, I would not recommend the tour of the inside. If you do want to tour the inside of the castle, it is open for visitors between 10:00am and 5:15pm daily, and an audio tour with headphones is available.
St. Michael’s Bridge (Sint-Michielshelling)
One of the prettiest spots in all of Ghent has to be on the St. Michael’s bridge. Known locally as Sint-Michielshelling, the bridge is in the epicenter of everything that makes Ghent the charming city that it is. From the bridge, you are able to capture a picture of all three of Ghent’s famous towers in a row. If this weren’t reason enough to visit the bridge, it is also just a stone’s throw from the Old Fish Market and the Gravensteen. Or if you would just prefer to sit and people watch for a bit, then St. Michael’s bridge is a great place to do that as well.
St. Bavo’s Cathedral (Sint-Baafskathedraal)
One of the most visible and easily recognizable features of the city of Ghent is the tower of St. Bavo’s Cathedral. Located in the heart of the city of Ghent, St. Bavo’s church is the city’s oldest parish church and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Belgium. There is a ton of history behind this amazing church, so after you are done admiring its beauty from the outside, I would strongly recommend paying the inside of the church a visit to learn more about its past.
St. Bavo’s Abbey (Sint-Baafsabdij)
Another can’t miss stop when visiting Ghent is St. Bavo’s Abbey. The abbey twice survived attacks by Vikings, but much of the complex was destroyed by the order of Emperor Charles V and a coercion castle was built on the site. Included in the St. Bavo’s Abbey complex is St. Abbey’s church, which includes the oldest standing wall in the city of Ghent. I would highly recommend touring the remains of this once beautiful abbey as it can teach you a lot about the history of the area.
Ghent Belfry (Belfort)
Another of the can’t miss landmarks in the skyline of the city of Ghent is the Ghent Belfry, which is otherwise known as the Belfort. If you are looking at the city’s skyline, it is the middle tower in the famous row of three towers that dominate the city’s skyline. Not only is it one of Ghent’s most visible buildings, but it is also one of the city’s most beautiful. With a stone dragon, seemingly guarding the entrance to the city, the tower is both foreboding and beautiful. It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its beauty and historical significance. I would strongly recommend touring this beautiful building and learning more about it and the wonderful city it stands in.
The Ghent Canals (Graslei and Korenlei)
One of the city’s most noticeable landmarks and the pride of the people of Ghent are the canals that run thru the city. The Ghent Canals have been used by ships to travel thru the city since the 11th Century and they have played an important role in the culture of the city ever since. In addition to their practical use, they are also part of what makes this city so beautiful and charming. There are few things better than an afternoon or evening walk along the canals in the city of Ghent.
As one of the oldest and most lively quarters in the city of Ghent, the neighborhood of Patershol is a must-stop destination when visiting Ghent. In addition to a plethora of wonderful restaurants and shops, this area is also home to some of the city’s best festivals and events.
Take a Canal Cruise
No trip to Ghent is complete without a ride on the canals. Ghent is such a beautiful city and the best way to take in that beauty is from the water. If you are interested in learning more about the boat rides in Ghent, there is some great information you can review on the Visit Ghent website.
Try the Belgian Waffles
I will admit, one of my favorite parts of visiting Ghent was indulging in the absolutely delicious Belgian waffles (over and over). I am sorry, but they are so good. If you visit Ghent and don’t try the waffles, you are really missing out on one of life’s most delicious treasures. Unlike in North America, waffles are eaten with either fresh fruit or chocolate on top (both equally as delicious) and whipped cream, instead of with maple syrup.
Have Some Belgian Beer
With over 250 different types of local beer to choose from, Ghent is a beer lover’s dream come true. When you visit Ghent, make sure you try at least a few of the local brews. If you are really into beer, you can also take a beer tour that will allow you to sample some of the more popular brews from the area.
How to Get There
The city of Ghent is located in Northwestern Belgium in the Dutch-speaking part of the country. It is a very short train ride from the larger cities of Brussels and Antwerp and relatively close to both Paris and Amsterdam. In fact, if you wanted to combine a visit to Ghent with a trip to either France or the Netherlands, you could probably even fit a visit to Ghent in as a day trip from those countries. However, I would certainly recommend you stay more than a day because there is so much to see and do. To help give you a better understanding of where Ghent is located in proximity to some of the other popular tourist destinations in Western Europe, I have created a map with estimated travel times to Ghent from various cities for you to review below.
There are three primary languages spoken in the country of Belgium, with Dutch being the prevalent language spoken in Ghent and the rest of Northern Belgium. If you are traveling to other cities in Belgium during your visit, you will want to keep the different lingual regions of Belgium in mind. To help you understand where each language is primarily spoken, I have included a map for you to review below.
Best Time to Visit
Ghent is a city that is fun to visit year-round, but depending on what you are planning on doing when you visit, there may be certain months of the year that are better for you to visit than others. In order to assist you in determining which month is best for you to visit, I have included some information below on several key factors that may influence your decision.
Average Temperature (°F)
The first factor that you will want to consider when deciding when it would be best for you to visit Ghent is the temperature. The temperature in Ghent is fairly mild year-round, but it can get a bit chilly during the winter months of December thru February. The months of June thru September typically see the warmest temperatures, so if you plan on spending a considerable amount of time outside, these might be the best months for you to visit.
Average Precipitation (Inches)
The other weather-related factor that you will want to consider when planning your trip to Ghent is the amount of rain that you can expect to see when you visit. To give you an idea of what the typical rainfall is throughout the year, I have included the chart below for you to review. As you can see, the Autumn months of October and November typically see the most rainfall, with the months of February thru April seeing the least amount of rain.
Where to Stay
One of the most important decisions you are going to have to make when planning your trip to Ghent is where you will stay. When you travel, the accommodations you choose are oftentimes amongst the biggest expenditures for your trip. So not only do you need to be comfortable where you are staying, but you also need to be comfortable with how much you are paying to stay there. Finding the right accommodations for your trip involves looking at the amenities, the location, and most importantly, the price. If you are starting to plan your trip to Ghent and want some hotel and hostel suggestions, I have included some great options at different price points below for you to review. As always, don’t be afraid to expand your search to room sharing sites such as Airbnb or VRBO if you aren’t finding a hotel or hostel that meets your needs.
Where to Eat
When most people plan a trip, the primary focus is one how to get there, where to stay, and what is on the list of things to see and do. What many travelers neglect to plan, is where to eat when you are there. Granted, it is sometimes fun to be spontaneous when choosing a restaurant while traveling, and it is always smart to get recommendations when you arrive. However, it can also be advantageous to have some ideas of restaurants you would like to try during your trip written down beforehand as well. This way you can be assured that you won’t miss out on a highly recommended culinary experience that you will regret. To help you decide on some restaurants in Ghent to add to your list, I have included a list of some highly recommended options for you to review below.
|‘t Prison||Belgian, European, Contemporary||$$-$$$|
|Roots||Belgian, European, Veggie||$$-$$$|
|Kin Khao – Thai Eatery||Thai, Veggie, Vegan||$$-$$$|
|Oak Restaurant||Belgian, European, Veggie||$$$$|
|Karel De Stoute||French, Belgian, European||$$$$|
|‘t Gents Fonduehuisje||Belgian, European||$$-$$$|
Recommended Tours and Excursions
There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do in the Ghent area and one of the best ways to experience those things is on a tour. If you are looking for fun tours and excursions to fill out your trip, I have included some category links to recommended tours and excursions you can review below.
|Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours|
|Cultural & Theme Tours|
|Food, Wine & Nightlife|
|Walking & Biking Tours|
Ghent is one of those cities where it is nearly impossible to visit and not come away with some incredible pictures to share. I was able to capture a bunch of great shots when I visited and have shared some of my favorites with you in the gallery below.
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