What to do in Ghent
On this page you will find all the most important sights, activities and things to do in Ghent. Ghent is a beautiful medieval city where the Leie and Scheldt meet. They don't like to hear it in Bruges, but Ghent is the most beautiful livable city in Belgium. It is also sometimes referred to as the City of Flowers, due to the many flowers and plant nurseries that are located around Ghent. It is also the capital of the province of East Flanders and has more than 260.000 residents.
Student City Ghent 🎓
With 77.000 students, Ghent is the largest student city in Flanders and there is always something to do. As a student, due to the presence of 4 high schools and 2 universities, you have enough choice to choose a direction that you will like.
You can't really do all the sights in Ghent in one day, but if you had to choose between an extra day in Bruges or one in Ghent, then I would know. You have seen Bruges in one day and would definitely go for Ghent! If you travel by train, Ghent is on the route to Bruges. This is from Brussels Airport (Zaventem) as well as from Antwerp and the trains stop in Gent Sint-Pieters or Gent Dampoort before continuing on to Bruges. It couldn't be easier? Don't forget your mouth mask from May 4! You can buy mouth masks in the major stations in a vending machine or you can make your own masks for the train.
Ghent or Bruges?
The choice between the two is personal, but both cities are a must when you come to Belgium. Compared to Bruges, a visit to Ghent is wrongly a bit “forgotten” or tourists simply don't know that there are other cities that can match Bruges. Unlike Bruges, Ghent is a city that is more alive and there is plenty to do all year round. Bruges is very beautiful and you should definitely see it, but I always have the feeling that I am walking around in an open-air museum. You don't have that feeling in Ghent during the day AND in the evening. As a tourist it is difficult to choose between the two. If you have an extra day, a visit to Ghent is more than worth it!
Best time to visit Ghent
There is not really “the best time” to visit Ghent, as there is plenty to do in every season, but if you can choose, go in the summer. Because of the many terraces, the city is buzzing with life, but it is always pleasantly busy. Gentenaars like to eat and drink and most restaurants are usually full. Reservations are therefore recommended during the weekend. You will also find a list of the best restaurants and cafes in Ghent.
What to do in Ghent?
I have put the most important sights in a "what to do in Ghent walking loop". It is best to park in the parking garages under the Friday market or at the Sint Michielsparking. It is then only 2 streets on foot to the starting point of the walk, the most beautiful and coolest castle in Flanders. In the picture you see “Het groot Kanon” and used to be called “De Dulle Griet” (which is also the name of a well-known café), which means as much as “the evil woman”. The thing weighs 12500 kg (27500 lb) and is on display in its original red color at the corner of the Lange Munt and the Vrijdagmarkt.
On one is my favorite, castle Gravensteen. The castle is partially surrounded by water and was built in 1180 by Count Philip. The water castle can be walked through all kinds of interior walls and stairs, but beware of the edges along the inner wall. They have no closure for one reason or another. Every time we visit the castle with friends from abroad, I wonder wheather in the meantime no people have fallen down. The Gravensteen has an extensive torture chamber that you can visit, a deep pit and a hall with all kinds of objects from the middle ages on which you do not get bored. Through a small staircase you can go all the way up the Gravensteen and you can visit the residential tower. From the tower you have a beautiful view over the Graslei and the old town of Ghent.
The Gravensteen is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm Entrance costs 10 euro per adult. You can buy tickets at the ticket office or online.
Free entrance up to and including 18 year and with the All-in CityCard Gent (see below).
Tip:: You can organize birthday parties in the Gravensteen! We ourselves did an organized knight trip with family and friends for our son's party. In the end all children were then knighted. The castle and the boat trip on the Leie were one of the best activities we did that day.
2: The Graslei and the Korenlei
The Graslei and the Korenlei are streets along the Leie. De Graslei has a quay on the right bank and the Korenlei a quay on the left bank. From the Sint Michielsbrug you have the best view of the Graslei. This used to be the (grain) port of the city and various trading activities took place on the quay. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the historic city center. Especially on the Graslei there are many restaurants and cafes to enjoy the sun when the weather is nice.
Boats with a guide leave every hour from Graslei and Korenlei and you can see Ghent from a different perspective. There are various boat trips ranging from 40 min (The medieval center) to 1.5 hours (Ghent complete) on the water. Last summer I took a tour with a guide for the first time with my family from Australia and was surprised how different Ghent looks from the water. I can only recommend the boat trip. The prices of “The boats of Ghent” can be found on their website.
Tip: With the All-in City Card you can get on the water with the Hop on - Hop Off water tram “for free”. There are 6 stops to get on and off unlimited: Gravensteen, Korenlei-Graslei, Museum site, Sint-Pietersabdij, Cathedral, Veldstraat (Shopping). You don't always have to get out, but you can the entire shipping route with a guide (1.5 you) just stay put.
For those who prefer to take control of the steering wheel, they can rent a boat at the Coupure Right at "Minerva Boat Company". The sailing itself is not that difficult, but the route that you are allowed to sail is best checked before. You can look at the website in or check with the company itself. When we rented boats a few years ago, we were only allowed to sail a little bit into the center. That may have changed in the meantime. You do not need a boat license to be allowed to drive the boat. Reservations can be made by telephone and can only be paid by cash.
4: Sint-Michielsbrug for the most beautiful photos
If you are looking for a nice place to take an (instagram) photo, that is the place to be. From St. Michael's Bridge you have a beautiful view of the Gras- and Korenlei, in the distance the Castle of the Counts and at the same time you have a view of the 3 towers of Ghent. The three Gentian towers are St. Nicholas' Church, the Belfry of Ghent and St. Bavo's Cathedral. If you look behind you, you will see the Sint-Michiels church with the flat roof. The building had to become the highest tower in Belgium, but the roof was never finished for financial reasons. Before you see the back of the old post building.
5: The Korenmarkt and the old post building
The old post building is located next to the Sint-Michielshelling close to the Korenmarkt. This "Old" Postgebouw was built between 1900 and 1908 and is not really that old. In 1998 the building was sold to build house apartments and a shopping center, but now it is a luxury hotel with shops on the ground floor and Le pain Quotidien for a nice breakfast.
Did you know: On the side of the Korenmarkt you can see 5 images on the facade of the Old Post building that symbolize the 5 parts of the world.
6: The Belfry of Ghent (at the sheepfold)
The Belfry of Ghent is 95 meters high and was finished in 1380 when the dragon was placed on the tower. Since 1999 the Belfry has been part of the Unesco World Heritage. The works of the Cloth Hall, which was built against the Belfry, were started in 1425 and were only finished in 1903! On the Sint-Baafsplein, between the Belfort and the Sint-Baafskathedraal, the chocolate specialty store of Luc Van Hoorebeke is located. You can buy all kinds of chocolate and that is of course one of many Ghent delicacies!
Did you knowFrom 1741 to 1902, part of the Cloth Hall was a prison, and legend has it that there was a man who was sentenced to death by starvation, but refused to die. The legend says that his daughter came to visit every day to give him the breast. After the guards had discovered this, they liked it so much that they let the man go.
Last summer the Gentenaars celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Ghent festivities and did so by letting the dragon spit fire again after 199 years. In the Belfry there is a Beiaard with 54 clocks and is one of the heaviest in Belgium!
7: The Lamb of God (Saint Bavo Cathedral)
In the Saint Bavo Cathedral you can view the painting "The Lamb of God" that was painted by the Van Eyck brothers. The Lamb of God is definitely one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of painting! The painting mentions "Het Veelluik or the Adoration of the Lamb of God" and is painted with incredible precision. On each panel you see a "story" that you can learn more about with the audio guide. The restoration of the Cathedral that started in 2013 was completed in May 2017. The painting is open every day in the summer from 8u30 to 6 pm and in the winter up to 5 pm On Sunday you can view "De Lam Gods" from 1 pm and up to 5 pm and that because of all sorts of religious Sunday services. Admission is not free and costs 4 euro per person (audioguide included).
Fact 1: The left panel was stolen in 1934. The thief returned the "Saint John the Baptist" panel to prove that he was the thief and in possession of the stolen panel. That part has not yet been found to this day.
Fact 2: Certain parts of the painting are being restored from 2012 in the Museum of Fine Arts (see further at Museums). You can watch the restoration live in the MSK in the Citadel Park.
8: De Vrijdagmarkt (The Friday Market)
In the middle of the square you will find the statue of Jacob van Artevelde. Plaice games were held in the square and executions were carried out. Jacob van Artevelde has declared the king of England in this square as the king of France in 1340. In this way he saved the wool trade with England. Van Artevelde is regarded as a Ghent insurgent leader, was murdered in 1345 where his wife and children were exiled to England. It is not clear why he was killed.
9: The house of Alijn
The house of Alijn aan de Kraanlei is a museum. In every room you will find all kinds of attributes from a different time. Take a dip in time and retrieve old memories from the 20th century. You can also choose to visit the courtyard and have a drink in the popular café. Alijn's house is mainly visited with children and grandchildren to show them how the world has changed opposite now. Every day during the Ghent Festivities in the courtyard of the house of Alijn there is puppet theater with Pierke in the lead, the stubborn but with the heart in the right place “Pierke Pierlala”.
10: The Patershol and the Kraanlei
Via the Kraanlei you can walk to the Patershol, which is bordered on one side by the Leie. The Patershol is an old medieval quarter that has retained its charm. The name "Patershol" comes from the Fathers who are there at the end of the 13de century until they were expelled in 1795 during the French Revolution. The Caermersklooster is located in the district, but it is closed at the moment. From 1 June 2019, the monastery will be a presentation place for visual arts and will be operated by Nucleo & Smoke and Dust. The “Huis van Alijn” is located on the Kraanlei, which you can visit if necessary (see above).
Mid-August there are in the district "Patershol Festivities" with performances on the Kaatsspelplein with mainly local artists. Be sure to try out the typical Ghent regional product, the "ironed mastel". It is a sandwich-like round bun with brown sugar and cinnamon flavor. The Mastel is packaged and ironed in aluminum paper. If there are no Patershol festivities at the moment, you can find this delicacy between 10 am and 5 pm at "De nieuwe onvrije schipper" at the Korenlei. The closing is on Sunday near a large Ghent flea market. This party is sometimes called the "little Gentse Feesten". The neighborhood is mainly known for the many good restaurants that are located there. If you are in Ghent, be sure to visit the Paterhol!
What to do in Ghent with the CityCard
Tip:: If you come to Ghent for a weekend or longer than 1 day, I advise you to buy a CityCard. There are 2 versions for sale, one that is 48 hours (30 €) valid and one that is 72 hours (35 €) valid. If you really want to explore Ghent, then you can certainly take advantage of this card.
What are the advantages of the CityCard?
In most museums, access for children (up to 18 years) is free in Ghent. For people who mainly visit museums with children, an All-in City Card is probably less advantageous. You can buy the City Card at the Ghent Tourist Information Office, the participating museums in the hotels and all points of sale of the De Lijn transport company.
Information office Tourism Ghent: Sint-Veerleplein 5 (Gravensteen)
Uitbureau Gent: Tickets
Sale of Tickets for, among other performances such as Pierke in the House of Alijn.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 10u30 - 17u00 and Saturday to 16u00 (closed on Sundays)
Veldstraat 82B - 9000 Ghent
+32 9 233 77 88 ( [email protected] )
Tourist Information Office Ghent: Sint-Veerleplein 5 (Gravensteen)
What to do in Ghent: Specialties
Ghent has a wide range of Ghent specialties. All typical specialties and delicacies from Ghent can be found in a separate post “Ghent specialties and delicacies“. From noses and ironed masts to the best chocolate from Belgium and where you can buy it.
Eating and drinking in Ghent
Ghent is kind of like that the vegetarian capital of Belgium and it would be crazy not to use it. I am a vegetarian myself, so I prefer not to recommend restaurants that only serve meat. Below are some of the best vegetarian restaurants that can be found in Ghent.
Good to know: In most restaurants a supplement is charged for bread, water and mayonnaise. Tipping is not necessary in Belgium, but in the catering industry the amount is (should not) usually be rounded up.
Best vegetarian restaurants in Ghent
The War Temple (Closed on Sundays)
Zandberg 8 - 9000 Ghent
Between the Belfort and the Sint Jacobs
Vegetarian and fish - Menu
Leccer Gec (Closed Sundays & Mondays)
KM Hendrikaplein 6 - 9000 Ghent
Right at the station Gent Sint-Pieters
100% vegan - Menu
Open from 11u00 weekdays and from 4 pm weekend
Cozy brown cafe - restaurant
Coupure Links 497 - 9000 Gent
The Panda (closed on Sunday)
Oudburg 38 - 9000 Ghent
Quiet restaurant on the water in the center of Ghent with mostly classical music in the background.
Open every day from 12u00 to 14u00 and from 18u00 to 20u45. Closed on Sunday.
09 / 225 07 86 (no website)
The Appelier (closed on saturday & sunday)
Citadellaan 47 - 9000 Ghent
Especially daily specials - Menu
The Cucumber time (closed on Saturday and Monday)
Bar 14B - 9000 Gent
Vegetarian buffet "All you can eat" menu
Breakfast or Brunch?
Le Pain Quotidien (kids menu / free wifi)
Kalandeberg 10 - 9000 Ghent - 2de location on the Korenmarkt (Old Post Office)
Open every day from 7u00 (Sunday from 8u00)
Hotels and youth hostels in Ghent-Center
Extra things to do in Ghent
Sorry, not sorry Street Art Plan
Walk or cycle route along the best and most interesting Street Art works of art that can be found in the center of Ghent. Street Art by Roa (black and white drawings) & Beu The Warrior (with the bright colors), two of the most famous artists, you will encounter on the route. The Sorry not sorry route (all year round) takes about 1.5 hours. The card is available in four languages and can be picked up free of charge from the tourism office or here view (NL).
St. Peter's Abbey
Visit St. Peter's Abbey or be taken into the (made-up) story "Alison, the secret of the fallen angels”With virtual guide Alison (1753-1823). The story is about his friend Rafaël who is found dead in St. Peter's Abbey. Was it murder or was it an accident? In the 1.5-hour exciting virtual tour with headphones with digital monk Alison you will come to all kinds of places (attics, corridors, the garden and the abbey church) where you would not normally go and the tour is recommended for that. We did the full tour and at the end I asked the kids (9 & 11) what they thought about it.
The Abbey itself they liked, but the story of Alison langdradig and therefore also a bit boring. The price for the audio guide is for both adults and children 4 euro per person. The Alison tour is recommended if you have more time in Ghent and if the children are older than 12 years.
Tip: With your ticket from it Gravensteen you can make the Alison audio tour for free within the 3 days.
Flea markets & other markets
In the center of Ghent you have a market somewhere every day. There are so many second hand markets organized on different dates each time so that it is impossible to list them all. The list below mainly shows the fixed markets that you will find throughout the year in the center of Ghent. If you are looking for other markets, you can look it up in this list and find other flea markets for the upcoming 30 days.
- At the Sint-Jacobs (at the Vrijdagsmarkt)
Brocante antique and flea market
Antiques and 2de hands stuff
Every Friday and Saturday morning from 8u00 to 1 pm and Sunday to 2 pm
During the Ghent festivities every day extra from 2 pm to 9 pm
- Between Sint-Jacobs and Sint-Anna
Birds, chickens, geese, rabbits, ...
Also 2de hands bikes
Every Sunday morning from 7u00 to 13u00
Nicolaas de Liemaeckereplein 3 -Citadel park. On 20 min on foot from the center. This is the oldest museum in Belgium. There are works by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, James Ensor, Auguste Rodin and René Magritte, among others.
Price: 8 € pp - Free up to 18 year and CityCard Gent - With the Uitpas = 1.6 €
Open 9.30am - 5.30pm Tuesday through Friday
Open from 10.00 - 6 pm weekends (closed on Mondays)
Opposite the Museum of Fine Arts - Citadel Park
Price: 6 € pp - children up to 18 year and CityCard Gent Free
Same opening hours Museum for Fine Arts (See above)
There is also a café, also breakfast or lunch: Jan Hoetplein 1
What to do in Ghent after 19u00
Schouwburgstraat 3 (on the Kouter)
Click here you can find the program of the Opera Ballet Flanders. The overview includes performances that take place in Ghent, but also in Antwerp.
If you want to be in a real small-scale cinema again, then you have to be in the Sphinx to be. The Sphinx has always been there and hopes that he can "survive" for a long time. Located in the heart of Ghent on the Sint-Michielshelling opposite the Old Post building.
Schouwburg: On the Sint-Baafsplein 17
De tickets you can order online or buy at the counter at Tickets Gent at Sint Baafsplein 17 - 9000 Gent. Opening hours from Monday to Friday: 10u00 to 18u00 Saturday from 14u00 to 18u00 (closed on Sundays).
Theater Tin Pot - WHERE almost ALL CAN
No numbered places, pay the evening yourself at the checkout.
Address: Tinnenpotstraat 21 - 9000 Gent
How do you get to Ghent?
By car: The city center has been made car-free, which makes a visit to Ghent even more fun. In the past, the cars drove over the Sint Michielsbrug, along the Korenmarkt and through the Veldstraat. You could then park at your favorite café or restaurant in the center.
Circulation plan: In the meantime much more has changed. The circulation plan has been dividing the city into 2017 since 6 and ensures that there is less through traffic. Here you will find the maps of the circulation plan.
Caution! To improve the air quality of the City of Ghent, the low emission zone (LEZ) has been in force since 1 January 2020. Check here whether your car can enter Ghent!
Parking on the street and in the car parks is expensive in Ghent. On this page you can find all parking lots of Ghent.
By train: You can reach the city center via Ghent Sint-Pieters station, but then you should still take the tram. It is a 30 minute and 2.3 km walk to the St. Michael's Bridge. Via Station Gent Dampoort you can walk to the center faster. From Gent Dampoort Station it is a 15 min and 1.2 km walk to the Friday market. Timetable.
With the Tram / bus: Take the tram (probably) at Gent Sint-Pieters station and take a 20 minute to the center. Route planner.
Extra Tips: What else is there to do in Ghent?
Ghent festivities (July) Edition 2021 will NOT take place!
July is the week of the mega-popular Ghent parties. The 10 day celebrations run during the week before the July 21st holiday. Keep in mind that hotels in and around Ghent fill up quickly and that the city is immersed day and night that week in one big (still free) open-air party. Every evening you can see performances by artists from the Netherlands and abroad in various places. I prefer to stay away in the evening, because the Ghent parties have become too busy for me.
It used to be always pleasantly busy and I enjoyed myself until the early hours, but the number of people who come to the parties is increasing every year. During the day it is quieter because everyone is sleeping off their intoxication. It is then a good time to visit the city at your leisure and do fun day activities. Visiting the city during the festivities therefore has its advantages and disadvantages.
Tip: Medieval breakfast
Every morning during the Ghent Festivities a medieval breakfast is offered at a reasonable price in the MIAT, Minnemeers 10. You can take an poor, rich and a Lieven Bauwens breakfast.
Every year you can watch the fireworks at the National Festival (21 July) at the Genste parties. Location: Portus Ganda.
For more info check the Ghent festival page.
Gent Jazz festival (July) Edition 2021 continues!
The Gent Jazz Festival is a multi-day jazz festival in Ghent. It is a music festival that takes place every year at the beginning of July (8/7 to 18/7) on the Bijloke site. The public access is located on Godshuizenlaan, along the Stadsmuseum STAM Met het festival ticket you can use the tram and/or bus of De Lijn for free that day. From Gent Sint-Pieters station, it is a 1 km walk to the Bijloke site. All information can be found on the website of Gent Jazz. We attended the performance of Diana Krall en Vincent Peirani and I made a mood video of it.
Video Ghent Jazz Diana Krall
Ghent winter parties 2019-2020
From 6 December 2019 to 5 January 2020, Ghent is immersed in a nice Christmas atmosphere. There are more than 150 stalls on the Christmas market in the center of Ghent and there is a Ferris wheel. Of course there are also food and drink stalls with all kinds Ghent Specialties to provide. Like every year, an ice rink is opened on Emile Braunplein, under the sheep stable.
The Christmas market is open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 00 a.m., the ice rink until 1 p.m. During the week there are other opening hours. The Gravensteen is open during the winter festivals and is specially immersed in a cozy winter atmosphere and is then called “Winter Wonder Castle”.
Festival of Lights (November 2021)
Every year a free light festival was organized in the center of Ghent. The previous editions were a great success and in 2018 again a record was broken. With 835.000 visitors there is no doubt that the light festival in the winter of 2021 will be reorganized. It has been decided to have the light festival take place for the 3 year because of budgetary reasons.
The fifth edition of the light festival in 2021 will take place in the city center of Ghent from Wednesday 10 to Sunday 14 November 2021, if the Corona measures allow! I went to Ghent twice to have a look and each time it was fantastic to see. The route through the historic center of Ghent was always breathtaking.
Parking at Flanders Expo
Because it was such a success, the car parks in Ghent were quickly full. You park at the next edition best outside of Ghent. That is possible, for example at Flanders Expo, from where you can take the tram to the Center. Various Park & rides zones are being created around Ghent to get everyone to the city center. Traveling by train to Ghent Sint-Pieters or getting off at the Dampoort is of course also a solution. If you are in Ghent at the end of January 2021, then the light festival is not to be missed! From May 4, 2020, you are obliged to wear a mouth mask on the tram, bus or train. Nowadays you can buy them anywhere, but if you have a sewing machine, you can buy the make mouth masks if necessary.
Map: What to do in Ghent
Ghent specialties & Delicacies
One of Ghent's most famous specialties and traditional product is the cuberdon or known in Ghent as "a nose". They look like purple noses or cones. But there are many more specialties from Ghent!Read more