Ghent is a port city in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is a lovely city at the intersection of rivers, and also a university town with a joyous culture. I had the best 3 months of my life in this city, that is why I wanted to share a Ghent Travel Guide. Hopefully, you will enjoy it.
1. Who Am I?
This is Ayşenur and I am from Istanbul, Turkey. I am a natural-born wanderer. I seize every opportunity to travel around and experience new cultures. Personally, I describe myself as a budget traveler and an explorer. In the summer of 2019, I stayed in Ghent for 3 months to do an internship. It was beyond my expectations because I discovered that it is a peaceful city with rivers, but it also has a fun nightlife. The food is great and the people are lovely. Architectural sights are also quite pleasant, and the city has an interesting history and culture.
If you would like to know more about my stay, check out my Instagram where you will find pictures in the highlights.
Now, let us keep on with our Ghent Travel Guide!
2. Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
Ghent is located in northwest Belgium, sharing borders with Brugge and Brussels. I would recommend you to visit these two cities if you have time. The ideal season for visiting Ghent is summer, especially July-August, and I would recommend a trip of 7-8 days. If you take two days to visit Brugge and Brussels, the remaining 5-6 days will be enough to savor Ghent. Summertime is especially great in the city since there are many annual festivals and events taking place.
In short, if you want a more relaxing trip, plan your stay for 8-10 days. Otherwise, 6-7 days will also be satisfying, but you may as well be prepared for a little rush if you want to experience everything you will see in this Ghent Travel Guide.
3. How to Get to the City from Airport?
If you are not considering renting a car, the most ideal and economic way to arrive in Ghent is via train. Once you land in Brussels Airport, you will see signs leading to the train. You need to enter your information into the digital ticket booth and pay for it with a credit card. If you are younger than 26, you will be charged the youth fee which costs around 17 euros.
Also, if you are planning a long stay like me, there is an Orange store right after baggage claim where you can obtain a temporary Belgian sim card. This will allow you to access the internet and make local calls during your stay. I suggest getting one before you leave the airport since cities could be a little confusing.
After the train ride begins from the Brussels-Airport-Zaventem stop, you need to make a change at Bruxelles-Midi. From there, you will arrive at Gent-Sint-Pieters stop. Do not worry; the transfer is very easy, basically, you take off from one train line and take a few steps to the other line. This trip will take you about 45 to 50 minutes.
Arriving at the Gent-Dampoort stop can be better if it is closer to your accommodation. You can find the timelines and destinations here. Also, if you want to visit Brugge or Brussels, you can use the train since it is really easy and economic.
4. Where to Accomodate in Ghent?
There are options such as hostels, hotels, or Airbnb. Personally, I preferred to rent a private room with a private bathroom and furniture. I shared the living room and kitchen with another renter. My rent price was 300 euros per month.
On Airbnb, you can find nice and economic options as well. Since the city is small, you can find a place in the center or in a close neighborhood for a reasonable price. Houses are usually lovely and cozy.
If you are a luxury traveler, I would recommend a hotel right next to the riverside. Ghent Marriott Hotel is located right at the center. There are many other good options as well in different price ranges.
5. Ghent City Transportation
Since Gent is a small city, you can basically go everywhere on foot. It is really easy to find your way and figure out what is where thanks to the rivers. If you are not a fan of walking, affordable bus and tram lines exist.
Gent’s public transport is very well organized, and you can get a public transportation card according to the duration of your stay. You can find a ‘Lijnwinkel’, or a ticket shop at Korenmarkt – which is located in the city center. There is also a ticket shop at Gent-Sint-Pieters. You can buy your ticket right after you arrive via train. Therefore, if your accommodation is far, you can go there by tram or bus rather than a taxi.
Personally, I preferred walking to get to a place. Sometimes I wandered around without any destination, enjoyed the streets and riverside walks. It is pretty much impossible to get lost. Once you learned how to get to the city center and to specific locations, you can walk around to see what else is there.
6. Suggested Budget for Ghent
This depends on what type of traveler you are. If you are a luxury traveler, excluding your accommodation expense, chances that you will rent exclusive boat tours or dine at Michelin star restaurants. So, you just have to pay and have no worries.
On the other hand, if you are a budget traveler like me, you might want to divide your daily budget according to your priorities. Considering you need to eat three times a day, you may want to spare about 60-70 euros daily for food expenses. Yet, you may easily reduce this expense to 40-45 euros, here is how:
There is a supermarket called Albert Heijn right at the Korenmarkt, where you can buy sandwiches, wraps, salads, pasta, or any other ready-to-eat meal for 3 to 7 euros. If you want to throw in a can of beer, soda, or a bottle of wine for an additional 1 to 4 euros, go ahead. Then you can sit at the riverside, chill, and have a nice lunch. You can often see college students sitting on the stairs right outside the supermarket and having lunch.
If you add entertainment, shopping, and other expenses, around 100-150 euros would guarantee that you will enjoy your day. All the places you will find in this Ghent Travel Guide is perfect for budget travelers, so make sure to check them out.
You do not have to be dependent on cash since almost every place takes credit cards, but there may be a surcharge applied. I did not prefer using credit cards unless I had to.
7. Best Things to Do in Ghent
Let me start by listing museums and architectural stops, and continue with other activities that will lighten up the Ghent Travel Guide!
Gravensteen: The Castle of the Counts
Gravensteen is a medieval castle and a major landmark of Gent. It is one of the oldest castles in entire Europe. If you would like to see a panoramic city view and enjoy the historic ambient surrounded by medieval weapons, this is the place to be. In Gravensteen, you can see a torture chamber and visit a great interior garden. Next to the counts’ chambers, you can find the armor hall and a museum of torture.
Sint-Veerleplein is a square located in the north of Gravensteen. From 1407 to the end of the 18th century, the square served as a court of justice for criminals. The counterfeiters were thrown into a kettle of boiling oil or into boiling water. The square and its surroundings were protected as a cityscape. Therefore, it has a nice view which you can enjoy from the cafes and pubs in the area. After your visit to Gravensteen, make sure you have a drink here.
Museum Dr. Guislain
This is the oldest mental asylum in Belgium. The exhibition is perfect for learning about the history of mental disorders and treatments applied in early history. It is a fascinating museum where you can observe the madness that inspires art. Basic entry fee is 10 euros. If you have CityCard Gent, it is free.
Museum Voor Schone Kunsten: Museum of Fine Arts
If you are passionate about art, you might want to check out the varied and remarkable collection here. It has more than 400 masterpieces from both the old masters and modernists.
There is also the museum of contemporary art “S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst Gent” just right opposite the Museum of Fine Arts.
Sint-Baafs Kathedraal Gent: Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
This is one of the most iconic spots in Ghent, where you can enjoy the festivities. If you come here during the Ghent Festival, you can even go up to the top of its tower! This Cathedral is an architectural beauty with a rich history. It is also a delight for art lovers. If you like, you can visit the cathedral gift shop here and buy souvenirs such as books, posters, and postcards.
Het Belfort Van Gent: Belfry of Gent
The Belfry tower is an absolute must-see. This marvelous tower with a gilded Dragon adorning its summit is an eye-catcher in the city skyline. It is the tallest belfry in Belgium, and also a UNESCO World Heritage landmark. While you may prefer to climb the stairs to get to the top, you also have an option to use the lift from the first floor. Then, you can enjoy the delightful view, check out the history of the tower and the treasures it holds inside.
Kayak & Boat Tours
In Ghent, you can rent single or twin kayaks, paddle through the rivers and discover the city. You can easily rent these kayaks from Kajaks Korenlei for three hours. You will be given lifejackets and you can leave your baggage there.
Also, you can rent boat tours from Boat in Gent, and enjoy different parts of the city while listening to its history told by your guide. This tour usually takes about 40-50 minutes.
Riverside nearby Korenmarkt & Parks to Chill Out
Often, you will see people sitting by the river, chatting and enjoying the scenery while drinking coffee with a fresh pastry as the kayakers go by. Personally, this was an essential routine for me. I had wine and strawberries with friends by the river at lunchtime. When I wanted to enjoy a warm summer day, I had fries and delicious Belgian beer with friends, here. Those were the most peaceful times I had.
If you are in Ghent for a long time and do not have a jam-packed agenda, I suggest you spare a day for yourself and just chill here. The riverside is surrounded by supermarkets and shops where you can buy treats to accompany you.
If you want a similar experience but away from the crowd, I recommend going to Citadelpark. Also, you can wander around the quiet parts of the city by following the river.
Blaarmeersen Skate Park
While wandering around the streets, I often came across skateboarding parkours where people were practicing cool tricks. If you are a skateboarder, I strongly advise you to pack your skateboard before coming to Ghent. You can meet many people who share the same hobby, and you can spend time in Blaarmeersen, Europe’s third-largest skate park.
8. What to Eat/Drink in Ghent?
Since I am a culinary arts student, I am passionate about quality food and beverages but also experiencing local products. Yet, I do not have the budget to accomplish my every desire. What I do is, I try to minimize my other expenses so that I can spare some money for restaurants I want to try. That is why I will try to list both exclusive and budget options here.
When it comes to Belgium, we immediately think of chocolate, beer, waffle, and Frites, aka Belgian fries. These are all very delicious and you will regret it if you don’t try them. You can easily spot Frites stands or chocolate shops around the city. I also made a list of the restaurants, bars, and shops that I like. Hopefully, you will like them, too!
This is a small pastry shop located right in the city center. I would often come here, buy what my sweet tooth gut commands me to buy, and sit by the river. This was literally the sweetest way to start my day. All the food you will find here is cheap, fresh, and tasty.
Frites are everywhere in Ghent! People love eating them as a side dish with mussels or simply as a quick bite. They are usually topped with the famous Flemish beef stew sauce.
Wherever you spot the words Frites, Frituur, or Frietkot, you can find deep-fried food. I ate lots of frites during my stay in Gent, and I reminisce about this guilty pleasure dearly. My favorite place was Frites Atelier. Their sauces and frites are top-notch.
This is the address if you are craving a loaf of crusty sourdough bread fresh from the oven or delicious pastries as well as a tasty lunch or brunch. Prices are very reasonable, and you would not regret any choice here. The baker is one of the most amazing women I have ever met, and every dish is prepared with the utmost care. De Superette is owned by chef Kobe Desramaults who is the most talented and inspiring chef I have ever worked for. I would strongly recommend you to stop by and savor what this place has to offer.
If you are a fan of Thai food, Aroy Aroy is the place to be.
If you are a vegetarian and in the mood for some simple but creative dishes, Roots won’t let you down. It has a lovely atmosphere, friendly staff, and you may dine outside if you like.
Has the Ghent Travel Guide made you hungry already? Let’s check out some other places that will increase you apetite.
Right at the front door, a showcase filled with troll dolls welcomes you. Once you enter, the interior design will fill you with a mystical feeling. This was by far my favorite nightlife spot in Ghent. Not only because I am a fan of brown beer but also, I loved the ambiance. It has a great variety of beer. It is also not too noisy, which will allow you to enjoy a conversation. Sometimes I went to Trollekelder by myself to work or read as I sipped delicious beer.
Natural wine enthusiasts, let me see your hands! Being one myself, I loved Edelrot. The staff is so friendly and always ready to make suggestions according to your taste and expectations. You can sit and enjoy quality wine, or you can buy some bottled liquid magic.
Surrender yourself to your guilty pleasures and try some delicious cocktails in Jigger’s. It is an intimate bar with limited space. Thanks to that, your order will not get lost in the line. You can order a common cocktail or dare yourself to try their one-of-a-kind signature drinks.
9. Nightlife and Special Events in Ghent
Ghent may seem a little bit too calm at first, but do not judge the book by its cover. If you know where to go, things can get wild! Especially during the Ghent festivities, the entire city parties out non-stop for 10 days. Here’s a list of all the places where you can live it up.
Charlatan is the place where all the night-owls in Ghent go to have a good night. If you are in the party-animal mode, make sure to check it out. It is located at Vlasmarkt. The club has very large dance floors, and pretty much nothing to sit on. So you have no choice but to keep dancing all night!
This pub is very casual, and you can sit outside if you like. You can start enjoying a refreshing drink in the afternoon and keep going until after midnight!
Hot Club Jazz
This is a small cozy jazz club that has outside seating. If you are lucky, you can watch a live performance too.
Gentse Feesten aka Ghent Festivities
Gentse Feesten is an annual open-air city fest which goes on for 10 days. A few days ahead, you can see that stages being built on the streets. And when the time comes, the city hosts street theaters, numerous music performances, fairs, drinks, snacks, and any kind of entertainment you can think of. Many pubs and venues organize special events during this period. Make sure to check their programs.
I had such a blast during this fest! My advice to you is to start from the city center and explore what is going on around. Drink, dance, enjoy the fair and the shows, eat spitburger -make sure you eat spitburger-, keep on partying at Vlasmarkt. Before you know it, an entire night has passed and the sun has come up. With the first light, you can drink a warm cup of Irish coffee that will refresh you so that you will keep on partying.
The fun doesn’t end when the morning comes. You can visit food stands with delicious snacks, slow dance to jazz, buy souvenirs, and join workshops. You can go up to the St. Baaf’s tower, enjoy shows and music performances and many other activities! During this fest, the city gets really crowded and thousands of people gather on the streets to celebrate together.
I would strongly suggest you arrange your trip according to Gentse Feesten dates. You should at least experience a few days of the festival!
10. Additional Tips
Since transportation via train is easy and cheap, you can spare two days of your trip to stop by Brussels and Brugge, and enjoy the rest of your time in Ghent. Yes, I know that this is a Ghent Travel Guide. But these cities are too close to Ghent, that’s why you should visit them. Brugge is where you can find amazing chocolate selections and enjoy beautiful views. In Brussels, you can shop and you can treat yourself to waffles, seafood, and many other delicacies.
In addition to what I have mentioned so far, I want to point out the fact that Belgium shares borders with France and the Netherlands. While I was staying in Gent, I used this advantage to visit Paris and Amsterdam. From Gent Dampoort, you can catch a Flixbus and go to these countries in just a few hours.
Flixbus application is available for both Android and IOS. You can book your ticket easily from there, then catch your bus from here. Also, there is an annual music festival named Rock Werchter taking place in Leuven, by catching the train from Gent-Sint-Pieters. You might want to check it out before you visit Gent.
11. Suggested Music and Record Shops in Ghent
If you ask me, this is the most special part of my Ghent Travel Guide. I am telling you, you won’t find a section like this in any other travel guide. Belgium has a unique music culture, especially jazz and electronic/techno music. That’s why I prepared a list of the best albums by Belgian bands/singers. If you are into experimental music and unique tunes, I think you will like the albums below.
You can find these albums and many others as vinyl records at local shops which I have also listed. You can ask the owners of these shops to suggest you local albums of your taste. I think vinyl records would be a great gift for your friends or for yourself!
Moonlit Planetarium by Dijf Sanders – Mix of Styles/Electronica
DIE VERBOTEN ‘2007’ by DIE VERBOTEN – Krautrock
Simurg by Compro Oro – Pyschedelic Jazz
Dreamhatcher by MDCIII – Experimental Jazz
Artifacts by Black Flower – Jazz
Latituds Del Cavall by Condor Gruppe – Alternative/Indie
Sam’ Suffy by Marc Moulin – Jazz Rock
I Bambini Di Basilisco by Elko B. – Jazz/Ambient
The Eternal Perhaps by Steven De Bruyn – Jazz
Harde Smart: Flemish & Dutch Grooves from the 70’s by Various Artists – Funk Soul Jazz
I hope they will keep you in good company as you wander around Ghent!
Record Shops in Ghent
Here, you can find a very wide selection of music and you can get information on local products from staff. If one of your friends has a turntable, I think a vinyl record would be the best gift. Or you can buy some for yourself!
This shop is located in Ghent’s university neighborhood. You can find secondhand records.
If you are a record collector or have a friend who is, you should stop by here. You can find records of many genres.
Hopefully, you liked my Ghent Travel Guide. Please do not forget to leave your comments and thoughts!
Also, you can check more travel guides from here!