Ghent is one of the most popular cities in Europe. It is the second largest municipalities of Belgium & a popular day trip destination for tourists visiting Belgium. When we planned our trip to Belgium, we knew that we MUST take a day trip to this beautiful city.
Once we reach Ghent, we were not disappointed even one bit. The city left us in awe & become one of our favorite destinations in Europe!
How to reach Ghent?
Ghent is easily accessible from Bruges by train, bus, taxi or a rental car. It hardly takes any time to travel between Brussels & Ghent, so do not miss it.
Train: You can take a train from Brussels Central station to Ghent. It takes less than 40 mins to reach Ghent from Brussels & there are trains available every 15 mins. Ghent has only train station called Gent-Sint-Pieters, so get down at that station only.
Get a Eurail pass if you are planning to take more day trips or travel between more cities because it saves a lot of money. If you have a Eurail pass, you don’t even have to pay for seat reservations between Brussels & Ghent! It is free.
Bus: There are few bus services between Brussels & Ghent as well. They are not as frequent as trains, and they take at least an hour’s time to travel between these cities. If you are looking for the cheapest option, then choose the bus. Make sure you know the timetable beforehand.
Taxi & Rental cars: The most expensive & the most personalized option is the taxi or a rental car. It takes as much time as the bus but it is the most expensive option out of these 3 options.
What did we do in Ghent?
We had researched & shortlisted a few things that we really wanted to do in Ghent. Thanks to Ghent Tourism Board, we got complimentary Ghent City Cards to explore the city comfortably.
We really recommend that you get a Ghent city card so that you don’t have to pay every time to use a transport option inside the city. Even most of the monuments are free with the Ghent city card!
1. Ghent Tourism Board
After we got down at Gent-Sint-Pieters station, we took a tram from the station to Ghent tourism board’s office. We collected our cards, understood the entire list of benefits with the card & started our exploration!
The first stop was Gravensteen. This is located just opposite the office of Ghent tourism board. Entry is free with Ghent city card. This castle is about 840 years old. The history of Gravensteen is very interesting as its purpose was changed time & again.
It used to be a castle, then it became a residence of the royal family, then a mint, for a brief period of time, it was also a prison & for some time, it was a cotton factory. Now, the government has turned Gravensteen into a museum.
Inside Gravensteen, you will find many rooms filled with medieval items like armors, weapons, utensils, torture equipment etc. Once you go on the top of the castle, you can see an uninterrupted view of Ghent. It takes more than 2 hours if you want to explore the complete castle at ease.
After spending so much time in Gravensteen. We were on the verge of dying from hunger. Unfortunately, the day we chose to visit Ghent was also a day where most of the city is shut. We were walking around the city to find a restaurant or a cafe which is open & which can feed us something.
We found a small market from where we bought chips to satiate our hunger for a bit. The main area where most of the popular cafes are located looked so deserted. Then thanks to Google, we came to know that our good old friend Ronald McDonald is ready to feed us by keeping his shop open.
We went to McDonald’s to eat & get some energy to walk even more in Ghent. The lines in McDonald’s were fricking long.
4. Boat Ride
Ghent is located on the confluence of 2 rivers & is also a port city. Like many other European towns & cities, you can also take a boat ride in Ghent. You can see the city from a completely different perspective. The boat tour also passes through the most famous area of Ghent – Graslei.
We took a guided boat tour (which was also free with Ghent city card). The experience of the tour was simply amazing. Our guide took us through the history of Ghent, most important structures, the importance of canals & rivers for Ghent etc.
This is a must-do thing in Ghent.
5. St. Bavo’s Cathedral
When you are in Europe, how can you miss a cathedral of the city, eh? I’m glad we visited St. Bavo’s Cathedral though! This Gothic cathedral is over 1,000 years old & it contains the famous Ghent Altarpiece.
You must visit this cathedral towards the evening to witness the beautiful lighting outside & inside of the cathedral. The experience of peace inside the cathedral is unmatched!
6. Belgian Waffle & Hot Chocolate
When you are in Belgium, you cannot miss certain things – Eg: Belgian Waffles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat waffles because it contained eggs but according to Parampara, the waffles that she ate in Ghent were the best waffles ever!
Lady who was running the shop of Belgian Waffles was also selling hot chocolate. When the weather outside is 5°, a cup of hot chocolate looks very tempting. My first sip of that hot chocolate sent me on a trip to heaven. This was, hands-down, the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted (It has been over 11 months since I’ve had that hot chocolate & still, none of the other hot chocolates have beaten that)! If you like alcohol, she also puts an Italian Liquor called Amaretto in hot chocolate! 😉
7. Winter Treats
Winter time means seasonal treats! We tasted 2 of the most famous winter treats of Belgium. One of them was called a snowball. It was a vanilla cloud coated with white sugar. If you like sweets, you will LOVE snowballs & you will not stop at 1.. or 2.. or even 5!
The other thing we ate was called Cuberdon (or simply nose). This was slightly hard from outside & gooey from inside with a raspberry flavor. Thanks to the pure raspberry put into the recipe, the color of it was maroon. It is not too sweet (compared to a snowball) but delicious. Do not miss these 2 winter treats when you are in Ghent.
There are more monuments in Ghent that we missed due to lack of time. If you have more time, we definitely recommend that you go visit Belfry of Ghent, Town Hall of Ghent, and Museum of Ghent.
Few Things To Keep In Mind
- Ghent cannot be covered in a day trip. We discovered that only towards the end of our day. Keep at least 2 days if you’re really interested in visiting Ghent (you should be).
- If you can avoid, please avoid Sundays in Ghent. Most of the shops are shut on Sunday & it is very difficult to find cafes, restaurants or even other shops open.
- Take the city card in Ghent. It is very useful & saves a lot of money on transportation & entry fees.
- Indulge in local delicacies like waffles, fries, snowballs, etc. but in local shops or street-side vendors.
- Don’t miss the boat tour at any cost!
Where to stay?
There are many types of accommodations available in Ghent if you want to stay overnight. We stayed in Brussels & took a day trip to Ghent from here.
Watch our complete day trip to Ghent here:
Photos: Awara Diaries