Ghent, often neglected by tourists, is overshadowed by its fairytale neighbor Bruges. Ghent, with its magnificent castle, lovely medieval old town and picturesque canals, is not to be missed.
Ghent was once one of the most significant commercial cities in all of Europe during the Middle Ages. Nowadays, it’s a vibrant university city in Belgium’s Flemish region. Ghent, nevertheless, maintains its historical character and appearance, making it an ideal city for a day visit.
Ghent is the ideal alternative if you love Bruges’ medieval atmosphere but find it too busy and touristy. These historical attractions are all around five minutes’ walk from each other, so it’s absolutely possible to see Ghent in one day.
This extensive one day Ghent itinerary is perfect for all who want to explore the city during a day trip! In this blog post, I will show you all the important attractions that you should check out!
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GHENT 1 DAY ITINERARY | WHAT TO DO IN GHENT IN ONE DAY?
We drove from Rotterdam to Ghent, which took us just under 2 hours. We left home early, around 7 am, to try and beat some of the traffic. We reached Ghent around 9 am, so we did get lucky with the traffic.
If you are planning to travel to Ghent by train then get off at Gent-Sint-Pieters, which is the city’s main train station. From here you can also connect to all other cities in Belgium. Additionally, you can join the European high-speed train network with a quick change at Brussel-Zuid or Lille, just over the border in France. A direct daily connection on the high-speed Thalys network will take you to Paris, and the Eurostar will take you to London.
Ghent does not have an airport of its own but is easy to reach from the two main airports in Belgium: Brussels Airport and Brussels South Charleroi Airport.
Brussels Airport offers hourly trains to Ghent and has a direct service of less than one hour; the trip costs around €15 each ticket. FlixBus is a more cost-effective option, taking 1h40m and costing around €8 per seat.
The best route between Brussels South Charleroi Airport and Ghent is through Flibco. The Flibco shuttle bus will take you to Brussels-Midi/Brussel Zuid. You must then travel by train to Ghent from there.
Is Ghent worth visiting?
Ghent may not be as famous as its neighbouring cities of Bruges or Brussels, but in my opinion, it is well worth checking out! It is a lovely city with lots of history. You get to explore an incredible castle, gorgeous waterways, incredible art, lots of museums, delicious food and so much more.
How many days to spend in Ghent?
Ghent’s awesome city centre is pretty small and very easy to get around on foot. Its historical attractions are all around five minutes’ walk from each other, so it’s absolutely possible to see Ghent in one day.
In one day you will be able to see all the major attractions, so in that sense, one day is enough. Of course, you will not able able to see everything, and you might not be able to soak up everything as you want, as you do have to set a steady pace to get to all attractions.
Can you do Ghent and Bruges in one day?
The historic city of Bruges is only a 50-minute drive from Ghent, so it’s definitely possible to see Bruges and Ghent in one day. I would suggest spending at least a day in both cities, so I would not recommend checking out both cities in 1 day. You will miss out and quiet a few amazing sights. But if you only have 1 day and you would like to see both cities, then yes, it is definalty doable.
Where to stay in Ghent?
Spending a day in Ghent is easy as it’s compact and walkable. If you are planning to stay staying overnight, then I suggest booking accommodation in the historic centre. The location is perfect and it will make exploring the city a bit easier.
Ganda Rooms & Suites is a popular hotel set in the historic centre. This refined hotel in an 18th-century townhouse is located in a quiet street, yet is still close to some of the major tourist attractions. Is has a lovely elegant decor and a terrace bar with views of St Bavo’s Cathedral.
1898 The Post is a small designer hotel opened in 2017 in the upper floors of Ghent’s old post office building. Located in the very heart of Ghent, the hotel offers its guests some of the best views in the city. This hotel is however not for everyone’s budget.
Best Hotels in Ghent
Things to do in Ghent – Ghent 1 day itinerary
Underneath I will show you some of the best things to do in Ghent when you only have 1 day to explore.
Castle of the Counts
In my opinion, the Castle of the Counts, or Gravensteen Castle, is an incredible fortified Castle that should be your very first stop of the day! It is the perfect place to get to know the incredible history of the city, additionally, it is a pretty incredible vantage point, offering some pretty stunning views over the city as well.
To learn as much as possible about the turbulent past of this castle, I suggest booking a tour with a guide who will show you the castles best-kept secrets. You can walk through Gravensteen in just more than an hour, which makes it a perfect addition if you are limited to one day in Ghent.
This medieval castle was built in 1180 by Philip of Alsace, the Count of Flanders. With its turrets and the surrounding moat, fed with water from the Lys river, it housed the powerful Counts of Flanders for almost two centuries. Inside the castle, you will find exhibitions showcasing historic suits of armour, weapons and even gory medieval torture devices.
Tourist information office
When you are done exploring, make sure to stop by the city’s tourist information office, which is located within a 2-minute walk from the castle. Here you can pick up some handy brochures. When there, I would suggest getting a CityCard Gent. The CityCard Ghent gives you free access to all the sights, monuments and museums in Ghent during your city break (You only pay €1 extra for the use of the audio guide in the cathedral). Additionally, with the CityCard Ghent, you can get on and off all the trams and buses in the historic city centre of Ghent.
Hop-On a boat tour for gorgeous city views
If you only have 24 hours in Ghent then you should definitely have to take a boat tour! Tours start from Grasbrug Bridge. There are two kinds of boats available – covered (Glass) and uncovered. I suggest opting for the open boat since you’ll be able to see greater views of the city and shoot end up with better city photo’s. The covered boat may be a better alternative if you’re visiting Ghent during the winter. (way less chilly!)
From the water you get to see historic Ghent from a unique perspective as well as getting lots of information and stories from your guide during the trip.
Most of the tours will take you on a 40-minute round trip, showing you parts of the city you can’t see from the streets and revealing its fascinating history on your Ghent 1 day itinerary.
Climb to the top of the Belfry of Ghent
Like so many of my favourite destinations, Ghent is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Belfry of Ghent. Climbing to the top of the 91-metre-tall tower is one of the most rewarding things to do in the city. At the top, you will be rewarded with beautiful 360-degree views of the city. There is a lift from the first floor, the rest you have to walk up yourself.
The Ghent Belfry symbolises the city’s prosperity and independence. The Cloth Hall, built onto the Belfry, was completed in 1907. On the corner of the Cloth Hall is an old jailer’s house. Every Sunday morning you can hear the carillonneur at work between 11 am and 12 noon. And you can enjoy a carillon concert on the first Friday of each month from 8 to 9 pm. In the summer months, the concert takes place every Saturday night!
In 1402, it was the place where city privileges were kept: in a chest, locked up in the Belfry safe. The dragon, which has been up on the tower since 1377, kept an eye on the city as well as being the symbolic guardian of the belfry.
The Belfry of Ghent is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm, except for major public holidays. Entry is €8.
Graslei and Korenlei
One of the most historic and picturesque spots in Ghent is Graslei, a row of beautiful houses that are a protected part of the Ghent landscape. Houses have stood in that location since the 5th century, and while the homes have been extensively renovated and look quite different than they did when they were originally constructed, they are an unmissable sight when spending one day in Ghent.
On warm days Graslei is a popular spot to enjoy a meal or a drink, but on New Year’s Day and in the absence of crowds we had the chance to experience Graslei in a quiet moment, admiring its reflection in the calm river beneath it.
Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
Undoubtedly one of the most important places to visit in Ghent in one day, this Gothic cathedral dominates the skyline as it stands at 89 metres tall. Dating back to 942, it is named after Bavo, the patron saint of Ghent.
The cathedral is perhaps best known for its interior, specifically its altarpiece Adoration of the Mystic Lamb created by Jan van Eyck and widely considered to be his greatest masterpiece.
know to be one of the most important artworks in European history, it is revered for its detailed naturalism and realism, which was revolutionary for its time.
Every day from midday to 1 pm, the altarpiece’s side panels are closed, so you can see the paintings on the other side of them.
The opening times for Saint Bavo’s Cathedral are 8.30 am to 6 pm, except for Sundays when it opens at 10 am. From November until March, the cathedral closes at 5 pm. The last entry to see the Adoration of the Mystic Lambis 15 minutes before closing.
Entry to the cathedral is free. Tickets to see the altarpiece cost €4 per person, including an audio guide.
Ghent 2 day itinerary?
If you happen to stay in Ghent and want to explore more of the city, here are some options for you!
Werregarenstraat, a Ghent street that has been turned over to local artists, boasts an eclectic collection of graffiti that spans two blocks. The street was originally provided as a means to deter the spread of graffiti elsewhere in the city; officials believed if artists had a designated spot to create their art they may refrain from defacing historic buildings throughout the city.
St. Michael’s Bridge
Wherever you look on this bridge, you will find breathtakingly beautiful views, 360 degrees. You can spot St. Michael’s Church, the Castle of the Counts, Gralei and even the Korenlei.
In the middle of the bridge is a beautiful central lantern with a bronze statue of St Michael.
It’s a great place to take lots of photos!
St. Nicholas’ Church
A beautiful church with imposing large ceilings. Rising prominently over Ghent’s historic city centre, the church is one of the famous “Three Towers of Ghent.” With its grand scale and elaborate design, St. Nicholas’ Church looks more like a cathedral than a church.
Stunning Gothic architecture and careful restoration work that disguises its somewhat turbulent history.
Visiting a museum or two
Normally I would place a museum or a historical site as a must-visit, but what do you choose from when the entire town is laced with medieval and Gothic learnings? Hard to choose. So here are some museums worth visiting on your second day in Ghent. (and keep in mind that they are free to enter with you CityCard)
- Museum of Fine Arts | One of the oldest museums in Belgium offers a varied collection. Including painting by some incredible Flamish artist
- House of Alijn | Puts the ordinary daily life of 20th-century people in the spotlight. This was once the ‘Children of Alijn hospice’. It is the only almshouse—a charitable institution where the old and sick were cared for—to have been preserved in Ghent.
- Dr Guislain Museum | The oldest mental asylum in Belgium, which dates back to 1857 is in Jozef Guislainstraat. Today it houses an absolutely fascinating museum.
GHENT 1 DAY ITINERARY – WHAT TO DO IN GHENT IN ONE DAY?
Best Food’s to Try in Ghent?
Belgium has some delicious foods that you should defiantly try! Underneath are a couple of those treats, as well as some good restaurants that you could check out.
ADD BELGIAN FRITES TO YOUR GHENT ITINERARY
Firstly you can not leave Belgium without having to try Frites (fries) Flemish fries are an institution, and should not be lacking from any weekend trip to Belgium. You can find Frites stalls splattered throughout the city and only costs a couple of euros. Additionally, you also need to try Belgian Frites (Loaded Poutine). YUM.
A must-try is the Frites Atelier in Ghent, only a 3-minute walk from Gravensteen Castle! Frites Atelieruses plant-based oil and love how the skins are left on for an extra earthy taste and dash of vitamin C.
The second things that you have to eat in Bruges are Belgian waffles. Simply mouthwatering delicious. Whether it is with chocolate, strawberries, blueberries bananas, they are simply amazing. Etablissement Max has, in my opinion, the best waffles in Ghent!
Since this list already consists of bad food, we might as well continue with Belgian Chocolates aka BonBons. A bonbon is a sweet or small confection, especially a small bun coated in chocolate. But what it also is, is delicious. One of the oldest chocolatiers, you’ll find at the Sint-Baafsplein 15: Chocolaterie Van Hoorebeke. This chocolaterie offers a very special freshly prepared chocolate that makes a very special gift to take home. The chocolates are refined and hand made. Price is actually a little cheaper than the mass-marketed Neuhaus, but the quality is much better.
COOL DINNER OPTIONS IN GHENT
Here are some dinner options in Ghent. Food in Ghent in restaurants is not very cheap, but for the taste, ambience and heritage, it is worth forking it out.
- OTOMAT | Located in a former 17th-century inn, here you’ll find an amazing must try pizzeria! The decor it simply astounding! The restaurant is detected out with industrial decor, cool vintage lamps and bright neon letters.And the pizza that they serve is finger-licking good! | Kleine Vismarkt 3 | 9000 Gent | Website
- DE SUPERETTE | This bakery/restaurant is located in a former corner grocery store called Superette Edwin. Shared dining plates and unique flavours are to be expected when eating out at the Superette. Guldenspoorstraat 29 |9000 Gent | Website
- WASBAR | This is a cool place to check out if you are after something quirky! The Wasbar is a cross between a designer cafe and launderette. Yep, you have read that right! Whilst you enjoy a lovely meal, you can do your watching at the same time. The design of the place is lovely, and it works way better then you’d think. Korenmarkt 37 | 9000 Gent | Website
- IN CHOC GENT – DASKALIDES | Located pretty much opposite the Castle of the Counts, you can indulge in some delicious sweet treats, coffee, hot chocolates and their Instagram famous crazy shakes. Sint-Veerleplein 13 | 9000 Gent | Website
Travel Tips for Ghent 1 Day Itinerary
Here are some of the essential travel tips for Ghent Itinerary.
MONEY AND PRICES
The currency in the Ghent is the Euro. In a country like Belgium where the standard of living is high, vacationing is not cheap. This is especially true in a small town like Ghent, Bruges and Brussels. But this doesn’t mean the trip has to be expensive.
The average hotel price in Ghent for a couple is €115 ($180 AUD), so not the cheapest of destinations. Additionally, on average, people have spend €28 ($ 45 AUD ) on meals for one day and €15 ($ 24 AUD) on local transportation.
Most Belgians people are bilingual (Flemish and French) and also speak English very well (Some smaller towns in the countryside maybe not as good, but you should be able to have a basic conversation). It is however considered very polite to know a few words in the local language, no matter where you are in the world. So here are a few simple words that you can be useful for you.
|Hello||Hallo / Hoi||Ha-low / Hoy|
|Good morning||Goede morgen||khoo-duh-mor-khen|
|Good afternoon||Goede avond||Khoo-duh-mid-dakh|
|How are you?||Hoe gaat het met je?||hoo khaat het met yuh|
|Good, thanks||Goed, dank je||Khoot, dank yuh|
|Thank you||Dank je||Dank yuh|
|I’m sorry||Het spijt me||Hey spayt meh|
|I do not understand||Ik begrijp het niet||ik be-graphy het neat|
|Do you speak English?||Spreek je Engels?||Sprayk yuh eng-els|
Travel visa and Travel Documents
Ghent is located in Belgium, which belongs to the Schengen Zone. So if you have a non-visa exempt passport for Schengen countries, you will require a visa to travel. Learn more about the Schengen Visa here. If you have a European Union passport, you are, of course, visa-exempt.
Best time to visit Ghent?
“In season” in Belgium means from mid-April to mid-October. The peak of the tourist season is July and August (summer) when the weather is at its finest, but you’ll find Belgium every bit as attractive during other months.
Most tourists visit Ghent around July and August, but there’s no reason to discount September or May to June when the crowds will be thinner and the weather should be fine.
Ghent has several festivals and cultural events, so check ahead of time before going.
In January (every three years), the Ghent Light Festival takes place. The city becomes a stage for dazzling light installations and amazing shows. To see everything, you’ll need roughly two hours!
The summer months of July and August are the peak tourist season in Ghent, with the Jazz Festival being one of its highlights. In July, there is also a popular festival called The Ghent Festivities featuring performances from international artists.
If you’re in the area during December, you’ll notice that it’s been turned into a medieval Christmas fairytaile.
Top things to do in wintertime in Ghent
If your one day in Ghent falls during the winter, Korenmarkt will have plenty of options to keep you entertained, and during warmer months it is a great place to relax with a drink to reflect on your Ghent adventures.
During winter and Christmas time, Ghent is a real treat. There is a lovely Christmas market with more than 150 wooden huts spread out from Sint-Baafsplein, along the Botermarkt and Klein Turkije to the end of the Korenmarkt. You can wander among firs and pines, amble past stalls selling snacks and drinks, fancy trinkets and authentic crafts.
An ice rink can be found on the Emile Braunplein and the castle is immersed in a magical, Burgundian atmosphere. Learn more about winter guide in Ghent here.
Souvenirs to buy in Ghent
Don’t forget to pack these goodies from Ghent
- Belgian Chocolate
- Artwork and handicraft
- Some Belgian lace
- A bottle or two of beer
- A good bottle of Belgian whiskey
Safety in Ghent
I found Ghent to be very safe and welcoming. At the early morning hours, you will not find a lot of people on the streets, but it is safe to walk and admire some of the cities stunning buildings.
I personally have not experienced any theft or tourist ‘troubles’ in Ghent, so I can say it was safe. But follow general safety and precautionary measures at crowded locations like when taking a canal tour or wandering around
Evenings are quiet, but safe to take a stroll enjoy.
Where to go next after your one day in Ghent?
Because of Ghents awesome location, there are many other amazing cities that you can check out as well. Underneath are just a couple of cool options for you:
If you got a day to spare, what better way to do it but exploring more of beautiful Belgium. I suggest heading to the stunning city of Bruges. This city is one of those places that grabs you and will be in your hearth forever. From stunning buildings from the Middle Ages to impressive churches, museums and lots of delicious restaurants. This city has it all!
In my extensive Bruges one day itinerary, I will show my must-see recommendations, but also my things to see and do, what to eat, and some recommended hotels. If you have time Bruges is truly a must-see city and it will not disappoint. So I highly recommend checking it out.
I would also recommend checking to Brussels, the main capital of the country. With stunning historic buildings, delicious food and interesting artwork, there are lots of things to see and do in this amazing city. I have therefore created this handy 2-day Brussels itinerary for you if you are planning to check out this city.
If you want to explore some more of Europe, then underneath are a couple of awesome options:
- Rotterdam, The Netherlands | Home to incredible architecture, amazing food and harming neighbourhoods, you’ll want at least 1 day in Rotterdam.
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands | the capital city of the Netherlands and home to beautiful canals, historic buildings and incredible museums.
- London, UK | Spend 4 days in London exploring this stunning and imposing city.
- Paris, France | The city of lights is a bucket list city on many travellers! Home to the famous Eifel Tower, the best food and incredible historic buildings. This city has to be seen! Here is a handy 1 day Paris Itinerary, so you know all the must-see highlights.
ADDITIONAL EUROPE RESOURCES
- First-timers guide to Amsterdam
- The best day trips out of Amsterdam
- Cool things to do in London for Pop-culture fans
- The ultimate Istanbul travel guide
- First-time travellers guide to Rome
In my opinion, this is everything you need to see and do in Ghent. What are your best tips for things to do in Ghent? Let me know in the comments below. And thank you for reading my extensive guide to Ghent, a 1-day itinerary.
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