Top 5 things to do in Ghent - Belgium’s Most Underrated Destination

October 14, 2018

If you haven’t heard about Ghent, you’re not alone!. It’s one of the most underrated cities in Europe. When it comes to Belgium, most of the visitors don’t explore beyond Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp; but with a rich medieval history and stunning architecture, Ghent is so enchanting and is much underrated in my view!

Why visit Ghent?
From gorgeous medieval castles to famous fruity beers, intriguing ancient architecture to modern graffiti street art, beautiful canals and bursting great food, Ghent has a little for everyone. Here are the Top-5 attractions:

#1. Visit Gravensteen (The Castle of the Counts)

This incredible medieval castle holds a very turbulent past, closely entangled with a fiery political and social history of the city. It is the only remaining medieval castle with a moat and largely intact defense system in Flanders. 

The origins of the Gravensteen dates back to the 8th century, (which was burnt down in the 11th century). The structure present today was built in 1180 which now houses a Museum of Arms & Judicial Objects. Don’t miss to witness the old-age torture devices on the top floor which displays various weapons used in warfare and other apparatuses used for punishment and torture during medieval times. (Not for the faint-hearted though💀).

It’s also one of the great places to see the 360° views of the beautiful city; ; from here you can witness all the iconic places. 👉 Address: Sint-Veerleplein 11, 9000 

#2. Take a photograph at Sint-Michielshelling

Perhaps, most of the pictures of Ghent we see all over the internet are taken from this St Michael’s Bridge. This bridge gives an excellent view of all the St Nicholas’ Church (Sint Niklaaskirk), the Belfry of Ghent, St Bavo’s Cathedral and down the river to Korenmarkt – all aligned for a great photo opportunity. Don’t forget your camera!

Address: Sint-Michielsplein, 9000 Gent

#3 Sint-Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo’s Cathedral)

This 12th century 89-meter-tall Gothic Cathedral has defined the skyline of the Ghent city for ages. Today it houses antique works by esteemed painters, including the coveted and much traversed “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by the Van Eyck brothers. 👉 Address: Sint-Baafsplein, 9000. 👉 more interesting history & practical info: here.

#4. Ghent Belfry (Belfort)

Looming over the city of Ghent are three magnificent medieval towers; the one in the center is the 91-meter tall belfry, which also makes it the tallest belfry in Belgium. Constructed between 1313 and 1380 and now designated as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the belfry through the centuries has not only served as a bell tower for announcements but has also acted as a watchtower for the city.

If you have some extra time, make sure you climb all the way up to enjoy some of the most fantastic vistas of the city skyline and the horizon.

#5. Stadhuis

The Town Hall of the city of Ghent is an architectural wonder, was originally built in old Gothic style and later on completed/renovated in Renaissance style. Once you’re out walking the cobblestone streets of the city center, make sure you walk your way through the Town Hall to witness the detailing of this architectural marvel.

Inside is equally interesting with wooden vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, a wedding chapel, a labyrinth, and more. Not on many travelers’ radar, the town hall is relatively unvisited, but if you’re spending two days in the beautiful city of Ghent then you must visit this stunning example of the medieval era.

If you still have some free time left, here are some more interesting things to do:
  • Enjoy the Canal Cruise
  • Visit Saint Nicholas’ Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk)
  • Discover the Graffiti Street art at Werregarenstraat
  • Explore Butchers’ Hall (Groot Vleeshuis) on Groentenmarkt

What to Eat & Drink:

Ghent offers an exceptional and affordable taster of Flemish cuisine (locals say that it combines French delicacy with northern European sturdiness). From a variety of local fruity beers, fries, and waffles to a multi-course buffet, you have so many things to try.

Another interesting fact: Ghent is often referred as “The Vegetarian Capital of Europe”. On every Thursday, over 100 restaurants, 20 hotels, and more than 50 percent of Ghent’s population go vegetarian!.

There are many interesting vegetarian serving like kosher vegan pork chops, lentil soup, vegan chocolate cake, tofu stir-fry, chickpea curry, beetroot stew, and in some cases, award-winning seven-course vegetarian dinners.

Are you a vegetarian, then you MUST visit on a Thursday. Here are a few well-known restaurants to try:
  • Avalon: Geldmunt 32, 9000 Gent, Belgium
  • Komkommertijd : Reep 14B, 9000 Gent, Belgium

How to reach Ghent

With two railway stations in the city and the international ‘Brussels Airport’ at Zaventem less than an hour’s drive away, Ghent is well-connected and easy to reach.

  • Ghent does not have an airport of its own but is easy to reach from Brussels Airports (Zaventem & Luchthaven). There are several trains & bus connections available from the airports to Ghent city center.
  • Ghent has two stations: Gent-Sint-Pieters and Gent-Dampoort. The main station, Gent-Sint-Pieters, has railway links to all the cities in Belgium.
  • By Car: Ghent is just a 45-minute drive from Bruges and Brussels (both 53 km) and less than an hour from Antwerp (60 km). There's plenty of parking facility (check out here). However, I would strongly advise parking in one of the Park & Ride (P+R) location and hop-on to a tram to reach the city center. Parking at P+R is free, here are all the details of all the P+R locations in Ghent)

Have you been to Ghent? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! If you found this helpful please share it !

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