When thinking about Belgium, the “three pillars of local tourism” that usually come to mind are Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp. In this case, it is worth thinking again – and you will remember Ghent. This city is a unique architectural ensemble, in the center of which is the Cathedral of St. Bavo (16th century) with exquisite murals and stained-glass windows. It is in it that the famous masterpiece of Jean Van Eyck “Adoration of the Lamb” is stored. Ghent is also famous for its fun student life, an abundance of pubs, excellent museums and the cozy atmosphere of a medieval town.
How to get there
According to simplyyellowpages, the easiest way to get to Ghent is by train. The main railway station is named after St. Peter – Sint-Peters (St Pietersstation). It looks more like a fortress than a train station, and is located 2 km south of the city center. Some trains also stop at Damport station (Gent-Dampoort), which lies to the east of the center of Ghent.
From Sint Pieters station, trains leave every half an hour to Antwerp (8-10 EUR, 45 minutes), Bruges (5-7 EUR, 20 minutes), Brussels (8-10 EUR, 45 minutes), and Ostend (8-10 EUR, 50 minutes).
The Eurolines office is located 100 meters from Sint Peters Station (Koningin Elisabethlaan 73), where you can buy tickets and immediately take your seat – buses throughout Europe depart from there.
The city has a developed public transport system: these are buses, trams and trolleybuses. The tariff system for all modes of transport is the same. Tickets can be bought from vending machines at stops (1.4 EUR per trip), from the driver (3 EUR), at newsstands, or at special Lijnwinkel kiosks. The latter also give free maps of the city with all routes. Free buses run at night, operating hours: from 23:30 to 02:30 on Fri and Sat – especially for “walking” individuals.
There are Lijnwinkel kiosks at the main station (from 7 am to 7 pm Mon-Fri) and at the Korenmarkt square (from 7 to 7 on weekdays and from 10:30 to 17:30 on Sat).
Travel cards for 10 trips are also sold, which cost 14 EUR.
The historical center of Ghent is small, it is most convenient to explore it on foot, but both railways. the station – where most tourists arrive – are located quite far from the center. For example, it will be easier to get from Sint Peters station by tram number 1, and from Damport station – by trolley bus number 3. Tram numbers 1,10,11,12 and 13 also lead to the city center.
You can rent a bike from Biker (Steendam 16; half day/full day 6.50/ 9 EUR; opening hours: 9-12:30 and from 13:30-18:00 Tue-Fri, until 17:00 on Sat).
Cuisine and restaurants
Belgium is famous for its beer, and Ghent is no exception. For authentic pubs, head to St. Veerleplein (in front of the castle), St. James Church (especially on weekends) or the student quarter around Blandijnberg, near the School of Art and Philosophy, easily recognizable by the 64-meter Art Deco Library Tower.
Suggestions: For students, check out Overpoortstraat with 34 bars of all colors and sizes. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, Sodom and Gomorrah is going on here, as on Tuesday the teachers do not let them go – after which young minds rest for two nights in a row. The most famous venues are: Decadance (house, techno, drum&bass), Boom Boom (good old rock and roll), Den Drummer (rock and metal), Twieoo (new wave), Cuba Libre (or Puta Libre with R&B). Notable nearby are Porter House (Stalhof 1) and Plan B, a typical quiet bar with a medieval atmosphere and charming river views (Verlorenkost 17).
Belgium is famous for its beer, and Ghent is no exception. For authentic pubs, head to St. Veerleplein.
We move on: in the center, near the castle, they are waiting – they can’t wait for their revelers Waterhuis aan de Bierkant at Groentenmarkt 9 – an exclusively tourist place, but here they pour as many as 400 varieties of Belgian beer. Het Galgenhuis nearby also offers a large selection of draft and bottled beers, but in a quieter setting. ‘t Dreupelkot at Groentenmarkt 12 is 200 varieties of “Enever” (local vodka). Headless and persistent people should try pepper (if anything, we warned you!) The cost is about 2 EUR per glass. Another notable place is Hot Club de Gand (Schuddevisstraatje – Groentenmarkt 15b), known for its cozy atmosphere and jazz concerts. Which are held with no less frequency in Dammberd, on the Korenmarkt square.
Near the Church of St. James, we can recommend Charlatan (Vlasmarkt 6), where live performances are held; Jos (Vlasmarkt 7), Bar des Amis (Vlasmarkt 5), Kinky Star (Vlasmarkt 9), ‘t Begin Van ‘t Einde (Vlasmarkt 14) and the bar with the plain name Video (Oude Beestenmarkt 7). All of them lead a regular “concert life”.
Something special is worth looking for in the pub Herberg De Dulle Griet (Vrijdagmarkt 50). Local beer is entirely strong, rich and quite refined. For example, you can try Guillotine (9.3%), Delirium Tremens (9.5%) and the most “strong” Ghent beer with the telling name Piraat (10.5%).
Markets and markets of Ghent
Flowers, birds or just fresh lettuce are all easy to find in Ghent, as every day is a market day in this city. And if from Monday to Saturday you can catch only one, then Sunday will give shopaholics the pleasure of strolling through at least six markets.
The flower market at Kouter is open from Mon to Sun from 7:00 to 13:00. The flea market can only be found on Fri, Sat and Sun from 8 am to 1 pm at Bij St.-Jacobs / Beverhoutplein. Find fresh vegetables, fruits and cheese at the Sint-Michielsplein on Sundays from 7:30 to 13:00. Birds? If you please: on Vrijdagmarkt on Sun from 7:00 to 13:00. Small livestock and poultry are sold on Sundays at the Oude Beestenmarkt from 7 am to 1 pm.
Handmade souvenirs can be found at the Groentenmarkt from 1/04 to 30/09 on Sat-Sun and bank holidays from 10:00 am to 18:00 pm (excluding Ghent Festival days). Bio-organic food – in the same place at the Groentenmarkt, but on Fridays from 7:30 to 13:00. Used books and “small” antiques – on Ajuinlei on Sun from 9:00 to 13:00. And second-hand bikes (well, you never know what a tourist can think of?) at Oude Beestenmarkt on Sun from 7:00 to 13:00.
Entertainment and attractions in Ghent
Saint Bavo’s Cathedral is part of one of the so-called “three towers of Ghent”. The other two are the Bell Tower and the Church of St. Nicholas. In the center is one of the symbols of the city – St. Michael’s Bridge, thrown over the Fox Canal, as well as the Watch Tower and the covered cloth market Lakenhalle. Another spectacular attraction of the city is the castle of the Counts of Flanders. In its interior there is a museum of the history of prisons with an impressive collection of medieval instruments of torture.
The main attractions of Ghent: the street of old Grasley houses, the Tower of the University Library, St. Peter’s Abbey, the main square of the city Vriydagmarkt (“Friday Market”), the town hall on Hoogpoort Street, the castle of Gerard the Devil, the Church of St. James and the austere building of the Opera on Brabantdam.
Fans of just wandering around the city will also find a lot of interesting things in Ghent: for example, the Veldstraat pedestrian street, where old houses and private mansions of the 18th century are interspersed with fashionable shops. Very close to the city are the castles of Laarne, Van Oudonk and Vondelgem, which at one time served to protect Ghent.
Finally, you should definitely take a ride along the canals of Ghent; five companies in the city offer daily excursions. As a rule, the captain of the ship acts as his guide. Cost from 7 EUR adults, 4 EUR children under 12 years old.
De Bootjes van Gent organizes river walks through the historic center of the city, focusing on interesting folklore features. You can also order lunch on board. Departure from Korenlei, tours run from March 1 to November 14 every day from 10 am to 6 pm.
Ghent Water Tourist seems to specialize in everything from traditional city center tours to fun-filled champagne parties on board. You can ride both on ordinary boats and on an old water bus from 1971. Departure from Graslei from March 1 to October 31 from 10 am to 6 pm, from November 1 to February 28 from 11 am to 4 pm.
Flowers, birds or just fresh lettuce are all easy to find in Ghent, as every day is a market day in this city.
The “highlight” of Rederij De Gentenaer is chocolate tours or birthday parties for kids on board. Departure from Groentenmarkt/Vleeshuisbrug from 1 April to 15 October from 10 am to 5 pm, from 16 October to 31 March on Sat-Sun and public holidays from 11 am to 4 pm.
The company with the uncomplicated name Boat in Ghent, in addition to traditional sightseeing tours, offers an eco-trip during which tourists will learn everything about the flora and fauna of the region, as well as frolic on a picnic. Departure from Kraanlei from April 1 to October 3 every day from 10 to 6.
Viadagio vzw are cozy wooden boats for 6-12 people that will take tourists along the historic canals of Ghent to the creak of aspen (or maybe fir) masts and sides. Departure from Zuivelbrug.
Tickets for all excursions can be bought directly at the pier before departure, it is not necessary to book in advance.
Fans of wandering through museums will also find a lot of interesting things in Ghent: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Industrial Archeology and Textiles, the City Museum… The Design Museum (Museum Voor Vormgeving) deserves special mention, where you can see a lot of interesting things from the time of the Renaissance to today, hidden behind the facade of an 18th century building. Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Retro (including sofas of the 70s familiar even to us) and similar “smart words” will finally appear before you in all their 3-d splendor. Entrance 8 EUR, address: Jan Breydelstraat 5, opening hours: 10:00-18:00 Tue-Sun. Read more on the Ghent Museums page.
All museums in Ghent for one price! 30 EUR and the most interesting and main sites of the city are in the “pocket” of the tourist (including temporary exhibitions). In addition, the city card provides tourists with the opportunity to use public transport for free, which is very convenient: tram line number 1 will take curious travelers along all the most important museums in the city.
The city card of Ghent is valid for 2-3 days from the date indicated personally by the tourist on the back, so you can even buy it “for future use”. You can buy the card at the information office, some museums, hotels and De Lijn kiosks. The CityCard includes: Design Museum, Castle of the Counts of Flanders, Museum of Fine Arts, STAM City Museum, St. Peter’s Abbey and much more.