What to do in Ghent, Belgium: top activities and recommendations

Welcome to my guide to visiting Ghent, Belgium! This charming city, just half an hour from Brussels, stole my heart with its unique blend of stunning architecture, street art, delicious food, and quaint cobblestone streets. With so much to see and do, you’ll quickly fall in love with Ghent too. But what should you add to your Ghent itinerary?

In this article, I’ll share plenty of ideas for exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods and uncovering its hidden gems. I’ll also provide my top recommendations for great places to eat and stay during your weekend in Ghent. If you have any questions or need additional tips, feel free to ask in the comments below!

Visiting Ghent, Gent, Gand… A city with 3 names

Picture this: you excitedly tell your friends and family that you’re heading to Ghent, only to hear them say “Ghent? You mean Gent? Gand?”. It’s no secret that Ghent is not as well-known as its neighboring city, Bruges, with its charming canals. However, Ghent is quickly gaining popularity beyond the borders of its native Belgium. And as a testament to its worldly appeal, it has three different names! In French, it’s known as Gand, in Flemish it’s Gent, and in English, it’s Ghent.

Visiting Ghent in Belgium

As the capital of East Flanders, Ghent is a historic Flemish city with a charming old center that’s full of winding cobblestone streets and historic landmarks. It may surprise you to know that Ghent is also a vibrant and dynamic city, Belgium’s second-most populated city with almost 100,000 more inhabitants than Brussels! When you visit Ghent, you may find it hard to believe that such a bustling metropolis can feel like a small village.

Take a look at the map below to get your bearings:

If you’re wondering when to visit Ghent, it really depends on your expectations. As a northern city, it tends to rain frequently throughout the year (although April sees the least rainfall). It’s also rare for temperatures to get too hot. As long as you dress warmly, you can enjoy your visit year-round, and there are fewer crowds during the off-season compared to the busy summer months.

You can check the weather forecast here.

What to do in Ghent: must-see attractions

So, what are the top places to visit when exploring Ghent? The list is pretty long! Let’s take a tour of the must-see attractions, in no particular order:

The Belfry of Ghent

Located in the center of the city on Sint Baafsplein, a picturesque square lined with a tram line, the Belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 14th century. At the top sits a dragon, the symbol of Ghent.

Standing at nearly 300 feet tall, the tower can be climbed via stairs or by taking an elevator part of the way. From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Ghent and its surroundings in 360°!

Tickets and hoursAvailable online.

View from the belfry of Ghent, Belgium
View from the belfry

The monument is situated on Emile Braunplein (Emile Braun Square). In 2012, the city built a new hall with a strikingly modern design by local firm Robbrecht & Daem / Marie-José Van Hee. The hall spans about 131 feet, features a mix of wood, steel, and glass, and boasts 1,600 small windows that create an original lighting effect at night.

Municipal Hall in Ghent, Belgium
Municipal Hall

While the municipal hall isn’t universally loved, as its modern look is a bold departure from the historic district, it was nevertheless a finalist for a European architecture prize.

Saint Bavo’s Cathedral (Sint Baafskathedral)

As the oldest parish church in the city, Saint Bavo’s Cathedral is a must-see. Its beautiful architecture and numerous works of art, including Van Eyck’s famous altarpiece The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, make it a popular destination. This masterpiece is an extremely famous painting that has been stolen many times throughout history and is now displayed in a secure chapel.

Opening hours and tickets are available here.

The pretty Dutch Royal Theater is also located nearby, making it a great starting point for a walk through the historic center. During Christmas, the Ghent Christmas market takes place here, known to be one of the nicest in Belgium.

Saint Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent
Saint Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent

City Hall (Stadhuis)

The City Hall is a surprising building that mixes totally different architectural styles, which is partly due to the way power was managed centuries ago: part of the elected officials, the Keure aldermen, dealt with most administrative, financial and penal issues while the other part of the elected officials, the Parchons aldermen, were responsible for succession and guardianship matters.

The law required them to have separate buildings, which likely explains the presence of two distinct architectural styles: the flamboyant Gothic style, with statues of the Counts of Flanders, and the Renaissance style with many columns. The building houses magnificent rooms such as the Pacificatiezaal, and I highly recommend visiting it.

You need a guide to enter the building, and I suggest asking the Ghent Guides Association for group or private tours.

The City Hall in Ghent, Belgium
The City Hall (Stadhuis) in Ghent

At nightfall, its architectural wealth stands out, and the statues of the Counts of Flanders are clearly visible on the side of the building.

Statues of the Counts of Flanders on the front of the Stadhuis
Statues of the Counts of Flanders on the front of the City Hall (Stadhuis) in Ghent

The Vrijdagmarkt

The Vrijdagmarkt is a large square whose name means “Friday market” in Flemish. It has been home to a market every Friday morning since 1199, a tradition that still continues today. If you have the opportunity to spend a Friday in Ghent, it’s a great place to go and stroll through its alleys.

The Vrijdagmarkt in Ghent
The Vrijdagmarkt in Ghent

The Vrijdagmarkt has always been one of the most important places in Ghent’s political and social life. Most of the buildings that border the space date from the 18th century, with the exception of the Toreken tower, which can be seen in the photo and dates back to the 15th century. It contains a bell that rings to announce the beginning of the market.

The Vrijdagmarkt and the Toreken
The Vrijdagmarkt and the Toreken

There are also many nice buildings with typical local architecture, restaurants, cafes, and a huge statue of Jacob van Artevelde, who ruled the city and helped develop trade and industry in Ghent in the 14th century, having made a fortune in the cloth industry.

The statue of Jacob van Artevelde

More surprisingly, the Vrijdagmarkt also houses a gigantic socialist people’s house building that bears the motto “Workers of all countries, unite.” Ghent is often considered the cradle of Flemish socialism. The city had over 20,000 workers employed, often in precarious living conditions, and a workers’ resistance movement was born.

The socialist people's house in Ghent
The socialist people’s house in Ghent

Visit Ghent: Dulle Griet

Close to the Vrijdagmarkt, you can find an impressive red-orange cannon located on the banks of the local river, The Leie. Known as the Dulle Griet or “Mad Meg” in English, it refers to one of the illegitimate daughters of Charles V. There is also an excellent beer bar with the same name located nearby.

The cannon, located on the left in the picture below, weighed over 2520 stones and a single cannonball measured 25 feet in diameter and weighed 750 pounds! It is hard to imagine the amount of damage it could have caused, especially when we see children climbing on it today. Given that it dates back to the 15th century, it is a very robust piece of engineering.

Reflections on the Leie and the Dulle Griet on the left


Although small and not very photogenic, this square is home to several local food stands where you can try delicacies like cuberdons and Belgian waffles.

From the Groentenmarkt, you can see one of the facades of a building that overlooks the river on the other side: the Groot Vleeshuis, or Meat Market. Here it is, in the background of this picture:

Ambiance on the banks of the Leie and Ghent's Meat Market
Ambiance on the banks of the Leie and Ghent’s Meat Market

The Meat Market has existed for a very long time, and the current building was completed in 1419. Its purpose was to centralize the meat trade and ensure that no one sold spoiled meat, as it was forbidden to conduct this type of trade at home.

Discover Ghent’s Street Art in the Werregarenstraatje

Ghent is a true mecca for street art, there’s so much to see around every corner. The Werregarenstraatje, or graffiti alley, is a must-visit. It’s a street entirely dedicated to artists who can come and create freely, so you never see the same thing from one visit to the next.

Werregarenstraatje, the graffiti street
Werregarenstraatje, the graffiti street

The Riverbanks: Graslei and Korenlei

The name “Ghent” comes from a word meaning “confluence,” and the city is located at the confluence of the Scheldt and Leie rivers. As a result, the riverbanks and neighborhoods along the river are essential to Ghent’s character. You can even take a three-quarter hour cruise on the river.

In the historic center, you’ll find two quays facing each other: the Korenlei on the left bank and the Graslei on the right bank. This area is one of the oldest parts of the city, with many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages that lend it a lot of charm. Visiting Ghent at night allows you to admire the beautiful facades of the Graslei reflected in the water.

Facades in the Graslei district in Ghent
Facades in the Graslei district in Ghent

The word “Graslei” means “Herb Quay,” and it’s the district that’s located on the same side as the belfry and the cathedral. The word “Korenlei” means “Grain Quay,” and it’s where the city’s port was located. Many of the beautiful facades show traces of the time when Ghent was an extremely active commercial port that levied a tax on all goods that passed through. There were many warehouses in those days, and some of the facades are built slightly forward, as they had pulleys to hoist the grain bags from the merchant ships more easily.

Walking along the quays is a must, and there are plenty of cafes to enjoy the view and the relaxed atmosphere. Some buildings still have names that evoke the commercial activity of a bygone era, such as the House of the Grain Measurers (Korenmetershuis) and the House of the Wheat Step (Spijker).

Explore Ghent’s Patershol medieval district

The Patershol is a charming medieval district with streets that have remained unchanged for centuries. You can find the Counts of Flanders castle here, which is definitely worth a visit.

The Lys River from Patershol in Ghent
The Lys River (Leie) from Patershol in Ghent

This area is full of quaint cobblestone streets, and there are many restaurants and small shops, including the famous Temmerman confectionery, which should not be missed if you have a sweet tooth.

Patershol district
The Patershol district

The Counts of Flanders Castle (Gravensteen)

The Counts of Flanders Castle, or Gravensteen, is a must-visit when in Ghent! It’s a genuine medieval castle complete with a dungeon, well-preserved walls, and by climbing to the top of the dungeon, visitors can enjoy a stunning view of Ghent and take many photos.

Counts of Flanders Castle (Gravensteen)
The Counts of Flanders Castle (Gravensteen)

One of the most amazing things about this castle is that it’s located in the heart of the city. It’s a truly remarkable sight to come across a medieval castle at the corner of a street, surrounded by streetcar lines. You can check out prices and schedules here.

At night, the castle is even more spectacular, thanks to the lighting that gives it a majestic look.

The Counts of Flanders Castle at night
The Counts of Flanders Castle at night

Next to the castle, there is the pretty Sint-Veerleplein, a square with an original and touching peculiarity. Look carefully at the streetlights. If you see them flashing, it means that a new birth has taken place in the city of Ghent. The city’s hospitals have a special button to activate these lights. Every time a mother gives birth, the arrival of the new baby in Ghent is announced by the lighting of the streetlights.

In the past, this square was used as a fish market, which is why you can see a beautiful facade representing Neptune.

Sint-Veerleplein in Ghent

The Bridge and the Church of Saint-Michel

The bridge spans the river and offers a magnificent view of the three main towers of the city: St. Nicholas church, the Belfry of Ghent, and the tower of the Cathedral. As there is very little traffic, you can easily stop to take pictures of this unique perspective!

View of the three main towers of Ghent

The Church of Saint-Michel gave its name to the bridge and could have been a beautiful example of a grandiose project. In 1440, it was decided to build a church here to replace an old chapel that was frequently affected by fires. But the construction site was not completed until 1825!

What was originally supposed to be a very ambitious project ended up being a mess almost 400 years later for budgetary reasons! Originally, the church was supposed to be the tallest in Ghent, measuring 440 feet in height, with a tower that surpassed that of the Cathedral (292 feet).

However, due to budgetary constraints, the monument was completed hastily, realizing that if the original roof had been built, it would probably have collapsed because the structure would not have been able to support its weight. The roof is finally only 79 feet high.

The Saint-Michel Bridge with the Church on the right
The Saint-Michel Bridge with the Church on the right

The Birds of Mr. Maeterlinck

As you continue your walk, you will come across a magical light installation in the dark night: The Birds of Mr. Maeterlinck (address: Jakobijnenstraat 2). These blue birds, installed in a tree above the river, were created by a French studio, Pitaya (in Lyon).

The birds of Mr. Maeterlinck in Ghent
The birds of Mr. Maeterlinck in Ghent

They refer to a book by Maurice Maeterlinck, a writer born in Ghent and author of a play called “The Blue Bird.” Maeterlinck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and 100 years later, this tribute to him was created and unveiled to the public during the Ghent Light Festival in 2012. Since then, the origami birds have become a permanent installation on the waterfront.

By the way, if you’re in the mood to visit Ghent outside of the tourist season, this Festival of Light is usually held in late January/early February, when the lighting becomes even more magical.

Visiting Ghent: churches galore

During my visit to Ghent, I was particularly struck by the number of churches and places of worship present in the city, and you’re likely to stumble upon them when exploring the city. I have mentioned some of them in this article.

The Sint-Elisabethkerk (dedicated to Saint Elisabeth), the Sint-Michielskerk (Michael), the Sint-Niklaaskerk (Nicholas), the Sint-Jacobskerk (James), the Sint-Baafskathedraal (Bavon), the Sint-Annakerk (Anne), the Sint-Pietersabdij (Saint Peter’s Abbey), the Sint-Pauluskerk (Saint Paul’s Church)… it’s impossible to imagine a stroll through the streets without coming across one of them! All these steeples are an integral part of the charm of the city of Ghent.

In addition to the cathedral that I mentioned earlier, you may want to take a look at St. Nicholas Church. It is situated in the heart of the old town and was the favorite church of the Ghent merchants (perhaps because it was located right next to the Korenmarkt, the grain market).

Bubbles floating over St. Nicholas Church
Bubbles floating over St. Nicholas Church

Even today, the building is at the center of Ghent’s activity and there is a lot of activity around the square: between the passing streetcars, the stores, the cafes, the people who settle down to play music or make soap bubbles on the square, and the horse-drawn carriages that circulate, it’s very lively!

The perspective is interesting because St. Nicholas Church is located in the continuation of the belfry and the cathedral. It has the peculiarity of having a tower with large openings that let natural light into the church.

A carriage on Korenmarkt square
A carriage on Korenmarkt square

I also suggest listening to the bells ringing on Sunday morning because there is a very nice carillon. Here’s a small sample of the sound:

The Saint Peter’s Abbey is also very impressive in a different way: due to its size. I was walking to the train station when I stumbled upon a gigantic square that was 200 meters long, which looked even bigger because it was totally deserted! In the middle of it was the huge St. Peter’s Abbey…

St. Peter's Abbey in Ghent
St. Peter’s Abbey in Ghent

The Small Beguinage of Our Lady Ter Hoyen

Ghent is full of evidence of a marked religious activity and you should not miss this unusual place: the small Beguinage of Our Lady Ter Hoyen (also known as the “Klein Begijnhof” in Flemish).

Located away from the city center, the small beguinage of Ghent is a bit like a city within a city. You enter a small, very discreet street that leads to a large square with a surprise – a church, Our Lady of Hoyen! All around, there are many small houses.

Klein Begijnhof - The Small Beguinage of Ghent
Klein Begijnhof – The Small Beguinage of Ghent

The place has existed since 1235 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was used to house around 175 beguines, women who decided to live like nuns without taking vows as a nun would do. They were often very religious women who wanted to keep a certain freedom to carry out charitable actions more easily than if they were locked up in a monastery.

Each beguine could have her own house and still belong to a community. Most of the beguines were single or widows, but some could have husbands.

Beguinages existed in most Flemish cities, but only 27 remain today. Thirteen of them are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the small Beguinage of Ghent (the large beguinage is not classified).

The beguinage has gradually disappeared, and the last beguine in Ghent died in 2005. The small houses are now rented to private individuals or artists who install their studio there with a long lease called an “emphyteutic lease” (it is a lease “for life”, of generally 99 years). Don’t hesitate to go and have a closer look at them if you visit Ghent.

Klein Begijnhof - The Small Beguinage of Ghent
Klein Begijnhof – The Small Beguinage of Ghent

Night walk in Ghent

If you spend a weekend in Ghent, you can’t miss a night walk!

Visiting Ghent at night in Belgium, an unforgettable walk

In 1998, the city decided to set up an ambitious plan to light up the monuments at night. The idea was to highlight their architectural beauty and provide a great sense of security to people walking around at dusk. It is also a matter of saving energy since electricity consumption has been reduced by 20% since 2008.

This “Light Plan” has since received several international awards and little by little, the city is extending it to less touristy areas such as the port area.

In Ghent, many places close earlier compared to France for example, but this provides the opportunity to go for a stroll in the historical center, which becomes tranquil as the sun goes down.

To make the most of the city’s lights, I recommend that you download the map of the night walk in the streets of Ghent.

Other places of interest

At every corner, you will find new buildings with amazing architecture!

One example is the Feestlokaal Vooruit, built in 1913 in what was then a working-class neighborhood. It allowed people with modest incomes to attend cultural activities at low prices.

The Feestlokaal Vooruit in Ghent
The Feestlokaal Vooruit in Ghent

The bourgeoisie frequented the Citadel Park for entertainment.

The Citadelpark in winter
The Citadelpark in winter

When I passed by, it was shrouded in thick fog, and there were chickens and roosters roaming around.

Un coq se promène dans le parc de la Citadelle
A rooster walks in the Citadel Park

While I wouldn’t put this park among the must-sees if you visit Ghent, I personally like to venture beyond the tourist hotspots to soak up the atmosphere in places frequented by locals. By letting yourself be carried away by chance, you sometimes come across places you don’t like so much. It happened to me in Ghent, too, while walking on the Achtervisserij, a path along the river that wasn’t really worth the detour… but it allowed me to appreciate the city even more because I had discovered its different nuances!

Among the places of interest that might appeal to you are the Tower of Books in the university district (a giant library housing more than 3 million books) and many museums.

Museums worth visiting include:

  • The Stadsmuseum Gent, a museum dedicated to the history of the city (address: Godshuizenlaan 2).
  • The Industry Museum (Minnemeers 10), located in a former textile factory, which looks back on this activity that had its heyday in the region.
  • The Museum of Fine Arts (Fernand Scribedreef 1).

There is also a design museum, but in my opinion, it is not a must-see attraction.

Another place worth mentioning is the nature reserve at the gates of Ghent (Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen)! You can also enjoy nature at the Botanical Garden of the University.

Visiting Ghent with a guide

To discover all these places of interest and visit Ghent with anecdotes and explanations, I suggest booking a walking tour with a guide, like this one offered by Buendia Tours: the tour lasts about 2 hours, a great way to discover the city before exploring the neighborhoods independently.

You can also opt for a day trip from Brussels: you will visit both Bruges, with its canals, and Ghent with an English-speaking guide.

How long to stay in Ghent?

Visiting Ghent in two days already gives you a good overview of the city, provided you are prepared to walk a lot because there is a lot to see! If you want to discover the architecture, enjoy the local life, including terraces and good restaurants, while visiting some museums and taking time to stroll around, plan on spending 3 days.

It is also important to note that in Ghent, everything closes very early. Most monuments and public places close between 5 and 6 pm, including on Saturdays. Restaurants also tend to open and close earlier than in France, for example. This is an important factor to consider because if you sleep in, the day will pass very quickly!

Nevertheless, it remains a university city, so you can easily find bars to go out in the evening, such as Missy Sippy, De Alchemist, and The Glengarry. Additionally, the Royal Dutch Theatre offers nice shows.

Visiting Ghent in 1 day: is it possible?

If you want to visit Ghent in 1 day, I suggest spending some time walking around to see the main places of interest mentioned in the article, such as the banks of the Lys and the historical districts with their splendid facades. Then, depending on your interests, choose a place to visit in-depth, such as the Castle of the Counts of Flanders.

How to get to Ghent?

Taking the Train to Ghent

Ghent is only 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Lille (France) by train and just a little over 2 hours from Paris (with connections in Lille or Brussels). Since the city is easily explored on foot or by bike, it’s a good opportunity to leave your car behind!

Personally, I didn’t use the SNCF (the French railway company), but the SNCB (the Belgian railway company) to book my ticket because it was much cheaper. I paid only 65 euros round trip from Paris to Ghent. I used the website Omio to compare prices.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the splendid building of Gent Sint Pieters train station, which is a listed monument.

Gent Sint Pieters train station in Ghent, Belgium

Be sure to look up at the ceiling!

Gent Sint Pieters train station - an architecture not to be missed

Gent Sint Pieters train station - the ceiling

Whether you’re in the lobby or the Starbucks in the station, the setting is quite magical! If you need to withdraw money, buy a snack or take a bathroom break, you’ll find everything you need.

Coming to Ghent by car

By car, it takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes from Paris and only 1 hour from Lille.

It’s important to know that the city discourages the use of polluting vehicles. Most of the center of Ghent (everything inside the “R40 ring,” the road that surrounds the center) is a low-emission zone.

The rules also apply to foreign vehicles. You must first check your vehicle online to see if it’s allowed in the zone or not. Then, there are two possibilities:

  • If your vehicle has low emissions and is therefore allowed, you can register it online. This is free of charge and will be valid in all low-emission zones in Flanders.
  • If your vehicle is considered too polluting, you’ll have to pay a special permit fee.

Make sure you do this carefully because the fine for not complying can be very high. Note that if this happens to you, you have 30 days to register late and avoid paying the full fine, although you will still have to pay a significant late registration fee.

Getting around once you’re there

You can buy public transport tickets at the Lijnwinkels (these are the sales points of the transport company De Lijn; here are the addresses of those in Ghent). When you leave the station, go to the left towards the bus station, where you’ll find a small prefab sales point. There are also vending machines available.

You can purchase single tickets that are valid for a maximum of 60 minutes, during which time you can use all the connections you need. After 60 minutes, if you’re still in the middle of your journey, you can complete your trip as long as there are no more connections. There are also day tickets, among others.

The Ghent tramway running in the Veldstraat
The Ghent tramway running in the Veldstraat

It’s much more cost-effective to purchase the CityCard Gent: it’s a pass designed especially for tourists that includes both public transport and admission to all the city’s museums and public monuments (including temporary exhibitions). The CityCard Gent also allows you to enjoy a short boat cruise (provided by Rederij De Gentenaer and Gent-Watertoerist) and to use the “water streetcar” (a boat shuttle with 6 landing stages, only open between April and October).

It’s worth noting that admission to the monuments often costs around €10 per adult. The CityCard is sold for €38 for 48 hours and €44 for 72 hours, so you can be sure that it will pay for itself! You can find this card online, as well as at the Tourist Office, some hotels, and the participating museums. I recommend considering what you want to visit beforehand: as soon as there are more than three monuments on your list, the CityCard is generally a cost-effective choice!

You can also rent a bike: there are “Blue Bikes” available at the train station (more information here) or “Donkey Republic” bikes (information here).

Accommodation in Ghent: The best hotels

For accommodation, there are many great hotels in Ghent, and I suggest choosing one near the historic center, so that you can easily explore the city on foot without being disturbed by noise, as Ghent is generally very quiet at night.

Here are some recommendations:

  • The Harmony Hotel, a family-run hotel with a warm and modern decor located in the heart of the Patershol district;
  • The Ghent Marriott, which overlooks the Korenlei and offers rooms with river views;
  • The Carlton, located right next to the train station. It’s a 15-20 minute walk to the center, but prices are often more affordable as a result.
  • The Pillows Hotel, a 4-star hotel close to the center with a beautiful building and modern, neat decoration.
  • 1898 The Post, a unique hotel with characterful decoration, located in an old building with typical charm on the right bank of the Lys. It even has a restaurant and cocktail bar “at home”.

Restaurants and delicacies in Ghent

You can’t visit Ghent without indulging in the local cuisine!

Local specialties and restaurants

First and foremost, you absolutely have to try the waterzooi! This is a typical Belgian dish that actually originated in Ghent. Originally, it was a fish dish, but nowadays it is prepared with chicken instead. Apparently, this is because fishermen could no longer catch eels from the local river. Chicken is cooked with vegetables in a broth to which an egg yolk and/or cream is added, sometimes white wine…

It is a comforting family dish, perfect for cold days. I tried the waterzooi at De Rechters, a restaurant located next to Saint Bavo Cathedral, which is famous for serving great local food. The dish was indeed hearty and well-seasoned! You can also go to the restaurant ‘t Klokhuys.

The waterzooi, a typical Ghent dish
The waterzooi, a typical Ghent dish

If you’re a food lover, Ghent has plenty of great places to eat. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Amadeus for meat lovers: Located in the Patershol district on Plotersgracht, Amadeus serves all-you-can-eat ribs with baked potatoes, and Belgian specialties. It’s definitely touristy, but we are tourists, right?
Amadeus restaurant in Ghent, for ribs lovers
Amadeus restaurant in Ghent, for ribs lovers
  • Mokabon… but not only! Mokabon is well-known for serving the best coffee in town, but I also recommend Labath café, a popular spot with locals that’s perfect for coffee lovers.
  • Caffé Rosario: A great spot for those with a sweet tooth! While I prefer savory foods myself, Caffé Rosario came highly recommended for its huge gourmet drinks like coffee, chocolate, cappuccino with a mountain of Chantilly, speculoos, and other toppings.
  • Dulle Griet: Now, let’s move on to beer! Dulle Griet, located on Vrijdagmarkt, is the go-to spot for beer lovers, with around 250 different beers to choose from. Order the biggest beer, the “Dulle Griet Max,” and you’ll be asked to participate in the shoe ritual. What’s that, you ask? Well, in exchange for your beer, you’ll be asked to provide a shoe as a deposit for the drink! It’s a beer tower, and since the container is expensive, you’ll be asked for a shoe, which will be placed in a small basket suspended in the air until you finish your drink. It’s quite amusing!

By the way, if you’re a beer lover or just want to take advantage of your visit to discover some new brews, you might be interested in this guided tour of Belgian beer. The tour includes a visit to three bars and a tasting of five Belgian craft beers.

Chocolate and sweets

If you’re still up for it, let’s continue exploring Ghent from a culinary perspective! Head to the square where the cathedral is located (again!) and check out the excellent Luc Van Hoorebeke chocolate factory. They can create boxes of Belgian chocolates for you at a price that I found very reasonable, and the service was friendly and pleasant.

For sweets, you can’t go wrong with Temmerman in the Patershol district: this confectionery has been around since the 19th century and is the perfect place to pick up some typical Belgian sweets!

One of the local specialties is the cuberdon, which is a cone-shaped candy with a liquid center, traditionally flavored with raspberry, but nowadays there are many alternative versions available.

If you bring some back in your luggage as a souvenir, be aware that they don’t keep for very long, up to three weeks maximum. You can also find them at street stalls in places such as Groentenmarkt.

A cuberdon stand in Ghent, Belgium
A cuberdon stand

And let’s not forget about the waffles. You can find them pretty much everywhere, especially at Mokabon.

Are you in the mood for a good waffle?
Are you in the mood for a good waffle?

Shopping in Ghent

Aside from food, all the big international brands can be found in Ghent, particularly along Veldstraat. However, the city also boasts many small independent stores. As a fan of hats, I particularly enjoyed visiting the Gelaude hat shop, which was founded in 1893 (located at Hoogpoort 21). I was also drawn to The Fallen Angels (Jan Breydelstraat 29), a shop that sells vintage movie posters and old toys.

For something different, there’s even a cat café where you can grab a drink, purchase items for your feline friend, or even adopt a cat (although admittedly, it’s a bit tricky for tourists!). The café is called DreamCATcher (visit their website at wearedreamcatchers.be).

If you want to explore more shops, be sure to check out the tourist office website for a list of good addresses.

Is visiting Ghent a good idea? My opinion!

I highly recommend visiting Ghent, Belgium if you have the chance. The people are welcoming and the city is charming. If I had to criticize, I would say that it can be quite crowded. I visited Ghent in the middle of February, well before the start of the tourist season, when boat rides and outdoor terraces are packed. Even so, I found that some narrow streets were still quite busy.

Be sure to pick up the small guide to the city from the tourist office or your hotel. The booklet is very well designed and informative, providing plenty of information about the must-see landmarks with just the right amount of history. The tourist office also runs a fantastic Instagram account.

Ghent is a city that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, offering plenty of opportunities for relaxation, great food, beautiful photo opportunities, strolls along the water, and visits to various places of interest. In summary, “Ontdek Gent!” (Discover Ghent).

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