Two Days In Ghent, Belgium: A Complete Itinerary For The Fairytale City

If you’re travelling in Belgium or looking for a cool city-break alternative to Brussels, why not check out Ghent, the capital of the East Flanders province? Two days is enough to get to see the best of Ghent, but your stay there will no doubt stick in your mind for a long time. I was in Ghent for two days and that was all it took to fall a little bit in love with the city’s architecture, ambience and penchant for sweet treats.

It’s a city that has an illumination plan to keep everyone safe and to cast its architecture in the best light. It’s a university town where the student population congregates along the waters’ edge in the evenings. It’s a place where everyone cycles – in fact, I hardly saw any cars in the city centre during my weekend in Ghent. It’s this slower pace that makes Ghent so appealing (particularly if you’ve come from heaving Brussels). Ghent is surprisingly un-touristy, despite having a plethora of tourist attractions, but that’s what makes its atmosphere so relaxing.

Two days in Ghent itinerary what to do

I highly recommend getting the Ghent City Card if you’re going to be in Ghent for two or three days, because it gives you entry to all of Ghent’s top attractions. It costs 30 Euros for 48 hours, or 35 Euros for 72 hours. You can even use it to hire a bike!

Here’s my itinerary for two days in Ghent, in case you want to copy my trip or need some inspiration for things to do in Ghent!

What to do if you have two days in Ghent

First day in Ghent: the must-dos in the city centre

The historical city centre, or ‘Kuip’ as the locals call it, is best viewed from the water – Ghent sits at the meeting point of two rivers: the Leie and the Scheidt. The buildings lining the waterways have gingerbread house-like facades, but the fairytale vibe in the city doesn’t stop there in the ‘Medieval Manhattan’ of Europe. Here’s how to see the best of Ghent’s city centre in your first 24 hours.

Take a boat ride

Price without city card: 7 Euros

Best things to do in Ghent: river cruise

A leisurely boat ride along the Leie is a great introduction to the city. These tours are free with your Ghent City Card or 7 Euros without, and they let you see a section of the city from the water. Your tour guide will give you interesting facts along the way.

 

Cross St Michaels Bridge

View over St Michael's Bridge Ghent

Once back on dry land, make your way onto St Michael’s Bridge. From this vantage point, you can behold a breathtaking cityscape. You’ll see a row of towers, all of which are only a few minutes’ walk ahead of you. This is the perfect place to take pictures in Ghent.

See if you can pick out the Graslei and Korenlei with the renovated Old Fish Market and the Castle of the Counts in the distance, St Michael’s Church, the back of ‘Het Pand’.

 

Soar to the top of the Belfry tower

Price without city card: 8 Euros

Top things to do in Ghent: The Belfry

At 91 metres tall, the Belfry is the crowning glory in the middle of the famous three-tower row you’ll have seen from St Michael’s Bridge, together with the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and the Saint Nicholas’ Church. Inside the gothic building, you can watch a video about bell-making and then take in panoramic views of Ghent. The Belfry is an important attraction in Ghent because it symbolises the city’s independence.

 

See the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Painting in St Bavos

Price without city card: 4 Euros

Painted in 1432 by Ghent’s Van Eyck brothers, this famous altarpiece is one of Ghent’s most famous tourist attractions. I have to admit it was a bit lost on me, but there’s no denying that it’s a good painting and the restoration work and tale of the stolen panel is interesting.

St Bavos itself is a beautiful cathedral, so spend some time gazing at the interior in awe.

If you have the city card, you’ll still need to pay 1 Euro for the audio guide.

 

 

Swing around the City Pavillion

This masterpiece of architecture is open to the public and has a ‘grand cafe’ and a park hidden beneath, but the best bit for me is that swings are suspended from the ceiling!

 

Grab a bite in the Vrijdagmarkt

Local sweets in Ghent

Surrounded by beautiful 18th Century buildings and once used for executions, this market square is abuzz with activity most days. Check out Tavern Dulle Griet, a legendary café serving more than 250 Belgian beers where you give your shoe as a deposit for a pint! Jozef’s Frietkoten is the place to pick up what are hailed as the best Belgian frites in Ghent, and this little food cart is hidden away in the Vrijdagmarkt.

You can also pick up ‘Cuberdons’ or ‘red noses’ from a cart here. This is a typical Ghent sweet and makes a lovely souvenir.

Make sure you peek in to Groot Vleeshuis, the former Great Butchers’ Hall, to see all the meat hanging from the ceiling, like it did in the olden days!

 

Explore the Gravensteen

Price without City Card: 10 Euros

Castle of the Counts in Ghent: what to do if you have two days in Ghent

The Castle of the Counts dates back to the Middle Ages and a lot of torture went on here – and local residents feel that the castle symbolises the abuse of power. More recently, students gathered in the castle to protest rising beer prices.

The view from the top is magnificent!

 

Go for an evening stroll

What to do in Ghent at night

Ghent is equally impressive at nighttime, when you can see the city’s clever illumination plan come to light.

 

Day two in Ghent

Indulge in a Belgian waffle

Best waffles in Ghent

It’s widely rumoured that Ghent’s best waffles are served at Etablissement Max. It wasn’t open when I was hungry, so I got my first ever Belgian waffle from a food cart in the Vrijdagmarkt. I’ve actually never really liked waffles, until that day. Belgium just does them better!

 

Get lost in Patershol

Hidden gems in Ghent

Close to the castle in Ghent, this picturesque cluster of cobbled streets was once considered a dodgy neighbourhood. Now, it’s one of the coolest places to hang out, filled with hidden restaurants and bars favoured by in-the-know students.

 

Discover Ghent’s street art

Graffiti Street in Ghent

Ghent’s answer to Hosier Lane is Werregarenstraat, though everybody just calls it Graffiti Street. The locals were worried that their beautiful historic buildings would be defaced with graffiti but they still wanted to let street art flourish in Ghent, so they dedicated this alleyway to it. It was supposed to be a temporary project but it’s been the city’s sketchbook since 1995.

 

Go shopping 

Ghent markets: what to do on weekends in Ghent

I was surprised to find that Ghent is a bit of a shopaholic’s paradise, with street upon street of high street and high-end shops to spend your Euros.

If you’re in Ghent on a Sunday, you should definitely check out the city’s various markets. There’s a different market somewhere in Ghent every day of the week, but on Sundays there are no less than six to choose from. My favourites were the flower market at Kouter and the book market, which sprawls along the water’s edge.

 

Get cultured at Ghent’s museums

Spend some time in the Arts Quarter (Kunstenkwartier), where you can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K), the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) and the International Convention Centre of Ghent (ICC). There’s also the Ghent City Museum (STAM) which is housed in a 13th century hospital.

 

Other things to do if you have more time to explore Ghent

  • Shop for mustard at the famous Tierenteyn-Verlent Mustard Shop, where the mustard is doled out from a wooden barrel
  • Step into the past at Temmermans Confectionary shop
  • Taste Roomer Elderflower liqueur at Roomer distillery
  • Do a beer tasting at a female-run brewery, Gruut Brewery
  • … or enjoy a gin at ‘Dreupelkot, which has over 200 types of the stuff
  • Eat ‘waterzool’, a Belgian stew made with fish or chicken
  • Load up on chocolate at Yuzu, which is widely accepted as the best place to buy chocolate in Ghent
  • Sip a real Belgian hot chocolate on the riverbank

 

Where to eat in Ghent

Where to eat in Ghent

High-end

We ate dinner at Belga Queen on the waterfront, and enjoyed a delicious cocktail or two. Despite looking ancient from the outside, the interiors are superbly chic.

Pakhuis is a fabulous restaurant for special occasions. We had brilliant oysters and pots of mussels there.

Budget

If you’re looking for budget places to eat in Ghent, check out SoupLounge. It’s also worth delving in to the newly-built Krookcafe. Ok, it’s a library – but the food is great!

 

Getting to Ghent

I flew to Brussels from Newcastle with BMI Regional, then hopped on a train from Brussels Airport to Gent-Sint-Pieters. The journey took around an hour and a half. I then took the number 1 tram to the historic centre of Ghent.

Search flight prices to Brussels

Book a day tour to Ghent from Brussels 

Where to stay in Ghent

I was hosted by Hotel De Flandre during my weekend in Ghent, and this hotel is absolutely perfectly located just off the riverbank in the historical city centre – just a stone’s throw from all of Ghent’s main sights. In fact, I saw at least three of them on the 5 minute walk from the tram to the hotel!

Search all accommodation prices and availability in Ghent

 

During my short city break in Ghent I learned that the city is just as charming behind its picture-book facades as it is in those buildings’ reflections on the waterways. I highly recommend you spend a few days in Ghent if you ever get the chance!

Watch my Ghent travel vlog!

I’m heading to another part of Belgium soon, Leuven, so hit me up if you’ve been and let me know if I’ve missed any Ghent hidden gems out of this guide!

Please follow While I’m Young on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from more updates from the UK and beyond. You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter to make sure you never miss a post.

All photographs were taken on my Olympus Pen E-PL7.

I was a guest of Visit Flanders but all love for Ghent is my own!

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Weekend guide to Ghent, Belgium-2§Weekend guide to Ghent, Belgium§Weekend guide to Ghent, Belgium-2

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51 Comments

  1. LuxeStyle
    October 5, 2017 / 3:55 pm

    It looks like there are plenty of things to do in Ghent and that waffle looks amazing! x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

  2. October 5, 2017 / 5:45 pm

    I haven’t been to Belgium for 8 years, and I never made it to Ghent. You’ve certainly made me want to go and check it out. I love all the colours!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:34 pm

      Ooh where have you been in Belgium so far? Definitely time for a return trip 🙂

  3. October 6, 2017 / 3:17 pm

    Ghent is offbeat and often overshadowed by Brussels. Guides like these are so helpful. I mostly have 2 days to see a new city. Being a foodie Vrijdagmarkt appeals the most to me. I always prefer eating local than indulging in standardized food.

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:34 pm

      Totally agree – and Ghent deserves our attention! Same, love sampling all the local (cheap) delicacies!

  4. October 6, 2017 / 7:44 pm

    So many of the pictures look they could be postcards. Thanks for sharing what the prices would be for each of the attractions. It certainly helps when planning a trip. It’s lunch time and seeing that waffle put me over the top hungry.

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:34 pm

      I always like to know how much things will cost so I can prioritise if I’m on a budget so I like to include it, glad you found it useful! I can NOT recommend going to Ghent to live off waffles enough 🙂

  5. October 6, 2017 / 8:57 pm

    You’ve convinced me to make Ghent my next city break in Belgium, having been to Brussels a few times in the past!
    Great photos!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:33 pm

      Yay! Glad to be your enabler 🙂

  6. October 7, 2017 / 11:20 am

    Beautiful photos! I visited Ghent a couple of years ago for 1 day, and absolutely loved the city. I definitely would have wanted to spend more time there, and the Ghent city card sounds like one amazing deal!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:32 pm

      Oh lovely! Yeah it’s definitely worth spending a bit more time there but you can actually see a lot just in one day. What sticks in your memory most about Ghent?

  7. Fiona Mai
    October 7, 2017 / 11:56 am

    Your photos of Ghent are so beautiful! I know some people who have visited Ghent but I haven’t yet read any detailed post about this dreamy city. Saving it now for my future trip!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      I actually struggled to find good guides / itineraries when I was planning how to spend my time in Ghent so figured I’d write one myself 🙂 Definitely add it to your list!

  8. October 7, 2017 / 12:14 pm

    Great guide, lots of fun things to do and see! I love street arte so I would definitely check that out! The food also looks delicious. Lovely pictures!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      Thanks Danielle! I wasn’t expecting such a cool street art scene so I was pleasantly surprised. There are focused walks you can do too!

      • Sven
        October 11, 2017 / 3:11 pm

        There’s a very usefull site http://sorrynotsorry.gent/en/ to help guiding you through all the existing street art in Ghent

  9. October 7, 2017 / 12:33 pm

    Your photos are gorgeous. I visited Belgium for the first time earlier this year and your post is making me want to go back so bad. Definitely adding this to the list for next year 🙂

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:30 pm

      Aw thanks! Where in Belgium have you been so far?

  10. October 7, 2017 / 12:46 pm

    Ghent looks amazing! I’ve actually heard so much about it because my old boss was from there, and I had a friend who went and couldn’t stop raving about it (especially the shoe thing at Tavern Dulle Grie haha). Definitely determined to visit in the next few months. will be using this as a guide of course 😉 thanks girl!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:30 pm

      The shoe thing is so fun, I love the whole idea! Hope you get there soon and let me know if you need any more tips 🙂

  11. October 7, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    Ah, such a great post! I’ve been wanting to go to Ghent for a while – it looks stunning!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:29 pm

      I hope you get there soon!

  12. October 7, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    Wow it looks gorgeee! I’ve been to Brussels but definitely need to explore a bit more in Belgium, those buildings are just sunning and it’s so nice to have somewhere relaxing to wander around! x

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:29 pm

      Yeah I had no idea about Ghent before I went and am so glad I discovered it! Pays to stray from the top tourist cities 🙂

  13. October 7, 2017 / 2:30 pm

    Heard only good things about Ghent and it looks as beautiful as I imagine it in your photos too! Looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes 😀

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:28 pm

      So pleased! Definitely plan a trip there, I loved it!

  14. October 7, 2017 / 4:19 pm

    We agree that Ghent is a very underrated town. It is gorgeous and has a special “old european” charm. Love the picturesque building along the canal. You did a great job capturing the spirit of Ghent in your photos. Bravo.

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:27 pm

      Absolutely! Thanks so much for your lovely comment.

  15. October 7, 2017 / 4:49 pm

    I went to Brussels and really enjoyed it. Ghent looks great. Perfect break from the UK. It’s on my list now. Great photos

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:27 pm

      I only spent a few hours in Brussels and really liked it but it was a shock to the system after laid-back Ghent (although I think there was a marathon the day of my visit so could explain the crowds). Thanks Kate!

  16. October 7, 2017 / 6:02 pm

    Patershol sounds like my kinda neighbourhood! It’s often the rough, edgy parts of a city that turn out to be the coolest 🙂 (I’m thinking of El Ravel in Barcelona, although I love the Gothic Quarter and Born equally!).

    I visited Brussels a long time ago but would love to make it to Ghent and Bruges as well, so it’s good to know Ghent is an easy train journey from Brussels airport. Is it a direct train, and any idea how frequently they run?

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 7, 2017 / 6:26 pm

      Yeah I think you’d love it! It’s small but so quirky. The trains were VERY frequent and the metro system in Ghent is fab – metro is free with the City Card too. It was a little quicker to get a non-direct train but I chose the easy option, straight there in an hour and 30 mins. Let me know if you get to Ghent! I’m actually heading to Bruges in December so I’ll share my thoughts on that then 🙂

  17. October 7, 2017 / 6:45 pm

    OMG, gorgeous!!! Adding this to my list immediately. I have heard of Ghent but never seen such beautiful photos of it. I’m heading to Europe in 3 weeks and have about a week free so maybe I’ll add Belgium to the itinerary!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 8, 2017 / 9:01 am

      Ooh where in Europe are you planning to spend most of your time? Let me know if you get to Ghent!

  18. October 7, 2017 / 7:58 pm

    Ghent is has been on my list for a few years now…I need to go! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 8, 2017 / 9:00 am

      To be honest, it wasn’t even on my radar before this trip but I’m SO glad I went.

  19. October 8, 2017 / 7:09 am

    Wow this looks amazing!!! I’ve never been even though I’m from Amsterdam and Ghent is not that far away. Will definitely plan a trip soon there after seeing your beautiful pictures! Great tips!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 8, 2017 / 9:00 am

      Oh you should definitely try to get to Ghent! And I wanna go back to Amsterdam!

  20. October 8, 2017 / 9:09 am

    This is a brilliant post. I love the comprehensive writing and it makes for an excellent resource. You’ve made me want to add this to my travel bucket list, thank you! ?

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 8, 2017 / 9:44 am

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment Sheena, glad to have inspired you!

  21. October 8, 2017 / 4:19 pm

    I especially like the little colorful alleyway <3 wow!

    Carmelatte

  22. October 8, 2017 / 5:14 pm

    For some reason, I have been seeing a lot. Of. GHENT online recently and I am falling more and more in love with the place. Love those quaint buildings and bridges and the canal. And your pictures are just so lovely.

  23. October 8, 2017 / 11:10 pm

    this town is actually right out of the pages of a fairytale, it is so cute and your photos re just exquisite! I have never been but I’m saving this for later and hopefully ill go back!!

    • Dannielle | While I'm Young
      October 9, 2017 / 8:44 am

      Isn’t it just!

  24. October 9, 2017 / 5:23 am

    Beautiful pictures and a perfect guide to Ghent. We passed by this beautiful town on our last trip but had no time to stop. Next time around I am planning a trip around Europe, including a few days in Belgium and I want to definitely travel to Ghent.

  25. October 9, 2017 / 1:10 pm

    Ghent looks beautiful. I’ve always wanted to visit Bruges but now I am sorely tempted to make it a Belgium road trip. I’ve bookmarked this for next April! .

  26. meghanramsey1
    October 9, 2017 / 2:33 pm

    Every part of Ghent looks magical! I would definitely want to try your delicious food suggestions! Love street carts and getting to find a beautiful spot to eat! Thanks for all the info will definitely use this when I go to Ghent.

  27. October 10, 2017 / 5:17 am

    Ghent is a charming city that has all of the old world charm that is so typical of many European cities and towns. I remember Ghent from a poem that I learnt in school.It was titled, “How they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix”. Would love to visit and get lost in this lovely city.

  28. October 10, 2017 / 7:43 pm

    I love the artwork all around the city and would love to see it at night as well. Your pictures make it seem like such a great place to visit.

  29. Elizabeth Maupin
    October 11, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    You missed my secret indulgence, De Frietketel — best fries in the world.

  30. October 16, 2017 / 6:26 am

    So nice to read a post highlighing the least explored part of Belguim. Incredible pics.