Top Tourist Attractions and Things to do in Ghent (Belgium)
In this post, we listed some of the best things to do in Ghent you must not miss! Find out why you should visit this beautiful student city that is only about twenty minutes away from Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Learn what to see in Ghent and what are the tourist attractions in Ghent.
Everybody adores Ghent and why not? This beautiful student city of Belgium has all what a tourist or even the local desires like exemplary art collections, delicious and luscious food along with the country’s historical secrets.
The tourist attractions in Ghent are not many as compared to other cities of Europe, but it is still crowded with travelers and sightseers. The things to do in Ghent are very entertaining as it’s a perfect mix of baroque architecture and industries.
The alleyways crowned with steeple-roofed structures and narrow canals appease the tourists and make it a renowned destination of Europe. The top sights of Ghent are famous for their historical significance and remarkable architecture that has been restored in the past decades.
The nightlife of Ghent will leave you awestruck, and a range of hotels and restaurants are a symbol of excellent food being served also suiting your budget. Belgium is famous for its Beer and Ghent has the king of all Beers – The Gruut Beer, so make sure the tourist attractions of Ghent are on top of your list.
Here are the Ghent points of interest:
Table of Contents
- 1 Experiences and top things to do in Ghent
- 1.1 Gravensteen
- 1.2 Museum of Fine Arts
- 1.3 Patershol
- 1.4 Sint-Pietersabdij Abbey
- 1.5 St Baafskathedraal
- 1.6 Huis van Alijn
- 1.7 The Belfry
- 1.8 Town Hall (Stadhuis)
- 1.9 Old Market Area
- 1.10 Museum voor Volkskunde
- 1.11 Ruins of Sint-Baafsabdij
- 1.12 Museum of Ghent (STAM)
- 1.13 Vismarkt and Kraanlei
- 1.14 Graslei
- 1.15 Korenlei
- 2 Practical information and Ghent travel tips
- 3 Where to stay in Ghent?
- 4 Short on time? Go sightseeing in Ghent on a tour!
Experiences and top things to do in Ghent
Visitors expect great things to see in Ghent and the first sight is always Gravensteen. This majestic castle was built between 1180 and 1200 with River Lieve on its surroundings.
The previous count of Flanders – Philip of Alsace ordered the construction of the best Ghent attractions. The interior hasn’t been fully recovered yet considering the furnishing but has all the historic armors and guillotine. Costume drama sets are presenting the image of a castle in the former times built in battlement rooms of the palace.
Museum of Fine Arts
Try reaching the Museum of Fine Arts with Ghent city guide because this building from its facade looks more like a Greek Temple. The art collections from the 15th to the 20th century are of foremost importance here. English notes are also placed next to each painting and sculpture as well.
Eight exquisite tapestries are placed in the Central Hall just next to the Entrance. St. Hieronymus and Bearing of the Cross are the most famous artworks here by Hieronymus Bosch.
Numerous temporary exhibits are hosted here to disclose the noteworthy paintings here. The work of Old Belgian Masters further backs these Ghent highlights.
Initially a business place for leather merchants, Patershol is now home to many great restaurants hidden in Belgium. The old streets and the cobbled houses are still the same and beautifully depict what Ghent looked like in the ancient times.
The trip to Ghent can never be complete without tasting the spices at Patershol. One of the best activities in Ghent is to try the French cuisine served at t’ Klaverblad in Patershol.
The core of Ghent and one of the largest abbeys in Belgium – Sint-Pietersabdij Abbey is the main attraction of Ghent. The city first began to grow outwards from this abbey, so it’s quite probably the center.
The best time to visit Ghent is in the summer because of this abbey as the colorful gardens and luxurious orchards are a wonder to explore and relax in. There is also a remarkable mural inside this abbey which was once a monk’s refectory. The Ghent city guide and state-of-the-art tutorial are an excellent way to visit the Ghent tourist attractions.
The Cathedral of St. Bavo is one of the top sights of Ghent, and a Ghent must see. It is made from stunning stone and granite structure, and it’s residing on the east of Sint-Baafsplein. The stained glass windows multiply the charm of this building which is the home to the Adoration of Mystic Lamb – the most celebrated painting of Flemish art collection.
The actual Rubens art collection exhibited here and the murals on the walls are a must do in Ghent. The Gothic choir was built in the late 13th century whereas the Gothic tower along with the Central Nave was built in the 15th and 16th century. The majestic Cavalry triptych is also exhibited in one of the chapels.
Huis van Alijn
One of the famous antiquity and Ghent’s top attraction – Huis van Alijn was initially a children hospice. This building was restored a few decades back and converted into a museum. If you are looking to learn about the life and history of Ghent from early 18th century to 20th century, this is the perfect place to start.
The Old Shops accurately detail the happenings in every period. The wedding photos are still incredibly emotional, and the exhibits speak for themselves. One of great Ghent tourist attractions can be to watch a home movie at Huis van Alijn and travel back to the medieval times.
The symbol of city’s independence – Belfry stands 91m high on the west of Sint-Baafsplein. The original wooden tower was constructed in 1388, but later, the spire was replaced with a stone structure in the 14th century.
This masterpiece of Ghent tourism has a copper dragon right on its top giving the tower an astonishing representation. The astounding Cloth Hall directly adjoins it making it a must visit attraction of Ghent.
Town Hall (Stadhuis)
If you are wondering about what to see in Ghent, then take a break because the splendid Town Hall is there to dazzle you. This majestic building is a perfect mixture of many architectural styles.
Boasting of its central location, Hoogpoort is the oldest part of the Town Hall and houses the council chambers in it. Due to the religious disputes in 1539, most of the original structure of the Town Hall was not built, and only the Peace Hall and Marriage Chapel were completed. Nevertheless, Town Hall is still one of the best attractions of Ghent with an impressive Throne Room on the 2nd floor.
Old Market Area
Formerly a fish market, The Old Market area began functioning as a vegetable market in the late 18th century. This Ghent’s top sight is very imposing concerning the history of this place.
On the western end of this market is the Groot Vleeshuis, the old meat market with numerous chapels and guild houses. On the southern side of Groot Vleeshuis is Penshuizeken – a cottage where the poor were fed with entrails of slaughtered animals.
Museum voor Volkskunde
Museum voor Volkskunde was formerly a children’s hospital constructed in 1363 that was restored as an almshouse in 1952 for the needy people.
The 18 Flemish cottages here are interconnected and make your trip to Ghent a memorable one. With everything available from the 1900s like documents, equipment, and other objects, you’ll feel like experiencing the Flemish folklife. A candlestick workshop is one of prominent Ghent tourist places here.
Ruins of Sint-Baafsabdij
St. Amandus found this Ghent tourist attraction in 630 which is situated in the eastern part of the city. This abbey was destroyed in the 10th century by Normans, but later, a significant portion of it was restored.
The vast refectory, lavatorium, chapter house and the Gothic cloisters gallery are still the best things to see in Ghent. Another major Ghent attraction “Museum of Stone Cutting and Sculpture” is housed in the refectory here that displays ancient mosaics, artifacts, and tombstones.
Museum of Ghent (STAM)
Museum of Ghent situates in the Cistercian abbey of Bijloke and exhibits the history and heritage of Belgium uniquely. The museum is filled with state-of-the-art collections and is in the list of Ghent top attractions.
Jewelry, multimedia displays, weapons, gunnery, ceramics, sculptures, and paintings are all displayed here. The marvelous frescoes in this museum are worth noticing as well as the remarkable 14th-century refectory with a brick gable in its center.
Vismarkt and Kraanlei
This enormous building was built at Sint-Veerleplein No. 5 according to the plans given by Artus Quellin in 1689. The facade of this building is crowned with a wondrous statue of Neptune and two statues of Scheldt and Leie on both sides.
This top tourist attraction of Ghent is further adjoined with elegant houses all constructed in the Baroque style. One of the great things to do in Ghent is climbing the never-ending spiral staircases De Klok No. 75.
Whether you are interested in Belgian architecture or more of a person who favors a relaxing stroll near water, the Graslei Canal is the place you need to visit.
This Ghent top attraction is confined with grand houses built around the 15th century in miraculous Gothic style. The House of Free Boatmen or more commonly known as Gildehuis der Vrije Schippers is a must see Ghent sight. One excellent activity in Ghent is to take a boat tour here.
Opposite to Graslei, Korenlei offers the best view of most beautiful houses of Ghent, and it is decorated with grand facades.
House of the Tied Boatmen and House of the Duke Egmont dating back to the 13th century are the main tourist attractions in Ghent here. Most of the buildings depicting a neoclassical Gothic style are present here especially Lintworm en Krocht, a chateau that was built in the Roman times.
The best time to visit Ghent is summer as sparkling lights illuminate most of the buildings and a walk through them can definitely be an unforgettable experience.
What to see in Ghent is always answerable because the boat ride at the canal is forever waiting for you. The attractions in Ghent make it the best place to get a firm grip on the local Flemish culture as well as its history and architecture.
Practical information and Ghent travel tips
Why should you visit Ghent?
The entertaining city of Ghent in Belgium is popular as Student City or University City. You’ll find many young peoples in Ghent and most of them students, some are artists. You’ll love the city life here, which is very lively and charming. And so many tourists always visiting Ghent. There are many art galleries and museums to explore. Lovely canals are one of the main city attractions among tourist. The best way to explore the authentic local life and city highlights is to go for a cruise on the canals. Many cafes, bars, and restaurants are there to try the local delicacies which are very delicious. Ghent beer is popular and must try with Belgian fries or mussels.
When is the best time to visit Ghent?
- Summer (May to August)
- Summer is the highest season and you can expect big tourist crowds around this time of the year
- You can witness live music, Ghent Festivities, many local events happening during this time in Ghent
- Boat ride on the canal is also a popular activity during this time
- Overall the temperature is not that high, you can expect rainfall throughout the year in Ghent
- Autumn (September to November)
- You can find fewer tourists and you might like to visit during this time
- The weather is starting to get colder at nights
- Winter (December to February)
- Winter in Ghent isn’t so bad and quite mild. The average temperature is 1°C
- It is comfortable to walk around (it keeps you warm) and explores other parts of the city
- There are lesser crowds as this is the low season for this city
- Spring (March to April)
- Suitable time to visit Ghent. The weather starts to be warmer and you can expect not that big tourist crowds
Do you need a visa for Ghent?
Belgium is part of the Schengen area and citizens of EU group of countries can freely enter while citizens of USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia can enter the country just with their passports and stay for 90 days. You can check our complete guide on how to get a Schengen visa and as well to see if you’re eligible to enter the country with just your passports or if you’ll need to apply for a visa prior entry.
Where to book your flights to Ghent?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need an insurance?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need a travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Where to stay in Ghent?
1898 The Post
1898 The Post is a 3-star hotel and located in the historic post office buildings of Ghent. The hotel offers all standard facilities in every room, well furnished as well. The hotel comes with city views; you can enjoy the skyline views from the hotel cocktail bar.
The luxurious Hotel Harmony is located in the center of the Ghent city. The hotel offers all modern facilities in every room. All rooms are well decorated and furnished. Castle of the Counts and Saint Bavo Cathedral are within a walking distance from the hotel.
Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof
Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof is a 4-star deluxe hotel in Ghent. All rooms, suites and executive rooms are well furnished and elegantly decorated to feel the extreme comfort. The hotel offers a balcony with almost every room.