With its close proximity to Brussels, it’s no surprise that Ghent is a popular day trip. Ghent itself is a charming Belgian city with plenty to see and do–from castles seated in the middle of the city to beautiful walks along the central canal. One day in Ghent is enough to explore the highlights without feeling rushed.
This guide includes everything you should consider seeing and doing to create a perfect Ghent itinerary. It lists popular sites as well as suggestions for how to break away from the crowds. Keep reading for everything you need to know about taking a day trip from Brussels to Ghent.
How Many Days in Ghent?
Ghent might be one of Belgium’s most underrated cities. Most tourists head straight for Brussels or Bruges without stopping in to explore everything that Ghent has to offer. One of the most common ways to see Ghent is by taking a day trip from Brussels.
In one day in Ghent, you can see most of the major highlights without feeling like you have to be constantly moving. A short train ride from Brussels means you have the vast majority of the day for your day trip to Ghent. There are several trains per day, so you can also be flexible with your arrival and departure times.
If you decide to spend 2 days in Ghent, you can dig a little deeper into the city’s history and attractions. You can visit a smaller, local museum or take a boat ride on the canal. No matter how long you spend in Ghent, make sure to save time to try delicious local chocolate and Belgian waffles.
To determine how many days to spend in Ghent, make a list of everything you want to do in the city. Ask yourself what you can realistically see at the pace you enjoy traveling then begin constructing a Ghent itinerary from there.
Getting To & Around Ghent
Luckily, Ghent is very easy to access from Brussels by train. It’s a short 30-minute train ride from Brussels to Ghent, and there are several trains per day. Once you arrive in Ghent, getting around is equally easy. You can book trains in advance here.
If you prefer to go on an organised tour there are several options for an organised Ghent day trip from Brussels. This full-day tour takes you to both Ghent & Bruges while this tour takes you to Antwerp & Ghent.
The best way to experience Ghent is on foot. If you are visiting Ghent in one day, most of the highlights you’ll see are within walking distance of each other. Plus, exploring this city by foot means you also get to experience all the charm of its architecture, cobblestone streets, and narrow alleys that make Ghent so endearing.
If you prefer to use public transportation in Ghent, the bus is a good option. With the CityCard Ghent, you can ride all the trams and buses without paying the extra fee when you purchase a per-ride ticket. However, this might not make the most sense if you’re only spending one day in Ghent.
Alternatively, you can use the ticket machine at the tram or bus stop to purchase your ticket. Contactless payment is available on the buses and trams using a credit or debit card, smartphone, or smartwatch. You can also use rideshares and taxis to get around Ghent.
Finally, if you find yourself interested in exploring Ghent like a local, consider renting a bike for a few hours to peddle around the city. Biking is a very popular way to navigate the city, so you’ll see bike racks posted outside many local shops and restaurants.
You can even organise a bike tour if you want to learn more about the history at the same time! That said, keep an eye out for bikers as you’re walking around Ghent.
One Day in Ghent Itinerary
Spending one day exploring Ghent will be a day well spent. Here is everything you should add to your Ghent itinerary.
Walk along Graslei and Korenlei
The Graslei and Korenlei are the two walking paths on either side of the canal that carves their way through Ghent. Casually strolling along the canal bank is a great introduction to sightseeing in Ghent. On nice evenings, you’ll see locals sitting on the banks enjoying their time.
It’s also the place to be for stunning views of Ghent lit up after dark. The Graslei and Korenlei meet up at St. Michael’s Bridge, another great place for an iconic view of Ghent.
Consider grabbing a cup of coffee and pastry from a local coffee shop to sip and snack as you walk along the canal and soak up the exquisite architecture of Ghent. If you want to get a unique vantage point, you can also organise a short boat ride along the canals.
Visit the Gravensteen Castle
How many medieval castles are located in the center of European cities? There aren’t many, but the Gravensteen Castle is one of them. Also known as the Castle of the Counts, the Gravensteen Castle was the residence of the Counts of Flanders between 1180 and 1353.
Today, the castle is a central landmark in Ghent and invites visitors to enter its towering wall for a deep dive into its rocky history. You can purchase tickets at the entrance, where you can also opt in for the audio guide and to pay a visit to a torture museum.
A visit to the castle is a must for your itinerary and is one of the top things to do in Ghent.
Explore St. Nicolas’ Church
St. Nicolas’ Church is one of the oldest (and coolest) sites in Ghent. Construction began in the early 13th century and continued for nearly 100 years. It’s built in the Scheldt Gothic style, which is an architectural style you’ll see in many prominent buildings throughout Ghent.
The church is located right next to St. Michael’s Bridge and opens at 10 AM, so stop in for a quick tour before the afternoon crowds arrive. It’s a great place to pause before or after a walk along the canal.
Climb the Ghent Belfry
Of the three towers that stand out on the Ghent skyline, the Belfry Tower is the most eye-catching. The tower itself is 91 meters tall and visitors can climb to the top for an unbeatable view of Ghent.
It was constructed in 1313 and many of the original art, sculptures, and statues still remain in the belfry. Inside, you can watch a video to learn about the history of bell making, see the belfry’s most famous bell named Roland, and enjoy the historic artwork.
A visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see for your 24 hours in Ghent itinerary.
Wander the streets of Ghent
One of the best ways to see Ghent is on foot, especially because the neighborhood streets of Ghent are filled with creative street art. One of the most famous neighborhoods to set out in is the Patershol. Here, narrow cobblestone streets with brick buildings on either side dominate.
Many years ago, the Patershol was considered a rougher neighborhood in Ghent. However, today it’s one of the most creative and artsy areas full of hidden restaurants and bars. It’s located near the Gravensteen, so stop in after you visit the castle.
Patershol is a great area to explore if you’re looking to get away from the tourist-packed areas.
Taste all the treats
Famous in Ghent are ‘Cuberdons’, also known as ‘red noses’, that can be purchased in sweet shops or from carts in more popular areas of the city. These tasty little candies are delicious. Your visit to Ghent would be incomplete without a Belgian waffle.
You’ve probably had a Belgian waffle before, but not like this. These sweet, fluffy, and mouth-watering waffles are staples of the country. Get yours smothered in chocolate or topped with more unique local flavor.
You must try Belgian chocolate during your visit. There are several chocolate shops throughout Ghent where you can sample some of the most delicious chocolate ever. Make sure to indulge in your sweet tooth while in Ghent. You can also organise a tour to learn more about chocolate making in Ghent!
If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, you can consider a food tour of the city instead.
Have 2 Days in Ghent?
If you have 2 days in Ghent, you can expand your Ghent itinerary to encompass some of the city’s lesser-known sites. You could also choose to stick to the highlights, but take them at a more leisurely pace.
When seeing Ghent in 2 days, make sure to add a canal boat ride to your itinerary. There are several options for seeing Ghent from the canal, but the view is stunning. Tours will provide historical and cultural context for the landmarks you see from the water.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can rent a canoe or kayak to explore parts of the canals and rivers of Ghent on your own.
When you’re back on dry land, pay a visit to Saint Bavo’s Cathedral. This cathedral is one of the three that stand out on the Ghent skyline. Standing at 89 meters tall, Saint Bavo’s Cathedral is where the Diocese of Ghent resides.
It boasts the same gothic architecture style that you’ll see across Ghent. Construction began around 1275 with several modifications and additions taking place between the 14th and 16th Centuries. Today, visitors are welcome to explore the cathedral at their leisure.
Finally, if you have 2 days to spend in Ghent, visit some of the museums the city is known for. Art and history fans alike will be able to find a museum to suit their interests. The city’s museum of fine arts, MSK, houses in-depth collections of classic artists and modernists from Belgium’s creative history.
Those curious to learn more about the history of Ghent should visit the STAM. The museum traces Ghent’s history from a medieval trading town to the modern city it is today. It also features a room that has a giant map of Ghent projected on the ground that visitors love.
Finally, the most well-known museum in Ghent is the S.M.A.K., the contemporary art museum. It is where you can find some of Belgium’s most famous and impressive pieces of modern contemporary art–some that might even leave you scratching your head.
As you plan your Ghent itinerary that includes museums, remember that most museums in Ghent are closed on Mondays.
Where to Stay in Ghent
B&B HOTEL Gent Centrum – This hotel is perfect for those travelling on a mid-range budget and looking for somewhere central to stay. Located in the centre of Ghent and perfect for exploring the city, they have a number of different rooms to choose from and breakfast is available each morning. Click here to see their availability
Yalo Urban Boutique Hotel Gent – If you’re looking for luxury while on your visit to Ghent, then this hotel is an excellent choice. Centrally located and perfect for exploring the highlights of this Belgian city, they have a number of plush rooms on offer and plenty of other amenities to ensure your stay is a great one. Click here to see their availability
Getaway Studios Gent – For those who would like their own space in Ghent, these studios are an excellent option. Fully furnished with everything you may need to feel at home in this city, they have a range of different flats to choose from and an unbeatable location. Click here to see their availability
Hostel Uppelink – Budget and solo travellers (or those looking for a great social atmosphere) will love this central hostel in Ghent. They have a range of dorm beds and private rooms available along with good common areas and self-catering facilities for guests to use. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Ghent hotels!
Ghent is one of the lesser-visited cities in Belgium, but it is also one of the most dynamic. If you have 1 day in Ghent, you have time to see most of the city’s highlights. Within two days, you can get even more acquainted with the city. With delicious food, awe-inspiring architecture, and historic landmarks galore, there is no shortage of ways to spend your time in Ghent.
Are you planning a day trip to Ghent? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!