In the shadow of the well-known Bruges, the city of Ghent doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. With more than 30 trains per day from Brussels and only around one hour ride, there’s no reason to exclude Ghent from your next trip to Belgium.
Situated in the Flemish part of the country, Ghent is one of the five most populated cities of Belgium. Still small enough to feel authentic, Gent (in Dutch) or Gand (in French) is a well-hidden european city that you don’t want to miss.
I can’t thank enough people who recommended me to visit this town.
Here’s why you’ll fall in love with Ghent too.
1. Avoid tourists herds
If you’re like me, you prefer to avoid buses full of tourists travelling by herds.
I’ve been to Brugge and it was chaos. Saying this town is not beautiful would be a lie, but the problem is that you cannot really appreciate it since there’s always people rushing you to walk faster and pushing you at touristic sites. Brugge is known to be a place to take great pictures, but you’ll get old waiting for people to let you take the perfect shots.
In Ghent, you’ll see the same kind of architecture and you’ll have time to enjoy it. Hurry up before everybody else know!
2. Discover the cycling culture
Coming out of the Sint-Pieters train station, the first thing I noticed was the amount of bikes. Amsterdam has its reputation regarding cycling culture, but I’m sure Ghent is not far behind. While this is certainly debatable, you can’t visit Ghent without noticing the importance of bikes.
The city has made it easy to cycle around. Paths connect the entire city and racks are abundant. It inspired me so much by that I now use my bike more and more in Montreal.
I had a huge crush for Bidon Coffee & Bicycle.
“We love good coffee and we really like to ride bicycles, so we decided to combine the two”. Part coffee, part bike shop, you can stop by to try a mocha made with Or Coffee, a Belgian coffee roasters company, and real chocolate. A must.
3. Visit a castle in the middle of the town
Europeans laugh at me because of my exaggerated fascination for castles but hey, we don’t have as many castles here in Canada!
I was really impressed by the Castle of the Counts throning in the middle of Ghent as if it was totally normal. Visiting the many torture rooms as the one staring an authentic guillotine, I must admit I felt way better walking outside. Ahah!
In my humble opinion, the view from the top of the castle is what’s really worth it, but I think I may be a little too sensitive.
4. Discover great street artists
Mixing the medieval and industrial looks, you’ll also discover that Ghent has very good street artists. The official Tourism Board even promote the Concrete Canvas Tour to guide you to the most interesting artworks in the streets.
5. Eat delicious vegetarian meals
Since 2009, Ghent has declared every Thursday a vegetarian day!
In an attempt to reduce climate change, restaurants and cafeteria offer a special vegetarian option on Thursday. Of course, you’ll also find plenty of vegetarian restaurants in town open every day. Ghent is basically the vegetarian heaven of Belgium.
While it’s not always easy to eat healthy while travelling, you’ll find there more options than you need to satisfy your veggie cravings.
Make sure to pass by Ghent during your next trip to Belgium, I promise you won’t regret it!
It is very easy to go to Ghent from Brussels, with more than 30 trains per day between the two cities. To find your ticket, go to RailEurope. This search engine will help you find the best time and price.
Hotels in Ghent can be a bit expensive. You might want to take a look on Airbnb first to see if you could find a better deal. (Use my link to get a 25$ credit on your first reservation.)
Not familiar with Airbnb? Take a look at my Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb.
I found most of the informations on the Lonely Planet Belgium & Luxembourg. Personally, I always travel with a guidebook. It helps me find plan B when something goes wrong, or activities on the spot when I have more time then planned.
You might be interested in these other posts about Belgium:
- Magritte Museum – My Prince Charming Wore a Derby Hat
- Paying It Forward – Story From Antwerp
- Street Art and Comic Strips in Brussels
- Mons – Stopping Off in the 2015 European Capital of Culture
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a reservation, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I use and love myself. Thank you for your support!
Did you know there are 2 midieval castles in Ghent: gravensteen ( castle of the counts) and Gerard De Duivelsteen (the castle of Gerard the devil) the last one is less spectacular but a real castle.
Oh no! So I missed a castle!? …I’ll have to go back.
yeah you also have gerard de duivelsteen , it was an archive until 2014 so i don’t know what they are going to do with it now and if you can visit it
I think I may have passed by. Thanks for sharing this information. :)
a late happy canada day btw :p
Thank you! :)
Not to mention the parks, the university, the activities and the very famous Gentse feesten! We have a fine brewery and we declared ourselves Ghent, the city of bitcoin.
We also won second place for best city in the world, right behind Vienna.
You are right, there’s a lot more reasons to love Ghent. It’s a shame that I missed the festival. The light seems impressive at night! And congrats on winning the second best city in the world! :)
The festival starts the 17th of July :)
Yes, but I am now back in Montreal… :(
Almost all of this is true, but Gent is not the second most populated city in Belgium. First there is Brussels (you know that), second is Antwerpen, third is Liege, fourth is Charleroi, and Gent comes fifth.
But anyway… Gent is a real beauty.
Really? It is confusing the way it is written on Wikipedia then. And I just checked another site and Gent comes in third in population. Ahaha! Well I guess I should change the intro to avoid misinformation. :)
this is a fantastic post, and you can really tell you enjoyed Gent. It’s actually no surprise more and more people wanna come to Gent, the city is an absolute pearl!
And btw, do you stay in Hostels as well? Just wondering.
All the best from Barcelona,
Thanks for the good words. I do stay in hostels from time to time, but I mainly stay at Airbnb places.
Marc Deconinck, I don’t know where you get your information about population, but Annie is right:
I just changed the intro to say “one of the five most populated cities” Ahah! It’s safer this way! ;) Thanks for the info!
Great article about a wonderful city. I also liked the nice Restaurants and Cafés and sitting at the Graslei. The most beautiful time in this city is the night – all these wonderful lights!