Nestled within the Flemish region of Belgium, Ghent is a fabulous city offering a rich blend of history, culture, and modernity. Its vast range of attractions makes it an ideal destination for a great weekend getaway.
Most people visit Ghent as a day trip from Brussels, the capital of Belgium, but the city of Ghent has so much more to offer. If you’re planning to visit Ghent, here are seven key activities and attractions to include in your itinerary:
1. Visit Saint Bavo’s Cathedral (Sint-Baafskathedraal)
An exploration of Ghent wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the magnificent Saint Bavo’s Cathedral. This stunning piece of Gothic architecture houses an assortment of religious art, with the star attraction being “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by the Van Eyck brothers.
Tip: visit early in the day to avoid the crowds and to spend more time appreciating the intricate details of the painting. There is a cool augmented reality experience, where you can see details from the past projected on your surroundings.
2. Explore Gravensteen Castle
The ‘Castle of the Counts’, or Gravensteen, takes you on a journey back to the 12th century. It’s a well-preserved fortress with many exhibits that portray medieval life.
The castle also offers a panoramic view of the city from the top. Remember to wear comfortable shoes, as the medieval staircases can be quite steep.
3. Climb the Ghent Belfry
The Ghent Belfry, the tallest of its kind in Belgium, is another must-visit attraction. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belfry offers breathtaking views of Ghent. Inside, the carillon, a large musical instrument made from numerous bells, is a unique thing to see – and hear!
The 30-ton carillon plays music every 15 minutes on a Sunday. I highly recommended visiting just before sunset for the best views and lighting for photographs.
4. Stroll around the Graslei and Korenlei
These two quays on the Leie River offer a calm setting for a leisurely walk in Ghent. The medieval guild houses lining the quays have been beautifully preserved.
If you’re looking for a relaxed activity, this is the best spot to have a picnic while taking in the picturesque canals. Another way to enjoy the canals is to go kayaking in Ghent!
5. Discover Saint Nicholas’ Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk)
Another architectural landmark in Ghent is Saint Nicholas’ Church. Built in the Scheldt Gothic style, the church stands out as one of the most prominent landmarks of Ghent. Together with the Ghent Belfry and Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, they form the famous three medieval towers of Ghent.
Visit on a sunny day to see the light play through the stained glass and afterward have a drink at Ray, the glass bar right next to the church.
6. Experience Contemporary Art at SMAK
If you’re seeking a break from the historic sites, the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, or SMAK, offers a diverse collection of contemporary art.
The museum hosts also temporary exhibitions that are continually changing, so be sure to check out what’s on display before your visit.
7. Savour Local Cuisine
Just like the food in Brussels, Ghent’s culinary scene is rich and varied, with ‘Gentse Waterzooi’, a creamy soup traditionally made with fish or chicken, being a local specialty.
The Friday Market (Vrijdagmarkt) offers numerous food stalls and eateries where you can sample Belgian beers. For those with a sweet tooth, the local Ghent sweets, known as cuberdons, are a must-try. So are Belgian waffles!
8. Experience Patershol
Rounding off your Ghent experience, the Patershol district is well worth a visit. Its cobblestone streets and old-style houses give it a unique charm.
With a wide range of restaurants offering diverse cuisines, Patershol is the ideal spot for a quiet evening walk or dinner. However, due to its popularity, it’s best to book a table in advance if you plan to dine here.
Spending a weekend in Ghent allows you to enjoy a wide range of experiences, catering to history enthusiasts, art lovers, foodies, and more. While it’s important to see all the sights and try all the activities, remember to take some time to simply enjoy the atmosphere of this city. T
he true essence of Ghent lies not only in its landmarks but also in its warm, inviting ambiance and its friendly residents. Enjoy your weekend in Ghent!
Bio: Jo From World Wild Schooling
Hi, I’m Jo, the person behind the blog World Wild Schooling. Originally from Athens, I now call Brussels home. I’m a huge fan of learning about different cultures and exploring the world. Through my blog, I share stories, tips, and insights on travel and the joy of lifelong education. My goal is to inspire others to go out there, discover new places, and embrace the beauty of cultural diversity. You can join Jo on Instagram and on Facebook.
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