Journeys, Travel Guides

Gent – like Amsterdam, but more charming (Ghent City Guide)

Meandering canals harboring lush restaurants and bars, flower adorned bridges, enough medieval towers to hide seven princesses at the same time, and a Riviera filled with cheerful people enjoying the sun…

Ghent seems to encapsulate all of Belgium’s charm in a single town!

Can it get better than this? Oh, yes, it can!

These huge shrimps bathing in hot sauce at T’ Paradijs are the best I’ve ever had! Try them just across Gravensteen castle.

Youthful vibes, colorful houses and narrow streets invite to slow and dreamy wanderings. And if you visit Gent in June, you might get lucky and experience an authentic summer day, with sun shining all day long and a cozy 10.20 p.m. sunset that will leave you in awe.

Ghent-canals-and-beautiful-architecture

Yes, I’m thinking Gent is even prettier than Brugge! There, I’ve said it & don’t regret it. 🙂


This Ghent City Guide includes travel tips, top reasons to visit Gent, transport options, hidden gems in Ghent, top city attractions, favorite places in Ghent, and my travel itinerary (see the map below) for how to spend a day in Ghent.


Ghent was the best surprise of our Belgian trip!

This city has so many wonderful corners that people don’t usually have the time to paint all of its colors and bohemian corners in their pictures. Therefore, when researching for the trip, I found this destination looking like a medieval citadel. The reality of Gent is more charming than that first impression, mostly because of its youthful vibes and hip corners.

It’s hard not to let yourself be mesmerized by the medieval churches and buildings that greet you at every step, and when viewing pictures, it might seem more medieval than it really is.


Top Reasons to Visit Ghent

Don’t get me wrong, the towers and Gothic structures reign over the city sky line, but the charm of Ghent lies in its many flower adorned bridges built across tiny canals, slow paced life, joyful terraces and friends coming together on the riverbank.

The architecture is splendid, like a mini – Amsterdam but dressed in richer colors, thus exploring the city on foot was one of my favorite things to do in Ghent.

The city features numerous Gothic buildings that blend with Art Nouveau ones, so Paris comes to mind easily when wandering its intricate streets. At times, when you’re walking around Ghent’s canals, you also feel some of Bruges’ charm.


The youthful vibe of the city is due to Ghent University, one of the best universities worldwide (Top 100), with students filling the streets and gathering on the riverbank leading to St. Michiels Brug Bridge.

When venturing outside central areas, you’ll surely be surprised by the French bohemian atmosphere and rainbow-colored streets of the neighborhoods.

These four girls enjoying cigarettes over drinks on this vivid painted street in Patershol encapsulate the very concept of joie de vivre and I feel grateful for having the chance of capturing their candid mood.

Patershol-streets---Ghent,-Belgium

People speak Flemish, but the streets & coffee shops have an elegant French air about them: dark wood and vintage lamps, oleanders at the entrance and Acapulco chairs inviting you to put your map down and enjoy a cup of coffee.

Hidden gems reveal to you as you slowly stroll around the many alleys and narrow streets of Ghent. Hip cafés, picturesque restaurants set on its many canals, bohemian vibes on colorful streets and delightful points of view charm you beyond expectation.

Before you know it, Gent will make you fall in love with its kaleidoscopic personality.

Ghent,-Belgium---Facades-near-the-waterfront


Top Attractions in Gent, Belgium (1 day itinerary)

Gent’s Old City was love at first sight because it feels both like Paris and Amsterdam.

The lush canals and half of its architecture instantly take you back to Amsterdam while the vibes on Graselei and Korenlei  – the two sides of the main waterfront, as well as the stunning medieval buildings, look and feel like the streets of Paris and Seine river keys.

My favorite spots in Ghent

  • Sint Baafsplein – for its hidden Art Nouveau buildings and quietness,
  • Patershol – for its rainbow streets and quirky cafes,
  • Graslei and Korenlei – for the summer holiday mood,
  • Michiels Brug Bridge – a great point of view over the main medieval towers of Gent,
  • Gent Fluitspeler Kraanlei – two of the most beautiful facades in Ghent (photo below).

Gent-Fluitspeler-Kraanlei---Ghent,-Belgium

Even one day in Ghent in enough to walk around the old city center, and I would have loved to stay more just to wander aimlessly, but also to climb Belfry of Gent, see Groentenmarkt and visit Gravensteen Castle. If you wake up early (in Brussels) and head to Gent, you can include these attractions in your one day itinerary.


Top Attractions in Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen-Castle-in-Ghent,-Belgium

Saint Nicholas’ Church, Ghent
Saint Nicholas' Church, Ghent - summer sunset
Belfry of Ghent

Sint-Baafsplein---Ghent,-Belgium
Graslei and Korenlei

Top-Attractions-in-Ghent,-Belgium

Ghent-Architecture---Graslei-and-Korenlei

summer-sunset-in-Graslei-and-Korenlei---Ghent,-BE
St. Michael’s Church and St. Michiels Brug Bridge

Ghent-waterfront-near-Michiels-Brug-Bridge
Patershol

Patershol-streets---Ghent,-Belgium
Graffiti Street
Sint Veerleplein
Korenmarkt
St. Bavo / Baafskathedraal


7 Hidden corners that will make you fall in love with Ghent

A lush café on Ghent’s Main Canal – Barrazza (Koffiebar)

Barrazza-Koffiebar---Ghent-Canal

A different point of view over Gravensteen Castle clearly reflecting in the canal’s blue water is Sint-Widostraat, near Arca Theater. It requires a 5-7 minutes’ walk from the castle’s main entrance and it’s worth it!

Gravensteen-Castle-in-Ghent,-Belgium

The colorful facades, narrow streets and local atmosphere in Patershol

colorful-facade-in-Patershol,-Ghent,-Belgium

Proof, an inviting coffee place with pretty oleanders, Acapulco chairs and bohemian French vibes

Proof---Charming-Coffee-Shop-in-Ghent,-Belgium

Deli and wine tasting at Groot Vleeshuis or Belgian beer tasting on its outside terrace

Groot-Vleeshuis---Ghent,-Belgium

The most picturesque restaurant in Ghent has to be De Acht Zalighenden because of its red brick and flower adorned windows and setting – on one of the city’s prettiest canals

De-Acht-Zalighenden---picturesque-restaurant-in-Ghent,-Belgium

Korenlei Twee is one of Ghent’s most charming terraces, also set on a beautiful canal, with a brownstone facade reminding me of Brugge

Korenlei-Twee---charming-canal-terrace-in-Ghent,-Belgium


Typical dishes in Gent, Belgium and where to try them

Belgian food is beyond delicious and that’s why I’ve dedicated a whole article to its glorious dishes (read it here).

Our favorite food in Ghent: the spicy shrimps, the Flemish Stew and the meatballs served at T’Paradijs, across from Gravensteen Castle. Try the local candies – Couberdon in Groentenmarkt; we forgot about these, so let me know if you liked them.

Beautiful restaurants and pubs to be tested next time I’m in Ghent: t’ Clockhuis Brasseries, t’ Klaverblad, De Superette. All three open late in the evening, so we didn’t have the chance to test them during this trip, but maybe you will.

t-Clockhuis-Brasseries-in-Ghent,-Belgium---picturesque-houses

t’Clockhuis Brasseries


Accommodation in Ghent

We chose our accommodation in Brussels and visited Ghent and Brugge by train. Since the cost of food is higher in these two little towns, I presume hotels also have higher costs.

How to get to and around Gent & Travel Tips

The most interesting (social) thing about Gent and Belgium is the great infrastructure.

You don’t need to rent a car from Brussels to get to Gent or Bruges because it’s cheaper and easier to take the train. Apart from everything being so well connected, you can ride the train from Brussels to any city in Belgium on the same ticket. It includes 10 trips and can be used by two or more people. Isn’t this cool?

We got a train ticket like this at the railway office at Brussels Centraal (77€), and spent 8 out of 10 trips to get to Bruges and Gent from Brussels (for 2 people). During the summer, you can use those extra two trips for a trip to the North Sea beach.

The ride from Brussels to Ghent takes 40-45 minutes.

Another perk is the ability to use the same pass for local transportation both in Gent and Bruges. It’s the same company, true, but it’s still a pretty sweet deal.

This local ticket can be bought from the yellow cabins set just outside the train stations in Gent and Bruges for 15€. It can also be used by two or more people within the limit of 10 trips and for getting around both cities. So make sure you don’t throw it away like we almost did and use it for transport in Ghent and Brugge.

When to visit Gent

Did you know that Belgians have one extra hour of daylight during the summer? 

I didn’t, but it was pure joy to discover that sunsets are at 10.20 p.m. That meant we stayed in Gent and Bruges until the sunset, and with the train timetable allowing us this venture, it was a delight.

It was a pleasure to visit Gent and Belgium in June and I highly recommend the experience. I must admit we were pretty lucky to find these cities bathed in a warm sun light, sometimes even too sunny for my taste (hello, overexposed photos). Even Brussels had a decent weather, even if dark clouds are emblematic for the city.


Travel itinerary in Ghent (Map)

Top Attractions in Ghent are marked with blue pins, Restaurants & Pubs with orange pins.


Loved Gent for its many gorgeous canals, delightful vibes, colorful streets and savory food, so I’m sure we will see each other again in my next trip to Belgium.


Belgium Trip: BrusselsBrugge, Ghent| June 2017 | All Photography ©Ana Matei > Instagram: @MateiAna


Hope you enjoyed my Ghent City Guide and you’ll share it with your friends on Facebook. Thank you.

Read Next:

Brussels in 48 hours >
How to spend a day in Brugge >
Food Tour in Belgium >

Ana
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