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Best Things to do in Ghent Belgium

Discover some of the best things to do in Ghent and find out why those in the know rate Ghent above Belgium’s other popular tourist destinations.

One of the best things to do in Ghent is to take a Ghent Canal Boat Tour with views of the old buildings and bridges.
Relax on a Ghent Canal Boat Tour with the Hop on Hop Off Water Tram

About Ghent – One of the Best Cities to Visit in Belgium

Ghent city centre is where historic and modern blend seamlessly. An architectural treasure tastefully woven with modern and innovative museums, galleries and public spaces. Ghent is forward thinking about town planning, environmental and arts initiatives.

It has one of the most exciting culinary scenes in Europe and a calendar of festivals and events uniquely Ghent.

Ghent is the best-kept secret in Europe“.

-Lonely Planet 

Visit Ghent and you will find a modern town of historic beauty ready to show you a good time. Not only is Ghent a true gem of Belgium, but it is also one one of Belgium’s most exciting cities.

Where is Ghent?

The third largest city in Belgium, Ghent is a city and municipality in the Flemish Region. Ghent is also the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and, the largest municipality of Belgium after Antwerp.

Ghent sits at the centre of Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp approx. an hour from each city, Antwerp being the furthest from Ghent at 60 km.

Travel times by train to Ghent from each city varies from 40 min to less than an hour. Details on getting to Ghent by train at the end of the article.

Things to do in Ghent

Take a Ghent Walking Tour

Ghent is a city on a small town scale making it very accessible on foot. The city centre has been designed to be both pedestrian and bike friendly.

The main Ghent attractions are walking distance from one another, so walking or cycling is the best way to soak up the cities atmosphere and explore all her little gems.

A 2 hour guided Ghent Walking tour starts from as little as €10 pp and includes a city discount card – see full tour details here.

Free things to do in Ghent. People outside colourful shop fronts in Ghent, Belguim. Wandering what to do in Ghent? Take a walking tour. What are the best things to do in Belgium. Visit Ghent.
Strolling past colourful shop fronts is one of the best free things to do in Ghent.

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What are the best things to do in Ghent - Take a walking tour of the cobblestone lanes and quaint shops. Walking the narrow streets of Ghent. Taking a Ghent walking tour is a great way to get your bearings. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium

Walk through Ghent and discover its historical beauty and experience Ghent’s unique take on modern urban life.

A sprawl of cobble lanes spread from city squares revealing old merchant houses, monasteries and churches. Many have been repurposed into stylish boutiques, galleries, public spaces or low key restaurants and bars.

What are the best free things to do in Ghent. Old Merchant Buildings line the canals and streets in Ghent Belgium. A walking tour through the old city is a great thing to do in ghent when you first arrive. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium.
Discovering and enjoying the architecture is one of the best free things to do in Ghent.

While strolling along the canals in the centre of Ghent, one quickly realises this is a city to rival Bruges’ popularity for beautiful canal side architecture.

If you ever had to choose; Ghent or Bruges? We would quickly recommend both. Although, expect a much more authentic experience in Ghent.

The Canals of Ghent are lined with colourful cafes and pretty houses. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium

Experience Ghent Nightlife – Take the Ghent Illuminated Walk

A walking tour of Ghent is by no means just a daytime activity. A walk through the city by night is one of the most rewarding things to do in Ghent.

The City of Ghent has put a lot of careful planning into how their city shines at night. The result; a carefully designed lighting plan by famous lighting designer Ronald Jéol.

Best things to do in Ghent - Night walking tour highlighting all of the buildings and their reflections in the canals. Stunning clock and tower in the background. Which cities are the best to visit in Belgium - Ghent of course

To get the most of this carefully choreographed urban illumination, hit the streets of Ghent after dark on the Ghent Illuminated Walk. A self-guided city walking tour put together by The City of Ghent to enjoy the historic centre in all its illuminated glory.

The 2-hour night walk takes you past the cities best historic buildings and monuments; it is one of the most beautiful things to do in Ghent.

You can download the free self-guided Ghent Illuminated walking tour map here.

Ghent Nightlife, brightly lit markets, illuminated facades and a giant wheel in the background. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium

Walking Tour and Bike Hire Facts

Ghent Walking Tours

Visit Ghent has Ghent Walking Tour maps for self-guided walking tours covering different routes including the Sunday Market Route, The So Much City city walk and the Ghent Illuminated night walk.

Guided walking tours or, for the more energetic, jogging tours can be arranged at the Ghent Tourist Information Centre.

Ghent Bicycle Hire & Tours

If you want to cycle and head further afield you can use the City of Gent’s cycling route planner and there are plenty of bike hire options in the city centre.

Bike rental cost:

Bike hire starts at €7 for 1/2 day. 1 day free with Ghent City Card.

Take a 3-Hour Small Group Guided Urban Mountain Bike Tour to see a different side of Ghent. The tour includes all bike equipment, a drinking bottle and a guide. See full tour details here.

Visit Gravensteen Castle- The Castle of the Counts

Who doesn’t love a medieval castle smack in the middle of the city? The meticulously restored 12th-century Ghent castle comes complete with everything you want in an inner city medieval experience. A moat, turrets and even an exhibition of medieval torture devices. The castle also affords you a wonderful view back across the city.

Castle of the Counts ghent Belgium with medieval turrets and walls surrounded by a canal. Which cities are the best to visit in Belgium, Ghent is our recommendation.
The Ghent Hop On Hop Off Water Tram makes a stop at the Castle of the Counts and is a great way to get around Ghent attractions.

Over the Christmas period, the castle is transformed into a wonderful winter wonderland and sets the stage for fairytale stories such as this year’s spin on Swan Lake.

Castle of the Counts Ghent Facts

Opening Hours:

Ghent’s Castle of the Counts is open every day except public holidays.


Between €6 – €10. Free with the Ghent City Card.

Castle of the counts Ghent Belgium at night with light show projected on the castle walls. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium

The Great Butchers Hall

The Great Meat Hall or Butchers Hall dates back to the 15th century when by law, all meat sales had to be centralised to ensure freshness. This wonderful old building has a magnificent open trussed roof where hams still hang from the rafters to cure traditionally as they always have.

Careful where you step as the occasional drop of fat may drip from the ceiling.

Free things to do in Ghent visit The Great Meat Hall with hams hanging from the giant wooden rafters of this grand old hall.
The Great Butchers Hall is a free attraction in Ghent, with lovely restaurants and food stalls.

At the end of the great hall, you will find the original small chapel which contains a 15th century painting depicting a church service. Today the hall has casual cafe style dining and sells local Flemish produce.

This is a wonderful place to stop for a snack and sample one of the many local beers.

Indulge in Ghent’s Innovative Restaurants

Restaurants in Ghent are leading a culinary charge in Europe with a fresh and understated approach to high end dining. Ghent also lays claim to being the vegetarian capital of the world. Thursday is “veggie day” in Ghent, an environmental and health campaign started by Ghent City, an initiative that has been embraced wholeheartedly by locals and restaurants alike.

The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Travel in Europe

Ghent Canal Boat Tours

You will find a number of companies offering round-trip historic tours of the inland canals of Ghent City. This is a lovely way to see Ghent and to view some of Ghent’s biggest attractions from a different angle.

A 40 min guided round trip will take you past some of the best views and give you insight into the fascinating history of Ghent.

Ghent Boat Tour Facts


Boat tours start at around €8.50 pp for an hour tour or free with Ghent City Card. You can pre-book your canal tour here.

Tour Times:

Boats run every day except public holidays. Times may vary seasonally.

A bridge and building view from a Ghent Boat Tour or The Hop On Hop Off Water Tram, both of which are a great way to see this city. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium
A novel way to see this city is from the canals, take a boat tour or try the Ghent Hop On Hop Off Water Tram.

Ghent Water Tram

The Hop On Hop Off Water Tram offers a different way to do some Ghent sightseeing and is a very scenic way to visit Ghent, with six stops including:

  • Castle of the Counts
  • Graslei-Korenlei
  • Museum Site
  • St Peter’s Abbey
  • St Bavo’s Cathedral
  • Veldstraat.

Ghent Hop on Hop Off Water Tram.


Between €12.50 – €15. 1 day free with Ghent City Card.


The Water Tram service only runs on weekends between April & October

Ghent Boat Tour with a view of the canal and arched bridge with ornate buildings lining both sides of the canal. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium

Saint Bavo Cathedral

St Bavo’s Cathedral is one of the most impressive cathedrals we have ever visited. Not only is it an architectural spectacle, it houses an impressive number of art treasures including a major work by Rubens. Most notable though is the world famous Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, The Ghent Altarpiece painted by  Hubert and Jan van Eyck around 1432.

St Bavo’s Cathedral Facts


The Cathedral is open every day although may be closed during mass times to tourists.


Entry to the Cathedral is Free

St Bavo's Cathedral Ghent. Which cities are the best to visit in Belgium - Ghent as it is the only place you will get to see the The Adoration of  Mystic Lamb
St Bavo’s Cathedral is the only place you will get to see The Adoration of  Mystic Lamb

The Adoration of  Mystic Lamb – The Ghent Altarpiece

Considered to be the first major work of the Renaissance and a milestone in art history, it has not been without an intriguing past. The piece fell into French hands under Napoleon.

It was requisitioned by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The ‘Just Judges’ panel, was stolen in 1934 and to this day has not been found. The missing panel is replaced by a reproduction.

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Facts

Opening times to View The Ghent Altar Piece:

Between 10.30 and 16.00. Note – While the Ghent Altarpiece can be viewed during these hours, the panels are only open at certain times. Check at the cathedral.

Entry to view The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb:

Between €1.50 – €4.00. Free with the Ghent City Card.

Climb The Belfry of Ghent

The skyline of Ghent is dominated by three medieval towers. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, Saint Nicholas’ Church and the Belfry of Ghent. At 91 meters, the 14th-century UNESCO listed belfry tower is the tallest in Belgium.

Perched on top is a large golden dragon. Visible from all over the city, the dragon is much more than just a landmark, it is something of a city mascot.

A Free thing to do in Ghent is to see the Ghent City Hall And Ghent Belfry at night all lit up against the night sky.
Walking the streets of Ghent at night is simply stunning, with backdrops like the Ghent Belfry.

A climb to the top of the Belfry tower is one of the most popular things to do in Ghent. While there are some impressive bell exhibits on the way up, it is the view everyone comes to see.

Belfry of Ghent Facts


The Belfry of Ghent is open every day from 10.00 – 18.00 except major public holidays such as Christmas.


Entry is between €2.70 – €8. Free with the Ghent City Card.

Gent City Skyline. View from the Belfry over the parkland and church. Which cities are the best to visit in Belgium - Ghent is number 1.

Ghent Museums

Ghent has loads of museums with both fixed and temporary exhibitions. You will find a myriad of choice in subjects ranging from history, visual and fine arts, photography, nature and even psychiatry.

You will find a full list of all of Ghent’s museums here.

Opening Days and Times:

Check opening times before planning a visit as hours may vary for each museum.


Entry to museums ranges from €1 – €8. Free with Ghent City Card.

Ghent Festivals

If you happen to be in Ghent during a festival, count yourself lucky. Better still, plan your visit to coincide with one of the Ghent festivals because Ghent sure knows how to have a good time. There is a full calendar of events throughout the year worthy of a trip to Ghent.

Ghent Festival sign - supporting Ghent as one of the best places to visit for European Festivals. Free things to do in Ghent visit the Ghent Festivals. This is why visiting Ghent is one of the best things to do in Belgium
Looking for great European Festivals – Visit Ghent!

Festivals In Ghent Throughout the Year

  • The popular Ghent Festival which runs for 10 days in mid-July.
  • The Patershol Festival in August, a mini-festival in Ghent’s oldest quarter.
  • The Barrio Cantina Food Truck Festival which turns the Korenmarkt into a large outdoor restaurant with dozens of mobile kitchens, music and a fun summer atmosphere.
  • The Ghent Festival of Light which celebrates the cities world acclaimed lighting plan. Light artists come from all over the world every 3 years in February to turn Ghent into a spectacle of art and light.
  • Or maybe it is the 6 Days of Ghent bicycle race held each November which piques your interest.

These are just a few of the festivals Ghent has to offer throughout the year. Whatever your fancy, Ghent is a city renown for its festivals and events.

Related: Best time to visit Europe for festivals.

One of the very best free things to do in Ghent - The Barrio Cantina Food Truck Festival with a man standing outside his food truck with people eating delicious street food in the background.
One of the very best free things to do in Ghent – The Barrio Cantina Food Truck Festival

Grab a Ghent City Card

The Ghent All In City Card give access to:

  • All top Ghent attractions, monuments and museums
  • Guided boat tour
  • Public transport
  • Bike rental – 1 day
  • Use of hop on hop off water-tramway – 1 day

Cost: €30 for 48 hrs – €35 for 72 hrs – Save approx. €15 in low season. €20.00 in high season

You can buy the Ghent City Card at The Ghent Tourist Office, all participating museums and attractions and hotels in Ghent

Canals of Ghent. Visit Ghent

Check Current Deals for Hotels in Ghent

Facts for Visiting Ghent

When to Visit Ghent

High Season:

April – October

Low Season:

November to March

Getting To Ghent:


Ghent is situated in the north-west, the Flemish region of Belgium.

Belgium is part of the EU and in The Schengen Area

Ghent is less than an hour from Brussels. There are two main airports Brussels International and Brussels South Charleroi Airport.

  • Train from Brussels to Ghent will cost between €9 and €15 depending on the service and class.
  • Train from Bruges to Ghent takes approx 40 mins. Fares are between €6 and €10 depending on the service and class.
  • Train from Antwerp to Ghent takes approx 50 mins. Fares are between €9 and €10 depending on the service and class.

Find out about day trips to Bruges from Ghent here.

Language in Ghent:

Dutch is the main language spoken in Ghent and the northern parts of Belgium. French is also widely spoken throughout. You will find most people speak excellent English.

Currency in Ghent: