Wondering how to spend one day in Ghent? This one day in Ghent itinerary has you covered from cathedrals, waffles, beers to cosy candlelit cafes, read more to dive into this Flemish city. Everything you’ll need to plan a day trip to Ghent.
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Ghent, Belgium is a quaint city with a medieval flair. It’s characterised by age-old architecture, cobblestone streets, and countless chocolate shops.
And I do me countless chocolate shops that close way too early.
It’s said to be one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
It’s located more or less in between Brussels and Bruges, making it an easy city to include in your Belgium itinerary.
I’ve included it into mine as one of the cities I wanted to explore on my recent visit to Belgium.
If you’re wondering how to spend one day in Ghent, this Ghent itinerary has you covered.
From cathedrals, waffles, beers to cosy candlelit cafes, let’s dive into how to enjoy one perfect day in this fabulous Flemish city.
Things to do in Ghent Belgium
Is Ghent Worth Visiting?
Ghent might not be as well-known as Brussels and Bruges, but this low-key popularity is what makes it all the more charming.
It remains slightly less busy (for now) and has all the amazing characteristics of a fairytale European city.
Think medieval buildings, scenic waterways, cobblestone streets, cosy cafes and friendly locals.
If this sounds good to you, then Ghent is worth visiting.
Getting Around Ghent
If you’re planning on covering all the top things to do in Ghent in a day, you’re probably wondering how to get around.
Luckily, the city has a very walkable layout, and most of the main sites are concentrated close to one another. It’s the total tourist package!
Ghent city centre is small and pedestrian-friendly, you can easily travel from site to site on foot.
However, if you need a backup for rainy days or want to give your feet a break, Ghent has an excellent public transport system.
Buses and trams will take you anywhere you want to go and run from early morning till late at night.
Is One Day in Ghent Enough?
One day in Ghent, Belgium, is definitely enough time to hit the key highlights. It’s a small city, and it’s very easy to get around – even as a first time visitor.
Of course, if you have more time, you could extend your trip to a couple of days. However, all of the points of interest I’ve included can be done in just a single day.
When is the Best Time to Visit Ghent?
Here is a quick rundown of the seasons, so you know what to expect during your one day in Ghent.
Spring (March – May) in Ghent sees a slow rise in temperatures coming out of winter. These are the months when it rains the least. As long as you have a light jacket, Spring is a great time to visit Ghent.
Summer (June – August) produces the warmest temperatures in Ghent. Expect the days to hover around a pleasant 21 – 23 degrees Celsius. This is considered peak tourist season in Ghent.
The Ghent Festival (Gentse Feesten) is an annual music and theatre festival that takes place every July. It attracts a huge crowd. In recent years, about two million visitors have attended. It’s one of the biggest festivals in Europe.
Autumn (September – October) is absolutely breathtaking. The leaves take on a rustic red and burnt orange colour, and the temperatures are very comfortable and conducive to outside activities.
The whole city becomes extra cosy during winter (November – February). Ghent lights up with twinkling lights and an annual Christmas market takes place in December.
You can find hot spiced wine and Christmas crafts in high supply. If you’re looking for a place to get in the Christmas spirit, Ghent will not disappoint.
I visited at the end of February, when the city was in the grip of winter, with grey skies and rain. So, I’d recommend visiting during spring, summer or autumn and mid-December for the Christmas markets.
What to Do in Ghent in One Day
Now that we’ve covered some basics of the city let’s get into the best things to do in one day in Ghent. To make the most out of your full day of sightseeing, here are all of the top places to visit, things to see, and food to eat!
St. Michael’s Bridge (Sint-Michielsbrug and Sint-Michielshelling)
St. Michael’s Bridge offers one of the best vantage points in Ghent. It’s located right in the city centre – surrounded by 360 degrees of charming architecture.
It’s a popular place for pictures. From the bridge, you’ll be able to see the three famous Medieval Towers of Ghent. These are the towers of St. Nicholas’ Church, the Belfry, and St. Bavo’s Cathedral.
Ghent Belfry (Belfort)
When trying to decide what to see in Ghent, Belgium in one day, the Ghent Belfry should be high on your list.
Standing 91-metres high, it’s the tallest belfry in Belgium. It’s one of the city’s three iconic medieval towers, construction began in 1313. Inside, there are exciting exhibits that showcase the original bells and clockwork.
You need to pay a fee to go to the top, but you’ll be greeted with rewarding views of the whole city. You can either take the elevator up or get a workout by taking the stairs.
Graslei is a quay, which is a landing dock for ships. It’s in the historic city centre, on the banks of the Leie River.
Opposite of the Graslei is another quay called Korenlei. Both of these docks were part of Ghent’s medieval port.
Want to know what makes this place so magical? During the day, you can see the historic facade of the buildings that line the waterfront reflected on the river.
Don’t forget to pack your travel camera for your walk along the canal by Graslei and Korenlei. You’ll get some epic shots that are totally Instagram worthy!
There is also a high concentration of patio cafes along the waterfront. This is a prime position for enjoying a morning cappuccino or afternoon beer and admiring the views. These canals are easily one of the most beautiful things to see in Ghent.
St. Bavo’s Cathedral
The Saint Bavo Cathedral is a big and beautiful Gothic church. The inside is very impressive and full of religious sculptures and paintings.
The most iconic feature found inside is the Ghent Altarpiece, also referred to as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.
This towering 15th-century altarpiece is a true masterpiece of European art. It was created in 1432 by brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck.
The religious paintings are divided into several sections, which are splayed out behind the altar. When you visit, make sure to admire the views from both sides, as there are paintings on the backside as well.
You have to pay a small fee to enter the church, but your entrance ticket includes an audio guide. It goes into more detail about the painting so you can better appreciate its significance.
Gravensteen – Castle of the Counts
The Gravensteen is a medieval castle that dates back to 1180. It’s well preserved and walking around will take you back to medieval times.
A lot of the areas around the castle are accessible, which makes it extra enjoyable to explore.
Your entrance fee comes with an audio guide voiced by a local comedian and takes you on a self-guided tour around the castle.
This isn’t your typical flat-toned historian talking either – the guide makes learning the history of the Gravensteen, the Count that built it and his love life fun, entertaining, and educational all at the same time.
Even if you only have one day in Ghent, visiting this castle is a must! You can get some epic shots of the city skyline from the Gravensteen.
Korenmarkt, which translates to the ”wheat market” in English, is one of Ghent’s most charming city squares. It contains many historic buildings, which have been turned into restaurants, bars, and cafes.
If you’re looking for an authentic meal during your day trip to Ghent, this is the place to visit. It’s also a lovely area to grab a coffee, or cocktail, and watch the world go by.
If your one day in Ghent itinerary happens to fall close to Christmas, you’ll be delighted to know that this is where the city’s annual Christmas market is set.
Werregarenstraat – Graffiti Street
Werreganen Straat or Graffiti Street is a sanctioned area of the city for street art. This bright and eclectic two-block area showcases a kaleidoscope of murals.
It’s ever-changing, so you could visit Ghent multiple times and see something new every time.
If you need a break from the castles, churches, and chaos of the city centre, head here to check out some unique Ghent street art. Also, if you’re looking to capture the perfect selfie during your Ghent day trip, this is the place to do it!
Ghent Walking Tour
I never visit a city without doing a walking tour and Ghent was no exception. If you’re looking to learn more about the local history of the city during your day trip to Ghent? Why not let a friendly local lead you on a walking tour around the city.
Your guide will mix modern and historical facts, and provide plenty of local insight. You’ll also receive a great overview of Ghent.
For visitors short on time, a Ghent walking tour will allow you to discover the history of the city in a short amount of time. Tours run every day and usually last around two hours.
Patershol is a picturesque neighbourhood in Ghent with medieval charm. The narrow, cobblestone streets follow their original path from the Middle Ages.
These historical back streets are filled with local shops, corner cafes, and low-key restaurants.
The area is pedestrian-friendly, making it a lovely place to wander around.
If you want a real, local experience, head to Rococo, this quaint cafe is lit by candlelight only and will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Order a coffee or a beer and enjoy the cosy ambience.
Looking for quick Ghent tour? Why not take a 50-minute canal cruise through the city’s scenic waterways.
Give your feet a break and enjoy almost a full hour of admiring Ghent’s iconic sites from a different perspective. Pass medieval churches, the famous Gravensteen castle, the three medieval towers, and much more.
A live guide will fill you in on the history of the sites you pass and provide entertaining anecdotes.
Book Here | To book your scenic canal cruise through Ghent
On the day I visited Ghent, there was a ton of rain and wind, and for safety reasons, the canal tours were closed.
Which was a bummer as I was looking forward to doing this boat tour because I really enjoyed the canal tour I did in Bruges.
But if you end up visiting when the weather is better, I would highly recommend doing a Ghent canal tour.
House of Alijn
House of Alijn, also called Huis van Alijn, is a museum that presents the history of popular culture in Belgium from the 18th to 21st century.
It showcases the country’s day-to-day life and culture through different objects. These include electric devices, toys, books, etc. There are also old photos, videos, and audio recordings.
Learn about domestic daily life in Belgium and gain a glimpse into how people used to live.
Another cool aspect of the museum is that it’s housed in Ghent’s only preserved Medieval house.
It also has a museum cafe. If you can’t get enough of Belgian beer, pop in before or after you visit and have a drink in the buildings intimate inner garden.
The museum ticket price is very affordable, and you’ll gain even more insight into the local culture.
Vrijdagmarkt is one of Ghent’s oldest squares. It translates to “Friday market”, which stems from its tradition of holding a weekly Friday market.
This tradition dates back to the 12th century and still takes place to this day.
If your Ghent itinerary lands on a Friday or a Saturday, make sure to swing by. You’ll find local vendors selling things like fish, fresh produce, baked goods, and hand-crafted souvenirs. Outside of these days, it’s still a lovely square to check out.
Swing by Dulle Griet – one of the most popular bars in Ghent, and enjoy a fresh pint of Belgian beer.
Do a Beer and Chocolate Tour with a Local Guide
I had the pleasure of taking a 3-hour beer ???? tour with Liselot, the fantastic founder and guide of Belgium beer days. Guys, I highly recommend this tour, because you not only drink nine different types of beer.
But Liselot also educated my tour group on Belgium’s proud brewing traditions, how and why they are so many different types of beer in Belgium.
Throughout the tour, I sampled beers from big Belgium brands and craftwork brews, tasting a mix of malty, hoppy, fruity, reddish, and herby beers to sour beers.
I learnt how to pair chocolate and beer using different flavour combinations – aka pairing Neuzeke with sour beer. This pairing is for the people with a unique pallet, like me. It’s a weird combo, but I liked it.
This tour was interactive and fun, Liselot’s passionate for Belgium beer shows in this tour, and it made me love trying the beers even more. Plus she showed us tranquil little places and shops that only the local’s know.
If you love beer, heck if you are a beer novice like myself, I highly recommend that you do this tour. You’ll not only taste lush beers, learn some cultured beer stuff to impress your friends back home but also have fun doing it.
What to Eat in Ghent
Now that we’ve covered the top things to see in Ghent in one day, let’s talk about the food! This Belgian city has many tasty local treats you should absolutely try when visiting.
Frites: These are commonly called French fries by Americans and chips by the Brits. In Belgium, they’re thick-cut and double-fried. This produces an extra crispy outside and a soft inside.
They’re usually served with creamy Belgium mayo. They’re an incredibly tasty snack and best enjoyed fresh from a food stand.
Waffles: Belgian waffles are famous around the world. They’re different than regular waffles in that they have deeper pockets due to the waffle iron they’re cooked in. The batter is also lighter than typical batter. This results in a fluffy waffle ???? goodness of heavenly proportion .
You can find them at street carts across the city. They’re cooked up fresh and can be served with many different toppings.
Chocolate: Like waffles, Belgian chocolate is known worldwide for being exceptionally delicious. What makes the, chocolate here so unique is its high cocoa content, which is generally more than regular chocolate.
Chocolate shops are in high supply all over the city. Grab a small box to enjoy during the day, and stock up on more to take home with you.
Your one day in Ghent, Belgium would not be complete without popping into a chocolate shop and indulging in this sweet treat.
Neuzeke – aka Belgium nose aka Cuberdons: These are popular cone-shaped Belgium candies. Neuzekes translates to “little nose” for its appearance that shares similarities to a human nose. After chocolate, they’re the second most popular candy in Ghent.
They have a gummy candy crust and a sweet liquid filling. The most popular flavour is raspberry. You’ll find them in sweet shops and street stalls throughout the city.
The sweets pair well with Belgium sour beers as the combat the taste of the beer, a cultured fact I learnt on my beer tour.
Beer: Beer fan or not, you can’t visit Ghent without enjoying a pint or two or nine. The Belgiums have a proud beer culture, and there’s no shortage of cosy pubs in Ghent.
Purchase a flight of beer and try as many variations as possible. Or, ask the local bartender for their recommendation.
Shops to Visit when in Ghent
Tierenteyn-Verlent – One of the oldest shops in Ghent which produces and sells Belgium mustard, piccalilli and other related products. The listed 1860s interior forms the perfect setting for the range of herbs and spices.
This shop is excellent for picking up some authentic Ghent souvenirs for family and friends.
Oud Huis Himschoot (Old House Himschoot) – The oldest bakery in Ghent where bread is still baked here in the basement according to the traditional method. From the outside, the small bakery seduces you with delicious looking fresh pastries. But you can’t try them all, so pick the local speciality ‘mastel’.
It’s a small bread, which looks similar to a doughnut, but it’s made of a similar dough to that of brioche, with cinnamon added to taste.
How to Get to Ghent
How long does it take to get to Ghent? Well, that depends on where you’re coming from. Luckily, Ghent is very close to Belgium’s capital city, Brussels. The train between the two cities only takes about 35 – 40 minutes.
If you’re travelling to Ghent from far away, the nearest airport is Brussels Airport (BRU) in Zaventem, just northeast of Brussels. This is where you’ll want to fly into before continuing your short trip to Ghent.
Given its location, this Belgium city makes for a great day trip from London and Bruges. If you’re only visiting Ghent in a day, you’re probably wondering the shortest and most convenient way to get there.
Here is some helpful information about the best ways to reach Ghent from these three cities.
London to Ghent Day Trip
A Ghent day trip from London takes about three hours by train. To get there, take the London to Ghent train (Eurostar) from St Pancras International Railway Station. You’ll switch trains in Brussels and continue your journey to Ghent with a local train.
Even though you switch trains, you’ll only need to purchase one ticket – which is for the Eurostar. It will be valid for all local trains in Belgium within a 24 hour period from the time your Eurostar arrives and departs.
There are usually 7 – 9 trains that run between these cities each day. As long as you get an early start, travelling to Ghent by train from London makes for a great day trip.
Your train tickets from London to Ghent can cost as little as £77.00 for a standard round trip fare.
Getting to Ghent from Brussels
Getting from Brussel to Ghent is super fast and only takes about 40 minutes by train. From Brussels, ride the Belgian Rail to Ghent Dampoort Station or Gent-Sint-Pieters. These are the two main train stations in Ghent.
You can be quite flexible with your trip too, as trains run between the two cities all day, every day. A round trip ticket will cost about £16.00.
Visiting Ghent by car is another option, and it only takes about 50 minutes.
Seeing as the train easily connects these three cities, you could even visit Bruges and Ghent in one day if you get an early enough start.
If you are travelling from Brussels-Midi (Bruxelles-Midi) to Ghent via train during the weekend, tickets are 50% off (€15.40) on 2nd class day train tickets. The discount is applied at the ticket machine automatically.
Brussels to Ghent Day Tour
You could also book a tour from Brussels and explore Ghent with a guide. You’ll visit all the top sites and learn insightful facts and information along the way. Visit the Belfry of Ghent and the Town Hall.
Walkthrough the Patershol neighbourhood and visit the medieval Gravensteen castle.
You’ll even have four hours of free time to enjoy however you’d like. Stop for a beer, order some frites, and stock up on Belgian chocolate.
Getting to Ghent from Bruges
Getting to Ghent from Bruges is equally as easy, and takes between 25 – 30 minutes by Belgian Rail.
Trains run between the cites all day. Hop on at Bruges’ main train station: Station Brugge and take it to either Ghent Dampoort Station or Gent-Sint-Pieters.
Since it’s a shorter distance, your ticket will only cost about £13.00.
From Brussels | Ghent and Bruges Day-Tour
Looking for a day trip to Ghent from Brussels? Take a full-day tour and visit Ghent and Bruges in one go, if you want to see both cities but only have one day to do it.
All of your transportation will be taken care of for you, and a knowledgeable guide will lead you.
In Ghent, you’ll visit many top sites, including the Saint Bavo Cathedral, Market Square, and the stunning Grasle. In Bruges, take a wander around the beautiful Lake of Love and quaint city streets.
Discover both of these beautiful cities on foot and enjoy an optional boat trip along the picturesque canals.
Ghent Things to Do in a Day – Final Thoughts
I hope you enjoyed this list of what to see in Ghent in 1 day. You’ll find no shortage of activities to fill your time.
Ghent is very much a modern city, but it retains its medieval charm. As you walk next to historic buildings and through narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll feel as if you’re in another world.
Apart from the main attractions, don’t forget to enjoy the local foodie favourites. Stop at a street stand for waffles and pop into a sweet shop for chocolate and Neuzekes. Visit a lively pub or an intimate restaurant.
Now that you’re fully sorted with what to see in Ghent in one day, how about you continue your journey through Belgium and enjoy an Antwerp city break?
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