Often overshadowed by its neighbour Bruges, Ghent is a beautiful medieval city with marvellous castles and charming canals. This vibrant university city is the capital of the East Flanders province.
Ghent has still kept its historic character and look, which makes it a not-to-be-missed place for any traveller.
So if you are staying in Brussels, I suggest you make a day trip to Ghent. Ghent is a great option if you are staying in Belgium for a long time. Located 50 km from the capital city; Bruges, Ghent is easy to include on your bucket list.
Unlike Bruges, Ghent isn't overrun with tourists, despite its unique architecture and medieval history. The highlights of Ghent are it's cobblestone streets, numerous chocolate shops, quirky bars - all of these things are what makes Ghent so unique. Ghent is the perfect choice for travellers who don't like touristy destinations.
With regard to time, one day in Ghent is enough, even though there are plenty of things to see and do here. This 1 day Ghent itinerary covers how to spend one day in Ghent. From cathedrals to castles, waffles, cafes, this itinerary has everything you need to plan your day trip to Ghent.
Here are my travel tips to make sure you have a day to remember.
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Using the map of Gent, you can explore all the days and stops.
Said to be one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, I was tempted to visit this Flemish city on my way back from Bruges. The best option was to take the train as there are several trains operating each hour. So I went to the train station and caught the first train available.
I must say that it was far less busy and crowded than I expected, but well worth visiting. You are probably wondering how to get around, but don’t worry. The city is easily walkable, and most of its attractions and sites are located close to each other.
It’s straightforward to get around, even if it’s your first time here. All the important attractions are included below can be easily visited in just a single day. But if you feel overwhelmed after looking at my stop recommendations, feel free to skip some stops.
I suggest wearing some comfortable shoes for walking. It’s best to explore the city on foot, however, if it’s rainy or if you want to give your feet a break, consider public transport. There are buses and trams that can take you anywhere. Plus, they run till late at night.
Wake up early for a lovely breakfast at one of the best brunch restaurants in Ghent. I found ‘Simon Says’ completely by chance. It was the perfect way to start my day because they have the most amazing staff I’ve ever come across. Plus, the food is delicious - very well presented and freshly cooked.
You can order a big breakfast or just a tiny toast. There is also some pastry (such as croissants), muesli, boiled eggs, and mini yoghurt. We sat outside and watched the world go by while eating our Silver breakfast package.
Their coffee is amazing! And you know I have very high standards for coffee.
The place is a bit off the tourist track, but the friendly guys even gave me recommendations on where to go and what to do in Ghent.
I felt so welcomed there - so I started my day with a smile.
Gravensteen Castle is a medieval castle dating back to the 9th century and is well preserved ever since. Walk around medieval history and travel back in medieval times with a visit to this fairytale castle.
It was a symbol of the Count’s power and wealth and was used by the Counts of Flanders as a courthouse and a prison. Later, it was abandoned in the 14 th century, and other houses were built nearby.
Because it is the only remaining castle with a moat and entire defence system, Gravensteen is a must-visit on your trip.
I don’t always prefer to choose a tour with an audio guide, but for this one, I suggest taking it. The guide takes you back in the time when the Count lived in the Gravensteen castle. The story is accompanied by humour, so you will not get bored with historical facts. The views of the city are amazing!
Being one of the most popular points for taking photos, St. Michael’s Bridge is another must-visit place in the city centre. The bridge offers 360 degrees of amazing architecture - everywhere you look you get an overview of Ghent’s historic city centre.
From this point, you can see the three most popular towers: St. Nicholas Church, The Belfry and St. Bavo’s Cathedral. It’s the only place where you can take a photo of the three towers.
The bridge is usually crowded with tourists posing for a perfect snap, so it might take a while till you get your selfie.
In the meantime, take a few minutes to admire the beautiful scenery with boats of tourists passing right beneath the bridge through the canals. It’s the perfect spot to soak up the sun while watching the people sitting on the canal banks.
Compared to what you can see from the bridge - a looming Gothic architecture, the bridge is relatively ‘new’. It’s just the right place to appreciate the city.
With Michael’s bridge behind, continue your walking tour of the city to Graslei and Korenlei. These parallel pedestrian streets are also a must-visit during your 24 hours in Ghent, Belgium.
They run alongside the Leie river and are surrounded by medieval buildings with beautiful facades. Reflecting into the river, these buildings are hidden symbols.
Get your camera ready for the most picturesque area in Ghent. If you take a moment to relax, you can admire the swans as they swim around the canals. You can also enjoy a cup of cappuccino or a snack - there are various cafes at the waterfront.
The street is often crowded with tourists, especially on warm days. But if you have a chance to visit it in winter, you’ll experience the streets when they are much quieter.
If you are not interested in coffee, you can sit at the waterfront or catch a boat for a canal tour. It’s a great place to spend some time and relax with a sandwich before you head out to your next stop.
Why not add a 50-minute boat tour through the canals on your Ghent day trip itinerary?
Explore the city’s scenic waterways and rest your feet for a while. It’s a great way to see the adorable buildings of Ghent and learn more about medieval history.
You will pass by medieval churches, and towers, as well as the well known Gravensteen castle.
One pick up point is Grasbrug bridge, which is near to Graslei street. The boat tour offers amazing views of the city. If the weather permits, I suggest you find an uncovered boat because you'll get a much clearer view of the scenery. But if it’s winter, then a covered boat might be a better idea.
There are various companies operating, so you can buy a ticket right on the spot. The tour is very informative, and the guide speaks multiple languages.
When in Ghent, you'll probably want to indulge in delicious food. You're in luck because you are spoiled for choice here!
Eating at Manhattan's Burgers Graslei was one of the highlights of my day trip to Ghent. I was intrigued by the smell as I passed by, even though Belgium has many great local food options, I really could not resist Manhattan's Burgers Graslei.
The food was fantastic - the beef burgers with pickled onions and fries were freshly cooked. In fact, there was nothing not to like about this place. If you get the chance to find a seat by the window, you can enjoy the lovely canal views and tourists passing by.
I really recommend it - the guys were friendly and the location is convenient for a quick bite. It was definitely one of the best burgers I've ever eaten.
Now that your stomach is full, continue your journey by heading over to Saint Nicholas Church. Take some time to go inside and admire its unique architecture.
It’s one of the oldest churches in Ghent, yet beautifully kept. There is a big pipe organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. I hope you will be lucky enough to attend the organ recital. The sculptures and paintings are lovely complemented with a massive ornately carved wooden pulpit.
The church looks very interesting from the outside, especially at night when it’s illuminated.
You can take numerous photos here - the Gothic atmosphere will surely make for a great photo. Saint Nicholas Church is one of the most majestic buildings I’ve ever seen. If you enjoy art and architecture, this is one of the must-sees.
Now let’s head to the Belfry Tower, where you can get a much better view of the church.
One of the top things to see in Ghent in one day is Ghent Belfry tower. Standing 91 meters high, it’s the tallest building in Belgium. Built in the 14th century, it was used as a watchtower, city archive, and bell tower at the same time.
Although you need to pay a fee, I recommend climbing to the top and once again admire the spectacular city views. Go around the top and explore different parts of the city.
You can do that either by taking the elevator or taking the stairs. If you are like me and would like to avoid the narrow steps, then take the elevator to go up. If you have the chance to get inside, you will notice interesting exhibits representing the original bells and clockwork.
It’s been awarded as a Unesco World Heritage site, representing the city’s success and independence. The Belfry tower is in the middle of all three medieval towers.
Take the time to admire one of the oldest parish churches in the city of Ghent. It’s named after Saint Bavo of Ghent, the patron of the city.
This Gothic architectural gem dates back to the 16th century and is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. The interior is magnificent with religious sculptures, paintings and glass windows.
Impressed by its architecture, I spent some time admiring the Baroque high altar, the black and red marble, and the Gothic chandelier. But what I found most impressive, was the famous Ghent Altarpiece - The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.
Known as Jan Eyck’s most famous masterpiece, it represents the early Northern Renaissance. The viewing space is limited, so you might need to wait for a bit.
To see street art during your 1 day in Ghent, Werregarenstraat is the destination to head next. I must admit that some of the most interesting street art I’ve ever seen was in Ghent. This two-block area of the city is dedicated solely to an eclectic collection of graffiti.
Werregarenstraat is constantly changing, so when you visit it or revisit it later, you might see something new each time. Periodically the walls are repainted back to a black canvas so that artists can create something unique and different.
Werregarenstraat is a nice place to visit if you want a change from the castles, churches, and tourists in the city centre, it also makes for a perfect Instagram photo.
When I visited Ghent, I discovered Werregarenstraat by taking a free walking tour with a friendly local guide. Because I was on a short visit, this tour seemed like a great idea to discover the historic and modern facts about the city.
Korenmarkt has been the centre of activities in Ghent for many years. The square is surrounded by popular European landmarks, such as St. Nicholas Church and the Leie River. Also, there are numerous bars, restaurants, and shops full of tourists.
This market hosts several events during the year, such as the Festival of Ghent and the Christmas Market. It’s a great way to explore local culture, especially if you happen to be here during winter. There are a lot of things to keep you entertained, even if you arrive during the warm months.
On the other hand, Vrijdagmarkt is one of the oldest squares in Ghent. There is a tradition (dating back to the 12th century) of holding a market here every Friday. That’s why it got its name ‘ Friday Market’. Locals and visitors are visiting the market every Friday morning.
I highly recommend Korenmarkt because you will find lots of things to keep you busy - from culinary to historic.
The Patershol neighbourhood is right next to Vrijdagmarkt across the little bridge. It’s a picturesque neighbourhood boasting medieval charm, narrow cobblestone streets, local shops, and corner cafes.
The area is lovely to wander around. I love strolling around quiet streets- these are my favourite to explore. You can stop for a coffee and enjoy the cosy atmosphere. Or take a break with dinner at some of its restaurants. From Belgian to Italian, Indian or Turkish, you can find it all.
It’s the perfect alley to get lost for a while and marvel at beautiful views around every corner. Once you step in, you start feeling the ancient Ghent city with a medieval vibe that is much different than the rest of the city.
I recommend taking some time to experience this unique neighbourhood while visiting Ghent.
Patershol neighbourhood is a real pleasure for food lovers. It must be on the top of your menu as well. Eateries can be found everywhere in these cobblestone streets, so I don't think you'll be leaving with an empty stomach.
Enjoy a leisurely meal at the 'Roots' right in the centre of Patershol. It's the best hidden gem in Ghent. When I ate here, the food was very well presented, and the staff was friendly and welcoming. Even though the food choice is limited, you will not find better food in Patershol.
Don't miss out on trying their desserts - they are simply wonderful. Accompanied by a cup of coffee, it makes for a very enjoyable experience.
I recommend it because it's located outside the busy centre so you can rest in a relaxed atmosphere.
In the Patershol neighbourhood, you will also come across the House of Alijn. This is a museum that represents the 18th to 21st-century culture.
It is about the daily life and culture of Belgium manifested through various objects. These objects are toys, electronic devices, books, photos, video, and audio. Here you will learn how people once lived and get more insight into the local culture.
The museum is located in an old Alm’s house on the banks of the river in a cosy courtyard. In its cafe, you can get a Belgian beer and relax in its intimate garden.
The ticket doesn’t cost much, so if you are out exploring Patershol, it may be worth paying a visit.
After visiting the House of Alijn, it’s time for another museum.
The Design Museum is the only museum where you can discover a variety of international modernist furniture and objects by designers. I recommend this museum while visiting Ghent. It’s a great way to understand how design has an impact on our daily lives.
The museum has pieces from the Art Noveau of Henry van de Velde to contemporary avant-garde design. There are temporary exhibitions and permanent displays as well.
It’s much more than a museum, designers and people who love design gather here to discuss their ideas. If you are a designer, you will find this museum very exciting and will probably want to spend some more time here.
It’s no wonder that Belgian waffles are famous around the world. A day in Ghent wouldn’t be complete without a street waffle, so you’ll want to save some room for it. I recommend buying one from the street carts scattered around the city. I picked one up from Bakery Himschoot, which is one of the oldest ones in Ghent.
The waffles from Bakery Himschoot are much better as they are served warm and freshly cooked in front of you. Belgian waffles are much lighter, thicker and crispier. Plus, you can choose plenty of toppings such as whipped cream, soft fruit, hot cherries, ice cream, confectioner’s sugar or chocolate spread.
Like waffles, chocolate is also well-known in Belgium mostly, because it’s exceptionally delicious! It contains a high amount of cocoa, which makes it more unique than other chocolate. You can find chocolate shops almost everywhere in the city.
I suggest stopping at Gentse Neuzen, which is next to the bakery. These sweet candies are soft and filled with jelly and fruit inside. You can take a small box home with you, but I bet it won’t last!
Walking down the streets with a waffle in my hands, I came across an outstanding building with impressive architecture. It’s hard to miss Ghent Town Hall or Stadhuis. Its ornate Gothic style mixed with lines of Renaissance style will immediately catch your eye.
This town hall is probably the strangest but also the most beautiful in its own unique way. It’s equally interesting inside and outside. On the outside, you can marvel at the walls with stunning statues and detailed carving. Its interior is adorned with wooden vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, wedding chapel, and labyrinth.
If you have the chance to take photos of the inside and outside, it’s worth adding it on your one day in Ghent itinerary. While you are visiting, you might run into couples getting married here.
Limited in time and would rather have someone else handle your travel guide? Then this one day in Ghent itinerary will provide you with wonderful ways to get to know the city better.
If you are planning to spend only 1 day in Ghent, I would advise you to use the fastest way of transport. Depending on where you are staying, there are a few options to arrive at Ghent.
From Brussels, you can either take the train or find a guided tour. Personally, I love exploring independently. There are frequent trains running every 20 minutes so you can hop on the first one available. But if you happen to be like me, located in Bruges, the best way to get to Ghent is by train.
Moreover, I would also recommend buying a Ghent CityCard for a maximum dose of must-see attractions. It gives you access to all the sights, museums, tours and public transportation in Ghent. If you do the math both with and without the card, you’ll realize it saves you money.
I am sure you will enjoy your time as much as I did. I also hope that you enjoyed my list of the top things to do in Ghent in one day. Apart from the main attractions and landmarks, you’ll be able to enjoy local foodie favourites such as waffles or a Belgian beer.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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