Best time to visit:
Ghent is a beautiful city that can be enjoyed at its best during the months of April to July. I visited Ghent in November and it was wet, humid and dull. But despite the weather, it was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. I can only imagine how it would have been had I visited the city a few months earlier!
Travel to Ghent:
The best way to reach Ghent would be from Brussels, Paris or Antwerp. Brussels and Antwerp are the closest. Paris is no far either. A train from Paris to Ghent is a little less under 3 hours. You can catch an early morning train (Thalys or SNCF) from Paris – Gare du Nord, reach Lille Flanders/Brussels and take another connecting train to Ghent. There are several trains from Paris to Ghent and likewise from Brussels to Ghent. Brussels to Ghent will take you less than an hour.
Book your train tickets much ahead to get a good discount. I used www.goeuro.com to book my ticket from Paris to Ghent. We boarded the train at Gare du Nord, Paris at around 10:30 in the morning and reached Ghent at around 1 PM. We had to switch trains at Lille. While returning, we took a train at 5 PM to Brussels and then from Brussels, we reached Gare du Nord by night. There is no direct train from Paris to Ghent. You will have to switch over. However, the entire trip from Paris to Ghent can be booked online.
I wouldn’t spend more than a day in Ghent. There is not much to see here for more than a day. However, this could be your base and you could see a few other cities from here – Brugges, Antwerp, Waterloo, Brussels, Eindhoven, etc.
If you do intend to stay in Ghent, as always, I would recommend Airbnb. You could get some nice rooms for 2 from Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3000.
Places to visit:
Walk around St Michael’s bridge for one of the most beautiful views. It’s right at the city center. Take the tram (1 or 21 or 22) from the station Gent St Peters and get down at Korenmarkt. Every tourist spot is at walk able distance from here.
Walk along the Graslei Korenlei banks – You must see the iconic Ghent architecture as shown below.
Gravensteen castle (Featured image) – Go around the castle for some really good views. We didn’t go inside. Nothing great to see inside. I wouldn’t really spend my time inside the castle.
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (The altarpiece at St. Bavo’s Cathedral by the Van Eyck brothers) – Must see. I didn’t get to see the painting. Unfortunately the church closed at 5:30 PM and we just missed it.
Belfry – A UNESCO World Heritage site – There are three towers that overlook the city center. One belongs to that of St. Bavo’s cathedral, second to St. Nicolas church and the third to the Belfry (the tallest of the three). For a price, you can climb up the Belfry for a beautiful view of the city.
Day trips from Ghent – Brugges, Brussels, Waterloo, Eindoven
Ghent is usually classified under the ‘day trips’ from other popular cities. But if you decide to make Ghent as your base, then the cities from which Ghent was a day trip becomes the day trips for Ghent 🙂 But honestly, it would be better if Ghent and Brugges are your day trips from the other cities.
While Brussels, Waterloo and Eindoven are much further away from Ghent (2 to 3 hours depending on the place), Brugges, a city always in competition with Ghent for its beauty, is very close. It takes hardly 20 to 30 minutes from Ghent to Brugges by train.
Brussels, Waterloo and Eindoven are also well connected to Ghent by train.
Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants to eat:
Komkommertijd – A famous vegan restaurant. Rated as one of the best
Avalon – Vegan restaurant
Le Pain Quotidiens (A bakery with vegan options)
Lekker Gec – Very close to Gent St. Peters
de Frietketel – vegan fries available
Temmerman (for the speculoos and sweets)
Chocolaterie van Hoorebeke – Luc en Cedric van Hoorebeke – For chocolates. However, there are plenty of chocolate shops available around the city center and pick any one of them for authentic Belgian chocolates. All of them are good.
Food to try:
Belgian waffles – Forget finding vegan/ egg-less waffles in Belgium. Impossible to get.
Belgian chocolate & Belgian hot chocolate
Cuberdon (purple nose sweet) – This should rather be under ‘Food not to eat’. There are a lot of blogs I read which suggested this is a must have at Ghent. I bought 14 pieces for 5 EUR (I couldn’t get any lesser) and I ended up dumping all 13 of them. To simply put – it wasn’t to my taste. Please don’t waste your money on this. Admire it’s beautiful colour, it’s weird nose shape, click a few pictures and leave it at that.
Lotus brand Speculoos spread
Gingerbread cookies (Speculoos): Order Coffee/Hot chocolate and be surprised – you get a special speculoos cookie with your order)
Souvenirs to get:
A few tidbits about the city:
The population is quite young and much to my surprise, everyone speaks English! That was a first in all my travel across Europe. Ghent is also hailed as the vegetarian capital of Europe and every Thursday is ‘Veggie Day’. Could it get any better?