Belgium is an incredible country to explore! Yeah, it might be relatively small when it comes to size but don’t let that fool you at all. There are some stunning places in Belgium all across the country, with Ghent being no exception. It’s one of those Belgium cities that has a little something for everyone and a heap of the best things to do in Ghent that are dotted all around the city.
Better still, it’s small enough to explore for a short break if you’re short on time.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the best things to do in Ghent when you visit. It’s the kind of place that’s steeped in history and a perfect little stop as part of a wider trip, too.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Ghent when you visit. Have the best time!
1.) Find Gravensteen Castle
Now, for me, visiting Gravensteen Castle is easily one of the best things to do in Ghent and a must-see spot for sure. Built during the 12th century for the count of Flanders, it’s totally stunning and is probably one of the best castles I’ve seen in Belgium.
Once inside, make sure to take the audio tour, too. Now, I’m not usually one for audio tours in themselves (they can be quite dry) but this one is totally funny.
Take a wander and discover more about the castle rooms or on the battlements. It’s like stepping back in time.
Afterwards, pop over to the Oak Restaurant for an evening dinner. They’ve created an 8-course dinner that is so tasty and is perfect for a little holiday treat.
2.) Visit Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
Over 800 years old, Saint Bavo’s Cathedral is a totally iconic spot to see when exploring Ghent.
It’s both stunning inside and out and well worth a gander during your walk around the city.
The cathedral itself is worth the time to visit with lots of artwork on display and there is a copy of the painting everyone is queuing for in chapel 30, ok it isn’t the original but saves you time if you are in a hurry.
Once inside, make sure to see the Ghent Altarpiece, which is called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. It is believed to be one of the world’s earliest oil paintings dating back to the 15th century and one of the most important in all of Belgium. For such a small city, the cathedral is totally imposing and iconic.
3.) See the MSK Art Gallery
The MSK Art Gallery is in a building that looks like it belongs in Ancient Greece with its imposing columns. That being said, it’s Belgium you’re in and, for me, its got to be one of the best places to explore European artwork.
Once here, you’ll find lots of Belgian and Dutch art, alongside the Van Eyck tryptic that is currently being restored here. Some of the artwork dates from the 14th century and reaches all the way to the present day. It’s a great spot to visit if you love art and even better if the weather looks a little grumpy.
That being said, if you’re not into your art, you might want to give this one a miss!
4.) Explore Patershol
Patershol is a totally picturesque part of the city and exploring it is easily one of the best things to do in Ghent. Better still, it’s a great area to visit when you are feeling hungry, too; there are loads of restaurants here.
Now, it’s traditionally an area where leather tradesmen were located on the cobbled streets, though it’s so much more today.
Once here, hop into t’Klaverblad, it’s a totally yummy French restaurant that’s perfect for lunch. That being said, if you’re only feeling peckish, pop into one of the traditions pubs here and grab yourself a Belgian Beer and kroakemandels. They’re a little like fried peas and pretty tasty.
5.) Visit Saint Peter’s Abbey
Now, it might be a little far from the centre itself, but if you’re interested in historical spots in Ghent, then Saint Peter’s Abbey is a great place to go.
Once inside the abbey, explore the exhibitions, halls and abbey, too. Though, in my opinion, this audio tour is quite cheesy!
If you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a table at Allegro Moderato, they serve up a wine-paired seasonal menu that is so good.
6.) Go up the Belfry of Ghent
Built within the 14th century and a dragon sits on top of the weathervane and is one of the medieval towers that completely overlooks the city itself.
Now, you can climb to the top of the tower to get some incredible views across Ghent itself. That being said, if you don’t fancy the stairs, there’s also a lift that’ll take you to the top! This makes it totally easy to visit and is well worth going up.
It really is one of the best things to do in Ghent if you’re looking for some views over the city.
7.) See the museums of Ghent
One of the best things about Ghent is that it’s got a shed load of museums and cultural sites to visit once you arrive.
Now, two museums I really recommend you visit, are; the MIAT, and STAM. Firstly, the MIAT is where you can learn about the city’s industrial history, it is a former mill and the exhibits are on five floors and give you a proper insight into how Ghent changed over the centuries.
You will discover 250 years of industry through machinery that is still operating. Though, if this sounds a little tedious to you, maybe give this one a miss.
Alternatively, STAM goes a little further back into history, 70,000 years. This building was formerly a nunnery, and the exhibits show how life and the city have evolved through time. It’s pretty interesting and a great spot on a rainy day.
8.) Explore Vrijdagmarkt
Not too far from Gravensteen, Vrijdagmarkt is one of Ghent’s stunning squares to see.
Now, the Vrijdagmarkt was named after the Friday market that is still held here every week here. This all means Friday is a great day to visit if you want to see the square in action.
Oh, and don’t forget to spot the statue of Artevelde that dominates the square, too.
9.) See the stunning Stadhuis
Ghent has so many beautiful buildings for you to see and one that particularly stands out is the Stadhuis or the city hall. It’s a totally stunning building and well worth keeping your eyes peeled for.
Apparently, It took almost a century to be completed in the year 1600 and it still stands today; those builders must have been good!
10.) Try some tasty grub
When you come to Ghent you will be impressed by the food, it is diverse and tasty. Gruut Beer is locally produced and one of the country’s tastiest tasting beers.
You should also try Stoverij, a tasty Belgian beef stew, or Waterzooi, a fish stew that has existed since the Middle Ages. Honestly, you’ll be stuffed. Now, if you’re really hungry, pop into Du Progres (on Korenmarkt 10) that make the juiciest Chateaubriand and varkenswangetjes that is so good!
11.) Saint Nicholas’ Church
Easily one of the oldest buildings in all of Ghent, Saint Nicholas’ Church is a spot you have to see in the city. Honestly, it’s huge and you kinda can’t miss it!
Once inside, make sure to explore the building and see the wooden pulpit that is so ornate. Plus, It’s right in the centre of the historic centre of Ghent so it’s so easy to visit.
12.) Stroll through Graslei and Korenlei
Perched on the city’s Leie River, exploring Graslei and Korenlei is easily one of the best things to do in Ghent during a short trip. You see, it gives you a real taste of the history of the city and it’s totally picturesque.
The merchant houses are so ornate and the whole area is filled with little shops and cafes where you can literally whisk away a day. Better still, if you’re feeling like it, hop onboard one of the small boats that tour the city through the historic canals.
It’s a great way to give your legs a rest and see Ghent through a different perspective.
Afterwards, pop over to Sint-Michiel bridge for a lovely view across to Gravensteen and the medieval quay itself.
It really is a special area of the city.