Have only One Day in Ghent?
Updated on 22/4/2020
Ghent is a Belgian city that is located around 30 minutes away from Brussels by train. With its size significantly larger than Bruges but not too overwhelming like Brussels, it’s an awesome city for a day trip. Bolstered by an exuberant student vibe and gorgeous canals crisscrossing the city, Ghent is definitely worth a visit.
To be honest, I stayed in Ghent for a few days because I loved it so much! If you are tight on schedule or budget, you can choose to do a day trip from another city like Brussels or even from France. Here’s how you can spend one day in Ghent!
How to Spend One Day in Ghent
The easiest way to get to Ghent is by train. There are two main train stations in Ghent, which are Gent-Sint-Pieters and Gent-Dampoort. Gent-Sint-Pieters serves the route between Ghent and most other cities/towns in Belgium whereas Gent-Dampoort mainly serves the line between Antwerp and Ghent.
From Gent-Sint-Pieters, it’s a good 30 minutes walk to the city centre (around 2km). If you don’t have a huge luggage/daypack with you, I highly recommend you doing the walk as it’s gorgeous. The walk from Gent-Dampoort is magnificent too as you can see the canals surrounding the city. If you have to use the tram to go to the city centre, buy your ticket from a newspaper shop or a local store and tell them that you want a ticket to the city centre. They will understand. This will save you about 50% of the full ticket price as it’s more expensive to buy your ticket in the tram. You can consider buying the day ticket (Dagpas) as well. It costs 5 euros for unlimited use of public transport for the whole day.
You can also get to Ghent via bus from nearby cities like Lille, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Brussels or Cologne. MegaBus always offers insane bus ticket (I got my ticket to Ghent for 1 pound) so it’s worth checking them out. Bear in mind that MegaBus stops at Campanile Hotel and that’s not in the city centre. Plan your travels with GoEuro as they will search up the cheapest deal for you to get into Ghent. From Campanile hotel, you can take local bus number 8 to go straight to the city centre.
Gust: If you need your daily dose of morning coffee, head up to Gust which is located not too far away from the city centre. Although their breakfast combos are not as cheap (around 10 euros for one), they are worth trying. Gust also offers 2 brunch options: guiltfree and guilty pleasure for 22 euros and 25 euros respectively. The menu can be found here.
Jackie’s Bagel Bar: Love bagels too much? Go to this bagel bar where they offer freshly baked bagels everyday. The names of the bagels are actually names of cities like New York, Barcelona, Tijuana, Berlin, London and so on! Price ranges from 4 euros to 7.50 euros. If you have a sweet tooth, get some cupcakes or muffins! Menu can be found here.
Get your bearings right by joining one of the city walking tours. I love the one offered by Gent Free Walking Tours and it lasts for 2 hours. There are two tours available (10:00 and 13:00). If you can’t do the morning one, you can choose to join the afternoon. It can get booked out pretty quickly if you are travelling to Ghent in summer so make sure that you have your reservation. If you are happy with the tour, give them some tips.
You can also choose to go to the Gent Belfort, which is a watchtower that gives you an amazing view of the city. Do this while you are still feeling strong after breakfast because the steps are pretty steep! The entrance ticket is 8 euros. If you are 19-25 years old, you can enjoy a reduced rate of 2.70 euros. Anyone under 19 years old can enter for free. Gent Belfort opens from 10am to 6pm. I stayed up there for around 30 minutes.
After that, head straight to Sint-Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas Church). This gigantic church sits in the middle of the city and it’s become the icon of Ghent since then. Being one of the most impressive churches that I have ever been too, I strongly recommend coming here! It’s free admission anyways. You can also see many shops selling Belgian linens, which is the speciality from Ghent.
In general, lunch in Europe is normally cheaper than dinner. The same applies to the city of Ghent.
Souplounge: This soup place is pulsating with the student vibe. With just 5 euros, you can get yourself a hearty bowl of soup (tomato, pumpkin, kale or spinach) topped with croutons and tiny meatballs, two bread rolls and a piece of fruit! The line may seem long but it normally clears really fast.
De Frietketel (fries barracks): This place was recommended by my Couchsurfing host and it’s absolutely fantastic. Honestly, it’s the best fries that I’ve tried in Europe, and it’s really cheap! For 3 euros, you get quite a large servings of fries. They also offer other snacks like burgers and a whole list of vegetarian/vegan options! You will probably spend 7-8 euros to have a satisfying meal here! Bear in mind that De Frietketel is a little out of the way. If you can’t be bothered coming here, go to Jozef’s frituur (though I think the fries are not as good as De Frietketel). It’s centrally located and you can get a serving of fries slathered with sauces for only 2.50 euros.
Noedelbar Ramen (Noodle Bar ramen): If you need to satisfy your Asian food cravings, head to this ramen place where you can get a bowl of hearty ramen for 12 euros! Not only they serve ramens, they also offer dishes from other cuisines like Vietnamese Bun Cha and Chinese Bau.
Visiting these kinds of eateries has allow me to keep my spending to a minimum! That’s why I could afford to travel to Europe for less than 35 USD!
After lunch, hop on a boat! This will give you a different perspective of how you see the city! For 40 minutes of boat ride, expect to pay around 7.5 euros (the price might have increased). This includes a guide telling you the story of Ghent from his knowledge in various languages. One of the best ways to know Gent is by doing a boat tour. If you don’t want a boat tour, head to Graslei, which is a beautiful stretch of street by the river. You can also admire the beauty of Saint Michael Church from here.
(Update Aug 2018, they don’t do the free boat tour anymore! Please comment down below if you know if they have resumed the tour)!
A thousand-year-old castle sleeping by the side of the canal.
After that, head to Gravensteen and explore this medieval castle that has been around from early 11th century! They often have events so make sure you check their official website out before going. The admission price is 10 euros, and 6 euros if you’re a student.
Wanna have some afternoon tea? Grab some Oliebollen (Dutch donuts) from one of the many street food stalls. If not, head to Yuzu Chocolatier where a crazy Belgian portray his love of Asian culture by mixing Belgian chocolate with Sichuan pepper / wasabi / matcha / ginger. As long as the ingredients are used heavily in any of the Asian cuisines, he will put it in his chocolate. Cuberdon, which is also one of the local delicacies of Ghent, can be found in many chocolate specialty shops. They are a little too sweet for me though. If you fancy some macarons, head to Joost Arijs near Vlaaderenstraat for a cheap treat (around 1.50 euros).
De Gekroonde Hoofden: If you are very hungry and you have a huge appetite, head up to De Gekroonde Hoofden to enjoy an all-you-can-eat ribs buffet for only 17.90 euros! Their ribs come in many different flavours but I love teriyaki and BBQ. As the place is always crowded, make sure that you reserve a table a day or two before you are in Ghent. Bear in mind that the all-you-can-eat doesn’t apply to salads, unfortunately.
De Lieve: I dined here and I have no regrets. I had the famous beef stew (stoverij) and my friend had fish in cream sauce (waterzooi) and it was fantastic. Both of them are traditional Flemish cuisine and it’s a must try! It costs around 25 euros per person including drinks. If you need to splurge, splurge here.
Even if you are not staying for a night, you should still see Saint Michael’s Church lights up at night. It’s eerily beautiful.
If you are staying for a night, visit one of the many Belgian bars around. If you want a cosy kind of setting, visit Water House on the Bierkant. This old beer house has been around for a long time, offering more than 100 kinds of beer! If there’s no free table (as it’s really small), cross the canal and go to Damberd. This jazz bar is a chic establishment (Read: more expensive) that offers good music and also, a lot of alcohol.
More like a bookworm and not into alcohol? Le Bal Infernal heard all your prayers! This used-book bar cum cafe is home to 10,000 used books. Grab a book and have some drinks there until 1am on weekdays or even later on weekends!
Accommodation in Ghent is not very cheap. I recommend using Couchsurfing if you are solo-travelling. Belgians are generally very hospitable. You can read more about Couchsurfing here.
Generally, the options on Airbnb can range from 25 euros to 125 euros, depending on the location and the type of accommodation selected (room or entire apartment). Get 25 dollars off if you are using Airbnb for the first time.
If you are more keen on staying in hotels, use Booking.com to book your accommodations. Booking.com consistently gives me the best price (esp. in Europe, if you are going to Asia use Agoda.com but you can try to see if there’s cheaper listing) and there are more options listed on Booking.com as well. On top of that, you can use Ebates.com to get cashback from your booking!
Honestly, I think that you should spend more than one day in Ghent but if that’s what you’ve got, this is how you can spend one day in Ghent. Happy planning!
Instead of having a boring bunk bed, you will be sleeping in a "pseudocampervan"! A great experience. Have more privacy! Highly rated amongst the hostels in Ghent.
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This might be the oldest building that you will ever sleep in. Built in 1898, the rooms, the lounges and the dining rooms are all decorated exquisitely with fine, antique furniture.
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