Often overlooked in favour of popular destinations such as Bruges and Brussels, Ghent is a stunning Belgian city with so much to offer. Spending one day in Ghent is the perfect addition to your Belgium itinerary and a great way to get off the beaten tourist track in Europe.
Nestled along scenic canals, this charming city boasts impressive medieval architecture and vibrant marketplaces. Begin your journey at the iconic Gravensteen Castle, a medieval masterpiece that offers a glimpse into the city’s past.
Meander through cobbled streets to St. Bavo’s Cathedral, home to the world-renowned Ghent Altarpiece. Immerse yourself in local life at Graslei and Korenlei, canal-side hubs lined with bustling cafes and boutiques.
From historical wonders to delicious cuisine (hello Belgian waffles!), Ghent promises an unforgettable day of exploration. This 1-day itinerary for Ghent will take you through all of the must-see attractions, ensuring you don’t miss any of the city’s top highlights!
In this guide I’ve covered everything you need to know to plan the ideal one day in Ghent, from where to eat and drink to where to stay and the best tours to book. So let’s dive in and discover how to make the most of your limited time in Ghent!
Table of Contents
Important Information to Plan the Perfect Day in Ghent
Top Rated Tours and Tickets for One Day in Ghent
If you’re short on time and you’re hoping to see the best highlights of Ghent in just a few hours, then joining a tour is the best way to go. See a few of Ghent’s most popular city tours below.
2 Hour Walking Tour of Ghent’s Highlights
If you want to get an overview of Ghent’s top attractions in a short period of time, this tour is the perfect solution for you. A local guide will take you on an informative walking tour passing by the most famous landmarks of the city while sharing insider’s tips and historic facts along the way.
Guided Urban Bike Tour of Ghent
For those who want something a little different than your standard walking tour, why not try a bike tour instead? This highly-rated tour of Ghent will take you past all of the city’s top highlights while also including some off the beaten path spots.
This fun and educational tour will give you a different perspective of Ghent through the eyes of a local as you whiz through the scenic streets on a mountain bike.
The 2.5 hour urban bike tour includes bike rental, helmet, water bottle, rain jacket (if necessary) and a polaroid picture to remember the fun experience!
50 Min Medieval Center Boat Tour
This iconic experience ranks as one of the top things to do in Ghent in one day. If there’s only one tour to pick, let it be this one. Sit back and relax as you float along the picturesque canals of Ghent, taking in the awe-inspiring scenes of the medieval center.
The boat tour glides underneath old bridges and passes by the most beautiful churches while your guide shares fascinating stories to accompany the journey.
The tour is offered in several different languages, see the link below for more info and to book your boat tour ahead of time (it gets very busy during high season).
One Day Ghent & Bruges Tour from Brussels
If you’re planning to be based in Brussels and looking to explore more of Belgium with limited time, look no further. This popular day trip allows you to tick off two of Belgium’s most famous historic cities in one jam-packed day of sightseeing.
With a knowledgeable tour guide to lead the way and every detail planned out for you, all you have to do is show up and enjoy the day. The tour lasts for 10.5 hours and includes walking tours in both cities, transportation to all destinations, and an optional boat tour along the canals.
Getting to Ghent
Ghent is easily accessible by train from pretty much anywhere in Belgium. It’s located between Bruges and Brussels making it very easy to reach in just 30 minutes from both cities.
Getting to Ghent from Antwerp is also an easy route and takes around one hour by train. Plan your journey by checking the train schedule and getting your tickets ahead of time.
Of course renting a car and driving to Ghent is also an option. Either way, Ghent makes an excellent addition to your Belgium itinerary and you’re bound to fall in love with this city as much as I did!
Best Time to Visit Ghent
Ghent is an awesome destination to visit year round. It is typically less touristy than Bruges and Brussels so if you’re looking for a stunning city with less crowds, add Ghent to your Belgium itinerary!
While the weather is best from June – September, this is also peak tourist season so you can expect the streets to be busier during these months. Always come prepared for rain though, Belgian weather can be unpredictable at any time of year.
Are you traveling to Belgium in July? Be sure to catch the Ghent Festival for an exciting cultural experience. If you’re lucky enough to visit Ghent in December, you’ll be able to attend the Ghent Christmas Markets which take place every year in the heart of the medieval center.
Consider visiting Ghent during May/June or September for the best sightseeing experience and a higher chance of nice weather.
Packing Checklist for Your 1-Day Ghent Itinerary
- Day pack – A good day pack is a must-have for your full day trip to Ghent.
- Good walking shoes – This Ghent itinerary involves a fair amount of walking so be sure to have a pair of comfortable shoes.
- Portable charger – It will be a long day and there will be many beautiful sites to capture so make sure your phone stays fully charged.
- Travel Tripod – If you’re traveling solo (or as a couple), taking a phone tripod is the best way to get good shots in the city without asking a stranger. These are small, quick to set up and ensure that you’ll always get the photos you want without relying on other people!
- Collapsible water bottle – Bring a water bottle to ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Sunglasses – You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors so make sure to protect your eyes from the harsh sun.
- Sunscreen – As mentioned above, keep yourself protected from the sun if you’re visiting Ghent during summer!
- Umbrella – The weather in Belgium is unpredictable so don’t forget to bring a compact travel umbrella.
- Rain jacket – As stated above, the weather in Belgium can change quickly no matter the season, it’s always best to come prepared.
Where to Stay in Ghent
For ease of sightseeing, booking your hotel in a central location of the city is best. This way you will be within walking distance of the best cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions of Ghent. Find a few of the top-rated Ghent accommodations in each price range below.
Hostel Uppelink – Situated in a prime location right next to Saint Michael’s Bridge, this cosy hostel is the perfect choice for the budget conscious traveller. You’ll wake up in the heart of Ghent with all of the attractions, restaurants and cafes right at your doorstep.
Hotel Chamade – This highly-rated hotel is located just outside of the the city center. Conveniently, the tram stops right in front of Hotel Chamade and it’s only 5 stops away from the heart of Ghent.
B&B The Verhaegen – Stay inside a luxurious 18th-century mansion not far from the historical center. Each room features unique decorations and a large comfortable bed. The private garden offers the perfect oasis to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
Best Travel Insurance for Europe
Are you travelling to Belgium from overseas? If you are, then you’ll need to get travel insurance before you go.
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I always go with Heymondo. They’re one of the most reliable companies that will provide you with simple and flexible coverage. Whether you’d like to protect against medical emergencies, lost luggage, or trip cancellations, Heymondo has you covered!
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Is One Day in Ghent Enough?
Ghent is a very walkable city with all of the main attractions located fairly close together in the historic center. By following this 1-day Ghent itinerary, you’ll be able to maximise your time and have an enjoyable day of sightseeing.
With one day in Ghent you will get to see all of the city’s top highlights, try a few different restaurants/pubs and spend some time browsing the shops.
Whether you are taking a day trip to Ghent or spending the night, one day in Ghent is the ideal amount of time.
Is Ghent Worth Visiting?
Most tourists visiting Belgium make it a priority to see the fairy tale city of Bruges, Ghent’s neighbour to the west. Don’t get me wrong I love Bruges, it’s absolutely beautiful!
However Bruges has become so popular and so busy that it can be hard to even walk through the narrow streets during the summer. The queues for attractions are very long and the restaurants are incredibly crowded.
If you’re travelling to Belgium during peak season, I would highly recommend visiting Ghent instead. Ghent is just as charming with a fraction of the crowds! In terms of beauty, history and overall vibe I found Ghent to be just as impressive as Bruges.
With its majestic castle, picturesque canals, quaint old pubs and fascinating history, Ghent is definitely worth visiting.
Historic Facts and Info About Ghent
Medieval Prosperity: Ghent was founded in the 7th century and rapidly grew into one of Europe’s most prosperous cities during the Middle Ages thanks to its bustling trade and textile industry.
Historic Capital: Ghent is the second largest city in the Flanders region of Belgium after Antwerp. It’s also one of the oldest cities in Belgium giving it the title of “historic capital of Flanders”.
Medieval Fortress: The iconic Gravensteen Castle, often referred to as the “Castle of the Counts,” was constructed in the 12th century by Philip of Alsace, the Count of Flanders. It served as a symbol of the count’s power and authority.
Ghent Festival: The Ghent Festival (Gentse Feesten) is a lively cultural event that has been held annually in July since 1843, attracting thousands of visitors with music, theatre, street performances, and more.
Ghent Altarpiece: Created by Jan and Hubert van Eyck in the 15th century, the Ghent Altarpiece is a renowned multi-panelled painting which is currently housed in St. Bavo’s Cathedral. It is considered a masterpiece of European art.
Ghent 1-day Itinerary Map
Below is a map of all the best places to visit in Ghent in one day. Luckily Ghent is a very compact city which means you don’t have to worry about catching trains or buses to travel between attractions.
Simply follow the stops on this map that I created to make the most of your one day in Ghent. To view the map in a larger screen, click the button on the top right corner to open a new window and see all of the attractions listed in order.
How to Spend One Day in Ghent – The Best Things to do in Ghent in One Day
Start Your Day at Gravensteen
Aim to start your day at one of Ghent’s most popular tourist attractions: the striking Gravensteen Castle. Located alongside one of Ghent’s canals, this medieval wonder resembles a scene from a fairy tale.
Gravensteen is also known as the Castle of the Counts and has a turbulent history that goes all the way back to the 12th century. If you want to learn more, you can tour the castle with an audio-guide that’s included in the price of your ticket.
If you choose to enter the castle, keep in mind it will take at least an hour out of your day in Ghent. In my opinion, it is worthwhile to learn more about the castle and city’s dark history during the middle ages.
My favourite part of visiting Gravensteen was the epic panoramic view of Ghent that can be seen from the top of the castle.
Tickets: €13/ adult, €2.70/students, free/12 yrs and under
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
Wander Through Graffiti Street
Next up on your Ghent itinerary is only a 5 minute walk from Gravensteen and it won’t take much time out of your day. If you’re a fan of street art, don’t miss Graffiti Street which is located in a small alley called Werregarenstraat.
The artwork on this street is ever-changing with new designs being added to the walls each week. A short stop to admire the vibrant street art and snap a few colourful photos is all you need before continuing your tour of Ghent.
Admire St Bavo’s Cathedral
As one of the oldest buildings in Ghent, this architectural masterpiece does not fail to impress. There has been a church on this site since the year 942 which means St Bavo’s Cathedral has been a place of worship for more than 1000 years.
Another reason this cathedral is so special is that it houses the Ghent Altarpiece (Adoration of the Mystic Lamb), a large work of art completed by the Van Eyck brothers in the 15th century. It holds great cultural significance to not only Belgium but the whole of Europe.
Enter the church to marvel at the stained glass windows, learn more of the cathedral’s rich history, see Jan van Eyck’s tomb and of course the famous Ghent Altarpiece.
St Bavo’s Cathedral is free to enter however there is an extra cost to view the Ghent Altarpiece. The ticket also includes an augmented reality tour which provides an immersive and fun experience for all ages.
Tickets: €16 / adult, €8/child
Ghent Altarpiece – Mon – Sat: 10 am – 5 pm. Sun: 1pm – 5 pm
Cathedral – Mon – Sat: 8:30 am – 5.30 pm. Sun: 1 pm – 5.30 pm
Climb the Ghent Belfry Tower
For the best view over the rooftops of Ghent, be sure to climb to the top of the Belfry Tower. This imposing tower stands at 91 meters (298 feet) tall, making it one of the tallest medieval towers in Belgium. Once you reach the top, a stunning panoramic views of Ghent awaits.
Historically the Belfry of Ghent served as a watchtower, guarding over the city below. To this day you can see the dragon who sits at the very top of the tower, keeping a watchful eye over Ghent since the 14th century.
To reach the top of the tower you must be able to conquer 366 steep and narrow steps of a medieval spiral staircase (an easy way to add some exercise into your sightseeing day!) For those with limited mobility, you can take an elevator which is located on the 2nd floor.
View the official Ghent Belfry website to plan your visit and find current ticket prices and opening times.
Tickets: €11/adult, €2.2/children under 19, free/children 12 and under
Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm daily
Take in the Views at St. Michael’s Bridge
As you walk across St. Michael’s Bridge, look back to admire the postcard-worthy view of Ghent’s three main towers in a row. This is where you can see Saint Nicholas’ Church, the Belfry Tower and St Bavo’s Cathedral, and capture them all in one photo.
The central location of this bridge offers breathtaking views of Ghent’s medieval architecture and canals. This is hands down the most famous photography spot in all of Ghent!
Have Lunch at Graslei and Korenlei
Once you’ve crossed over the bridge, you will find yourself at the Graslei and Korenlei quays which is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat.
The Graslei and Korenlei quays are lined with historic buildings that surround the Leie River canal. Ships have been docking in the exact spot since the 11th century.
This is truly the beating heart of Ghent where cafes and restaurants are bustling with life throughout the day. The scenery around Graslei and Korenlei is incredibly picturesque and immediately gives the feeling as through you’ve stepped into a time warp.
On both of my visits to Ghent I loved spending some time in this area taking in the atmosphere and enjoying some lunch. The restaurants around here are a bit overpriced but in my opinion, it’s worth the extra money.
I ate lunch at Meraki which is in a picture-perfect location right on the water. So take a seat, order some food and soak it all in! This enchanting spot will make you want to linger a while to take in the magical views and vibrant energy.
Stop at Saint Nicholas’ Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk)
On your way toward the boat tour departure point, you’ll pass by Saint Nicholas’ Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk). This massive church is a remarkable example of Gothic architecture and yet another one of Ghent’s prominent landmarks that can’t be overlooked.
Saint Nicholas’ Church dates back to the early 13th century and features a wealth of medieval art and religious artefacts. Notable highlights include gorgeous stained glass windows, a beautiful wooden pulpit and several altars with exquisite sculptures.
Take a quick walk around the inside of the church to the appreciate the stunning interior, entry is free of charge.
Tickets: Free entry
Opening Hours: 10am – 4pm daily
Take a Canal Boat Tour
Get a completely different perspective of Ghent by taking a scenic boat cruise along the canals. Escape the bustle of the city streets and see the best sights of Ghent on a 50-minute boat cruise.
This is a fantastic way to learn more about the history of Ghent as your tour guide will tell stories and facts about each landmark. This boat tour will cruise past the famous three towers, several medieval churches and of course the incredible Gravensteen Castle.
The sights on this boat cruise will absolutely take your breath away! Of all the things to do on this one day Ghent itinerary, this was my favourite activity by far. I would recommend booking your cruise in advance if you’re visiting Ghent during peak season to avoid missing out.
Tickets: €9.50/adult, €6/child
Hours of Operation: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm daily
Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market Square)
This charming square in the heart of Ghent is home to many outdoor restaurants and cafes surrounding a large statue of Jacob van Artevelde. As its name suggests, a market has been held in the square every Friday since the early 12th century.
This is a nice place to take a seat on a patio and people watch while tasting some Belgian beers. My favourite bar in this square is the Dulle Griet. It’s a fantastic old pub which has a huge variety of Belgian beers to choose from, over 500 to be exact!
If you want to try their special “Max beer glass” (a large beer serving of 1.2 litres), you must exchange a shoe for a glass! Don’t miss out on stopping by this gem on your one day in Ghent.
Shopping on Langemunt Street
Not far from the Vrijdagmarkt, you’ll come across Langemunt Street which is a popular pedestrian shopping strip. You’ll find all the big chain shops here from H&M to Primark as well as some boutiques.
This long shopping street connects Vrijdagmarkt to the Korenmarkt (the other main square of Ghent). So even if you’re not in the mood for shopping, you’ll likely pass through here anyway.
If you’re still keen to explore a little more, take a wander over to the Patershol neighbourhood. This part of the city is known as “the culinary heart of Ghent.”
The narrow cobbled streets of Patershol are packed full of trendy restaurants and cafes. Whether you’re in the mood for Thai or Japanese, you’ll find all types of international cuisine to choose from here.
The medieval architecture is another drawcard for the Patershol district, with lovely traditional houses lining the streets. It’s easy to lose track of time as you explore the area, discovering pretty scenes around each corner.
Foods/Drinks to Try in Ghent
Cuberdon – These raspberry flavoured sweets can be found in shops and markets stalls all over Ghent. They come in a conical shape with a hard outer layer and a sugary syrup on the inside. Give these typical Ghent candies a try and see what you think!
Mastel – This traditional Ghent pastry is made from a soft, round cinnamon flavoured bun with butter and brown sugar sprinkled on top. The bun is placed into a panini press to flatten it and caramelize the sugar.
If you’re curious to try a mastel, head over to Oud Huis Himschoot which is the oldest bakery in Ghent.
Belgian Beers – While you’ll find a variety of Belgian beers on most menus around Ghent, a few of the best pubs to try are: Dulle Griet, Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant and the Trollekelder.
Belgian Waffles – Because if you didn’t indulge in Belgian waffles in every single city of Belgium, were you even there? I certainly have no regrets in doing so.
Belgian Frites – As in most Belgian cities, frites stands are a common sight around Ghent. You’ll likely pass by several on your day trip to Ghent and they make the perfect snack to pick up and eat on the go.
Chocolate – Belgian chocolate is known worldwide for a reason and there’s really no better place in the world to eat it. Check out this list of chocolatiers in Ghent or perhaps taking a guided chocolate tasting tour might interest you!
Spending More Than One Day in Ghent?
In addition to the attractions I’ve listed in the one day Ghent itinerary above, there are plenty more awesome things to see in and around Ghent that you should check out if you have any extra time.
The biggest highlight for me would have to be exploring the stunning cities of Bruges and Antwerp but I also really enjoyed discovering more of Ghent’s museums and hidden gems.
Day Trip to Bruges
If you haven’t already planned to take a day trip to Bruges during your time in Belgium, I highly recommend adding this into your itinerary! Bruges is very easy to reach in only 25 minutes from Ghent by train.
While Bruges is known to get quite busy (especially during peak season) there is a reason for its popularity. The historic center of Bruges is idyllic with colourful historic buildings, pretty canals, charming market squares and horse-drawn carriages riding through the narrow streets.
Bruges definitely lives up to its name as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Find out more about spending the day in Bruges here.
Day Trip to Antwerp
Antwerp is another beautiful Flemish city and the second largest city in Belgium. Spending one day in Antwerp will allow you to dive deeper into Belgian culture while experiencing a less touristy destination; as most visitors are eager to see Bruges and Brussels.
Antwerp has many great museums to visit, impressive medieval architecture, fascinating history to learn and plenty of highly-rated cafes/pubs to try out. Your day in Antwerp will take you through the cobbled streets of the Old Town, discovering charming boutiques, cafes, cathedrals and of course marvelling at the majestic Grote Markt.
If you have more time in Ghent, you won’t regret taking a day trip to the lovely city of Antwerp! Find more about planning your day here.
STAM – Ghent City Museum
Discover the history of Ghent from its medieval origins to modern times. The STAM is known as the official city museum of Ghent as it showcases the story of Ghent’s past, present and future.
The STAM gives visitors an overview of the city’s development over the centuries through a series of interactive displays, historic artefacts, maps and more. This is a great intro for first-time visitors who are keen to learn more about the city’s rich history.
Tickets: €11/adult, €2,50/child
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm, closed on Wednesdays
The Castle of Gerald the Devil (Geeraard de Duivelsteen)
While every tourist in Ghent makes a priority to see Gravensteen Castle (as you should), Geeraard de Duivelsteen is often overlooked. It’s a well-preserved 13th century fortress located next to the Reep canal, only steps from the historic center.
While it gets significantly less attention than Gravensteen, it’s worth it to stroll past and admire the building from the outside. At the time of writing, visitors cannot enter the fortress. Despite its name and gloomy appearance, this castle has nothing to do with the devil.
Museum of Fine Arts (Museum Voor Schone Kunsten)
Located near the Citadelpark in Ghent, this fantastic art museum features a massive collection of 9000 artworks spanning all the way from the medieval period to the 20th century. It’s a must-see for art enthusiasts.
A visit to the fine arts museum of Ghent will take you on a journey back through history with a heavy focus on Flemish artists through the centuries. In addition to the large permanent collection of artwork, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
Tickets: €13/adult, €2,50/child
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:30am – 5:30pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm, closed on Mondays
Huis Van Alijn
The Huis van Alijn is a museum housed in a 14th-century almshouse, located along the Leie canal not far from the Vrijdagmarkt. The building itself is a significant part of the museum’s charm.
The museum displays the daily life, customs, and traditions of the people of Ghent in the 20th century. It provides a nostalgic journey back in time, offering insights into the city’s cultural heritage.
With plenty of interactive exhibits, a visit to this charming museum is an engaging experience for all ages. Find more info about current opening hours and ticket prices at the official website.
Tickets: €9/adult, €2,50/child
Opening Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday – 9am – 5pm, closed on Wednesdays, Saturday & Sunday – 10am – 6pm
Museum of Industry Ghent
This fascinating museum focuses on the industrial development of Ghent with emphasis on textile production, which played a significant role in Ghent’s history. You’ll see a range of exhibitions and displays that tell the story of industry, innovation, and the impact of industrialization on society.
The Museum of Industry is housed in an old cotton mill in the center of Ghent, a 7 minute walk from the Vrijdagmarkt. If it happens to be raining during your one day in Ghent, this is a nice place to escape the weather for an hour or two.
Tickets: €9/adult, €2,50/child
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm, closed on Wednesdays
Stroll Through Citadelpark
Citadelpark is a massive green space located between the Leie and Shedlt Rivers, within walking distance from the city center. The park features landscaped gardens which come to life with flowers during the spring/summer months.
The city park dates back to 1875 when it was first built on the site of a former citadel. With lush greenery, serene ponds, fountains, and well-maintained lawns, this park offers a peaceful escape from the urban hustle and bustle.
Discover More Belgium Travel Guides
- How to Spend One Day in Antwerp
- 13 Best Things to do in Dinant, Belgium
- Day Trip to Bruges from Amsterdam – How to Spend a Day in Bruges
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