City Guide to Ghent, Belgium | Must See Attractions
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This is part three of a multiple part series in our City Guide to Belgium, where we visit Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. Don't miss part one and two of our Belgium series!
- City Guide to Brussels, Belgium: Part 1 | Public Transportation
- City Guide to Bruges, Belgium | Must See Attractions
A City Guide to Sightseeing in Ghent
Our home base, if you will, was in Brussels, Belgium. From there we took three, one-day-trips to cities outside of Brussels and then spent two days sightseeing in Brussels. All of the cities (Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp) were small enough that upon our arrival we didn’t need to take public transportation, although it was available if needed. Before arriving in Belgium, we did our homework and put together a personalized sightseeing itinerary. We started out by finding as much as possible on what there’s to do in each place and then narrowed it down to the must-see attractions, per our travel style and opinions. We take everything we want to see and put it on a Google map, adding layers for each city we'd visit in Belgium. We added hours, prices, and general notes on each attraction. We can pull this map up on our phone, allowing us to easily, and logically map out our itinerary for the day. We can also pull up walking directions and even public transportation directions as needed.
So, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in Belgium (and other destinations) easier, we’ve kept our maps with all of the information we gathered (accurate at the time of our sightseeing). Finding hours, prices, and general information can sometimes be challenging, so we’ve tried to include these details on our maps and provide appropriate links below. And finally, not every attraction is suitable for every visitor, but the copywriters and marketing departments for the destinations sure make it sound like it. How many times have you read “Great for kids and adults alike” and shown up at the venue to wonder why anyone over 20 years-old without kids would go out of their way to be there? Below we’ve included our itinerary with tips, impressions, and our takeaways on each place that, when combined with the official attraction information and website, may help you decide if it’s a destination for your travel adventure or not.
NOTE: We used this sightseeing map for our personal sightseeing adventures, because of that some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated. Information on this map was valid at the time of creation. All prices are shown in US dollars but are actually Euros (local currency). That being said, feel free to save it to your Google account and use it as a starting point (or modify it accordingly) for planning out your personalized itinerary in Belgium.
Day 2: Day Trip to Ghent
Gent-Sint-Peters Train Station
There are two train stations in Ghent, Gent-Sint-Peters and Gent-Dampoort. We purchased our tickets for Gent-Sint-Peters, since it was the closest station to the sights on our itinerary. We were exiting the train station when we noticed the beautiful interior design of the station near the entrance. The murals on the walls are worth a moment of time to pause and admire. If you want to take a bit more time to admiring your surroundings, we suggest visiting the Starbucks at the station, which continues the stations’ design, making for a very unique Starbucks experience.
Our first stop of the day was Citadelpark. It’s a lovely park to walk through, with tons of trees and greenery. There are two small lakes to see and many walking paths throughout the park. In the center is the Ghent International Convention Center, ‘t Kuipke which hosts the world-famous cycling event, and S.M.A.K (the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art). At the front of the park, you’ll find archways covered in vines with a center statue and flowers.
Museum of Fine Arts
After a walk through Citadelpark, go to the east side of the park and visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. Also known as Museum voor Schone Kunsten (MSK). Even the most meticulous of art goers is likely to find something here that they can admire. The museum has a collection of approximately 100 pieces that range from the Middle Ages through the 20th century, as well as exhibitions. We were impressed by the room design and architecture, as well as the variety of mediums (sculptures, paintings, etc.) housed at the museum. Hours and ticket prices can be found on the MSK website.
De Krook – Urban Renewal Project
Downtown Ghent is just over a mile north of the Museum of Fine Arts. However, if you’re interested in unique architecture or in Ghent’s large scale urban renewal project, make a stop a bit under a mile north at De Krook. It’s a meeting place for locals and includes a city library, laboratories, Ghent University offices, a cafe, and more. We found the outside of the building to be interesting, but not worth going out of our way to see. Luckily, De Krook is along the way when walking into city center. Learn more about De Krook (you may need to use Chrome’s translate feature), as well as the additional spaces being built for a 2020 scheduled opening.
St. Bavo's Cathedral
Just a quarter of a mile north of De Krook, you’ll find St. Bavo’s Cathedral. It’s hard to miss the 290 feet tower of this cathedral that's the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Ghent. Originally built with a Romanesque design, it was expanded to the current Gothic design in the 16th century, and all that remains of the Romanesque church is the crypt. Beyond the beauty of the church, we recommend a visit if you’re interests lay in the arts, as many impressive pieces are housed here. In particular, although it’s in the process of being restored, a portion of the Ghent Alterpiece, by Hubert and Jan van Eyck, can be seen here. The actual restoration is being performed at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Stadshal – City Pavilion
Just west of St. Bavo’s Cathedral is Stadshal, a city pavilion. It’s a unique sight, designed with contrasting woods, concrete, and glass. The area has been designed to host concerts, markets, and to be a meeting place in Ghent. Don’t miss the café underneath, where you can grab a snack to enjoy in the park next to the pavilion.
St. Nicholas’ Church
Next to Stadshal is St. Nicholas’ Church. Built in the 13th century, this Gothic style church is one of the most visible landmarks in Ghent. It’s free to enter and worth a few minutes to take in the beauty and calmness of the church.
Just outside of St. Nicholas’ Church and before the Leie River is the city square, Korenmarkt. It won’t take but a few moments to be swept into the crowds, but don’t miss the historic buildings that surround the square. It’s a great place to rest your feet and take in lunch at a local restaurant, or to explore the shops.
Graslei – Historic Row of Houses
After exploring Korenmarkt Gent, make your way north. Turn left on the first street, Hooiaard. Go west two blocks and you’ll find yourself standing on a bridge over the Leie River. Look south for great views of the river and the historic buildings along it. Return to the road (on either side) and go south. As you walk, take in the historic port of Graslei. You may notice that all of the buildings look original, but don’t be fooled, some have been demolished and replaced with new buildings, leaving only the original fronts.
St. Michael’s Bridge
Just before St. Michael’s Church, is no surprise, St. Michael’s Bridge. From here, you can take in more spectacular views of Graslei and the medieval port, as well as views of St. Nicholas’ Church and the bustle of city center.
St. Michael's Church
Cross to the west side of the bridge to visit St. Michael’s church. The church was supposed to have a tower that stood above St. Bavo’s Cathedral, at nearly 440 feet, but, it was never finished. Today it stands at only 78 feet high. If you’re interested in the religious artifacts, be sure to visit the church treasury, which houses the relic of St. Dorothea and the relic of Sacred Doorn.
Gravensteen: Castle of the Counts
The final part of the day will take you north to Gravensteen, Castle of the Counts. Go north from St. Michael’s Chruch until you reach Burgstraat where it becomes Rekelingestraat and crosses Gewad. Here’s where you’ll find a bridge over the Leie River that offers great views of Gravensteen. Continue East and turn on Geldmunt to get a full view of the castle from the opposite side. The castle was built in 1180 and modeled after a Crusader’s castle. The castle has been a seat of the Counts of Flanders, a courthouse, a prison, and a factory. It was scheduled to be demolished at the end of the 18th century, but a renovation project in 1885 saved it. Visit the castle to explore its great history.
Our time in Ghent came to an end. While we were sad to leave, we were excited to see what Antwerp and Brussels had in store!
Stay Tuned for More Sightseeing Adventures and Itineraries
This is only the third part of our City Guide to Belgium. Stay tuned for our next post with our adventures and sightseeing itinerary for Antwerp. Soon to come is our sightseeing itinerary for Brussels. And finally, we'll share on experiencing Belgium chocolate and waffles in Brussels!