City Guide to Ghent, Belgium | Must See Attractions
With several days in Belgium we made the most of our time by taking day trips around the country. Ghent is easily accessible by train from Brussels and is well worth a day trip to experience the city and see all of the must see attractions! Plan your time in Ghent with a map of attractions and our sightseeing itinerary.
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We explored several cities in Belgium (Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, and Brussels!) from top to bottom and couldn’t fit it all in just one article. Be sure to read the rest of our Belgium City Guides!
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Sightseeing in Ghent
In preparation for visiting Ghent and wanting to make the absolute most of day trip, we created a comprehensive sightseeing itinerary, researching all the destinations we could find. So, to possibly make your research on sightseeing in Ghent (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.
We encourage you to explore the map below, copy it to your Google account, and make the map your own. It’s a fantastic resource to have on hand when touring the city!
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personal sightseeing adventures, because of that some notes may not make perfect sense, and some information could be outdated.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 Ghent, Belgium.
A Day Trip to Ghent: Must See Attractions
Gent-Sint-Peters Train Station
There are two train stations in Ghent, Gent-Sint-Peters and Gent-Dampoort. We purchased our train tickets for Gent-Sint-Peters, since it was the closest station to the sights on our itinerary.
We consider certainly chose the right train station to travel to and from because it was beautiful!
When we arrive to Ghent and were exiting the train station, 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 Ghent
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.
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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 short downtown at De Krook.
It’s a meeting place for locals and includes a city library, laboratories, Ghent University offices, a cafe, and more.
We often visit places for unique and beautiful architecture, however in our humble opinion De Krook didn’t quite live up to our architectural expectations. It was an interesting building, but not one we’d choose to go 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.
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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!
St. Bavo’s Cathedral was originally built with a Romanesque design but was expanded to the current Gothic design in the 16th century. All that remains today of the Romanesque church is the crypt of the cathedral.
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.
Next on our sightseeing itinerary is Korenmarkt and it’s a short walk from St. Nicholas’ Chruch. In fact, it’s just outside of St. Nicholas’ Church and before the Leie River.
When visiting the city square, Korenmark, 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 and 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 be sure to 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 St. Michael’s Bridge 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 Ghent.
St. Michael's Church
Cross St. Michael’s Bridge to end up on the west side of the river, which will bring you to St. Michael’s church.
The church was supposed to have a tower that stood above St. Bavo’s Cathedral, at nearly 440 feet, but sadly 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 our sightseeing itinerary in Ghent will take you north to Gravensteen, Castle of the Counts. So, go north from St. Michael’s Chruch until you reach Burgstraat, where it becomes Rekelingestraat and crosses Gewad.
At this location you’ll find a bridge over the Leie River that offers great views of Gravensteen. To get a full view of the castle from the opposite side, continue East and turn on Geldmunt.
The castle was built in 1180 and modeled after a Crusader’s castle. It has an incredible history and 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!