Ghent, Belgium | A 2-day itinerary

Although Ghent is a lesser known destination both in Europe and in Belgium, it’s the perfect combination of old and new. The charming historic center gives Ghent a fairytale feeling, while its eco-mindedness and student atmosphere adds just enough to make it a hipster hotspot.

Ghent - A 2-day itinerary

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While most people only visit Ghent for a day or even a half day, there’s much more to explore and you could easily spend three days and not get bored. However, for today, I’ll show you a complete itinerary for two days in Ghent. Just print this when you visit and you don’t have to worry about finding the best spots to visit.

Ghent doesn't have an airport of its own but the international Brussels Airport (at Zaventem) is less than an hour’s drive away from Ghent. There are six railway stations in Ghent (two big ones and four smaller ones) and it is well connected to cities like Antwerp, Brussels, Ostend etc. The bus network is also equally good with international and cross-border buses connecting Ghent to a lot of different destinations in Europe. Flixbus is one such bus company who have bus services from Ghent going to popular European cities like Eindhoven, London, The Hague, Amsterdam etc.

When it comes to accommodation, Ghent offers plenty of choice. There are luxury hotels, boutique hotels, apartments, hostels, B&Bs and more. We absolutely love the Harmony Hotel because of the heated outdoor pool, but any of these 10 hotels in Ghent are an awesome choice! 

Day 1 in Ghent

Start your day at Ghent’s hotspot De Korenmarkt. This square is seen as the reference point for the Ghentians and is located smack dab in the middle of the historic center. Therefore, it’s a great starting point. It’s not one of the prettiest places what with the tram and a lot of big brand shops, but the former Post building is quite stunning as is the St Nicolas church.

Head towards the St. Bavo’s Cathedral and the Belfry. On your way you’ll pass the City Pavilion – a huge structure built in 2012 with a steel frame, a wooden roof and 1400 windows. This covered meeting place and events hall makes for an impressive site, so make sure to walk all the way around and underneath it. There’s also a partly underground cafe that’s worth checking out.

Next door to the Pavilion, you’ll also find The Green – a small city park that offers a chill spot to relax on the grass whenever you need it.

Once you’ve passed these two sights, you’ll bump right onto the Belfry. Climb your way to the top (or take the elevator) of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. A fiery dragon on top guards the city and keeps you company when you’re checking out the view. The Belfry served many different purposes during the ages, such as keeper of the city privileges, watchtower and even prison.

Just a couple of feet away lies the third of the famous Ghentian towers: St. Bavo’s Cathedral. This stunning cathedral is built on the foundations of a 10th century church but is mostly known for its art treasures. The most famous one is the Mystic Lamb – an 18-panels altarpiece made by the Brothers Van Eyck – that has been completely restored between 2012 and 2019. While you’re there, learn more about one of the greatest thefts in Belgian history where in 1934 two of the panels got stolen. One of them was later returned, but ‘The Just Judges’ is still missing!

After this cultural morning, it’s time for lunch! Head over to De Abt – the only Orval (a local abbey that produces beer) restaurant in Flanders – for some truly Belgian food. Try the Flemish Stew or the Orval Croquettes.

When your legs have had some time to rest, head over towards the water. Start at the stunningly beautiful gothic Saint Michael’s Bridge. You’ll have amazing views over the river Leie and the Graslei and Korenlei. Take one of the boat tours that will lead you through Ghent’s waterways in about 45 minutes and show you a different perspective of the city. And if you want something a little more exiting, rent a kayak and set out to explore historic Ghent from the water all by yourself! 

Graslei and Korenlei in Ghent

Once back on dry land, grab a coffee and sip it slowly at the Graslei while people and boat watching – just like the locals do.

Then walk alongside the Great Butcher’s Hall (take a look inside at the drying hams!) towards de Groentenmarkt. This is a perfect place for foodies as you’ll get to buy Cuberdons here – a local sweet that is now sold in all colours and flavours but is originally purple and filled with a raspberry syrup. Also, make sure to visit the shop inside the Great Butcher’s Hall where you can find all kinds of traditional produce from the (wide) region such as Tierenteyn Mustard, Mattentaarten and local beers.
If you’re visiting on a Saturday or Sunday between April 1st and September 30th, make sure to be there before 18h as you’ll find a crafts market on the Groentenmarkt.

To end the day with a true Belgian experience, go to the closest Frituur Frites Atelier and order a package of chips with a meaty or vegetarian side dish.

Day 2 in Ghent

After a (hopefully) restful night, start your second day in Ghent with a visit to the Castle of the Counts.

Castle of the Counts in Ghent

To see a castle in the middle of a bustling city, never ceases to amaze! You would have already seen it from the water the day before, but walk all the way around it, to admire the castle from every angle. Afterwards, head inside and explore the imposing building that dates back to the 12th century. Visitors are welcome in the ramparts, the gatehouse, the count’s residence, the keep and the stables. And for those who like a bit of morbid-ness, there’s an impressive collection of torture equipment to be found.

The rest of the morning can be spent exploring the narrow streets of the two Medieval neighbourhoods located close to the castle. One of them is Het Prinsenhof, the birth place of King Charles V, while the other is known as Het Patershol, nowadays a very popular area especially for foodies.

Head over to one of the many restaurants that often serve a delicious lunch menu at a fixed price. Great choices are De 8 Zaligheden (World Kitchen) and Roots (Michelin restaurant with a fixed lunch and dinner menu) or Gado Gado (Indonesian) and Casa de Las Tapas (Spanish) if you’re there for dinner.

After lunch, pay a visit to the House of Alijn. This former almshouse (a place where the poor, sick and elderly were taken care of) now houses a fun and interactive museum that tells you the story of the ordinary 20th century inhabitants. You’ll learn more about daily rituals and traditions in the Ghent of a century ago. This museum is especially a great choice if you’re visiting with kids as they get to play dress-up, take pictures in the Photomatique and craft with Play-Doh. Another added bonus is the cafe where you can sit outside and enjoy the museum’s garden.

Afterwards, cross the bridge at the Langezuivelbrug (enjoy the view!) and take some selfies with the Dulle Griet (‘Evil Woman’), a big, red canon that has never been fired but looks impressive anyway. 


And head on towards the Vrijdagsmarkt. This square was important for Ghent as it was the place where royalty was welcomed into the city and also the place were executions were held. The large statue in the middle is that of Jacob van Artevelde, a demagogue who made sure the English boycott on wool (Ghent’s main industry) during the Hundred Years’ War was lifted.

There’s a market held here every Friday morning and the entire day on Saturday, which is always a lot of fun to soak up the local atmosphere.

End your day of sightseeing by passing through the Serpentstraat (stop for a drink at Palenque – a Latin American bar with great drinks and a little shop filled with artesanías!) on your way to the Graffiti Alley. In this small street, artists get free reign in their street art creation and the scene is therefore ever-changing. You can’t leave Ghent without visiting this colourful alley, that’s for sure. If you’re a lover of street art, see lots more with the “Sorry, Not Sorry street art map”.

For your last dinner in the city, head over to Mosquito Coast, a globetrotter café/restaurant where you can have tapas all day and world kitchen dishes for lunch and dinner!

Babs Rodrigus loves to explore the world, but is just as smitten with her own country. Therefore, she created a blog that’s solely about Belgium and its great sights. Visit her website Next Stop Belgium and start preparing an awesome trip.

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