Ghent is a city with a population of a quarter of a million. Its size and position allow the inhabitants to enjoy a city with an interesting crossover between open cosmopolitanism and the quiet atmosphere of a provincial town. Ghent is thriving as many young people choose to live here instead of in the countryside or the crowded and disintegrating city centers of Brussels and Antwerp.
Ghent is a city of history. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. It was once considered the second largest city north of the alps, after Paris. The impact of this rich past can be clearly seen when viewing the imposing architecture of churches and the houses of rich traders. The whole of the city center is restored in this fashion, and still breathes the atmosphere of a thriving late-medieval city state. As the city council made the center free of cars, it is now a very welcoming and open area, which does not fail to impress even the people who live there.
Ghent is also a university city with more than 50,000 students. As such, its streets are filled with young people. But, unlike Leuven, another university town in Flanders, youth is not the only category of people living there. There is an interesting mixture of foreigners who came to live there, or artists, among the native people of Ghent. Interestingly, other than the smaller provincial cities or the bigger city of Antwerp, this mixture makes the people more tolerant and open-minded. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of city life. Many people of Ghent truly see the place like home, and are very proud to live there, seeing it as a place that will always welcome them back home.
Ghent is only a 30-minute train ride away from Brussels and is on the line from Brussels to Bruges and the coast. If you're planning to visit Bruges and Brussels, definitely stop over in Ghent as well. There are also direct trains to Brussels Airport, Antwerp, Lille and Paris.
There are two train stations in Ghent, Gent-Dampoort and Gent-Sint-Pieters. Gent-Sint-Pieters is the main station, to go to the centre, take tram 1 (until 'Korenmarkt'). Journey time is ten minutes. Gent-Dampoort is located closer to the center (about 15 minutes walk), but only trains coming from/in the direction of Antwerp stop there.
If you're visiting from Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp during the weekend, it's much cheaper to get a return ticket (special rate: weekendreturn).
The dense highway network in Belgium allows you to access Ghent easily by car. Two main highways E40 (Liège-Brussels-Ghent-Bruges-Ostend) and E17 (Antwerp-Ghent-Kortrijk-Lille) cross at Ghent. Brussels and Antwerp are 40 min away, Bruges 30 min. During rush hour you can easily double these times.
The two biggest airports nearby are Brussels (Zaventem, Belgium) and Lille (France). Direct trains are available from Brussels Airport to Ghent.
The center of Ghent is quite small, so you can walk around on foot. However, the main station (Gent Sint-Pieters) is not in the city center, but takes a walk of about half an hour. The best option is to take the tram, which takes you directly to the center in 10 to 15 minutes.
A bicycle is the recommended way to get around in Ghent. However, there are many roads with cobblestones that make cycling a shaking experience. Also make sure you stay clear of the tram rails. Nevertheless, you will see you are not alone on your bike: many inhabitants use bikes to get around. Even the former mayor uses his bicycle all day! There are many bike stands around to make it easy to lock your bike (important!). Many one-way roads are made two-way for bikes.
The transport system is Ghent is excellent and usually on time. A single ticket costs € 1.60 if bought in the bus/tram or € 1.20 if bought from ticket machines near stops, such ticket is valid for an hour's travel on all trams and buses. If you are planning to stay for a while, buy a pass for € 9.00, it is valid for 10 trips within the city and can also be used in other Flemish cities (such as Antwerp or Bruges). The trams are the quickest and most comfortable way to travel, especially from the railway station to the city centre.
Note that if the bus/tram stop has a ticket machine, you will have to buy the ticket there, as the bus/tram driver will not sell you one in this case. You can also buy a ticket through SMS if you have a Belgian cell phone, instructions are on the poles at each stop. The transportation company is De Lijn .
In the Lijnwinkel kiosk (located near Sint-Pieters train station), you can get free map of city and surroundings, with all bus and tram lines.
- Belfort en Lakenhalle (Belfry and Cloth Hall), Emile Braunplein (tram 1 or 4 to Sint-Baafsplein), ☎ . Mid-Mar to mid-Nov daily 10am-12:30pm and 2-6pm; free guided tours of Belfry Easter vacations and May-Sept Tues-Sun 2:10, 3:10, and 4:10pm. The Belfry was a symbol of the city's autonomy, begun in 1313 and completed in 1380. This municipal tower holds the great bells that have rung out Ghent's civic pride through the centuries. Take the elevator to the Belfry's upper gallery, 66m high, to see the bells and take in fantastic panoramic views of the city. The Cloth Hall dates from 1425 and was the gathering place of wool and cloth merchants. 6€ adults, free for children under 16.
- Sint-Baafskathedraal (St. Bavo's Cathedral), Sint-Baafsplein (tram 1 or 4 to Sint-Baafsplein), ☎ . Cathedral: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 8:30am-6pm, Sun 1-6pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 8:30am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm. Mystic Lamb chapel and crypt: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 10:30am-4pm, Sun 1-4pm. Don't miss this cathedral. Rather unimpressive exterior of Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture. However, the interior is filled with priceless paintings and sculptures, including the 24-panel altarpiece "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb", completed by Jan van Eyck in 1432. Simply spellbinding, this work was commissioned by a wealthy city alderman in 1420. Original Alterpiece "Adoration of Mystic Lamb" temporary and partial closed. Since April 2010 a scientific study and conservation works are in progress. Visitors can follow the activities trough a glass wall). Other art treasures in the cathedral include Rubens's restored "The Conversion of St. Bavo" from 1623. Cathedral: Free admission; Mystic Lamb chapel and crypt: 4€ adults (includes audio guide in English), 1.50€ children 6-12, free for children under 6.
- Het Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts), Sint-Veerleplein (tram 1 or 4 to Sint-Veerleplein), ☎ . Apr-Sept daily 9am-6pm; Oct-Mar daily 9am-5pm. Closed Jan 1, Dec 24-25 and 31. Built by Count Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders, soon after he returned from the Crusades in 1180 with images of similar crusader castles in the Holy Land. If its walls (2m thick), battlements, and turrets failed to intimidate attackers, the count could always turn to a well-equipped torture chamber inside. You can view relics of the chamber in a small museum in the castle. Climb up to the ramparts of the high central building, the donjon, which has great views of Ghent's rooftops and towers. 8€ adults (movie guide included), 6€ Discount (groups of min. 15 p, +55 years, 19-26 years), Free: -19 years, companions of the disabled persons, € 3,00 Movieguide.
- Sint-Niklaaskerk (St Nicholas's Church), Korenmarkt (entrance on Cataloniestraat) (tram 1 or 4 to Korenmarkt), ☎ . Mon 2:30-5pm; Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. A mixture of surviving Romanesque elements of the Flemish architectural style known as Schelde Gothic, the impressive 13th- to 15th-century church was paid for by Ghent's wealthy medieval merchants and guilds. In recent years, it has undergone extensive renovation work that's still ongoing. The tower is one of the "three towers of Ghent" - in fact, it was the first of the three to grace the city skyline. Free admission.
- Vooruit. With its strong socialist tradition, Ghent is laden with historic buildings testifying to power of the social-democratic movement. The cooperative 'Vooruit' (Progress) was running shops, bakeries, a newspaper, a cinema and a cultural centre for the labour movement. Some of the buildings are exquisite examples of late 19th/early 20th century art nouveau and art deco. Main examples can be found on Vrijdagsmarkt (the headquarter 'Ons Huis' - Our House - still in use today by the trade union) and the Kunstencentrum Vooruit on Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat, cultural temple of the labour movement and today in use as an Arts Centre and concert hall.
- Groentenmarkt, Korenmarkt & Vrijdagmarkt. Groentenmarkt (literally: vegetable market, Korenmarkt (literally: corn market) and Vrijdagmarkt (literally: Friday market) are 3 public squares in central Gent. These 3 squares are in close proximity and feature classic buildings, cafes and restaurants.
- Leie. The Leie is a canal-like river going through the city. Along much of the river, there are walkways, and near the city centre one can see classic buildings along the banks. At the south end of Lindenlei (a street along the Leie south of the city centre), one can see a somewhat old-fashion drawbridge.
- Groot Begijnhof Sint-Elisabeth (Old Saint Elisabeth Béguinage), Begijnhofdriespark (1 km west of Gravensteen). This béguinage (dutch: begijnhof) was founded in 1234 and was soon named after Saint-Elisabeth who was canonized in 1236. The last beguines departed from here in 1874 for the new Sint-Amandsberg béguinage.
- Begijnhof Sint-Amandsberg, Engelbert Van Arenbergstraat or Jan Roomsstraat (About 1¼ km east of Korenmarkt; ½ km east of Station Gent-Dampoort). This begijnhof has several curved streets. Gates are off of Engelbert Van Arenbergstraat or Jan Roomsstraat.
- Begijnhof Ter Hoye, Lange Violettestraat (about 1¼ km south-east of Korenmarkt). This béguinage (begijnhof) has several streets.
- Stadhuis (city hall), Botermarkt 1 (near Korenmarkt). There is a Gothic facade facing the street Hoogpoort and a Renaissance facade facing the street Botermarkt. (Botermarkt literally means butter market.) Indoors, there are different styles.
- STAM – Ghent city museum. Tells the story of Ghent in the 14th century Bijloke Abbey. The abbey refectory shows pre-Eyckian wall paintings. STAM illustrates the story of Ghent by means of more than 300 historical objects and interactive multimedia applications with a lot of visual material. Temporary exhibitions reflect on different aspects of urbanity. The visitor can build Ghent in LEGO bricks. The museum is fully accessible for wheelchair users.
- The Museum Dr. Guislain – a museum on the history of mental health. Was founded in 1986 in Ghent, Belgium, and its exhibits address the history of psychiatry in a permanent collection and through a series of half-yearly changing thematic exhibitions. These temporary exhibitions highlight a certain aspect of the history of mental health so as to tell a broader story about our society’s way of dealing with normality through the arts, history, and science. Comprehensively, the Museum seeks to educate the public and rectify the misunderstandings and prejudice associated with treatment for mental illness. The Museum Dr. Guislain attracts about 65,000 visitors each year. The museum is fully accessible for wheelchair users, and all texts are in Dutch, French and English.
- SMAK (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst) (in Citadelpark). Well-known modern arts museum.
- De Bootjes van Gent (Rederij Dewaele Canal Cruise), Graslei or Korenlei, ☎ . April to October, daily from 10am to 6pm, and November to March on weekends from 11am to 4pm. A cruise on the canals is a good way to view the city's highlights. The tour lasts approximately 40 minutes; longer tours are available. 5€ for adults; 4.50€ for seniors, students, and those under 26; 2.50€ for children aged 3 to 12; free for children under 3.
- GratisInGent.be (Free events in Ghent). This website gets updated weekly and lists all the free events they know of. The events include bars organising live music, free movie screenings, lectures, etc. The site was started by the local branch of non-commercial tourist organanisation Use-It. It has since been taken over by the non-profit Gentblogt vzw, which is the collective formed around a prolific group blog about Ghent by and for people from Ghent.
- Jan Plezier Boottochten, Snepkaai or Ketelvest, ☎ . Large parties can reserve themed cruises along the waterways of Ghent. Amonth the themes are the pancake cruise (pancake boat), the spareribs cruise, and the shrimp cruise. These cruises are most often held for large parties; individual tourists are better off choosing a tour of Dewaele or hiring a boat to steer yourself. pancake boat = 11.5€ for adults; 9.50€ for children aged under 6 to 12; free for children under 6.
- Jog-Tours. Jog-Tours organises tours to discover Ghent whilst running. They are suitable for anyone who is up for running 5km or more. Historic Center 6km = 12€; Arts & Parks 8 km = 14€; Old City 10km = 16€.
- Ghent balloon flights. Organising balloon rides near Ghent.
- Alternative Free Walking Tour. Every day at 4 PM an alternative walking tour starting from the Gravensteen castle. Different perspective on the city and lots of fun.
The Ghent Festival (Gentse Feesten) is a music and theatre festival in the city. Besides stage events there are random small street acts such as mimickers, buskers, etc. The festival starts on the Saturday before July 21 (Belgium's national holiday) and lasts ten days. About 2 million visitors attend the festival every year, making it one of the biggest cultural and popular festivals in Europe.
- Prondelmarkt bij Sint-Jacobs (Sint-Jacobs flea market). Antiques, second-hand records, books, and others can be found in the weekly flea markt at Sint-Jacobs. It is held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 8am to 1pm. Prices can be high, but keen eyes can find a lot of gems!
- Tweedehandsboekenmarkt (Second-hand books market). Inspired by the second-hand booksellers of Paris (Bouquinistes), every Sunday from 9am to 1am you can stroll along the Ajuinlei to find a large assortment of second-hand books. The supply includes English books from the bookshop 'English Book Shop', located also in the Ajuinlei (and also open at regular hours in the rest of the week), movie posters, art books, children's books and a smattering of various other niches.
- Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market). Vrijdagmarkt has been a fixture since the 13th century. It is the scene of a lively street markets on Friday (7:30am-1pm) and Saturday (11am-6pm), as well as the Sunday bird market (7am-1pm).
Ghent provides an excellent and affordable sample of Flemish cuisine, which in the eyes of the locals is one of Europe's finest as it combines French delicacy with northern European sturdiness. Try some local specialties like mussels, spare ribs or 'stoverij' (a kind of tender meat cooked for three hours in dark beer with a brown gravy) with Belgian fries.
Another dish from Ghent is the "Gentse waterzooi" (litt. "boiled water from Ghent"), which was the food for the poor originally, a stew of cheap fish (usually turbot) and vegetables. Now it is often made with chicken as well.
The restaurants on Korenmarkt and Vrijdagmarkt are a good deal, reasonably priced; the menus and 'menus of the day' at the Brasserie Borluut provide terrific value and this includes Gentse waterzooi. The real upmarket restaurants are to be found in the 14th century quarter called 'Patershol', near the Castle. There is also a big Turkish community in Ghent, centred around Sleepstraat a bit further north, which is home to numerous Turkish restaurants.
- De Lieve, Sint-Margrietstraat 1, 9000 Gent (one block away from Gravensteen castle), ☎ . kitchen 11am-11pm. Formerly serving haute cuisine and having Michelin stars, this restaurant has stepped out of the culinary rat race and changed its focus to the 'classics'. A great place to try Flemish cuisine. It's part bar, so don't be surprised when you see the regulars coming in for a drink. Due to its quality and price it's popular with both students and adults. €7,5-25 for main course.
- Neptune (Neptune), Sint-Veerleplein 10, 9000 Gent. Really pleasant and friendly little place immediately opposite Gravensteen castle. Husband & wife run (with two children running around for good measure). Was a bit set back when welcomed in French and English, not Dutch, but neither food nor prices as touristy as the welcome suggested. Yummy local specialties, the Stoverij (beef stew) is particularly good €14-25 for main course.
- Komkommertijd (Cucumber Time). An all-you-can eat vegan buffet in the historic town centre. Prices include dessert but not drinks.
- De Appelier (located to the South of the historic centre, near St. Pieters Station). A restaurant serving traditional vegetarian food (with vegan options on request).
- Tasty World. A fast-food bar selling vegetarian & vegan burgers as well as smoothies/juices, with two branches in Ghent. There are some tables for eating in.
For authentic pubs, go to St. Veerleplein (the square in front of the Castle), the pubs around St. Jacob's church (especially during weekends), or the student area around Blandijnberg (Mount Blandin), especially in the proximity of the School of Arts and Philosophy, recognisable from afar by the 64 metres tall art deco Library Tower. Ghent is known for its many pubs and clubs and most have friendly staff. If you visit Ghent for it's great nightlife, be sure to check out the bars listed in the "Off the beaten path" section.
Central Area: Castle-Korenmarkt-Graslei
- Waterhuis aan de bierkant (The Waterhouse on the beerside), Groentenmarkt 9 (near the Castle), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Boasts about 400 different kinds of Belgian beer, but is fairly touristy.
- Het Galgenhuis (the Gallows house) (near Waterhuis aan de bierkant). A tiny tavern in a lean-to built on to the Gothic Butchers' Hall. A good selection of draught and bottled beers.
- 't Dreupelkot, Groentenmarkt 12 (near the Castle), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 200 kinds of Belgian Genever, a number of which is home made. Try the pepper genever if you are a tough guy/girl (be cautious!). Pol, the owner, is a friendly guy, although it might look the other way at first sight. Around € 2 for a regular-sized genever.
- Hot Club de Gand, Schuddevisstraatje - Groentenmarkt 15b.
- Het Velootje (The Little Bike), Kalversteeg 2 (between the Castle and Vrijdagmarkt). Considered as the only tourist trap of Ghent but even with this negative connotation it's worth a visit! The bearded owner Lieven calls his place a museum café with an authentic atmosphere by candlelight. This is all true but forgot to mention his collection of 200 antique bikes decorating the place. Drinks are steep. everything costs €4.5.
- On Korenmarkt, you'll find the live jazz pub Damberd.
Sint-Jacobs & Vrijdagmarkt (Vlasmarkt-Beestenmarkt)
- Charlatan, Vlasmarkt 6. Popular club with many live concerts.
- de Dulle Griet, Vrijdagmarkt 50, A traditional Flemish bar with a variety of 250 drinks (mostly Belgian beers) .
- More alternative bars are Kinky Star, Vlasmarkt 9, 't begin van 't einde, Vlasmarkt 14 and Video, Oude Beestenmarkt 7, all have regular live concerts.
- Overpoortstraat is a street packed with 34 pubs and bars where during the week (especially Wednesday and Thursday nights) all the students go crazy. Because on Thursday it is so crowded over there, dancing usually happens on the tables. Some notorious bars/clubs are Decadance (house, techno, drum&bass), Boom Boom (rock'n roll), Den Drummer (rock and metal), Twieoo (often new wave and holebi parties), Cuba Libre(also known as the Puta Libre)  (commercial, R&B,...), The Frontline underground concert venue featuring mainly metal, punk and hardcore concerts.
- Porter House, Stalhof 1 (near the Overpoortstraat). The official pub for Erasmus students from over Europe.
- Plan b, Verlorenkost 17, 9000 Gent, ☎ . Typical cosy local bar located in the center of Ghent. Nice view on the river.
- Bloomingdale's, Ter Platen (next to Kinepolis cinema). Trendy cocktailbar.
Off the beaten path
Want to try some bars you'll not find in any tourist guide? This is a great selection:
- Het Gouden Hoofd (The Golden Head), Slachthuisstraat 96. . If you find yourself on the other side of the canal, in the area known as "De Visserij", hungry and/or thirsty... be sure to check out this great place. It moved a few weeks ago to an old slaughterhouse, have great dishes and the local beer Gulden Draak on tap is to die for. Still thirsty? This is not the only great place in De Visserij! Check out the cosy De Kleine Kunst and jolly Fabula Rasa along the canal at the Ferdinand Lousbergkaai. Drinks and food are generally quite cheap in this area.
- El Negocito, Brabantdam 121. You may have heard about the beautiful "Red light disctrict" that Ghent has, better known as "Het Glazen Straatje" (The Glass Street). Just across you can find this lovely Chilean bar. Every week you can pick up a concert from a band of the associated recordlabel, you should try the lovely local cuisine and don't be afraid to try some of the imported specialities like Pisco Sour or Malta Con Huevo (Beer with egg). Although this place is somewhere between the city centre and Zuid-area it's prices are below average!
- Hotsy Totsy, Hoogstraat 1. Not far from the Graslei you can find this pearl. In a roaring twenties style this place breathes jazz. It's a good alternative for the sometimes crowdy Hot Club De Gand. Prices are average to expensive, but the atmosphere is one of a kind.
- Old Fashioned, Koning Albertlaan 115. Ghent doesn't have a lack of bars... but finding a good cocktailbar might be tough. You might be glad with some other cocktailbars near the centre that have fruity drinks with cheap alcohol and not a drop of fresh juice. But want a real beverage? Look no further. Old Fashioned is the only "Cocktail & Absinthbar" that is worth its name. All the classics in a beautiful Art-Nouveau decor, what does a refined person need more?
- De Spinnekop, Einde were 44. If you have found this bar on your own you must have been really lost. The name of the street means "End of the world"... and it feels like it. This is Ghent's best kept secret and has existed for many years... but now it's in the open. This bar is what we call a "brown bar". It's a bit sleazy but clean nonetheless. The food is simple although the home made moussaka is amazing. Dirty cheap as well... It has the widely known beer La Chouffe on tap for €2, food is €12 max and has great vegetarian alternatives. 90% chance that you will hear Bob Dylan or Tom Waits. Only open in the evening on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
- Hostel 47. Newly furnished. Nice hospitality and service.
- Youth Hostel De Draecke, Sint-Widostraat 11, ☎ , fax: +32 9 233 80 01, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This hostel is on a quiet street in the centre. Free breakfast and bedsheets are provided. A bar on the premises offers a range of Belgian beers.
- Hostel Uppelink, Sint-Michielsplein 21, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A beautiful building, beautifully furnished and right in the middle of the most scenic part of the city. Breakfast included, bar open until 11PM. from €24pppn.
- A list of B&Bs can be found at: 
- Brooderie, ☎ . Primarily a cafe & bakery, but with three rooms located on Jan Breydelstraat opposite the Design Museum. Shared bathrooms and showers with the cafe below but a cheap way of getting a fine room in a superb location - delicious bread with breakfast. €50 for a single, €70-75 for a double.
- Autour des Tours (Around the Towers), Limburgstraat 26, ☎ . This recently renovated house dates from the 19th century and offers a B&B formula. No car needed here, this hotel is located nearby the historical city centre. Exploring the area can be done by foot.
- Ecohostel Andromeda, Bargiekaai 35, ☎ . Low-energy, low-budget (beds start at €22) hostel-on-a-boat, 10 minutes walk from the centre. Creative, modern interior, surprisingly spacious and with better showers than many "land" hostels! Internet and breakfast available.
- Hotel Trianon I, St-Denijslaan 203, ☎ , fax: +32 9 220 49 50. Close to St. Pieter's train station. Prices start at €62 per night; breakfast is an additional €5. Each room has an attached bathroom. The luxury rooms are equipped with jacuzzi.
- Best Western, Cour Saint-Georges, Botermarkt 2, ☎ , fax: +32 9 224 26 40. 'The oldest Hotel in Europe, since 1228'. Right in the center, near the towers. Recently, it was taken over by the American "Best Western" hotel group. Rates from €125 - €200 for a room.
- NH Gent Belfort, Hoogpoort 63, ☎ . In the historical quarter of the city, offers 174 modern and comfortable rooms. Rooms from €109.
- Marriott, Korenlei 10. Right in the middle of the old city center with a view on the river Leie.
If you want to call to North America, find the "Club Plus" card. Do not be talked into any other card. They are usually found at the nightshops (Nacht Winkels). You can get more than 200 minutes to North America for €5 from a payphone. This is great since payphones cost quite a lot if you just insert money.
In recent years, the number of Internet Cafes has grown very rapidly; it is always very easy to find one within walking distance. The going price ranges from €1.50-3 per hour. There is also free wifi on the Graslei near the center. Above, a great variety of wifi networks are available in hotels, bars and snackbars. Sometimes in return for making use of their services. Also Ghent is widely supported for mobile networks, all major operators have high speed networks, data roaming is available if you have supporting devices.
- World War I Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial: 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Ghent in Waregem, along the Lille-Gent AutoRoute E-17. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9AM to 5PM The final resting place for 368 American military dead lost during the liberation of Belgium. The chapel is inscribed with the names of 93 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. Free.
- Bruges the world famous venice of the north, easily reachable by train from Ghent.
- Courtray Kortrijk, a charming and historically important provincial city in West-Flanders, 25 minutes on train from Ghent.