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Belgium

How to spend 24 hours in Ghent

It’s no secret I love Belgium. After spending three days in Bruges and Brussels in 2015, there was no doubt in my mind I’d be back. I’d heard a lot about Ghent. Specifically, that Ghent is really cool. That it’s filled old historic buildings, beautiful canals, tons of cutesy shops, and a fantastic culinary scene (including the most unreal “loaded” fries – but more on that later). After spending 24 hours in Ghent, I can honestly say that I love this city and am convinced that it is one of Europe’s most underrated hidden gems (and Antwerp too – more on that here).

So why haven’t you heard of this charming little city? Often overshadowed by Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp, Ghent should not be missed on your Belgian itinerary.

In this 24 hours in Ghent guide, I’m going to tell you exactly why I love this city. And why I would EVEN urge you to consider it as an alternative to the popular (and very touristy) fairytale town of Bruges (otherwise affectionally known as Europe’s “northern Venice.”). Although, if you have time for both, you should absolutely still visit Bruges.

See Also: Falling for fall in Amsterdam; An off-the-beaten path guide to one of my favourite European cities.

Graslei Ghent

HERE’S HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR 24 HOURS IN GHENT


VISIT GRAVENSTEEN

Also known as Castle of the Counts, Gravensteen is an iconic castle located in the centre of Ghent’s old town. You can visit this castle to learn about it’s very interesting past, or simply admire the structure from outside. No matter which you choose, this spot is a must-see in Bruges.

TAKE A STROLL DOWN WERREGARENSTRAAT (THE GRAFFITI STREET)

Ghent is a city bursting at the seams with creativity, and is filled with all kinds of incredible street art. The most famous is Werregarenstraat, a narrow alleyway that has been covered head-to-toe in graffiti.

INDULGE IN ALLLL THE BELGIAN FOOD

Beer, fries, chocolate and waffles – Belgium is the land of tasty treats. So, when visiting Ghent, forget the calories and indulge. It’s not everyday that you’re in Belgium, after all (and think goodness I’m not, or else I would surely weigh about 50 pounds more than I do).

Don’t forget to add Cuberdon to your list of foods to try. This is a cone shaped jelly candy that is native to Belgium. You’ll see street vendors selling them all over Ghent.

Cuberdon in Ghent

WALK ACROSS ST. MICHAEL’S BRIDGE (ST. MICHIELSHELLING)

St Michael’s Bridge connects both sides of the canal in central Ghent and is the perfect place to take in in the views and admire Ghent’s stunning old town charm.

Views from St. Michael's Bridge in Ghent

ADMIRE GRASLEI & KORENLEI

For the most recognizable views of Ghent, walk along the water and admire the facades of the Graslei and Korenlei.

GO SHOPPING IN PADERSHOL

This quaint neighbourhood is home to tons of cafes and shops, set in the most charming little buildings. I particularly loved how many shops sold goods made by local artists, fully embracing Ghent’s booming creative scene.


WHERE TO EAT IN GHENT


THE BEST MARKET IN GHENT

Holy Food Market is the coolest spot to grab lunch in Ghent. Operating inside an old converted church, Holy Food Market offers a huge selection of food and a really cool atmosphere.

Holy Food Market in Ghent

THE BEST FRENCH FRIES IN GHENT

If you’re looking for the best fries in Ghent, you must visit Frites Atelier. This popular spot serves french fries with all kinds of toppings. If you’re feeling daring, trying the Indo Peanut fries (that come topped with peanut sauce). I promise, it is SO MUCH better than it sounds.

Fries at Frites Atelier Ghent

THE BEST CHOCOLATE IN GHENT

If you’re looking to bring home a chocolate souvenir, you can find Leonidas chocolate shops all over Ghent (and Belgium in general). They have a variety of flavours to choose from, and offer their chocolates are a much more affordable price than many of the other chocolatiers.

THE BEST COCKTAIL BAR IN GHENT

Despite the name, which makes me feel mildly uncomfortable when I say it out loud, I loved Jigger’s cocktail bar. I know Belgium is the land of beer, but I promise this cocktail bar is worth checking out while you’re in town.


WHERE TO STAY IN GHENT: THE HOUSE OF EDWARD


The House of Edward is an easy choice if you’re looking for a place to rest your head in Ghent. We stayed in the Deluxe Queen room which was spacious, clean, and so incredibly cute. Located inside a renovated 18th century building, the rooms are an incredible value for your money, especially considering it is located right in the heart of Ghent.


OKAY, NOW YOU’RE READY TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN GHENT

Or more if you can swing it, because I really have just scratched the surface of everything there is to do. And while you’re adventuring through Belgium, don’t forget to check out Antwerp (you can find my 24 Hours in Antwerp guide here).


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Antwerpen-Centraal

I love Belgium. That’s probably not something you hear everyday, right? After all, it doesn’t seem to be a country that is high on most travel bucket lists. But Belgium has amazing culture and beautiful cities combined with some of the best fries, chocolate, waffles, and beer in the world – how could you not love this country? And spending 24 hours in Antwerp further solidified my love affair that began when I first visited Belgium in 2015.

On my first visit to Belgium, I visited two of the more popular cities: Brussels and Bruges. And after spending four days in the country, I knew I’d be back. So, when Sebastian was working in the Netherlands last fall, we went on a little Belgian road trip to Antwerp and Ghent (more on that here).

See Also: Falling for fall in Amsterdam; A complete guide to one of my favourite European cities.

Exploring Grote Markt Antwerp

THINGS TO DO IN WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE 24 HOURS IN ANTWERP


Let me just start my saying that it would be impossible to see everything Antwerp has to offer in 24 hours. However, if you only have 24 hours in Antwerp like we did, here’s a few highlights.

VISIT ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL TRAIN STATIONS

I had heard many times how the Antwerp train station is arguably the most beautiful in Europe. I first visited this train station back in 2015; however, my “experience” involved sprinting through the train station while narrowly missing my connecting train. So, needless to say, I was very excited to visit again … And it totally lived up to its hype. It is simply stunning.

Antwerpen-Centraal

EXPLORE THE ANTWERP DIAMOND DISTRICT

Did you know that roughly 80% of the world’s diamonds are traded in Antwerp? Which makes Antwerp the diamond capital of the world.

The diamond district is home to what seems like hundreds of diamond retailers. It is a fun place to browse, window shop, and experience the diamond trading culture in Antwerp. If you’re in the market for a diamond purchase, make sure you do your research. Many of the diamond traders in the city have a reputation of scamming tourists. That being said, there are still plenty of authentic spots worth visiting if you’re looking to make a special purchase.

PRO TIP: Many retailers are closed on one, or both, days on the weekend. Make sure you look at the hours ahead of time and plan accordingly.

VISIT MUSEUM AAN DE STROOM

Museum aan de Stroom is a really cool, modern museum that sits along the waterfront. We didn’t pay to explore all parts of the museum but instead made our way up to the top to take in the best views of the city.

If you have time, also spend some time exploring the picturesque harbour area around the museum.

Museum aan de Stroom

STEP BACK IN TIME: GROTE MARKT & THE OLD TOWN

Grote Markt is located in the beautiful medieval town area, located right in the heart of Antwerp. The Grote Markt square is filled with beautiful buildings, and often is home to a variety of different markets.

Spend some time exploring the streets around Grote Markt to see some quaint historic streets. And don’t forget to stop by Antwerp’s most iconic church: Cathedral of Our Lady.

GO ON A SHOPPING SPREE ON THE MEIR

Did you know that Antwerp is the fashion capital of Belgium? I sure didn’t. But upon visiting, it became very clear how fashionable the locals are. And you can indulge in the local retail culture while shopping along the most popular shopping street in the city: The Meir.


WHERE TO EAT IN ANTWERP


Now, I know you’re going to be busy trying to fit all these things into 24 hours in Antwerp, but don’t forget to eat. After all, the food culture is a huge part of the fun when visiting Belgium.

BEST BRUNCH IN ANTWERP

Cafématic hosted the best brunch in Antwerp. They had an extensive list with lots of different brunch options, a cosy inside atmosphere and a spacious outdoor patio.

BEST DINNER IN ANTWERP

Looking for incredible pub fair and a huge Belgian beer selection? Billie’s Bier Kafetaria offers it all. With roughly 100 carefully sourced craft beers to choose from, this popular spot is the perfect spot for dinner, drinks – or both!


READY TO SPEND 24 HOURS IN ANTWERP?

And if you’re on a trip around Belgium, check out my 24 hours in Ghent city guide (where I spill the details on where I ate the best loaded fries of my life – this alone is a reason to visit Ghent).


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