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