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This article lists the 13 best things to do in one day in Ghent plus a Ghent itinerary for 1 day.
The old, opulent city of Ghent, set at the conflux of the Leie and Scheldt rivers, transports you back to a glorious era. Even today, Ghent feels like it is stuck in time and spending one day in Ghent will make you feel like you’re travelling back in time to the 1400s when the city first flourished.
While there may be a limited list of the things to do in Ghent in one day, the architecture and grandeur of the city will have you awe-stuck for hours. To get the most of your limited time visiting Ghent, Belgium, I suggest taking a nice guided river cruise or even a guided walking tour of the city.
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Is Ghent Worth Visiting?
So is Ghent worth visiting, especially for a whole day? While one may think that spending 1 day in Ghent might be a bit too much, there are actually enough things to do in Ghent in one day. This includes visiting the tourist attractions such as the churches and museums, taking a river cruise or a walking or biking tour of Ghent, spending time walking around and photographing this picturesque city and exploring the culinary delights that Ghent has to offer.
All that being said, if you still feel like making the most of your time, then it is also possible to visit both Ghent and Bruges on the same day. In fact, there are many tours available for the same.
How Much Time Do You Need for Ghent?
I personally loved Ghent to such a great extent that spending 1 day in Ghent was insufficient for me. I regretted not booking a hotel in Ghent and staying the night. And so my suggestion is to spend one day in Ghent as well as a night so that you can explore the city both during daytime and nighttime. However, if time is a constraint for you and you wish to see both Ghent and Bruges in one day then that is totally do-able as well. Since both these cities are compact and the places to visit in both of them are close to one another, you could spend 3-4 hours in Ghent, take the train or bus to Bruges and spend another 3-4 hours there.
Day Trip to Ghent from Brussels
The great thing about traveling within Belgium is that the distances between cities are so short and make it easy to base yourself in one city and then take day trips to everywhere else. Brussels to Ghent is a small distance of 55 km which you can cover in 50 minutes by car, although you should always assume that it would take longer due to traffic. A train to Ghent from Brussels takes between 35-40 minutes although there are Flixbus buses operating between the cities as well which are cheaper but take slightly longer to get there.
If you want a hassle-free trip, then you can even book a guided tour from Brussels to Ghent by bus. Additionally, if you wish to see both Bruges and Ghent in 1 day, then consider booking a guided tour of Ghent and Bruges from Brussels. In any case, there are numerous options to see both Ghent and Bruges easily from Brussels.
Map of Places to Visit in One Day in Ghent
13 Things to do in One Day in Ghent
1. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
Kickstart your Ghent itinerary with a visit to Saint Bavo’s Cathedral which holds some impressive historical artwork. The most famous and significant piece of art in the cathedral is the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb or the Ghent altarpiece. Although this Van Eyck was stolen during WW2, it has since then been found and restored and now on display in the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, making it one of the best places to visit in Ghent in one day. Even though the front hall of the cathedral is free to visit, you need to pay for a ticket online or at the counter to see the artpiece.
2. Belfry of Ghent
Climb up this 14th century tower to get a breathtaking view of Ghent city. Additionally, there are elevators to up the tower as well. The actual viewing platform is quite narrow though but the view makes up for it. Other than the tower itself, you can learn about the history of the fiery dragon – the city symbol of Ghent as well as the mechanism of the bells and the carillon which is made up of 44 bells.
3. Saint Nicholas’ Church
One of the best places to visit in 1 day in Ghent, this impressive Roman Catholic church dates back to the 13th century, having been constructed in the Scheldt-Gothic style of architecture. Even though the exteriors of the church are impressive enough, it’s worth taking a peek inside it as well. With a Baroque altar, stained glass and a magnificent organ, the church is an unmissable attraction in Ghent.
Even though every street in Ghent is as beautiful as the next, Graslei is the single most beautiful and picture-worthy street in Ghent, Belgium. The lineup of stunning well-preserved Flemish buildings alongside the Leie river, beautiful restaurants and cafes and the cobblestone steps will make you want to sit here, beside the river, for hours. Photography enthusiasts will find the best view of this street from the Saint Michael’s bridge and the Korenlei.
5. Saint Michael’s Bridge
This medieval stone arch bridge in Ghent is a landmark in itself. Not only is Saint Michael’s bridge extremely picturesque, but it also offers a view of some of the top places to visit in Ghent such as the Saint Bavo’s cathedral, Belfry of Ghent, Graslei and Korenlei. You can spend some time on the bridge itself, watching the boats and canoes go by, not to mention the countless photo opportunities here.
A charming cobblestone walkway alongside the Leie river, Korenlei is the place to go if you’re looking for the most instagrammable place in Ghent. Not only does this street offer the best view of the Graslei and other famous attractions in Ghent, but it is also a sought-after spot among photographers. The view during the night when the streets and the buildings light up is worth seeing, which is why I recommend seeing Ghent in one day and staying the night.
One of the few castles in the world that is located within the city center, the Gravensteen is a 10th century castle with a moat. You can opt for the free audio guide, available in many languages, while getting your tickets to the castle, which narrates the history of the castle and its occupants. Among these stories, the most interesting one is about how the students in the city occupied the castle as a protest against the increasing beer taxes and it’s the only time in the history of the castle that it has been occupied! Anyways, the audio guide also takes you to the top of Gravensteen, from where you get a magnificent view of Ghent, Belgium. It’s definitely a top-spot in this Ghent 1 day itinerary.
The most beautiful neighborhood in Ghent, Patershol is a nice area to just walk around, admire the Flemish architecture, gander through the narrow sleepy streets and spot some of the unique buildings and alleys, such as the building in which the Nam Jai Thai restaurant is located.
An open air market in Ghent City, in the Vrijdagmarkt you will find all sorts of items ranging from fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, fish to clothes and handbags along with souvenirs. While the items here aren’t necessarily cheap or something to brag about, the market has been there for almost a century which is what makes it worth visiting during one day in Ghent, belgium.
Even though there are other, more notable churches in Ghent, Sint-Jacobskerk is a little hidden and lesser-known but totally an underrated place to visit in Ghent in one day. This Gothic and Baroque church features Romanesque towers, underground crypts, and a range of artwork which are free to visit.
11. Graffiti Street
The Graffiti street of Ghent is exactly what it sounds like – a street dedicated and overflowing with graffiti. Since the street is equidistant from the city hall, graslei, Vrijdagmarkt and Sint-Jacobskerk, it’s one of the unmissable, fun places to visit in one day in Ghent, Belgium. Not only is this a cool place to check out some street art but it also takes up very little time, which means you still get to cover all the other attractions mentioned in this Ghent 1 day itinerary.
12. City Hall
Yet another building in Ghent that has 51 rooms and a mix of architecture styles, the Town Hall or City Hall of Ghent is a place to see if you want to learn more about the history of Ghent, including events such as the Treaty of Ghent. The building may get busy at times, especially if there are wedding ceremonies happening but if you wish to visit the interior regardless then you need to book a visit with a tour guide.
13. Ghent City Museum
Ghent City Museum aka STAM (Stadsmuseum Gent) is a unique and modern museum with lots of informative pieces, interactive displays, interactive maps and various audio and video guides. It’s a place to visit if you’re looking to learn more about the history and culture of Ghent city. Moreover, the architecture of the museum is impressive as well.
Boat Cruise – Best Thing to do in Ghent in 1 Day
A boat cruise is one of the most relaxing, interesting and informative things to do in one day in Ghent. While you can book a boat tour on-the-spot, the lines can get long and time consuming, both in summer as well as the shoulder seasons. Since you’ll be spending just 1 day in Ghent, it’s advisable to book a boat cruise online in order to save time. Almost all boat tours in Ghent are exactly alike since they all are open boats with a caption/guide and follow a similar route. That being said, you have control over the duration of your tour. You can choose between a 50-minute medieval boat tour or a 40-minute medieval boat tour of the Ghent city center.
Spending More than One Day in Ghent? Find Places to Stay in Ghent
Here’s a list of the best places to stay in Ghent, for all budgets.
Budget Stays in Ghent
Mid-Range Hotels in Ghent
Luxury Hotels in Ghent
What to Eat in 1 Day in Ghent
There are some popular food items to try in Ghent or in Belgium, in general. While Belgian waffles and fries are well-known items, there are some local specialties that Ghent is famous for.
Cuberdons – a nose-shaped candy is sold in shops and carts all around Ghent. This candy, which comes with a raspberry filling, was created by a pharmacist accidentally and is now officially registered as a local food item.
Tierenteyn mustard is also a local speciality in Ghent, which is inspired by the French dijon mustard. The original creator of the Tierenteyn mustard, Petrus Tierenteyn, studied the French technique and then came back to create his own speciality in the 18th century. This mustard is a must-try in Ghent and is still sold in the exact same shop as ages ago.
If you want to indulge in the culinary offers of Ghent then consider taking a guided food and drink tour in Ghent with a local where you’ll get to learn about the city’s food culture. If you have a sweet tooth then you can alternately just do a chocolate tasting tour with a local instead.
Need More Travel Inspiration?
If you’re heading to western Europe then I’m sure you’re looking for helpful travel guides. Take a look at my Europe travel guides, all of which open in a new tab.
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