48 Hours in Ghent, Belgium

Ghent is Belgium’s fourth largest city and one of the country’s most beautiful.  It’s easy to reach from the UK without the need for flying as we took the Eurostar service from London St. Pancras to Brussels.

Ghent, Belgium
Ghent city centre

The journey takes only two hours with regular onward connections to Flanders cities on Belgian Railways.  Trams 1 and 2 connect Ghent station with the city centre (single tickets €2.50 from machines or buy on board with contactless cards).

Day 1

Our accommodation, B & B Hotel Ghent Centre couldn’t have been more central and don’t let the name B & B hotel put you off as it’s very stylish with contemporary furnishings.  It was mid-morning when we arrived, just expecting to drop off our luggage, but it was a bonus to be able to access the room straightaway.

B & B Hotel Ghent Centre
Our hotel in the centre of Ghent

Rooms are tastefully furnished and although they do not have hospitality trays, complimentary hot drinks are available 24/7 in the lobby.

Boat trips in Ghent start from the medieval centre
Boat trips in Ghent start from the medieval centre

Despite it being a dull, rainy morning, our spirits were high as we set off to explore the city.  We collected our Ghent cards (48 hours €38 – £32.60) which include entrance to the city’s main attractions along with city wide public transport.

Setting off on our Ghent boat trip
Setting off on our Ghent boat trip

We decided to start our tour of the city with a 40 minute Boat Trip through the medieval centre.  Our boat departed just south of Grasbrug bridge on the River Leie, which divides the city in two.

Boat trip through the centre of Ghent
Boat trip through the centre of Ghent

Our boat had an open top but had canopies to shield us from the rain which automatically lowered as we passed beneath bridges.  It was interesting to view the city from the perspective of the water and with the commentary being in both Dutch and English we learnt lots of interesting facts along the way.

Rabot, Ghent, Belgium
View of Rabot (part of the city wall) from the boat trip

The views of the city spires, castle and historic old warehouses lining the waterfront were very picturesque.  As we chose to take a trip on one of the smaller boats we had the bonus of also being able to explore stretches of the narrow canals which the larger boats can’t navigate.

Gravensteen, The Castle of Counts, Ghent
Gravensteen, The Castle of Counts, Ghent

Following on from the boat trip we made good use of our city cards by visiting Gravensteen, the Castle of the Counts.  Included in the ticket price are audio guides which lead visitors on an 18 point tour.

Exploring Gravensteen, Ghent
Exploring Ghent’s beautiful castle

Gravensteen is a medieval castle dating from 1180 and was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1353.  Over the years it has seen use as a courthouse, prison, mint and cotton mill.

Walking along the ramparts of Gravensteen, Ghent
Walking along the castle ramparts

Our self-guided tour took us from the gatehouse, along ramparts and up narrow winding staircases to the tops of towers where we enjoyed spectacular city wide views.  We also explored the keep, count’s residence and stables then went deep down into the dungeons to explore the torture chamber which was filled with a range of agonising contraptions.

Hôtel d'Hane Steenhuyse, Ghent
Hôtel d’Hane Steenhuyse, Ghent

Continuing our walk around the city centre we visited two grand homes located opposite each other on the bustling Veldstraat shopping street.  Both the Hôtel d’Hane Steenhuyse and Huis Arnold Vander Haeghen are free to visit but are only open at weekends.  The Steenhuyse, an 18th century aristocratic family home has beautifully furnished rooms with fine furniture and sumptuous wall hangings.

Huis Arnold Vander Haeghen, Ghent
Huis Arnold Vander Haeghen, Ghent

Across the road, Huis Arnold Vander Haeghen has an exquisite Chinese salon lined with rare wall paintings on silk together with a magnificent hallway and staircase.  They are both definitely worth a short visit if you are spending the weekend in Ghent.

St. Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent
St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent

Next on our itinerary was a visit to St. Bavo’s Cathedral, admission free to the church but tickets are required to view Van Eyck’s masterpiece ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’, a multi-panelled piece painted during the 15th century.

Interior of St. Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent
Interior of St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent

This magnificent cathedral was where Charles V was baptised and is a joy to behold with its Baroque high altar in white, black and red marble, Rococo pulpit and many art treasures.

Former Post Office in Korenmarkt, Ghent
Former Post Office in Korenmarkt, Ghent

On leaving the church, there was then time for some shopping along the cobbled streets as darkness fell.  The medieval centre looked even more photogenic illuminated by twinkling lights adorning the narrow alleyways.

Pakhuis, Ghent
The stunning setting of the Pakhuis restaurant

We’d enjoyed a lovely introduction to this beautiful city and to round off the day dined in the spectacular setting of Pakhuis, an architectural gem of a restaurant.  It’s located in a former warehouse tucked down a quiet street close to the bustling Korenmarkt.

Dinner at Pakhuis, Ghent
Enjoying our dinner at Pakhuis

We were led to our table on the first floor balcony from where we enjoyed wonderful views of the entire restaurant.  The extensive menu caters for all tastes and my choice of scallops followed by sole meunière tasted exceptional.  Although we didn’t really need a dessert, there was no way that we were visiting Belgium without sampling a waffle and the ones here were light and fluffy served with fresh cranberries and whipped cream.  Dining at Pakhuis was a culinary delight in the most wonderful of settings and definitely an evening to remember.

Hotel B & B Ghent Centre lobby lounge
Hotel B & B Ghent Centre lobby lounge

Back at the hotel we relaxed in the attractive lobby with cups of freshly brewed coffee before going up to our room for the night.

Day 2

To walk off our delicious hotel breakfast we set off to climb to the top of the city’s Belfort (Belfry) which rises to a height of 91 metres (298 ft).  It’s the middle tower in the famous row of three between St. Bavo’s cathedral and St. Nicholas church and a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ghent Belfort (belfry)
Ghent Belfort (Belfry)

The visit starts in a room on the ground floor with four stone guards from where steps lead up to a small museum housing one of the original copper dragons from the top of the belfry tower.

Bells in Ghent Belfry
Bells in Ghent Belfry

Unusually for a bell tower there’s a lift from this floor to each of the other levels which saved a lot of leg work.  Stopping off at each level we viewed the bells, carillon drum and clock mechanism.  The present clock dates from 1912 and needs winding each day.

View from the top of Ghent Belfry
View from the top of Ghent Belfry

On reaching the 5th level balcony we enjoyed breathtaking 360 degree views of the city despite the weather not being at its best.

Looking from one part of Ghent City Museum to another
Looking from one part of Ghent City Museum to another

Leaving there, we then caught a tram to Ghent City Museum STAM which tells the story of the city.  It’s housed in three inter-linked buildings including a 14th century abbey and a 17th century convent, connected by a more contemporary building.

Giant floor map of Ghent in the City Museum STAM
Giant floor map of Ghent in the City Museum STAM

The self-guided tour begins by putting on shoe protectors and then stepping on a giant map of the city.  The focus then moves to the growth and prosperity of medieval Ghent gradually progressing through the ages.  In other sections of the museum we viewed scale models of city landmarks and learnt about the history of the abbey at the time of its use as a hospital.

One of the galleries in the City Museum, Ghent
One of the museum’s interesting galleries

Moving on, it was then back into the city centre for some lunch before visiting the Museum of Industry which is based in a former cotton mill.

Museum of Industry, Ghent
Museum of Industry, Ghent

The exhibits focus on the city’s textile, printing and graphic history where we examined a large number of interesting spinning and weaving machines.  We even had a chance to try our hand at weaving using pattern cards which was fun.  Another excellent museum for anyone with an interest in industrial heritage.

Spinning machinery at the Museum of Industry, Ghent
Spinning machinery at the Museum of Industry, Ghent

This concluded our two days in Ghent, a city we’d enjoyed very much.  All of the museums and attractions we visited are included in the Ghent Card making it good value for money if you intend to see as much as you can.

Heading back home on the Eurostar from Brussels
Heading back home on the Eurostar from Brussels

It was then back to the station for our return to Brussels to connect with our evening Eurostar service back to London St. Pancras after a very pleasant stay in Flanders.

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During our stay we were guests of Visit Ghent and as always, all views and opinions are entirely my own.

 

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Ghent

 

44 thoughts on “48 Hours in Ghent, Belgium

  1. Pingback: 48 Hours in Ghent, Belgium – South by South East

  2. It’s funny to see how all the bikes are ‘parked’ in front of the hotel (and not cars) 😊. The architecture is breathtaking – it must be special to see it from the boat! The Castle of Counts and the post office are two beautiful building! And the giant map of the city in the City Museum is probably a fun way to learn more about Ghent! Oh, and let me not forget about your delicious dinner in the Pakhuis – what a lovely setting and your food looks so fresh and delicious! Thanks for introducing Ghent to me Marion … as always, I really enjoyed your tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words and interest in this post on Ghent. Just like the Netherlands, bikes take centre stage everywhere even in mid-winter. We enjoyed exploring the city with its breathtaking architecture and dining at Pakhuis was an amazing experience both for its setting and the food.

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  3. Ghent is a gem, so much so that I would choose it over Bruges if such a choice had to be made. You seem to have crossed off most of its highlights in such a short time and glad you got to see and eat at Pakhuis, an absolute must while in town.

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  4. Ghent is definitely on my must do list.

    I wonder, if you came to Australia, how much time you could allocate? My friend from Kent visited recently for three weeks for her first (and only) trip to Australia. Many of us who hosted her (Canberra, Wollongong, Brisbane, Sydney) tried and tried to get her to plan a longer trip. it wasn’t until she was here that she understood what we had been trying to say and expressed disappointment she didn’t listen. It was a once in a lifetime trip for her, and we did our best to showcase places and experiences without overloading her 🙂

    The second I saw the train in BELGIUM with a destination in ENGLAND I was consumed with travel envy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely post about Ghent, Marion! We pretty much visited the same attractions as you and it was nice to see your wonderful photos as they brought back heaps of good memories from our trip. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ghent was my favorite city I visited in Belgium when I went years ago, when I was first starting my solo travels. Aside from an unfortunate bed bug incident at my hostel, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering the austere, but gorgeous streets and viewing the equally-austere, but beautiful stepped gables that are iconic of the country. The Pakhuis really caught my eye, as the interior is a feast for the eyes as you enjoy a feast yourself! Glad you had a wonderful 48 hours in Ghent, and here’s to more travels soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ghent is fantastic! I loved the city and it’s food and beers. A few years ago before Covid, I was invited to speak at a conference so took an additional week off to explore the town and it’s restaurants on my own. It was beautiful, liberating and educational to wander it’s streets and talk with friendly locals in bars and cafes. I can’t wait to get back there again.

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  8. What a wonderful tour of the beautiful city of Ghent! I do need to see these places in person. It’s so hard to imagine something that was built in the 1100’s (Gravensteen) and is still standing today as a beloved tourist attraction. Thank you for sharing Ghent with us, Marion. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve always been a bit jealous of how easy it is to travel to different countries from the UK and Ireland. Our friend from Sheffield once asked what we could see in a 2 hour radius of our home and we must admit we could see a lot, but nothing of significance. Canada is just so darn big. In fact, the UK would fit into 3/4 of our province of Alberta. Ghent looks lovely and that restaurant is magnificent. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Same for us in Australia. We look at our friends overseas in Europe able to travel easily into other countries within hours, whereas we travel for 6-10 hours and we are in the same home state! We need to take a decent amount of leave to get full value of Europe as it takes over 24 hours to get there. However when we do, we enjoy every single minute of it. 🤣

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We are very fortunate to have so many countries within 2 or 3 hours reach and can get flights comparatively cheaply. I’ve visited Australia several times but not for a long while. Hopefully I’ll get back again before too long as I enjoy your country so much.

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