Distances are mostly walkable, but you may want to use the excellent tram network for some destinations.
Love its timeless feeling around the historic center.
Don’t miss: Getting to the top of Belfort for remarkable views of the town below.
Worthy attractions: Belfort; Museum voor Sierkunst.
Left for another visit: Sint-Baafskathedraal; Stadhuis [did not tour inside]; Het Gravensteen; Museum voor Schone Kunsten.
Last visit: June 2008.
Ghent is often overlooked in favor of Bruges, and we ourselves were guilty of that in the past. As such, we planned for only an intraday stop at this beautiful city, and left wishing for more time.
Things to See
The historic center of Ghent appears slightly more spacious than that of Bruges, on account of several large squares. Among them are central Sint-Baafsplein ♥, guarded by the Cathedral on one side and the bell tower on the other; the vast Korenmarkt ♥, that allows for a good look at some of the most impressive structures in the city; the lively Vrijdagmarkt ♥, which is often home to various markets. One place where you definitely want to find yourself during your strolls in the city is Sint-Michielsbrug ♥♥, not because it is remarkable in itself, but because it offers remarkable views in any direction, including all of the major spires of Ghent in one snapshot.
The riverside of Korenlei and Graslei ♥♥♥ is positively Venetian, and reputedly gets very busy in nice weather in summer. It is a sight to behold in any weather.
For aimless wandering, there is also a nice area of narrow streets, full of restaurants, called Patershol ♥.
Belfort ♥♥ offers magnificent views of Ghent from above. Most of the way up is by an elevator, although there is still about a hundred of steps to climb. The exposition inside the tower reviews its history and that of the city.
In our walk around the historic part of town, we stepped into the Great Butchers’ Hall and the cozy garden of the House of Alijn [did not tour its museum of folklore], and looked inside the imposing Sint-Niklaaskerk.
Because of our time limit, we eschewed visits to many attractions, such as St-Bavo Cathedral, whose van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is often sited as a must-see, or the Castle of the Counts, with its exposition of medieval torture instruments. The town’s “Art Quarter”, to the south of the historic center, has a couple of fairly significant museums and other attractions near the grand – based on the pictures we’ve seen – square of Sint-Pietersplein. There are also a handful of minor museums and three béguinages.
One museum that we did visit was Museum voor Sierkunst ♥ (the banners at the entrance proclaim it a “Museum of Design”; some guidebooks will call it “Museum of Decorative arts”). Part of its collection is the display of furnishings in various styles of 16th-19th centuries. The other part consists of various utensils, decorations, vases, etc. from modern artists.
On account of intermittent rain, we also did not take a boat excursion, which looked very similar to the one we took in Bruges.
Places to Eat
We had lunch in a café ♥ right across the entrance to the design museum. It’s a small establishment, full of regulars, with a simple menu. We ordered a nice vegetable soup of the day and a salad with goat cheese. With drinks, the damage came to €19. Last visit: Summer 2008.
There are several car parks in the city center. We used the underground Vrijdagmarkt, which is reasonably convenient for a day parking or a longer stay.