15 TOP Things to Do in Ghent, Belgium

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Ghent is perhaps one of the most underrated destinations in Europe, but it’s packed full of local history and excellent sights to see. The city is found in Flanders, and it’s long been an important hub for Flemish language and culture.

Located in the north of Belgium, it’s also one of the country’s largest cities, although compared to more well-known locations such as Bruges or Brussels, Ghent sees just a fraction of the tourist numbers.

That makes this a great destination to visit though, as there are some great things to do in Ghent.

From ancient belfries and medieval cathedrals to charming canals and waterside cafes, Ghent always has hidden secrets around every turn of its cobblestone streets. To inspire your trip to Flanders, here are our favorite things to do in Ghent.

Don’t leave home without: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp

15 Best Things to Do in Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteen Castle - Things to do in Ghent

1. Visit Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen is one of the most iconic sights in the city, and one of the best things to do in Ghent is to explore this medieval castle! The castle dates far back to the 12th century, and the ramparts, towers, and walls of this sprawling keep are remarkably well preserved.

It’s a stunning sight, and just about as quintessentially castle-like in look as you could ever imagine finding anywhere in Europe.

For centuries this was the home of the ruling families of Flanders, and even today it forms the center of Ghent, overlooking the moat in one direction and tram lines in the other!

Our top recommended tours of Gravensteen:

Belfrey of Ghent

2. Climb the Belfry of Ghent

Another iconic medieval sight to visit in the city, and another of the best things to do in Ghent, is the towering, dramatic structure of the Belfry of Ghent. The tower took decades to build, with much of the 14th century passing before its completion.

The tower stands 91 meters tall, and in the turmoil of the medieval times, the massive height of the belfry ensured that not only was it a symbol of religious dominance but that it served as a lookout to warn the city of marauders and invading armies.

The Belfry of Ghent forms part of the unique UNESCO World Heritage listing, Belfries of France and Belgium, which protects many such spectacular towers across both countries.

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St Bavo Cathedral in Ghent

3. Admire the St Bavo Cathedral

This is a city of medieval towers and cathedrals, and one of the best things to do in Ghent is to visit the churches, including the spectacular St Bavo Cathedral. The cathedral dates to the 13th century, however, there had been places of worship on the same site here for several hundred years previously.

You can explore the beautiful interior, much of which was redesigned in very Gothic styles in later years – a style that you’ll find all across Ghent. The centerpiece of St Bavo is the belfry, however, which rises to 89 meters in height – not quite as tall as the Belfry of Ghent, but just as impressive!

Our top recommended tours of St Bavo Cathedral:

St Nicholas Church in Ghent, Belgium

4. Stare Up at the St Nicholas Church

The St Nicholas Church is home to Ghent’s third iconic belfry tower, which again dominates the skyline of the city center even today. The church was built in the 13th century and took almost a century to construct, such as the height of the spire and the intricacies of the Gothic architecture.

Explore the interior and look out for the unmissable church Organ, an instrument that has huge pride of place in local heritage for its history.

Our top recommended tours of St Nicholas Church:

St Peter’s Abbey in Ghent, Belgium

5. Seek Out St Peter’s Abbey

St Peter’s Abbey night lacks the dramatic towers of Ghent’s other famous cathedrals, but it’s perhaps the most historic place of Christian worship in the city. The abbey dates back in some shape or form to the 7th century AD when the people of Flanders were first converted to Christianity.

However, by the 18th century, it had fallen into disuse and it wasn’t until the mid 20th century that it was again restored, but not as a place of worship, but to be a museum, which houses exhibits telling the tale of the abbey itself and of the city.

6. Museum Dr. Guislain

For a look at a more unusual side of Ghent’s history, then head to the ever-intriguing Museum Dr. Guislain. Set in Belgium’s first mental asylum, the museum is named for Dr. Guislain, who pioneered techniques towards treating those with mental illness.

It’s a look at history, and a look at psychiatry too, and you’re guaranteed to be fascinated by the different exhibits and displays found here.

Street leading to the Stadhuis in Ghent

7. Go Inside of the Stadhuis

One of the best things to do in Ghent is to visit the Stadhuis, the City Hall. It’s an incredibly beautiful building, and even amongst the ornate Gothic architecture of Ghent, it stands out magnificently. The City Hall was built at a time when Ghent was flourishing as a center for trade and commerce in Flanders, and money and wealth were flooding in.

The tall building was a grandiose statement, and the inside is resplendent with grand designs and artistic stained glass windows. There’s even a wedding chapel inside, and many locals will know the Stadhuis from attending weddings here!

8. MSK Gallery

The MSK Gallery is Ghent’s museum of fine arts, and it’s a great place to get acquainted with the city’s culture. History lovers will also appreciate the MSK, as it’s home to a unique collection of artwork from the medieval era, with some pieces having been produced hundreds of years ago.

The collections also include other fine art from more modern times too, with great galleries displaying European work from the 20th century too.

Castle of Gerald the Devil in Ghent

9. Listen for Ghosts at the Castle of Gerald the Devil

If you are looking for even more iconic, medieval sights to see, then one of the best things to do in Ghent is to visit the Castle of Gerald the Devil. It’s not exactly a castle in the traditional sense, not like Gravensteen, but it does still date to the 13th century and does have a few turrets and spires, although they are mostly for show!

The rather unusual and slightly spooky name of the castle gives it an even more unusual feel, but don’t worry, it’s not as haunted as it sounds.

10. Visit the Design Museum

If you’re interested in Flemish culture, then don’t hesitate to call into the extensive galleries held at the Design Museum in Ghent. This is often cited as one of the best of its kind in Europe, as the museum dates back to the turn of the 20th century.

You can learn about the great architectural styles used across the city, from Gothic to Renaissance, while also enjoying the grand setting of the museum in an 18th-century heritage house.

11. Visit the Ghent City Museum

The Ghent City Museum, otherwise known as the STAM, is a relatively new museum that will give you a fresh insight into local history. There’s a huge collection of exhibits that trace the origins of the city, through to the modern era, and you’ll need to save plenty of time to truly appreciate what’s on display here.

For history lovers, it’s a must-do.

Korenmarkt in Ghent Belgium

12. Wander Around the Korenmarkt

The Korenmarkt – or wheat market – is the main, central square in the city and a great place to visit. This has always been the center of the city and it’s here that you can find many of the most iconic buildings in Ghent.

The square is surrounded by tall, medieval structures, and today, many of these beautiful buildings have been converted into restaurants and bars.

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13. Huis van Alijn

The Huis van Alijn is a wonderful museum located in Ghent, and well worth your time while you are visiting the city. The museum is found in what was once an old children’s hospital, which operated out of charity for the sick and poor of the city.

It takes visitors on a journey through life in Ghent through the 20th century, allowing you to see what it was like to live here – for your average, normal person – through different decades.

Graslei in Ghent

14. Stop to Smell the Flowers at Graslei

Along the banks of the Leie River, you can find one of the oldest parts of Ghent, the Graslei. This is one of the best things to do in Ghent, as the historic quay on the river has been in use for well over a thousand years.

You can watch the boat traffic cruising along the river, you can enjoy beautiful vistas of the city, and you can enjoy the marvelous medieval buildings built here. The quay is old but it’s also undergone many revitalization projects in the past.

Today it’s the site of some of Ghent’s best cafes, and you can sit out and watch life go past on the river at leisure as you enjoy some refreshing beverages.

Our top recommended tours of Graslei:

Boat cruise - Things to do in Ghent

15. Take A Boat Cruise

While you are at the quay, why not jump onto a boat for a cruise along the river. It’s a great way to gain a new perspective of the city, and it’s one of the best things to do in Ghent. You can join tours all through the week, but on weekends, the city also operates a hop on hop off water tram that takes you to all the major tourist attractions.

Our top recommended tours of Boat Cruises:

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.

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