7 ways to Experience Ghent, Belgium - Canals, castles, cafes and more

7 ways to get the most out of your trip to Ghent

Ghent was stop number two on our tour of Europe in 2018. We spent the day before in Brussels trying to recover from some severe jet lag. By the time we arrived in Ghent we were ready to go and excited to explore everything the city had to offer. Here are seven ways you can ensure a great visit to Ghent.

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1 - Tour the Canals of Ghent

You can get to Ghent from Brussels by train in about 30 minutes. We then took the tram into the city center. It was too early to check in, so we decided to take our luggage on a boat ride. We found a tour booth with Boat in Ghent nearby. The ticket price was very reasonable at € 7.50 per person. We were the first on board and were then only joined by a small handful of tourists. This is why we love traveling during the offseason.

The guided tour lasted about an hour and took us through the history of medieval Ghent. Our guide was very informative and had a good sense of humor. This tour is a great way to see much of the city, it allows you to see places you cannot get to by foot or car. Also, the boat was full of fleece blankets! The morning air was a bit brisk, so these were especially useful.

2 - Self-Guided Audio Tour at Gravensteen Castle

We had a chance to marvel at the exterior of the Gravensteen Castle during the canal tour. Now it was time to tour the inside. Visiting the “Castle of the Counts” is another inexpensive activity in Ghent. We chose to take the self-guided audio tour. It was easy to follow along, and the tour was narrated by a funny bunny. Really, the stories are told by a joke-cracking rabbit.

Brush Up on your Medieval History

Inside the castle, there were many rooms to explore and a vast collection of medieval weapons and armor. Other than the room used to display those artifacts, the castle is mostly bare. You will have to use our imagination to truly visualize what castle life would have been like. However, all of that stone did set the tone for what was a brutal time in history. You will understand what I mean if you take the tour and learn all about the many torture devices they used during this time.

Also, the castle provides excellent views of Ghent. Isn’t it just beautiful!

3 - Dinner and Drinks in Ghent - or Really Drinks, Dinner, Drinks

Our lodging was within walking distance to everything delicious. We wanted some before dinner cocktails and came across the Andre Aperobar. They offer outdoor seating which we are usually all about, but the chilly air sent us inside. The interior design found in this cocktail bar is super fun. It is quirky and lush. I was instantly in love. You feel comfortable here. Even special. The drinks were equally enjoyable, which is saying a lot. Just when I didn’t think things could get any better, they brought us a popcorn snack. I love popcorn. This was our new place. We came back for after dinner drinks…

Our experience at Andre Aperobar was divine, so naturally, the dinner that followed should be as well, right? We had reservations at De Stokerij, and they did not disappoint. The atmosphere is rich, warm and so inviting. The renovated building is rustic and grand, but so comfortable. Everyone there was having a great time and the room echoed with laughter. The prices are a little high, but nothing crazy. I would recommend De Stokerji as an excellent choice for a special occasion or romantic evening with your love. It was definitely a highlight of our culinary experiences in Ghent.

4 - Ghent Self-guided Illuminated Walk Tour

What better way to end a magical night than to spend it causally strolling along the canals gazing at medieval architecture? Ghent wants you to linger on well into the night. Their Illuminated Walk Tour is a must. No guide, just you and hundreds of years of history glistening in the night. Not only is this artistic light display absolutely enchanting, but it provides Ghent with sustainable lighting. You can get the official map online or make it up as you go like we did.

5 - Cafe Culture in Ghent

Everyday while in Europe began at one cafe or another. While in Ghent, however, most mornings were spent at Simon Says. Located on the corner, this cafe was always on our way to wherever we were headed that day. They have outdoor seating which makes for great people watching. The coffee drinks were very nice indeed, as were the spiced chai’s. And of course, each drink came with a little chocolate. One morning we went inside for breakfast. Delicious!

6 - Visit Ghent’s Old Port - Eat/Drink on a Boat

Our guide from the canal tour had recommended we make our way to Ghent’s Old Port to check out Noah Ghent. The location was a little difficult to find on foot, but that was mostly due to construction in the area at the time. We sat outside and enjoyed a drink each. The location is quiet, especially the day we were there. However, I imagine this place hopping during the spring and summer months. When we went inside to pay, I was a little sad we didn’t eat there. It smelled so good! The dining area inside the boat is charming and bright. I would be very interested in returning here on a warm day.

7 - Enjoy Ghent like a Local

As much as I enjoy eating out while traveling, I equally enjoy checking out the local markets. We loaded up on bread, cheeses, hummus and other treats one afternoon and took off for the park. We found a quiet bench and unpacked our picnic lunch. It was nice to just be there. To be in Europe. To be in Ghent. We watched the locals as they walked their dogs or took their kids to the park. It was so relaxing and peaceful. Even if you choose not to have a picnic, take the time to walk the streets with no objective other than to soak it all in.

A bit of advice on shopping in Ghent - bring your own bag. Luckily, I happen to always travel with a reusable bag. The grocery store we went to did not offer bags. We would have felt foolish scooping up all of our goodies had we not brought one.

My reusable bag is very similar to these found on Amazon. I do not have this exact product. However, these seem more durable and washable than mine. I like that they are compact and cute! Add one to your pack, and you’ll always have an extra bag ready to go! I have the strawberry bag. What is your favorite fruit?

Bonus Idea - Take a Day Trip to Bruges, Belgium

We did! To read more about our trip to Bruges check out this post.

Inspiration - Ghent, Belgium

After touring the canals of Ghent (and then again in Bruges), I had seen so many swans! These relatively large birds with their elegant necks float effortlessly on the water. All of the swans and ducks bring a lot of life to the canals and are entertaining to watch.

I was inspired by the magic of Ghent. The architecture, the weeping willows that line the canals, the change of seasons and the moody colors found throughout the city.

What will inspire you in Ghent?

Cheers! To the goodness that is Ghent!

Roo Bea Design Co Graphic Designer Midwest Iowa

This trip took place during the fall of 2018. When planning your own adventures, please be sure to check for any current travel alerts or changes in destination conditions first. Keep in mind that businesses mentioned may no longer exist or offer the same products recommended in this post.


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