When Natasha, our content editor, mentioned she was ready to head to Gent, I cautiously hopped on board not thinking much of the destination. An earshot of Brussels, and close to the more well-known town of Brugge, Gent is one of the larger Belgian cities. The tall and charming canal houses, quaint streets, and picturesque views caught my attention immediately as we made our way to the heart of Gent. With four days at hand to explore this city in East Flanders, I was ready to have my first introduction to Belgium.
Chocolates, waffles, fries, canals, history, art — all of these classic Belgian delights were easily found in Gent. While a bustling university is a staple of the city, it still felt calm and almost home-like. In the early morning, locals head off to work and shops leisurely start to open. It reminds you that life hasn’t stopped in this storybook-esque town.
After what seemed like minutes, turned out to be four days, quickly making our time in Gent come to an end. Forever engraved in my mind are the early mornings shared walking around, the cold beers along the canals, and the endless charm in the winding cobblestone streets.
The Quick Guide to Gent, Belgium
Good to Know
- Gent is easily reachable by train into the main area, as well as local trains available for transportation within the city.
- English is widely spoken, so need to worry about brushing up on Flemish or French.
- Euros is the currency accept, and it is important to have some on hand for payment.
- A Belgian beer and fries is a staple of a stay, be sure to try at least once (or every day like we did!)
- The CityCard Gent gives you access to multiple museums, as well as a canal cruise and complimentary bikes to use for the day. If you plan to do some museum hopping, it is well worth it to get this card and can save up to 20 euros.
Where to Stay in Gent
- For a local stay, I couldn’t recommend more the B & B De Waterzooi. Placed in the heart of the city and just footsteps away from Gravensteen Castle, this homey stay feels more then just a place to rest your head. Owned by locals Kay & Christian, they prepare breakfast every morning in their courtyard and feature three spacious rooms to check into. Read the full review on the b & b here.
Where to Eat in Gent
The city of Gent has an array of dining from local classics to cheap eats like fries to go, as well as modern cafes with specialty food. A little of everything is good, so be sure to try new cuisine as well as classic spots. Here’s a few favorites:
- SMAK Cafe: A lovely bright space with pink couches, and tasty coffee.
- Pakhuis: Fresh cuisine with numerous seafood dishes and a great oyster bar.
- Volta: A gastronomic experience featuring modern cuisine.
- De Vitrine: What was once a butcher’s shop, is now a high end restaurant where you can leave the choices of what to eat to the chef.
- True Beans: A local’s spot and one of the only that have acai bowls and fresh juice. Placed right by the canal, it’s lovely for breakfast or the afternoon.
- Proof: A tasting room with an array of different spirits.
- Graslei: Head here for a local Belgian waffle for the afternoon.
- Wurst: A cheap local spot to grab beer and bratwurst.
- Balls & Glory: A hip spot that features meatballs on mashed potatoes or salad. The flavors changed each day, with creatives fusions and classics.
- Albert’s: This is the local spot, right next to Gravensteen Castle for waffles.
- BIDON Coffee & Bicycle: Arguably the best coffee spot in the city. Braderie Delights: Stop by here for a macaroon and a cup of tea.
- Caffe Caffee: A modern coffee shop in city center.
What to Do in Gent
From a blend of history to modern art, the city can invite you into either experiences quite easily. It’s a beautiful marriage of modern structures and old-world churches, cobble stone-lined canals and newly paved roads. Here’s my suggestion for your time:
- S.M.A.K.: This is the city’s amazing contemporary art museum, be sure to check the current exhibits.
- STAM: An impressive museum featuring a 14th century abbey, a 17th century church and a brand new modern building with works of art.
- Design Museum: One of my favorite places to stop by, this intimate old building has rotating exhibits, from interior to architectural design.
- Gravensteen Castle: This historic masterpiece is a winding adventure, with a “torture” museum inside.
- St. Bavos’ Cathedral: Well known for “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by the Van Eyck brothers, this historic church should be visited.
- Great Butcher’s Hall: Dating back to the 15th century where is hosted the meat market is now a hall with a food vendors.
- Patershol: This was my favorite neighborhood to explore by foot. The small cobblestone roads and historic houses feel like a scene out of a storybook.
- Belfry: Head here for a panoramic view over the city of Gent.
- St. Peter’s Abbey: Take a peak at featured exhibits and a picturesque garden.
- Take a street art tour: With a map from the tourism office (located across from Gravensteen Castle), go through the city by bike stopping off at incredible street art by artists like Gijs Vanhee and Chris Dyer.
- Float through the canals for a different perspective of the city.