Perched on water and graced with a stunning castle at its heart, Ghent is a true hidden gem. Despite its size—it houses over 250,000 residents—all the attractions are within easy reach, making it a breeze to explore the city on foot in just one day! Ghent’s strategic location, nestled between Brugge, Brussels, and Antwerp, adds to its allure as one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities. So, if you’re contemplating a visit, here’s the perfect one-day in Ghent itinerary.

Disclosure: *This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

Useful Info For The Perfect One Day In Ghent Itinerary

Getting to Ghent by train

Ghent can be easily reached by train from Brussels, Bruges, or Antwerp. The train service is reliable, with trains departing frequently from each city. A return train ticket to any Belgium destination is half-price from Friday, 7 p.m., until Sunday, 12 a.m. For example, we traveled to Ghent from Brussels by train on the weekend and paid 10 EUR (11 USD) for a return ticket. The journey from Brussels to Ghent takes no more than 40 minutes, and you don’t need to book the tickets in advance. 

Upon arrival at Ghent-Sint-Pieters Railway Station, you’ll find yourself just a few steps away from platform nr. 1. From here, the efficient tram nr. one will whisk you to the city center in under 10 minutes. Once you’ve reached the city center, simply alight at Korenmarkt station.

Don’t worry about breaking the bank on transportation- a 60-minute ticket costs just 3 EUR (3,30 USD), and a day ticket is 7 EUR (7,70 USD). You can easily purchase these tickets at vending machines. If you forget, tickets can also be bought on board, although they do cost a bit more.

On your way back, head to  Korenmarkt, platform 4, and take the tram to the Ghent-Sint-Pieters Railway Station.

Getting to Ghent by car

Embarking on a car rental adventure in Belgium opens up a world of possibilities. While public transport is reliable, a car grants you the thrill of exploring off the beaten path. You can halt at your whim, discover hidden gems en route, engage in new experiences, and even alter your itinerary on a whim. Check out the best rental deals HERE.

Getting to Ghent on a guided tour

If you prefer not to drive or are pressed for time, a guided tour is the ideal solution. A day trip to Bruges and Ghent, two of Belgium’s most stunning cities, is made possible with a guided tour. Enjoy the convenience of round-trip transfers from Brussels and the expertise of a professional guide. This comprehensive tour allows you to immerse yourself in the rich history of these cities, exploring their medieval monuments and picturesque neighborhoods. BOOK YOUR GUIDED TOUR TO GHENT AND BRUGES FROM BRUSSELS HERE.

Get an eSIM before the trip

Because phones have become our most important devices, it’s necessary to have a data connection as soon as you step foot in a different country. Your home data plan might only work if you paid for a much more expensive package, finding wifi connections in airports or train stations might be tricky, and seeking a local store to buy a SIM card might be exhausting. Forget all of that!

You just purchase an e-SIM, install it on your phone, and activate the plan when you’re ready to use it. Getting out of the plane and instantly connecting to data was a game changer for me. I didn’t have to waste time standing in line to get a local SIM card or finding a wifi connection to book a taxi to reach my hotel.

If you ask me, getting an e-SIM is a quintessential part of traveling. There is no physical installation and no long-term commitments. And the best part is that you can always top up or purchase a new plan through the app. Pretty convenient, right? Find the best data plan for Belgium HERE.

Secure your travel insurance

We never leave home without travel insurance designed to cover our expenses if something goes wrong. If you’re still on the lookout for travel insurance for your trip to Belgium, I highly recommend HEYMONDOa trusted insurance provider for leisure and business trips, backpackers, long-term travelers, and digital nomads. Their travel insurance protects against theft, flight delays, injury, illness, cancellations, and much more.

One Day in Ghent Itinerary. What to do in Ghent for a Day 

Our journey began in Brussels, where we embarked on a late autumn weekend adventure. After exploring the bustling capital, we ventured to the unique cities of Ghent and Bruges. Our train ride to Ghent was a scenic one, and upon arrival, we were immediately captivated by the city’s charm. From the vibrant city center to the picturesque surroundings, Ghent offers a unique blend of history and modernity. Despite our spontaneous visit, we were able to experience a wealth of sights and sounds on these day trips. 

Immersing yourself in Ghent’s charm is best done at a leisurely pace. As you navigate the labyrinthine cobbled streets, each turn presents a new discovery. The thrill of stumbling upon hidden corners, the joy of finding quaint shops and cozy cafes, and the intrigue of exploring intriguing museums are the experiences that make a visit to Ghent truly memorable. 

I hope you find a little inspiration from this one day in Ghent itinerary!

Korenmarkt

Tram no.1 takes you on a journey through time, dropping you off in the heart of Ghent, right in front of the majestic Saint Nicholas Church. This architectural marvel, with its blend of Gothic and Romanesque styles, is not just a church but also a treasure trove of antiques. Step inside the market, and you might just find a unique piece of history to take back home.

As you leave the church, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Korenmarkt, the historical heart of Ghent. Many of the buildings today house restaurants, shops, and bars.

In need of a coffee? Go to Mokabon and indulge in the coffee scene! Mokabon is known for its rich, aromatic coffee and cozy atmosphere. Whether you prefer a classic espresso or a specialty brew, this is the place to satisfy your caffeine cravings.

the exterior of Saint Nicholas' Church in Ghent on a cloudy day
The antique market inside Saint Nicholas' Church

Saint Michael’s Area

If you arrive in Ghent by car, you can park at Sint Michiels parking area and start your walking tour here.

At Sint-Michielsplein 12, you have the opportunity to join a fantastic free walking tour of Ghent. These tours, available daily at 10:00, 13:00, and 18:30, Monday through Sunday, in English and Spanish, offer a comprehensive overview of the city’s highlights and take around 2 hours. While the tour is free, it’s customary to show your appreciation by tipping the guide if you enjoyed the experience. 

Another option is to explore the historical center of Ghent on a private 2-hour walking tour to see the main attractions of the medieval city center and enter the inner courtyard of an old almshouse. BOOK YOUR PRIVATE GUIDED WALKING TOUR HERE.

Saint Michael’s Bridge is the best place to capture the old buildings of the old harbor, the Leie Canal, the churches of St. Michael and St. Nicholas, and the three towers leading to St. Bavo Cathedral.

After taking in the picturesque view from the riverbank, make your way to Saint Michael’s Church. This architectural marvel, with its unique feature of no spire, stands as a testament to Ghent’s resilience and beauty. Despite its history of setbacks, including partial destruction, the church has emerged as a Gothic masterpiece. The exterior is a sight to behold, but the real treasures lie within: intricate wooden carvings, awe-inspiring sculptures, and stunning glass windows.

people standing on Saint Michael’s Bridge on a rainy day

Korenlei and Graslei

Korenlei and Graslei, the opposite river banks, are the city’s most beautiful parts. With historic buildings that sit alongside the waterfront, this charming place was once one of the most crucial trade areas in this part of the world. Just take some time, stroll around and enjoy the scenery. There are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the views. Have lunch at one of the many terraces with a river view, or take a boat tour on the Leie River.

man going on a boat ride on Leie River in Ghent

Canal Boat Tours

Several companies offer round-trip guided tours on the canals. The journey is very informative, giving most of the buildings’ history on both sides of the Leie River. In addition, it’s a lovely way to see Ghent and take some great pictures from a different angle. BOOK YOUR GUIDED BOAT RIDE TOUR HERE.

Waiting in line for a boat tour, Ghent

Groetenmarkt

On the other side of the Korenmarkt is a small public square called Groetenmarkt. Here, you will discover the Great Butcher’s Hall, a historical gem that dates back to the 15th century. This hall, now home to a charming restaurant, still preserves its original character with Ganda hams hanging from the roof, just as they did centuries ago.

Belgian frites at their best!

Behind the Great Butcher’s Hall, you’ll find a small counter called Bij Filip, a haven for food lovers. Here, you can indulge in their signature fries-crispy on the outside and with a texture that’s simply sublime on the inside. Don’t miss the chance to try them topped with their special SAMOURAI sauce. It’s a taste you won’t forget!

tasting some Belgian fries at Bij Filip

Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen Castle, a marvel built in 1180, was once the residence of the Counts of Flanders. Its rich history includes stints as a prison, a court, and even a cotton factory. Today, it stands as a testament to Ghent’s past, inviting visitors to explore its intriguing transformation through the ages. Our one-day in Ghent itinerary was enriched by our visit to this castle, which quickly became our favorite spot.

It looked amazing from the outside, so we quickly decided to join an audio guide tour to discover the castle’s past. The audio guide provides the history in a story form, making it enjoyable for children and adults. Funny and quirky, it got me in the first place. An engaging format that got other people, too, since everyone seemed amused.

Ascending the Castle Tower and beholding the 360-degree view of Ghent is an experience that should not be missed on your one-day in Ghent itinerary. From this vantage point, you can marvel at the town’s four medieval towers, each with its own unique charm. The panoramic view of the canals and historic landmarks is truly breathtaking, making the climb well worth it.

beautiful view of Gravensteen, Ghent from the bridge

Ghent seen from the top of the Gravensteen Castle

Patershol

What better way to understand and feel the city than walking? One of the most beautiful and exciting areas is Patershol: a little neighborhood with many restaurants and shops. Just take a walk on the cobblestone alleys and enjoy the area.

Strolling around the streets of Ghent.

Vrijdagmarkt

Vrijdagmarkt is another lovely square in Ghent, which has been a local market on Weekends since the 12th century. Here, you can find some great restaurants and pubs.

Before moving further, you can also have a quick look at Saint Jacob Church. Dating back to the Romanesque period, this church has undergone extensive renovation, destruction, and expansion.

strolling the streets of Vrijdagmarkt

Graffiti Street

The Graffiti Street is basically a tiny street filled with bold and bright graffiti. It seems like the alley attracts many tourists, so you can say it’s one of the places you don’t want to miss from your one day in Ghent itinerary. It’s worth a quick stroll to see the graffiti and take some photos on the way to Vrijdagmarkt.

discovering the Graffiti Street on our one day in Ghent

Saint Bavo’s Cathedral

Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, a magnificent Gothic Cathedral, stands as a testament to the past on the ruins of a 12th-century Romanesque church. Its interior and exterior are nothing short of breathtaking, and I urge you not to miss this gem during your day in Ghent. The cathedral’s interior is a symphony of stained glass and marble, a grand Altar, and a multitude of chapels along both sides, each a masterpiece in its own right.

Undoubtedly, the allure of Hubert and Jan Van Eyck’s renowned artwork, ‘The Mystic Lamb,’ is irresistible. While the tower is inaccessible, the Belfry Tower across the street offers a unique vantage point, providing you with exclusive views of the Cathedral and its surroundings.

people standing in front of the St Bavo's Cathedral

Belfry Tower

The Belfry, a Unesco World Heritage, is the symbol of Ghent. Built around 1313, the Belfry Tower is a fiery dragon guarding the city’s heart, standing at about 91m high. This tower, with its rich history of being a watchtower, a prison, and a symbol of the city’s independence, is a must-see on your one-day in Ghent itinerary.

Tip: Ascend the Belfry either by climbing the stairs or taking the lift from the first floor. If you reach the top when the music drum revolves, you’ll be greeted by a symphony of sights and sounds. The small balconies offer breathtaking views over the city, a sensory experience that will surely leave you in awe.

Belfry Tower, a must on a one day in Ghent itinerary

Belgian Waffles

Indulging in Belgian waffles is an absolute must during your one day in Ghent. These waffles, with their unique texture and taste, are a culinary delight that you simply can’t miss. However, choosing one from the plethora of toppings can be a delightful challenge.

Buy the waffles from a street cart that makes them fresh in front of you. Remember, no waffle is complete without a delicious topping like caramel or dulce de leche!

window display of Belgian Waffles, one day in Ghent itinerary

Interactive Map of Our One Day in Ghent Itinerary

Belgium Related Posts

If you’re planning a trip to Belgium, then you might want to take a look at my other travel guides:

ONE DAY IN BRUGES ITINERARY

ONE DAY IN BRUSSELS ITINERARY

Share this...
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Sharing is caring!