Determined to see as much as I could during our visit to Belgium, we chose Bruges as our home base with a plan for quick trips to other nearby cities. Ghent, The 2nd largest municipality in Belgium, not only has beautiful architecture and a large medieval castle, but it was only 30 minutes away, making it the perfect day trip destination.
Purchasing our tickets at the station the day of, we traveled from the Bruges Station to the Gent-Sint Pieters Station. If you’re traveling with kids, keep in mind that under 12s are free on the trains in Belgium. Upon arrival to the Ghent station there are multiple ways to get into the city center, we chose to ride the tram.
Tram tickets are available outside from a machine or at the Ticket/Information office inside the Gent-Sint Pieters Station. Advised by the clerk to purchase one 10 ride ticket, all four of us rode roundtrip for a total of 14 euro. As soon as you board the tram you’ll validate your ticket once for each passenger and use the same ticket again on the way back.
Our stop was the Korenmarkt, which is the center of town. Immediately upon arriving you’ll see the St. Nicolas’ Church and the Belfry, and if you look a bit further down the street you’ll see St. Bavo’s Cathedral too! These three tall towers on the same street are quite fittingly known as the Three Towers of Ghent! The very modern Ghent City Pavilion located between the Belfry and St. Nicolas’ Church is used for public gatherings.
Our first stop was Gravensteen a medieval castle. Although there isn’t a lot to look at inside, as most of the castle is empty, there are brief explanations of each room along the way and the numbered path is very clearly laid out. The visit was only about one hour and for me the highlight was walking the castle walls with views of the canals and city rooftops. Simon enjoyed the weapons exhibit quite a lot. Admission prices are 10 euro per adult and kids under 19 are free.
We walked along the River Leie on our way to lunch and although it was a really pretty walk there seemed to be a lot of construction going on, so I didn’t take many photos. We enjoyed a lovely lunch right on the river bank, but I was so busy enjoying my meal I forgot to take any photos. Oops!
Wanting to see something a bit off the beaten path and big fans of street art, we were excited to learn that Ghent has a dedicated graffiti street called Werregaren straat. Really more of a pass through or alley than a street, its pedestrian only, and if you like street art definitely worth a look.
Due to the temporary nature of street art and graffiti the walls of Werregaren straat are constantly changing. We really enjoyed this and loved the idea of a dedicated place where anyone can express themselves freely. Elliot really wished we’d had a can of spray paint or two, so he could contribute. Maybe next time!
St. Bavo’s Cathedral
If you’re an art lover you might like to visit The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by the Van Eyck brothers in 1432. This important piece of Flemish artwork has survived mostly intact throughout quite a turbulent history which includes, Protestant Iconoclasm as well as seizure by Napoleon, and the Nazis.
For the past 50 years it’s been hanging right where it belongs in St. Bavo’s Cathedral.
The painting can be viewed for a fee of 4 euro, but if you’re not interested in paying the fee there is a replica of the painting (which worked perfectly for my needs), inside the cathedral, which can be viewed free of charge. There are many other works of art, some more modern (one is pictured above), throughout the Cathedral.
St. Nicholas’ Church
Much less ornate on the inside than St. Bavo’s we also visited St. Nicholas’ which was undergoing some renovation, but beautiful nonetheless. After our long day wandering we opted not to climb to the top of the Belfry. Instead, we stopped for a soda and a rest in a little shop nearby before boarding the tram and heading back to Bruges.
We really enjoyed our afternoon in Ghent and would have loved more time in this lovely city. An evening walk along the canals to see the award winning lights would be at the top of my list!
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