How to spend 24 hours in Ghent

Canal in old town in Gent

The O'Hallorans

The OHallorans

We’re made up of Lyndsey, John and Erin, who all love a new adventure. We try to get away as much as possible, especially during school holidays and variety is a must for us. That means staying anywhere from a luxury hotel to a hostel and it’s not often we go to the same place twice. 

If you’re planning to visit Belgium then Ghent should definitely be on your list of cities to visit. It’s one of those cities that you can spend just 1 day in if you’re pressed for time. If you’re not sure how to spend your day, read on for ideas of how to spend 24 hours in Ghent.

Getting to Ghent

Ghent is easily accessible from other places in Belgium. From both Brussels Midi and Brussels Central station you can take direct trains which take around 35-40 minutes to Gent-Sint-Pieters station. From Brussels airport you have more options with both direct and indirect trains, as well as direct buses.

Transport in Ghent

The city of Ghent has a fantastic public transport system… trams. Tram lines 1, 2 and 4 (there is no 3) will take you around the city and will make your day in Ghent super easy. Not only is it a fun way to get around but it’s also the best way if you want to save some time.

The red line (tram 1) will take you from Gent-Sint-Pieters station into the city centre (and further). The tram stop is right outside of the train station and there are plenty of ticket machines available. You can also use contactless payments on the trams if you want to. A single fare costs €2.50 (as of January 2023) and you can then use the trams as much as you like for 1 hour. If you have the CityCard Ghent you can use all of Ghent’s transport for free for the duration of your card.

Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen Castle, otherwise known as Castle of the Counts, is a medieval castle right in the centre of Ghent. You can catch the number 1 tram to get there and the stop is right outside. The journey takes about 5 minutes from the train station.

Gravensteen Castle is the only remaining medieval castle that has a moat and mostly intact defence systems in the Flanders region and is one o the main attractions of the city. It’s a spectacular building to look at, both from the outside and inside. People of all ages will enjoy a visit here and it’s especially popular with children. Go back to medieval times and discover some of the ways the castle was used. Gravensteen Castle has an impressive collection of torture equipment, now on show in what was once the pantry.

There are quite a lot of steps around the castle so its not the best place if you are looking for somewhere accessible. If you can do the steps, you can go out to one of the top parts of the castle and get one of the best views of this medieval city. This isn’t somewhere for a quick visit though and you’ll need at least a couple of hours to get around the castle, especially if you use the audio guide as you walk around.

Gravensteen Castle at sunrise

Take a boat tour

Ghent is known for its beautiful canals and it would be a real shame not to go on a canal tour while you’re there. Just across the road, around a minute walk away, from Gravensteen Castle is the Vleeshuisbrug bridge, where a few different boat tours operate from. You can see if there is space available on the next tour or book on for a later time.

Tours are generally multi-lingual, with guides speaking in English, French and Dutch. Canal tours offer a great deal of information about the city as well as giving you the perfect way to see more of Ghent. You’ll get views of the city that you can’t get anywhere else and on a sunny day, it’s lovely to just sit and take in the scenery. This should definitely be on the top of your list of things to do during your 24 hours in Ghent.

Boat tour on Ghent's canals
Boat tour on Ghent’s canals

See the three medieval towers of Ghent

While you’re close to the old town, be sure to visit the three medieval tours of Ghent. St. Bavo’s Cathedral, St Nicholas’ Church and the Belfry Tower are all very close together so easy to see in a short space of time. If you go inside Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, you can find Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. Jan van Eyck is Belgium’s most famous classic painter, known for early Renaissance paintings of people. Another option is to climb the steps of the top of the Belfry Tower, all the way to the bell tower. This is the perfect place to get the best view of the city.

St Nicholas’ Church
St Nicholas’ Church

Time for lunch

Ghent is full of fantastic cafes and restaurants. You won’t have to walk far before finding somewhere that looks good. Ghent also has a really good mix of independent options as well as chains if you want something a bit more recognisable.

Depending on what kind of time you’ve got left, you might want to grab something quick. There are plenty of places to grab waffles as well as friteries. Take a walk down the cobblestone streets while eating your lunch and save yourself some time. If you want a sit-down meal, Uilenspiegel, offers traditional Belgian dishes as well as plenty of options for children if you’re travelling as a family. Of course, there are plenty of other options available and lots of different cuisines to choose from. Don’t forget to have a Belgian beer with your lunch too!

Walk down Graffiti Street

Discover the cobbled streets of Ghent and talk a walk down Graffiti Street. Belgium is well-known for its street art and Ghent is no exception. The art on this particular street changes so you can see something different on each visit. I think its one of Ghent’s hidden gems and we only came across it by accident. Graffiti Street is a popular spot and you might have to wait a little bit to take pictures with some of the art but people do tend to move along quite quickly. This is something so interesting and different to do and should be one of the top things you do while you visit Ghent.

Graffiti Street Ghent
Street art on Graffiti Street

Go on a walking tour of the city

Walking tours are great ways to see a city if you’re short on time, which you will be with only 24 hours in Ghent. A tour guide can take you around the most popular and most interesting places in Ghent, ensuring you see all of the best bits in a short space of time. A local guide will also be able to tell you all about the gothic architecture, medieval history, the main tourist attractions and any interesting facts about this beautiful city. Do some research online before your visit and make sure you leave plenty of time for a tour.

If you have time…

You won’t be able to do everything in Ghent in 24 hours and the above are just ideas of things you’ll be able to fit in. However, you may find yourself with more time and if you do, these are some other options:

  • Design Museum
  • Saint Michael’s Bridge
  • Christmas Market (depending on the time of year)
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Museum of Industry
  • Watch the sunset
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