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Points of interest
What is Ghent famous for?
Ghent is also known as the Bloemenstad (City of Flowers) due to the festivals held here since the 17th century. Thanks to its flourishing wool trade during the Middle Ages, Ghent became one of Europe's largest and most prosperous cities. This affluence still shows in the city's historical centre. Discover the most beautiful sights, the best restaurants and comfortable hotels for your stay in Ghent.
Discover the top things to do in Ghent
Ghent is home to nearly 1,900 restaurants and cafés, from exclusive restaurants and trendy pubs to vibrant outdoor cafés and speciality coffee shops. The City of Flowers oozes history, allowing you to experience culture and visit exciting museums during your stay.
The city has a unique culture and a welcoming atmosphere. Add the friendly Ghent locals, and you will quickly feel at home. Here we bring you the best things to do in Ghent.
What to see in Ghent
The best place to discover everything there is to know about Ghent is from the water. A round trip on the canals and rivers will take you past several points of interest, telling the story of this city.
Most boat rides start from the Graslei and the Korenlei, near the Novotel Gent Centrum hotel. These two quays, divided by the Leie river, form the most picturesque parts of Ghent. Marvel at majestic canal buildings and take in the scenic views over the Graslei and Korenlei from the Sint-Michielsbrug. You'll also have a view of the three towers of Ghent: Sint-Niklaaskerk, Belfort and Sint-Baafskathedraal.
The three towers
The medieval Sint-Baafskathedraal stands at the heart of Ghent, next to the Hotel ibis Gent Centrum St Baafs Kathedraal. This church was built in the 14th century on top of a 12th-century Roman crypt. Because parts of the church were constructed at different stages, the impressive cathedral has architectural features from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism styles.
Inside the cathedral, the main attraction is the 15th-century religious triptych Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, made by the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck. Your attention will also be drawn to The Conversion of Saint Bavo by Peter Paul Rubens.
Unmistakable in Ghent's townscape is the 14th-century, 95-metre-tall Belfry of Ghent. Enjoy scenic views of the city from the rooftop. The Belfry of Ghent was used as a bell tower, watchtower and prison. The oldest bells date back to 1314. The most famous bell of the Belfry is the Klokke Roeland, which stands on a pedestal at the foot of the tower. On top of the Belfry, the Dragon of Ghent watches over the city.
The Sint-Niklaaskerk on the Korenmarkt is the third tower that defines Ghent's townscape. The grey-blue colours of the Tournai bluestone used to build the church make the 13th-century Sint-Niklaas an eye-catching sight. It's regarded by many as one of the most striking examples of the local Scheldt Gothic style.
Medieval stronghold and oldest square
In the 9th century, the first fortifications were laid down around the city of Ghent. In the centuries that followed, they built a donjon on top of that: the Gravensteen.
This is the only remaining medieval stronghold of Flanders with a largely intact defence system. This fortified castle has a moat and allows for a unique look into how mediaeval fortresses are constructed. Parts of the fort are open to the public, and there's a weapons museum and a court of justice museum.
The Vrijdagmarkt is one of the oldest squares in Ghent, where many trials were held, and executions took place.
The square has a statue of Jacob van Artevelde, who was a hero during the time of the Hundred Years' War. Ghent is sometimes also referred to as 'Artevelde city'! On the Vrijdagmarkt stands the Toreken, a Gothic-style guildhall that dates to the 15th century. It has a striking stepped gable roof and a small steeple tower, which nowadays is a residence to the Poëziecentrum.
During your stay in Ghent, discover a wealth of art and design. The Museum of Schone Kunsten has various paintings, drawings and other art pieces from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century. Enjoy contemporary art at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK). We also recommend the Design Museum, where you can find creative inspiration in an extensive collection of designs from Belgium and other countries.
Markets and shops in Ghent
Ghent has the largest pedestrian shopping area in Belgium, with a rich mix of markets and shops. Take Dok Noord, a trendy shopping centre built on a former industrial site. The pedestrian shopping streets lend themselves perfectly for a leisurely stroll. Many well-known shopping brands are located near the Korenmarkt, Veldstraat and Langemunt, close to the ibis Gent Centrum Opera hotel.
At the end of Langemunt, you'll find the Vrijdagmarkt, where a weekly market is held every Friday. Alongside fresh fruit and vegetables, buy cuberdons here, a type of Belgian sweet.
The left bank of the river Leie is Ghent's artistic hub. Many art schools and galleries are dotted around the Ajuinlei, Jan Breydelstraat, Burgstraat and Onderbergen. You can also visit the Sunday book market here.
The area around Sint-Jacobs, not far from the Ibis budget Gent Centrum Dampoort hotel, is also very art-centric. This is the place to shop for unique clothing, designer and vintage items. There is an antiques and collectables market every weekend. The East District is the commercial area around Henegouwenstraat, Bennesteeg, Mageleinstraat and Volderstraat. Here you can shop for couture and vintage clothing.
What to eat and drink in Ghent
The city has plenty of welcoming restaurants where you can have a perfect start with a tasty breakfast. Take Luv L'Oef at the Nederkouter, where you can order French toast, Greek yoghurt and many other breakfast favourites throughout the day.
Also on the Nederkouter is the oatmeal and speciality coffee bar Oats Day Long. You won't be eating a simple bowl of porridge here. The porridge is spiced up by adding ingredients like homemade apple compote, asparagus, fresh mango or peanut butter. Gust, on the Papagaaistraat, serves all the breakfast classics, from scrambled eggs and jam on toast to American pancakes. Madam Bakster on the Brabantdam is another perfect place for breakfast or brunch for vegans and vegetarians.
A sumptuous brunch awaits you at Amour on the trendy Dok Noord and the lovely tearoom Alice at Onderbergen, ideal for when you start the day a little late. At the centre of Ghent, enjoy a veggie brunch in a quiet city garden at Pain Perdu on the Walpoortstraat.
If you prefer a heartier lunch, visit Jack Premium Burgers on the Vlasmarkt. This premium burger restaurant also offers vegetarian options.
Grab a drink in hospitable Ghent
Ghent is a student town with plenty of bars where you can grab a drink and enjoy the nightlife. It also has cosy restaurants where you can round off the day with a memorable meal.
Wine and craft beers like only the Flemish can serve
Jigger's at Oudburg is one of the city's hotspots. Unique cocktails are served at this speakeasy-style bar. Edelrot on the Steendam is a friendly wine shop with professional staff who can tell you everything about what you're drinking.
La Botaniste on the Hoornstraat is an organic wine bar where you can also order delicious vegetarian dishes after your drinks. Ganzerik on the Druifstraat is highly recommended if you prefer a craft beer. They have plenty of choices, with twelve beers on tap.
Group dining has become increasingly popular in Ghent. Try the Amigo on the Stapelplein. Its seasonal menu is inspired by the flavours of the Mexican and Middle-Eastern cuisines. If you like Belgian classics and service with a personal touch, we recommend Restaurant Jus on the Mageleinstraat.
It's all about fine dining at Restaurant Souvenir on the Brabantdam. Enjoy delightful lunches and dinners here, surrounded by stylish Scandinavian interior design. The Kruidtuin on the Kortrijksesteenweg in Ghent is a popular restaurant for a three- or four-course dinner. The chefs focus on getting the most out of vegetables, using plenty of seasonal herbs. Restaurant Vrijmoed at the Vlaanderenstraat has an authentic atmosphere and beautifully plated meals. This is exclusive dining for the connoisseurs.