Europe is so great. You can just hop on a train and get anywhere you’d like in just a few hours. We visited Ghent in one day while staying in Brussels. It was relatively easy to go to the train station on the day of and purchase our train tickets. It took about two hours via train to get to Ghent from Brussels.
If you only have a day, here are some must-visit destinations in the city of Ghent.
First some notes: Ghent people speak only Dutch. If you don’t speak Dutch, not to worry. Everyone we interacted with spoke English. However, I always recommend at least learning some key phrases like “Hello”, “thank you” and “please.”
While Ghent does not have a metro/underground, they do have trams and buses that will take you all over the city. If you’re familiar with using public transit and have access to GPS on a phone with Google maps, you’ll be just fine. (Even my phone that was on airplane mode the entire time worked for this. Just make sure to download a map of the area offline prior to your trip.)
If you go on Sunday, expect many shops and some restaurants to be closed. We went on a Sunday and had plenty to see and do, but if there’s something particular on your list, check the hours first. It was mainly clothing and brand name shops that were closed, and we had no expectations on our trip so we were just fine wandering the city for hours. Also dont expect this to mean the city will be empty. The main public square was packed with tourists and several different events happening.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the fun bit. My recommendations for a day trip to Ghent.
A castle within Ghent city limits that even has a moat. It cost us 10€ each, and was well worth it. You can basically wander the entire castle on your own. The castle itself is pretty empty, but each room has a sign that tells you what the room was used for.
Be prepared for narrow spiral staircases. A lot of them. You also get great views of Ghent from the top of the walls.
St. Michel bridge
There’s nothing special about the bridge itself as far as I know, but this area has the main city center and many historic buildings. It’s nice to take a walk along the canal and take in the wonderful sights.
When we went, there happened to be a Scottish festival happening, along with some sort of kids bicycle event and a book fair. Plenty to see and do, even if its just people watching.
There are also plenty of restaurants in this area that are open on Sundays. We chose Exki, a Belgian chain of fast-casual, type food with many vegetarian selections. They had a nice patio that faced the city square.
St. Bavo’s Abbey
This was by far my favorite part of the day. Ruins of an abbey from the 7th century. As far as we can tell, the original abbey is no longer standing, but there are hedges/trees that represent where it once stood. There are also fabulous ruins that you can walk through, which might be pieces of the original building. It’s a very peaceful garden area.
There is also a church that was built around the 12th century that you can walk through. All of this is in the process of being renovated, but its totally free to visit and you can wander around on your own.
Have you been to Ghent before? What were your favorite parts?