Ghent is one of the oldest cities in Belgium. During the medieval ages, it was considered as the largest and richest city in the Northern Europe. This richness can still be seen in its medieval structure, arts, culture and local’s way of living. Similar to other Belgian cities, Ghent is charming in its own way. This city is also popular for its beers, museums, and sustainable innovations (cars run by diesel are not allowed to enter the city). Similar to Brugge and Antwerp, Ghent Belgium is easy to travel by car from the Netherlands. If traveling by train, you need to have a stopover in Antwerp before going to Ghent. There is no direct train from the Netherlands going to Ghent. In case you are also interested the cities of Antwerp and Brugge Belgium, I have written a blog about them.
Touring Ghent in one day is possible. In fact, I never spent a night in Ghent during my three separate visits in the city. Of course it is possible to spend a few days in Ghent just to emerge yourself in the city. But in my case, since I am also exploring other Dutch and Belgian places close to Ghent, I only get a chance to spend a day in the city. If you happened to go to Ghent by car, then I advise to park in the Parking Sint Pietersplein. It is close to the city center and yet has less traffic. The parking fee is also cheap. In fact we paid only 5 euros for 5 hours parking, a price which is quite difficult to find in the Netherlands! Below I will discuss the itineraries that you can visit in Ghent from the car parking in Sint Pietersplein.
One day itinerary in Ghent
1. Sint Pietersplein (or city Square)and Our Lady of St. Peter’s church
Sint Pietersplein is just 2-minutes’ walk from the Sint Pietersplein car parking, if you take an elevator. This city square is the largest square in Ghent, which holds large events such as cultural and sport events. You will find in front of the square the baroque church of Our Lady of St. Peter and the St. Peter’s Abbey beside it. From Sint Pietersplein, the city center of Ghent is just a walking distance (around 5-minutes walk). In the next section, we will show the nearest places to visit next to the square.
2. Saint Nicholas church (Sint Niklaaskerk)
Saint Nicholas church (Sint Niklaaskerk) is well-known and considered as the oldest structure in Ghent. The church is close to the church and bus stations and is next to the Korenmarkt (wheat market). Just across the front of the church is a park where you can rest and simply admire the beauty of this church.
3. St. Michaels Bridge
St. Michael’s bridge is a stone arch bridge located next to Korenmarkt. This small bridge is across the Vanilla River and is an excellent place to take the breath-taking photo of old and majestic Ghent. It connects the two streets of Graslei and North Korea.
4. Graslei and Korenlei
Graslei and Korenlei are two quays that are located opposite to each other in the historic city center of Ghent. They were both part of the medieval port of Ghent, especially when the city was the center of wheat trading in West Belgium. Nowadays, this panoramic view became residential area and house many café patios.
5. Gravensteen castle (Castle of the Count)
The Gravensteen castle, which literally means Castle of the Count, is the only remaining castle with a moat and large, complete defense system in Belgium. The keep (living quarters) and the military architecture of Gravensteen castle are symbols of Count Philip of Alsace’s power (1168-1191). This majestic fortress, which has a dark history and features many of torture equipment, is now a touristic hotspot. Some of the cultural activities and events are being held in this place. At the same time, the fortress is becoming a popular place for local people to get married.
6. Sint Bavo’s cathedral (Sint-Baafs cathedral)
This 89-meter tall Gothic style cathedral represents the catholic church in Ghent. This cathedral is popular for the Ghent altarpiece (also called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb), a 15th century large painting divided into several sections. This painting is credited to Early Netherlandish painters who were active during the 15th and 16th century, and to two brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck.
The Vrijdagmarkt in Ghent features the prominent statue of Jacob van Artevelde, which reminds the once magnificent day is gone by. The history of this place shows both richness and tragedy. Many of the royals were welcomed in the Vrijdagmarkt, while at the same time, public executions in the past were held in this place. When in the Vrijdagmarkt, you can spend your day enjoying local beers and restaurants, or alternatively shop in one of its many stores.
The Groentenamarkt (Vegetable market) was originally a fish market in the 18th century and then transformed into vegetable market. The place is now a square for foodies and gourmand. Here you can find some delicious products such as the typical Ghent confectionary cuberdons, authentic mustards and chocolates.
9. Great Butcher’s Hall (Het Groot Vleeshuis)
The Great Butchers’ Hall, located on the west of the Groentemarkt, is a fantastic place to visit for a taste of history and local foods. It is currently used as an indoor market and restaurant. Large hanging hams were on displays, and visitors can enjoy glass of beers, hams and cheeses during cold weather outside.
10. Castle of Gerald the Devil
Don’t be deceived by the name, a devil has never resided in this castle. The name of the castle comes from the knight Geraard de Duivel (Gerald the Devil), due to his dark complexion and hair color. The Castle of Gerald the Devil has been used for multi-purposes throughout the centuries. It has served as residence of the knight, an arsenal, a monastery, a school, bishop’s seminary, a madhouse for mentally ill people and even an orphanage for males.