Postcard from Belgium – things to do in Ghent

medieval ghent in belgium

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It is no secret that I like visiting Belgium – a lot. From its majestic capital Brussels, to the quaint medieval town of Bruges and pretty city of Ghent,  Belgium is a little under-rated on the tourist map in my opinion.

We had long ago planned to visit Ghent on route to Amsterdam and decided to continue with this plan despite terrorist attacks in Brussels the day before. I’m so glad we did.

Here is my postcard of things to do in Ghent – a pretty medieval city of canals, waffles and enticing looking bars and restaurants.

Ghent – a medieval city in Belgium

postcard from ghent belgium

A Flemish city

Located on the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Leie, Ghent rose to prominence in the middle ages and was the birthplace of Holy Roman Emperor, King of Germany and King of Italy Charles V (1500-1558). Now the capital of Flanders, a university city and the fourth largest in Belgium,  Ghent retains its small town feel and medieval heritage with the added bonus of city attractions.

Things to do in Ghent

Graslei Harbour

Graslei Harbour Ghent Belgium

During our afternoon in Ghent, we wandered its pretty streets. The atmosphere was quiet and sombre given the events of the previous day however we could tell the city would usually be a thriving hub of activity. The city centre is mainly pedestrianised except for bikes and trams. Medieval buildings hover over cobbled streets and the old Graslei harbour.

Gravensteen Castle

gravensteen castle ghent belgium


The imposing Gravensteen castle (Castle of the Counts) dating from the 12th century looks over the city. This looks like it would have been a proper working castle to me. As opposed to a decorative one.

We didn’t make it to the top but I am sure the views from the ramparts are amazing. Take a peek inside Gravensteen Castle.

Ghent Belfry

ghent belgium sights

You can spot the Belfry of Ghent from vantage points around the city. It is the tallest belfry in Belgium and is on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Since the 14th century, it has been used to sound the time, and issue warnings and alarms.

Market squares in Ghent

The open spaces of the Vrijdagmarkt and Korenmarkt with their outdoor cafe seating and beautiful surrounds also attract a buzz of students and street vendors adding to the atmosphere. By the time we visited the Vrijdagmarkt everyone was heading home for their Easter break. I love the image of this lone cyclist taking a short cut across the square.

vrijdagmarkt ghent belgium

What we ate in Ghent

I can confirm the steak frites are great in Ghent. As are the waffles. And the chocolate. As you would expect in Belgium. There are several local chocolatiers and I recommend Chocolaterie van Hoorebeke for their amazing pralines.

cuberdon - things to eat in ghent

We also sampled the local delicacy – cuberdon, translated into English as “Ghent noses”. Fortunately, they taste much nicer than they sound. They are pyramid shaped fruit jellies made with raspberries and yes they are delicious! My favourite discovery was the ”

My favourite discovery was the “sneeuwballen” or snowballs. These sweets are little puffs of vanilla flavoured soft meringue covered in a thin layer of dark chocolate and dusted with icing sugar. You don’t have to look too far to find these treats as they are sold in the main squares by street vendors.

Accommodation in Ghent

We like to stay in unusual accommodation when possible however on this occasion a central location and on-site parking were the main requirements. From the Ghent Marriott you can easily reach all the major sites of the town on foot even with a couple of toddlers in tow.

The hotel is modern and comfortable and we slept soundly before our onward journey to Amsterdam.

I commend the professionalism and tact with which the staff at the hotel managed their guests’ concerns over security.

Book the Ghent Marriott hotel or Read reviews on Tripadvisor

Reasons to return – things we missed

As we wandered the streets of Ghent we couldn’t help but notice all the little restaurants and boutiques showcasing local and international cuisine and design.

toy shop ghent belgium

Through open windows, we could see finishing touches being put on enticing menus and table settings. I saw tapas and pintxos bars, fine dining establishments, and elegant cafes. None of them suitable for a couple of 2-year-olds and their slightly frazzled parents!

restaurant ghent belgium


More things to do in Ghent

✪ the local Design Museum has an excellent reputation

✪ The Ghent Altarpiece (otherwise known as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb) is a 12 panel masterpiece that has been moved/stolen (depending on who you ask) across Europe over the centuries

✪ Discover the thriving street art culture

✪ Take a boat tour of the converging rivers

I’m looking forward to returning to Ghent again soon. Maybe next time without kids in tow so we can explore the galleries, restaurants and independent shops at leisure!


what to do in ghent belgium

Discover our travels in Belgium

Brussels for families | Our reasons for travelling to Belgium just after the Brussels terrorist attacks

Ghent, Belgium - things to do in the pretty medieval city

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59 thoughts on “Postcard from Belgium – things to do in Ghent

  1. Jasmine ~ Restless says:

    Looks like a gorgeous place, good on you for not letting fear win and prevent you from experiencing this place!

  2. Patricia says:

    Ghent looks stunning and as though it exists in an entirely different time. I’ve never been, but I’m completely infatuated with the idea now!

  3. Travel Pockets says:

    I’ve never been to Ghent and was excited to read your post. I love cities that have so much history and cute little restaurants and boutiques. The photos of the “Delicacies from Ghent cuberdon raspberry jellies and “sneeuwballen” or snowballs” was so interesting. I have never seen that.

  4. Laura @ Grassroots Nomad says:

    These photos are gorgeous! I’ve never been to Belgium so I wasn’t sure what to expect when reading about Ghent, but it looks like a fairytale! Those snowball things look so weird and delicious – I wish you could mail them to Guatemala!!

    • Katy says:

      Thank you Laura. The snowballs are so delicate they even got squashed on the way to the hotel but they were still yummy (if a little ugly!)

  5. Kaylene Chadwell says:

    Belgium is one of my favorite countries I’ve been to! I’m planning a trip back there in June and will be going to Ghent and Bruges! I loved walking the streets of both those cities a couple years ago, so relaxing and fun! And so much great food and beer 🙂

  6. Ulli says:

    Loved the post 😀 It really ecouraged me to visit Belgium, where I haven’t been yet. And I agree that attacks should make us stop to travel. And I agree that chocolate is the best in the world 😀

  7. Cynthia says:

    Ghent looks absolutely beautiful! Putting it on my list to visit when I backpack Europe this summer 😀

  8. Juergen | says:

    Ghent is certainly on my list of ‘must-see places’. Even though I used to live only 10 kilometres from the Belgian border I never got “that far”… I think one secret of an enjoyable visit is to pick the right time; as I understand Ghent can get very busy during peak summer season.

    • Katy says:

      I expect it would be incredibly busy in the height of summer Juergen. we tend to avoid trips at that time of year for that reason ? Hope you mange to see this Pretty city. Thanks for stopping by

  9. Ruth says:

    I am little bit obsessed with Belgium lately. First, there are very enticing blog posts like this. Then, I follow several people based on Belgium on Instagram. The architecture, the food and the markets attract me a lot. I want to return to Europe this year. Hope Belgium is in the plans.

  10. Jim @ ReflectionsEnroute says:

    You’re right Katy, for some reason Belgium just doesn’t make it on many travelers’ lists. But we love it! I haven’t been to Ghent yet but your article makes me want to go! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

    • Katy says:

      Thanks for the lovely comment Jim, I am putting Antwerp on the top of my next to visit in Belgium list. Any tips gratefully received

  11. Clare Thomson says:

    I love the medieval towns of Europe – we’re so fortunate to have them all relatively close. Ghent looks beautiful. You’ve definitely convinced me to visit. I’ve only visited Bruges so clearly need to see more of Belgium.

  12. tots2travel says:

    The architecture you’ve featured is stunning. And I also like your section on What We Missed – I can totally relate to that with my 2 year old and 1 year old in tow. The raspberry jellies look curious too.

    • Katy says:

      Thank you. We always miss a lot travelling with the kids but we also see and experience things we wouldn’t have considered before we had children.

  13. Lolo says:

    Ghent is so pretty!! Im so sad I havent made it there yet! I first went to Belgium in 2015 and fell in love…hard! I love everything about it! #CityTripping

    • Katy says:

      Maybe we should start a Belgium fan club ? I’m not joking either. Interested in being sponsored by chocolate brands ??

  14. Lauren Bishop says:

    I somehow have yet to visit Belgium but it is definitely on the list! I love that the city centre is pedestrian friendly and I simply can’t wait to try cuberdon raspberry jellies!

  15. Cathy (MummyTravels) says:

    Belgium does have some beautiful medieval buildings – I saw that Ghent has been used for period dramas as it’s so unspoiled as well, and it’s really tempting to visit (not least because of those chocolates and sweet treats, yum). It must have been a strange time to be in Belgium, I’m glad you felt you were still able to go (and I’m sure the Belgians would have felt the same). This is definitely one for my list with my daughter. Thanks for linking up to #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Cathy. I think it’s an easy weekend trip for when you are locked into the school schedule. Those chocolates are amazing aren’t they?

  16. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    Well done you for cracking on with your trip despite the terror attacks. I can imagine that wasn’t an easy decision to make. Ghent looks a fantastic city to visit. The castle magnificent, the food delicious and I would love wandering around its medieval streets. It certainly looks very quiet. We’ll have to go visit sometime. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Glad you enjoy Belgium too Corey. Judging by the outpouring of love for the country I might need to make some I ❤️ Belgium t-shirts. Thanks for stopping by

  17. Mandy says:

    I would love to visit Ghent one day! We’ve been on two Eurotunnel road trips – once to north France and once to Bruges. I like your travel guide – when we visit I’ll be sure to ensure I’m not too scruffy!

  18. Christy Swagerty (whatupswags) says:

    I never made it to the center of Ghent, the one time I attempted to go! I ended up lost somewhere in the backstreets of the train station. 🙁 But I did hear some university students say, “Ghent is so much cooler than Bruges. Bruges is for old people.”
    I like them both!!! 😀 Thanks for showcasing how beautiful Ghent is, and I think Belgium has the best combination of French and Dutch cuisine! #citytripping

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