Considering a day trip from Brussels to Ghent? This guide details how to get there, what to do in Ghent and what order to do it in, where to eat, and more! Everything you need for a successful day trip to Ghent is here.
Many tourists choose Brussels as a base while in Belgium. It makes sense as Brussels is centrally located and a quick train ride from not just cities around Belgium, but also the Netherlands, France, and Germany.
Brussels to Ghent is 30 minutes, Bruges 1 hour, Paris, France 1.5 hours, Delft, the Netherlands 2.5 hours, Cologne, Germany 2 hours...you could visit several countries using Brussels as a home base.
Brussels is also extremely convenient to fly into as the airport (BRU) is just 20 minutes from the city center.
Needless to say, if you have a few extra days in Brussels, you won't be short of options for day trips.
This post will detail everything you need to have a successful day trip to Ghent from Brussels. I'll outline how to get there, what to do in Ghent, and what order to do it all in!
This map shows everything listed in this Brussels to Ghent day trip guide. Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Blue - what to do in Ghent, top sights and attractions
- Red - restaurants, coffee, dessert
How to get from Brussels to Ghent
Traveling to/from Brussels to Ghent via train
Train is without a doubt the best way to travel to Ghent from Brussels and visa versa. It's a quick 30 minute ride, there are plenty of departure times to choose from (usually two to four departures per hour), and it's cheap.
If you book in advance, you can find tickets between $10 to $15 each way. I like to book via Trainline because you never have to deal with converting currencies or language. I also like their app for easy access to your tickets.
You can also buy directly from Belgian Train. Sometimes you'll find a deal, like two for one. Another perk is that you aren't stuck with a time, just a specific day. So you book a ticket for August 10th, that means you can take any train that day.
You'll most likely depart from Bruxelles-Midi, or Brussels-Midi, station. This station is very convenient as its located close to the city center (a 20 minute walk from the Grand Palace to give an idea). Or, take a 7 minute Uber ride.
How to get from Gent-Sint-Pieters train station to the city center
It's a drab 30 minute walk from Gent-Sint-Pieters train station to the city center. Luckily, there is a handy tram system right outside the train station.
You can buy your tickets from the machine at the tram stop. Tickets are €3. I used Google Maps and it worked great, detailing which tram number to take, how many stops it will take, and what stop to get off at. Enter St. Michael's Bridge as your destination since that will be our first stop.
I took tram #1 in the direction of Gent Flanders Expo - Wondelgem Industrieweg, rode seven stops, and got off at Gent Korenmarkt. From there, it's a two minute walk to St. Michael's Bridge. Total travel time should be about 15 minutes.
You can take the same tram back, but this time tram #1 towards Gent Rabot - Flanders Expo.
Or, take a 10 minute Uber.
Itinerary for What to do in Ghent, BELGIUM
Book it to St. Michael's Bridge
Pop into Saint Nicholas' Church
Coffee Break at Take 5
TOUR: Walking, Bike, Food
Now that we've gotten the top sight, St. Michael's Bridge and the surrounding area, and enjoyed a morning coffee...it's time to see the rest of Ghent!
When you're short on time, joining a tour is a great way to make sure you see all the musts without wasting time getting lost or the risk of missing something. It takes the headache out of figuring out what to do in Ghent if didn't have time to pre-plan.
A private tour is ideal (though more expensive). You won't spend time getting the group checked in and you'll have flexibility on when to start your tour. Group tours usually have just two or three start times.
Legends Tours offers free 2 hour guided tours at 10:30 and 1:30. Even though it's free, it's expected that you tip the guide. I usually recommend €5 to €10 a person depending on how good the guide was and how big the group is.
Those comfortable on a bike and hoping to see outside the city center should consider a bike tour. This 3-Hour Bike Ghent Tour goes off the beaten path and takes you to some great street art locations.
I would only recommend this bike tour if you're fine with having a very busy day and plan to arrive in Ghent early (in order to see the main sights first, or join the 10:00 am bike tour and do the main sights after). Departure times are 10:00 am, 1:30 pm and 2:00 pm. Tickets are around $55 per person.
Foodies who want to combine a tour of Ghent's most popular landmarks with some of the top chocolate shops will enjoy this 2-Hour Chocolate Tour. It's guided by a local and you can choose a private experience or group tour. Tickets are $35.
Or, skip the tour and do your own walking tour
If you choose to do your own thing I recommend buying Rick Steve's Belgium guide and following his Ghent walk. This will make sure you hit all the top things to do in Ghent in a logical order. Below are the musts for your Ghent itinerary:
- St. Michael's Bridge
- Korenlei and Graslei
- St. Nicholas' Church
- Belfry - climb the tower for incredible views
- St. Bavo's Cathedral
- Graffitistraat - famous graffiti street
- Vrijdagmarkt Square
- Gravensteen - aka Castle of the Counts
- Groentenmarkt Square
break at Barrazza Cafe
Take a quick break and enjoy a beer or coffee right on the river. Barrazza Cafe has a nice selection of Belgium beers and the atmosphere is A+.
Try a Ghent Nose at Confiserie Temmerman
A day trip to Ghent from Brussels is not complete unless you've tried a cuberdon, more commonly known as Ghent noses. This famous Ghent candy is a dark purple color made in the shape of a cone. The exterior is chewy while the interior is gooey. The traditional flavor is raspberry, though new flavors have made their way into candy shops all over Ghent.
You'll see cuberdons being sold in carts all over the city as well as in candy shops.
I recommend visiting Confiserie Temmerman to find your Ghent nose. It's the most adorable little candy shop that sells old-fashioned sweets and delicacies. Much of the candy is priced by weight, so you can mix and match and buy as little or as much as you want.
BUY SOME CHOCOLATES TO TAKE HOME
Belgium chocolate really is on another level. The quality you find here puts American chocolate to shame! I love that you buy chocolate by the weight, so you can buy just two small pieces for a sweet treat after lunch, or twenty to take home with you.
Since you're doing a day trip from Brussels to Ghent, chances are you'll prefer an earlier dinner in order to get back to your hotel at a decent hour.
There are departures as late as 10:30 or 11:30 pm, so the option is there if you want to to linger over dinner and take a night stroll through Ghent.
I recommend doing dinner around 6:00 or 6:30 pm in order to book a 9:00 pm train back to Brussels.
Being a University city, Ghent has a wide range of cuisines to choose from...American, Thai, French, vegetarian, etc.
I was looking for an affordable spot serving Belgium cuisine...specifically Flemish stew. I found 'T Oud Clooster and thought it was great. The atmosphere was very cozy and felt like a bit of a time warp. In a good way.
The servers were very friendly and there was also a wide selection of beers on draft. I would go there again in a heartbeat.
'T Oud Clooster's 6:00 pm opening time (early for European standards) and the central location make this a great choice for doing a day trip to Ghent. Many restaurants don't open until 7:00 or 8:00 pm, which can be problematic if you don't want to arrive back in Brussels extremely late.
Michelin Rated Restaurants in Ghent
If you want to go all out, Ghent has a surprisingly high number of Michelin rated restaurants. There are several wonderful options in (or very close to) to city center:
A Brussels to Ghent day trip is absolutely doable and worth your time. It provides a nice contrast with Brussels.
Ghent is smaller and 100% walkable. The core of Ghent has a distinct medieval feel to it and the views from St. Michael's Bridge can't be beat.
Many argue Ghent feels more authentic than touristy Bruges and Brussels. It is after all home to about 50,000 students attending the University of Ghent, giving the city a young/hipster vibe.
If you're in Brussels and have time to spare (assuming you've already visited or plan to visit Bruges), a day trip to Ghent is a wonderful way to round out your trip to Belgium.