The word Ghent derives from the Celtic word “Ganda”, indicating a
confluence. At Ghent, the Lys River joins the Schelde on a journey
to the North Sea. As with many cities in Belgium, Ghent’s canals are
an important part of the city and influenced its layout and
Ghent is a minor destination when compared Bruges or Brussels, but it has its
own charms and should be visited if you are in the area. Ghent is Brugge-like
but lacks both its charm and range of attractions. Conversely, the town has its
own ambiance and good food is easy to find. Although limited in terms of
attractions, tourist Ghent is small, compact, easy to walk, and full of good
At night, the Ghent comes alive due to an unusually large number of good
restaurants that can be found in the city's historic core.
In summer, there is a ten-day
Ghent Festival that is an outstanding party. In June in July
there are a number of street fairs that can be great fun.
Ghent is approximately 30 miles from Brussels, so you can easily visit during a
Best Places to Visit in Belgium
If you arrive by train, pick up the free Stadt Gent Tourist Guide at the
ticket office in the train station. The illustrated Stadt Gent Guide
provides a good overview of the city and includes a map indicating the
locations of the city's main attractions.
Three towers dominate the skyline of Ghent’s Old Town.
The towers are: St. Bavo’s Cathedral (1)
St. Nicholas’ Church (3)
The Belfry and St. Bavo’s are located on St. Baaf’s Plein with St.
Nicholas on the next block.
The best viewing point for these impressive buildings is from St.
In addition, the City Hall (4)
located near the Belfry, has an attractive architecture.
St. Bavo’s (St. Baaf’s)
one of Ghent's most notable attractions.
The first church on this site was built around 942. It was followed
by the construction of a Romanesque church in 1150, but due to
structural weaknesses in the building and a significant increase in the
size of the congregation it was torn down and replaced by a Gothic
basilica in the first half of the 14th century.
The interior of St. Bavo’s was destroyed by iconoclasts in 1566 and
an accidental fire finished the job in 1578.
During the time of the iconoclasts, many of St. Bavo’s major art
treasures were hidden and, then, resurrected in later times.
In addition, some of the art displayed in St. Bavo’s is related to
Napoleon's sojourn in Ghent.
The Interior of Saint Bavos.
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St. Bavos is an impressive building but is very cold and dark – be
sure to wear a sweater if you are visiting in the fall or spring.
The Cathedral's magnificent pulpit is a combination of white Carrera
marble and Danish oak that dates from the eighteenth century.
St. Bavos layout includes an enormous number of chapels, tombs,
and artwork, including the acclaimed "The Mystic Lamb" by Jan and
Hubrecht van Eyck and a Rubens titled "Conversion of St. Bavo".
The church is of medium size but has endless surprises.
Van Eyck’s work "The Mystic Lamb" is in a separate part of the Church
and a small admission is charged.
The famous altarpiece is dated 1432 and is considered by many to be the
pinnacle of the Flemish School's accomplishments.
The painting is comprised of twenty-four separate panels (front and
During the Protestant revolt, the painting was hidden in the tower
In later centuries, the panels were stolen by French soldiers and,
then, German forces. In 1946, the painting was finally returned to
St. Bavos' Crypt (free - as is the church) is worth exploring. Buy
the English language pamphlet “Old Masters” (around a Euro in cost) and
have at it. There are a number of interesting sights including the
foundations of the main building. The artwork is, of course, of a religious
focused on Flemish artists. Be sure to find the two
paintings “St. Jerome in Prayer” and “Christ
Carrying the Cross”by Hieronymus Bosch as these are the treasures of the
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While St.Bavo’s Cathedral is the highlight of Ghent, the Château des
known as the Chateau of the Counts of the Gravensteen - is a nice way to
spend an hour.
The entrance fee is discounted for children and seniors.
The old castle was built in 1180 by Phillip of Alsace, Count of
In addition to its original military role, the castle has been used
as a mint, court, jail and cotton mill. The castle includes a crypt,
dungeon, and a museum featuring armor and weapons, as well as another
display area featuring implements of torture.
Touring the castle requires lots of stair climbing, as the building’s
turrets are the main access to the interior of the museum. The views
from the top of the castle reveal Ghent’s medieval skyline.
If you have walked to St. Michael’s bridge to see the city’s towers,
take some time to inspect St. Michael’s Church (6)
century). (The Church is open only during the summer tourist season). Cross
the street and head back to St. Nicholas's Church
, if the
mood strikes you. The church was constructed between the 13th
and 15 centuries and is known for it Scheldt Gothic architecture.
Otherwise, follow the stairs down to the Korenlei along the canal and
walk towards the old port at the Graslie (7)
Continue to the northeast towards the Groentenmarkt and the Great Butchers
the way, there are many scenic buildings to observe.
The official tourism website of the city of Ghent is
Stad Gent. The website provides additional details on the best places to
visit we recommend, as well as information on attractions that did not make
For country facts on Belgium, as well as travel information related to
visas, driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other
travel-related information, see this page on
Belgium Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State
Department. Regardless of your home country, we think you will find
the information provided to be useful when planning a trip to Belgium.
Best Places to Visit in Belgium
If you need information about
another travel destination, try our
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.
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Ghent and Bruges Day Trip from Brussels
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