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Travel Guide Europe Belgium Ghent

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Introduction

View down an alley

View down an alley

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Ghent is one of the wonderful cities of Flanders, the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. Like Bruges it is a place with plenty of water. Unlike it, Ghent is not a city of a single period. Its buildings span many centuries. This may make it somewhat less uniform' than Bruges but it is extremely interesting and certainly justifies several nights' stay.

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Sights and Activities

  • Graslei and Korenlei - two sides of the river in the old harbour area.
  • St Bavo Cathedral - great building with fine picture's including Van Eyck's 'Adoration of the mystic lamb.'
  • Belfry - has a lift but you have to go up a lot of steps first!
  • St Nicholas Church - early 13th cntury.
  • Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts).
  • Alijns House Called 'Folklore Museum' but both the building and the collections are utterly fascinating - including black beaded wedding dresses and a device for Christening a baby in utero.
  • Beguinages.
  • Historic boat trips - from the Graslei or the Korenlei should not be missed.

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Events and Festivals

The main festival during summer are The Ghent Festivities, a free ten day festival during the week of 21 July, celebrated in the historic centre of Ghent. This festival attracts over a million visitors each year, who will see free concerts, puppet busker acts, street theatre and much more on the streets and various squares.

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Weather

Ghent has an average Belgian climate with warm and relatively dry and sunny summers from June to August. Average daytime temperatures are around 20-23 °C and nights are between 12 and 14 °C. Winters last from December to February when it is mostly above zero, but nights average just below. Snow is not very common but always a possibility in winter. Most of the rain falls during the October to April period though heavy showers in summers after hot conditions are possible as well.

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Getting There

By Plane

Brussels International airport (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport are the main international airports, located near Brussels, which is just about 30-45 minutes by car/train/bus.

By Train

Ghent has two train stations, Ghent Saint-Peter (Gent Sint-Pieters) and Dampoort. Saint-Peter is the main station, and the second busiest train station of Belgium. Nowadays, huge construction and expanding works are in progress who will last for a few more years but services are normal. Check the NMBS website for information about connections, prices and other details.

By Car

Ghent is easily reached by car along the E40 highway from Bruges and Ostend in the west and Brussels, Leuven and Liege in the east, and along the E17 with Antwerp in the northeast and Lille in France in the southwest.

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Getting Around

By Car

Your best bet is to put your car in one of the underground parking lots, or to use one of the P+R (park and ride) parking lots outside the city and to take a bus or tram.

By Public Transport

You can use both bus and tramway of the De Lijn Company. The transport system is Ghent is excellent and usually on time. A single ticket costs €3 and can be bought in the bus/tram or from ticket machines near stops, such ticket is valid for an hour's travel on all trams and buses. If you are planning to stay for a while, buy a pass for €14, it is valid for 10 trips within the city and can also be used in other Flemish cities (such as Antwerp or Bruges). The trams are the quickest and most comfortable way to travel, especially from the railway station to the city centre.

Note that if the bus/tram stop has a ticket machine, you will have to buy the ticket there, as the bus/tram driver will not sell you one in this case. You can also buy a ticket through SMS if you have a Belgian cell phone, instructions are on the poles at each stop. In the Lijnwinkel kiosk (located near Sint-Pieters train station), you can get free map of city and surroundings, with all bus and tram lines.

By Foot

Like most Belgian cities, Ghent is pretty small, so easy to explore by foot! However, the main station (Gent Sint-Pieters) is not in the city centre, but takes a walk of about half an hour. The best option is to take the tram, which takes you directly to the center in 10 to 15 minutes.

By Bike

A bicycle is the recommended way to get around in Ghent. However, there are many roads with cobblestones that make cycling a shaking experience. Also make sure you stay clear of the tram rails. Nevertheless, you will see you are not alone on your bike: many inhabitants use bikes to get around. Even the former mayor uses his bicycle all day! There are many bike stands around to make it easy to lock your bike (important!). Many one-way roads are made two-way for bikes.

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Eat

Ghent provides an excellent and affordable sample of Flemish cuisine, which in the eyes of the locals is one of Europe's finest as it combines French delicacy with northern European sturdiness. Try some local specialties like mussels, spare ribs or 'stoverij' (a kind of tender meat cooked for three hours in dark beer with a brown gravy) with Belgian fries.

Another dish from Ghent is the "Gentse waterzooi" (litt. "boiled water from Ghent"), which was the food for the poor originally, a stew of cheap fish (usually turbot) and vegetables. Now it is often made with chicken as well.

Belgian waffles are available from a number of street stalls around the town.

The restaurants on Korenmarkt and Vrijdagmarkt are a good deal, reasonably priced; the menus and 'menus of the day' at the Brasserie Borluut provide terrific value and this includes Gentse waterzooi. The real upmarket restaurants are to be found in the 14th century quarter called 'Patershol', near the Castle. There is also a big Turkish community in Ghent, centred around Sleepstraat a bit further north, which is home to numerous Turkish restaurants.

Ghent is the vegetarian capital of Belgium, with dozens of vegetarian or vegan restaurants! Do not forget to check out Panda, Avalon and Komkommertijd.

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Drink

For authentic pubs, go to St. Veerleplein (the square in front of the Castle), the pubs around St. Jacob's church (especially during weekends), or the student area around Blandijnberg (Mount Blandin), especially in the proximity of the School of Arts and Philosophy, recognisable from afar by the 64 metres tall art deco Library Tower. Ghent is known for its many pubs and clubs and most have friendly staff.

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Sleep

View our map of accommodation in Gent or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is widely available in Belgium, but internet cafés are not common, because most people have internet access at home or through wifi. There are multiple internet access points in all cities and it is free in most libraries. Also in multiple gas stations, train stations and diners on the highways there is Wi-Fi available. Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi nowadays and if you can't find any you can always fall back on Quick or McDonalds which both offer free Wi-Fi.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Belgium is: + 32. To make an international call from Belgium, the code is 00.

Belgium has a modern telephone system with nationwide cellular telephone coverage. Belgium uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are three main companies (Proximus, Mobistar and Base, and a large number of MVNOs) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free. You can get sim cards for the three main companies in dedicated phone shops. Sim cards from the MVNOs are readily available at supermarkets (Carrefour, Aldi, Colruyt to name a few all have their own brand). All networks provide UMTS and HSDPA (3G) mobile internet coverage, and are rolling out a 4G network, mainly in the big cities and eventually in the whole country.

Post

De Post is the national postal service of Belgium, with Dutch, French and German versions. They offer generally fast, reliable services. It's a relatively expensive service though, with normal domestic post (cards, letters etc) up to 50 grams costing €0.61. To other European countries it costs €1.03 and outside Europe it's €1.34. At the post offices, you can buy stamps and they have other services as well, including international money transfers. The opening times of post offices are 9:00am or 10:00am until 4:00pm or 5:00pm, depending on whether it's the main central one or a smaller branch or in towns. Some of them might be open on Saturday mornings, and remember that quite a few still close for lunch break! De Post also offers the sending of parcels, but you could also use private international companies like UPS, TNT or DHL, as they offer roughly the same services and prices, but are generally faster.

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Accommodation in Ghent

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Ghent searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Ghent and areas nearby.

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This is version 25. Last edited at 3:38 on Aug 7, 17 by Peter. 6 articles link to this page.

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