If you’re looking for a town full of charm that’s not too big and not too small, then Ghent, Belgium, fits that bill. And don’t worry: if you only have one day in Ghent, I’ve got you covered with some super fun things to see around the city.
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We explored Ghent in one day with our kids (8, 6, and 4) during the summer, and not only was the city easy to navigate, but the food was fantastic (I swear we saw chocolatiers, waffles, and fries on practically every corner).
Ghent is also bustling with great shopping, gorgeous architecture, and lots of fun history to check out.
Even though we only spent one day in Ghent, we really packed in a lot and got an excellent taste of the city.
Basic Info for Spending one day in Ghent
Ghent may not be as popular as Brussels or Bruges, but it should absolutely be on your list of places to check out when you’re in Belgium, even if only for a day.
Make the most of your day in Ghent by starting early in the morning. Grab some waffles (as one does in Belgium), and a coffee, and then wander around the city.
Places may not be open, but you can explore and enjoy the quiet streets before the city wakes up. Trust me: the vibe will completely change around mid-morning and lunchtime.
Fun Fact: There are two types of waffles in Belgium.
The Liege waffle is what Americans think of when they think of a Belgium waffle. It’s thick, doughy, dense, and sweet. You don’t usually need anything on it other than some powdered sugar and maybe some chocolate.
The Brussels waffle, on the other hand, is also thick, but it’s light, airy, and you might want to get extra toppings on this one (like strawberries and whipped cream).
The time it takes to get to Ghent…
Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base/JFC Brunssum: about 1.5 hrs away
Spangdahlem Air Base: about 2 hours away
Wiesbaden: about 4 hours away
Brussels: about 45 minutes away
Amsterdam: about 3 hours away
Where to park
If you’re driving to Ghent and need a place to park, check out this parking garage, Sint-Michiels (P7), just below the cathedral. It was clean, took credit cards, and there’s a toilet, too. It’ll pop you out on the other side of Sint-Michielsbrug (St. Michael’s Bridge), which is just a short walk into the city.
The view from St. Michael’s Bridge is stunning, so stop for a moment (or two or three) and admire the view!
One Day in Ghent? Don’t Miss These Hot Spots!
Okay, so you’re parked and ready for a day exploring Ghent, right? Here are some super fun things to do, see, and eat while you’re in town.
Go on a Boat Tour
Hop aboard a boat tour that takes you around the canals. This was a highlight for our whole family, and if you only have one day to spend in Ghent, and assuming the weather is nice, I highly recommend going via an open-air boat.
Seeing the city from the water gives you a whole new perspective and a great view of places you may not notice from the street.
Check and see if there’s availability for your trip here:
Experience the Castle
Exploring Gravensteen Castle is another thing you absolutely must do if you’re only in Ghent for one day. But here’s the thing: you must, must, spring for the audio guide. Trust me on this—it’s been the best audio guide we’ve ever had. They actually have a comedian guiding you along the castle, it’s pretty hilarious.
My kids’ favorite part, for what it’s worth, was the hole for the toilets outside along the castle wall. They thought it was hilarious that people would do their business and it would just fall from there.
Note if traveling with young kids: We let our 8-year-old daughter listen to the guide…but that was probably as young as I’d feel comfortable. While most of the “adult” jokes went over her head, I’m sure she understood a little more than she let on. Our younger two kids still had fun looking at everything, and we let them borrow our phones to take pictures/play games while we explored the castle.
Admire all the Street Art
This was a hidden gem that turned out to be pretty fun, and a great photo-op stop, too. There’s a street in Ghent called Graffitistraatje, or “Graffiti Alley,” and it’s just like it says: it’s an alley full of graffiti.
This “graffiti” is considered street art, and it’s actually sanctioned by the city. It’s often painted over in one color as a blank slate for more art.
Find it here:
If you want to see more hidden gems in Ghent, consider a free walking tour with a local, check out more street art with a self-guided street-art walk, or hop on a bike for a 3-hour tour that takes you off the beaten path.
Note if traveling with young kids: We didn’t see anything inappropriate when we were there, but that’s not to say that there isn’t anything little eyes shouldn’t see. Just be aware that there could be things not for kids
Eat Some Noses
My kids got a kick out of the Ghent noses. These are really called cuberdons, but rumor has it they got their nickname of “noses” because they look like, well, a nose. These little candies taste like hard gummies—they’re gelatinous and come in different flavors. We got a smattering of them, and I honestly can’t remember if we had a favorite.
But the other fun thing about the noses is that there’s a “battle” between who sells the original “better” noses. The two competing sellers often have their stalls set up next to each other.
When you’re near Groentenmarkt, keep an eye out for two old-school-looking wagons set up. Their little setup has several flavors of noses, so you can be the judge (after paying, of course) as to which you think is the best.
Find yourself some chocolates, French fries (delicious in Belgium…trust me), and beer!
Find the Dragon
Situated on top of the Belfry of Ghent (Het Belfort), one of the city’s three towers, is a medieval dragon. He’s been there, keeping watch over the city since 1377, and is a fun sight to see, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Speaking of kids, they can go up the tower for free. And if you’re not keen on climbing all the way to the top, have no fear: there’s an elevator to take you up.
Only Have One day in Ghent? Check these out!
Where to Stay in Ghent
Even if you’re just in Ghent for one day, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a place to sleep. When we visited Ghent we actually arrived late in the evening, and then explored the entire next day.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, I didn’t actually research where to stay, but the place we picked (very last minute), Hotel Onderbergen, ended up working great for our family of five.
The location was fantastic (although, note: there is no on-site parking…my husband dropped us and our stuff off and then drove to the location mentioned above to park), and it fit us all just fine. We didn’t stay for breakfast—not when there were fresh waffles in town waiting for us. It’s worth noting that our apartment was in a different location from where we checked in.
Look for a place to stay in Ghent here:
Day Trips from Ghent
If you find yourself with more time in the area, here are some fun places to check out: