Ghent Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Ghent

Ghent is one of the most beautiful historic cities in Belgium. The city's many medieval buildings, breathtaking squares, and impressive monuments attract thousands of tourists from around the world. Take this orientation walk to see Ghent's most famous landmarks.
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Ghent Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ghent Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Belgium » Ghent (See other walking tours in Ghent)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 17
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Friday Market Square
  • Toreken
  • Dulle Griet
  • Huis van Alijn
  • Patershol Quarter
  • Gravensteen Castle
  • Fish Market Building
  • Great Butcher's Hall
  • Design Museum Gent
  • Graslei & Korenlei Streets
  • Saint Michael's Church
  • Koren Markt
  • Ghent Town Hall
  • Mageleinstraat
  • Belfort (The Belfry of Ghent)
  • Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall)
  • Saint Bavo Cathedral
Friday Market Square

1) Friday Market Square (must see)

On many occasions in the past, the fate of Ghent was decided on this beautiful market square, called Vrijdagmarkt. The name translates from Dutch as 'Friday Market' because on Fridays the market is held here. Throughout centuries the square has witnessed countless celebrations and bloody battles. All that has taken place here was in one way or the other related to the activities of the corporations, among which the weavers and the merchants were the most influential. Back in the Middle Ages, the wellbeing of Ghent was largely dependent on the wool trade and industry. When the latter flourished, so did the rest of the city. The square holds many architecturally important buildings reflecting the styles popular in the 18th century. In the middle of the square stands the statue of Jacob Van Artevelde.

Why You Should Visit:
Always a cool square to check out, with plenty of opportunities to take photos and soak up the atmosphere.
On Friday mornings, you can enjoy fresh produce, seafood, as well as clothes, collectibles and some gift items.

2) Toreken

Toreken is the oldest building on Friday Market Square. It was built in the 15th century in the Gothic style. It features a distinctive staircase tower with a clock. The interior is very impressive too, especially the upper floors. Today Toreken houses the Poetry Center. At the top of the building, you will see the mermaid Melusine who watches over the square and holds up her mirror. She shows the direction of the wind.
Dulle Griet

3) Dulle Griet (must see)

The Dulle Griet ("Mad Meg", named after the Flemish folklore figure Dull Gret) is a medieval supergun located in Ghent. This wrought-iron cannon was constructed in the first half of the 15th century from 32 longitudinal bars enclosed by 61 rings. In 1452, the bombard was employed by the city of Ghent in the siege of Oudenaarde, but fell into the hands of the defenders on the retreat and was only returned to Ghent in 1578. Today, the cannon is set up close to Friday Market square in the old town. It originally had the same red as today and weighed over 12 tonnes (currently it is less due to rust and wear).

Why You Should Visit:
The big red cannon will probably be interesting to boys, while parents will like the eponymous bar located nearby. Just go there and check the many choices of beers they have and if you dare, try their hilarious challenge.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Huis van Alijn

4) Huis van Alijn (must see)

Complete with a beautiful inner garden, café and shop, this museum holds a special place in the historic center of Ghent. The House of Alijn brings to life a fascinating tale of all things big and small, offering a vivid portrayal of the evolution of the 20th-century everyday life culture. On display are ordinary objects and curiosities which deliver a striking introduction to mankind's common heritage. The exhibited items convey the spirit of the times, much as the ways and customs of people, and serve as a reminder of the days gone by. Visitors to the museum have at their disposal the digital photo album, sound-recordings, and vignettes from various films.

Why You Should Visit:
To learn how people used to live around Ghent, and the changing expositions are always fun to see.
Particularly enjoyable exploring with someone else instead of alone, to talk to each other about the objects.

The courtyard with a delightful café in the center is worth popping into even without entering the museum. During the Patershol festival, they even have a stage and live jazz band in the evening.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9am-5pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am-6pm
Closed on Wednesdays, December 24th, 25th, 31st, and January 1st
Patershol Quarter

5) Patershol Quarter (must see)

The small, cobblestoned Patershol quarter is the authentically medieval heart of Ghent. You can walk through it in half an hour, as it is not too extensive. The buildings in Patershol date back to the 15th century. It used to be the part of Ghent that housed textile workers. Nowadays, travelers and locals alike wander its narrow alleys to seek out some of the best restaurants that offer local Flemish cuisine, as well as Thai, Japanese, Tibetan, Greek, Spanish, Italian, and other international foods. Some of the best café, bars and small shops with a selection of good wines and specialties of cakes and chocolates are also to be found here. You can walk down the little side streets to see how the locals live. Enjoy getting lost!

During the day it's a nice walk but in the evening is where you see its true charm.
If you visit Ghent in August, check the dates of the famous Patersholfeesten – they truly transform this quarter into one big party weekend with music, food and alcohol, of course.
Gravensteen Castle

6) Gravensteen Castle (must see)

Gravensteen, or "Castle of the Count" in Dutch, dates back to the Middle Ages. The present castle was built in 1180 by Count Philip of Alsace and may have been inspired by crusade castles witnessed by him on the Second Crusade. As well a protective citadel, the castle was intended to intimidate the burghers of Ghent who often challenged the Counts' authority. It was subsequently re-purposed as a court, prison, mint, and even as a cotton factory. It was restored over 1893–1903 and is now a museum and a major landmark in the city.

The castle has been renovated enough to allow people to stroll through it and climb to the top. It is still partly surrounded by a moat. Inside is a museum with various torture devices (and a guillotine) that were once used in Ghent.

Why You Should Visit:
To go back in time and enjoy the excellent views of Ghent's medieval skyline from the top (particularly at dusk).
Nowhere else in the world will you find such a massive castle right in the heart of the city!

Save time and skip the queue by booking tickets online, but make sure you go early enough.
Don't skip the (free) entertaining audio guide – you'll probably never hear another like it!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm (last admission: 5pm)
Closed on December 24th, 25th, and 31st, and January 1st
Sight description based on wikipedia
Fish Market Building

7) Fish Market Building

The Fish Market is housed in an old building with a charming Baroque facade, which was built in 1689. The facade is decorated at the top with a statue of Neptune. Other statues at this building represent the two rivers that pass through Ghent, the Scheldt River and the Leie River.
Great Butcher's Hall

8) Great Butcher's Hall

The Great Butcher's Hall, or Vleeshuis, is located in the heart of the city. It dates back to the early 15th century when the meat sales were centralized and held indoors to ease monitoring the freshness and quality of meat.
Great Butcher's Hall is a historic site that is used today as the Center for the Promotion of the Regional Products of East Flanders. Here you will find many Belgian specialties, like chocolates, local beer and other tasty delights. The best souvenirs in Belgium are also sold here. At Butcher's Hall you can buy statuettes of kings, Charles V for example, as well as a variety of objects and gadgets imprinted with images of Ghent and its most famous historic sites.
Design Museum Gent

9) Design Museum Gent (must see)

Design Museum Gent is the only museum in Belgium with an international design collection. It showcases objects from various periods and has two major collections displayed in two different sections. One is housed in the former Hotel de Coninck, built in 1755, and containing 17th and 18th-century decorative furnishings. The hotel's exquisite decor – grand with the carved wooden chandelier in the dining room – is an attraction its own right. The other, newer space is a modernist wing constructed in 1992. Its focal piece is a hydraulic lift in the middle, surrounded by floors of malleable space. Here visitors can observe a superb collection of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and contemporary/avant-garde design.

Check which exhibitions are on before you visit.
Entry included in the excellent value CityCard.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 9:30am–5:30 pm; Sat, Sun, Holidays: 10am–6 pm
Closed on Wednesdays, Christmas & New Year
Graslei & Korenlei Streets

10) Graslei & Korenlei Streets (must see)

Graslei and Korenlei are two streets along the river that boast some of the most beautiful architecture in all of Belgium. There are always crowds of tourists along these streets and on the nearby bridges crossing the river. Sightseers stop to stare at the eclectic architecture and elegant facades of the houses in this area, together with the peaceful environment with boats riding along the canal.

Make sure to climb the steps of Sint-Michielsbrug (St. Michael's Bridge), where Graslei & Korenlei can be viewed well with the canal. Another very nice viewpoint and photo spot is directly on Korenlei, looking in the direction of Graslei. From there you can see the building guild houses as well as some of the famous landmark buildings like the Belfry in the background. Take your time to look around, and then perhaps do it a second time with binoculars.
Saint Michael's Church

11) Saint Michael's Church (must see)

Saint Michael's Church is a Roman Catholic church devoted to the Archangel Michael. Construction of the current church probably began in 1440 and took place in two phases, separated by a long interruption. During the first phase, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the western part of the building was built, including the tower, the three-aisled nave and transept. This was completed in 1530. Continued construction of the steeple started in in 1566. Then, due to religious conflicts, not only did construction stop, but looting and destruction took place, and part of the church was demolished in 1579 by the Calvinists. From 1623 to 1659, the architect Lieven Cruyl worked on the building. The church has a rich neo-Gothic interior, including an altar and a pulpit, and is decorated with Rococo and neoclassic statues and several eighteenth-century and Baroque paintings, including "Christ Dying on the Cross" by Anthony Van Dyck and paintings by De Crayer and Philippe de Champaigne.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Koren Markt

12) Koren Markt

There are many small shops in the center of Ghent that sell local food. These shops can be found on the streets starting from Koren Markt until Sint Baafsstraat. These shops sell everything from chocolate and candy to pastry, cheese and beer. These products are Ghent specialties, and you must try them on your visit.
Ghent Town Hall

13) Ghent Town Hall (must see)

Situated close to the Belfry in the historic downtown area, the Ghent Town Hall, commonly referred to as the Stadhuis, is one of the city's most impressive buildings. Of the multitude of medieval buildings found in Ghent, the Town Hall stands out as the one reflecting most vividly the history and evolution of the city starting from the late 15th century until present. It consists of several connected buildings that were added in different periods, and that represent a mixture of architectural styles, featuring Gothic ornaments and Renaissance design elements. In the early 19th century, on the occasion of a visit by Napoleon, the Hall's front staircase was renovated.

You can get a tour by booking with a guide at the information center. Well worth the money – lots of interesting history and a beautiful building still being used for the intended purpose.
If the weather is nice, have a drink outside one of the bars opposite and take your time to enjoy the facade.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm

14) Mageleinstraat

Mageleinstraat is a street in the historic center of Ghent near the Belfry and St. Bavo Cathedral. There are many small food shops along this street selling Belgian delights. The windows of the shops display Belgian pastries, chocolates, cheeses and many different kinds of breads.
Belfort (The Belfry of Ghent)

15) Belfort (The Belfry of Ghent) (must see)

The 91-meter-high Belfort of Ghent is one of three medieval towers that overlook the old city center. Together with its attached buildings, the Belfort belongs to the set of belfries of Belgium and France inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Over the centuries, it has served not only as a bell tower to announce the time and various warnings but also as a fortified watchtower and town treasury.

Construction of the tower began in 1313 to the design of master mason Jan van Haelst, whose plans are still preserved in a museum. After continuing intermittently through wars, plagues and political turmoil, the work reached completion in 1380. It was near the end of this period that the gilded dragon, brought from Bruges, assumed its place atop the tower. The uppermost parts of the building have been rebuilt several times, in part to accommodate the growing number of bells.

Why You Should Visit:
Climbing this tower on your visit to Ghent is imperative! Not excessively high, but still allows a very pretty view of the city and of the Cathedral right next to it.
There's a small elevator for 3 of the 5 floors, each of which has a few small exhibits and videos where you may learn about the process of bell-making.

Stick around for the chiming of the bells on the hour. You can watch how the bell mechanism works from the inside or stand outside on the corridor and just listen.
The admission forms part of the CityCard Gent so if planning to visit multiple attractions, you might save a few euros this way.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall)

16) Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) (must see)

In the Middle Ages, Ghent was already a major commercial city, renowned primarily for its textile industry. The decline of the latter in the first half of the 15th century prompted the construction of a new, spacious indoor textile market. The venue turned out to be overly commodious for the market and demanded co-tenants to share the space. The Sint-Michiels fencing guild showed interest in the upper floors which they used as sports halls. This 17th-century guild still occupies part of the building. The building’s façade reveals all sorts of Gothic style decorations chiseled in soft sand-lime brick, which is much easier to work in than grey limestone.

Visiting the Cloth Hall is free; the belfry, however, is not.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Saint Bavo Cathedral

17) Saint Bavo Cathedral (must see)

Saint Bavo Cathedral, also known as Sint-Baafs Cathedral, is the seat of the Diocese of Ghent. The building is based upon the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, a primarily wooden construction; it was consecrated in 942. Traces of this original structure are evident in the cathedral's crypt. The chapel was subsequently expanded in the Romanesque style in 1038. From the 14th through the 16th centuries, nearly continuous expansion projects in the Gothic style were executed on the structure. A new choir, radiating chapels, expansions of the transepts, a Chapter-house, nave aisles and a single tower were all added during this period. Construction was considered complete in 1569. The cathedral is noted for its Ghent Altarpiece, formally known as "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb". This altar is considered one of the most important works of the early Northern Renaissance.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Ghent, Belgium

Create Your Own Walk in Ghent

Create Your Own Walk in Ghent

Creating your own self-guided walk in Ghent is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Ghent's Specialty Shops

Ghent's Specialty Shops

Ghent has many local foods and crafts that you will want to buy. There are several specialty shops that sell unique Belgian and Ghent merchandise. Belgium is especially famous for its delicious chocolate and good beer, and there are many stores selling these delicacies. Other specialty shops include bakeries and local designer clothing stores. This self-guided tour will lead you to the best...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Tour of South Ghent

Tour of South Ghent

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Ghent's Shopping Areas

Ghent's Shopping Areas

There are a lot of memorable things to buy in Ghent. Ghent's shops are full of Belgian souvenirs, chocolate, artwork and other delights. If you're not looking to buy, you can still enjoy window shopping at the many shops surrounding the main historic areas. Take this self-guided tour to discover the best shopping in Ghent.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles
Ghent's Historical Churches

Ghent's Historical Churches

Ghent has several cathedrals and churches that are definitely worth a visit. Ghent is a city that values beautiful, elegant architecture, which is reflected in its sacred buildings. Some of the most magnificent churches are Saint Bavo Cathedral, Saint-Nicolas' Church and Saint Michael's Church. This self-guided tour will lead you to the most stunning churches in this splendid city.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 Km or 3.4 Miles
Tour of West Ghent

Tour of West Ghent

West Ghent will surprise you with its hidden architectural gems, medieval monuments, museums and shops. There is also a city cemetery where you will see many beautiful monuments and statues. Take this self-guided tour to explore the western area of Ghent.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.2 Km or 2.6 Miles
Museums and Galleries Walk

Museums and Galleries Walk

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles