As Kath and I were celebrating our 15th anniversary (yes, that means we were 16 and 19 when we got together!), we decided to spend a romantic weekend in Ghent. It was the first time ever we would spend the night somewhere without our daughter, so exciting times for everyone involved! Turns out N. had lots of fun with her grandparents, while we enjoyed some well-earned quality time together.
With its many canals, charming old waterfront houses and beautiful lightning, Ghent is the perfect city for a romantic getaway. It’s small enough to see all the main sights in two days, while it still has that bustling city vibe.
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How do I get to Ghent?
Ghent is one of Belgium’s major cities and as such, it is very easy to reach. Whether you’re coming from a neighbouring country’s capital or another large Belgian city, you’ll get there in 2 hours or less. Check out these posts to learn more about the different ways to get to Ghent. All these articles will discuss car, train, bus and private transport/taxi options.
- How to get from Brussels to Ghent
- How to get from Bruges to Ghent
- How to get from Antwerp to Ghent
- How to get from Amsterdam to Ghent
- How to get from Paris to Ghent
- How to get from London to Ghent
What to do on a romantic weekend in Ghent
As my parents were coming to our house to babysit N., we ended up having lunch at home after which we got in the car and drove the 40 minutes to Ghent. We decided to put our car on the Park & Ride Flanders Expo, where we hopped onto the tram #1 that took us to the centre in 20 minutes!
At Ghent Gravensteen we hopped off and walked through the old neighbourhood ‘t Patershol to our hotel in 6 minutes. We booked a night at the Ghent River Hotel and our check-in time was 3 PM, which ended up being a perfect fit with our drive and public transport trip combination.
Once we put our bag in the room (we had an awesome river view!), we got ready to dive into the city. As we were already fairly familiar with Ghent and the fact that it was already late afternoon, we decided to just wander around the small streets for a bit and explore the city that way.
We strolled from the Vrijdagmarkt through the big brands shopping Street Langemunt until we came at the Groentenmarkt were we could see the typical Cuberdon stalls (try this triangular purple candy “Gentse neuzen/noses“. On this square, you can find the old covered Butchers’ market. Nowadays, it is worth coming in to see the Ganda Ham hanging from the wooden rafters or to have a drink or bite in the tiny cafe.
Along the Great Butchers’ Hall we continued on to the Graslei where we could enjoy a couple of minutes on the benches to watch the tourist boats go by (only a couple of minutes though, it was freezing!). Underneath the St Michaelsbridge, we went with some amazing views on the imposing Sint Michaels church. At the next bridge (Jacobijnenstraat) we took a left turn and then another left turn into the other big shopping street Veldstraat which took us back to the Korenmarkt.
This easy stroll took us about 1 hour on a very lazy pace and it covers the biggest part of the historical centre of Ghent.
Most people will, however, be arriving quite a bit earlier, so it might be a great idea to go and grab some lunch. Afterwards, head over to the Belfort and climb the tower for an awesome view over the city! After wandering around a bit more, take one of the many boat tours in Ghent (Click here to check the price!). Don’t forget to pick a covered boat if it’s cold or raining! Should it be great weather and you’re feeling up to it: rent a 2-person kayak and paddle around the canals by yourself. This is one of the most unique things to do in Ghent.
For most people, eating out is a big part of a romantic getaway and that wasn’t any different for us. It took me a couple of hours to find the perfect restaurant in Ghent (I actually had a selection of 4!), but when I wanted to make the reservation on Friday afternoon ALL of them were fully booked for Saturday evening! Eventually, I found one that still had a table available – yay! De 8 zaligheden turned out to be very yummy and the restaurant had a great waterfront setting in the charming ‘t Patershol neighbourhood!
TIP: do not even think about going into the city on a Saturday night without booking a table for dinner. Unless you don’t mind testing the local take away.
Even though we wanted to continue on with a couple of cocktails, our full stomachs couldn’t handle another drink and after a short – very cold – stroll, we decided to turn in early. That’s what having a 4-year-old who loves waking up at 5 AM does to a person. Two thirty-somethings heading to bed at 9.30 PM like some old ladies.
Ahh, waking up without a little girl yelling mummy in your ear and getting to stay in bed for another hour and a half, it must have been the very best part of this weekend trip to Ghent!
We had a wonderful stay at the Ghent River Hotel. This charming city hotel is located in the middle of the historic centre (50m from the Vrijdagsmarkt), a mere minutes away from ‘t Patershol and the Langemunt. We stayed at one of the executive rooms with a riverview, which was awesome! We had a wonderful night, without any noice and in the morning we could fill our growling tummies with a delightful breakfast buffet. The view from the restaurant is amazing (glass all around) and we felt sad we couldn’t try the outside deck (as it was cold and rainy). You can read our full review here.
After breakfast and packing, we decided to head out to the streets again. Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs, so apart from a quick trip to the Sunday flea market around the St Jacobs Church, we decided to head home and release my parents from their duty.
Hopefully, you’ll have more luck and at least a couple of hours more to spend on fun things to do in Ghent. A good choice for your second day in the city is visiting the Medieval castle Het Gravensteen. If you don’t mind an extensive collection of torture instruments for your romantic trip, that is. Another great idea is to rent a Vespa and head out into the parts of Ghent that aren’t in walking distance of the historic centre. Drive, for example, up to De Blaarmeersen, a sport and fun oasis where you’ll find something for everybody (sports! nature! beach (yes, really)! swimming! a playground! camping!).
What to do in Ghent: Tours
If you prefer a guided tour over an individual tour, don’ miss these tours in Ghent. Click on the link to see the recent price and book with Get Your Guide.
Where to eat a romantic dinner in Ghent?
For me, finding the perfect restaurant is often a daunting task. I’ve got a whole list of requirements the place should meet. For starters, I want it to be at walking distance from the place we’re staying. Furthermore, I would like the setting to be romantic, without being over the top and furthermore, I prefer cosy and charming over chique. Then comes the hard part. Kath isn’t the most adventurous eater, while I prefer strange spices and a twist over the typical cuisine. In comes the journey to find the perfect restaurant that caters to both of us.
For our anniversary trip, I called in the help of my sister-in-law who used to study in Ghent and therefore holds all the wisdom. She recommended three restaurants:
- Seli’s noodlebar: they apparently serve the best (handmade!) noodles in town, but I figured it had too much of a takeaway feeling for a romantic night out.
- Firenze: authentic Italian, but I felt that wasn’t the atmosphere I wanted for the evening.
- Casa de las tapas: this actually sounded great and I’ll try it out with a friend one day, but my dear wife isn’t the biggest tapas fan. Big portions!
Eventually, I narrowed it down to this selection:
- Mémé Gusta: trendy with great food, not the most choices on the menu
- Pakhuis: very cool setting in a former warehouse. I actually had lunch here a couple of years ago and have to say, it’s quite the location. The food is very good!
- Multatuli: you dine in one of the rooms of this old mansion or if you’re lucky on the outdoor patio. This is a great budget option!
- Mosquito Coast: this would be my absolute favourite! A travel cafe (similar to the Via Via cafes around the world) with a variety of world food, cosy corners and cocktails? Count me in!
As mentioned before, they all turned out to be fully booked, so eventually, I encountered De Acht Zaligheden, liked the menu, found a free spot and didn’t doubt any longer for fear of not finding a (nice) place to eat. It turned out to be very good: great food (they even whipped up an alternative scampi dish without cream!), a little fancy but not too much and in the most fun neighbourhood (and only 3 minutes away from the hotel). And my wife loved the food as well. I call that a success.
The decision to come to Ghent to celebrate our 15th anniversary was a great one. We absolutely loved the city! It´s cobblestone streets, canals and the large castle in the middle of the centre give it a Medieval meets fairytale vibe. Add to that the many trendy and charming restaurants and bars and you’ve yourself a killer combo for a romantic getaway!
One night in Ghent is enough to discover its most prominent sights, but there’s a lot more to explore in the vicinity if you have the time!