Planning a Trip
By Plane--Brussels National Airport is the main airport for Ghent. From the airport, the best way to get to Ghent is by train, via Brussels.
By Train--Trains arrive every hour or so from Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges. Journey time is about 30 minutes from all three cities. From Paris, you can take the Thalys high-speed trains through Brussels direct to Ghent, or the slower and cheaper International trains, changing in Brussels. From Amsterdam, you can go via Antwerp or Brussels, either on the Thalys or the normal International and Inter-City trains.
The city is called Ghent in English (and Gand in French), but look out for its Flemish name, GENT, written on the rail station name boards. Ghent's main rail station, Gent Sint-Pieters (tel. 09/222-44-44), is on Koningin Maria-Hendrikaplein, about 1.6km (1 mile) south of town. Unless you need to count every euro, don't walk to the center; it's a dull route, even though it might take you only around 20 minutes. Instead, from outside the station, take a taxi, or, from under the bridge to your left when you exit the station, tram no. 1, 10, 11, or 12, and get out at Korenmarkt. Save your shoe leather and energy for sightseeing in the oldest part of town.
By Bus--Ghent's main bus station adjoins the Sint-Pieters rail station . For schedule and fare information, call tel. 070/22-02-00 between 6am and 9pm. Eurolines operates a daily service from London's Victoria Coach Station -- via the Dover-Calais (France) ferry or the Channel Tunnel's Le Shuttle train -- to Brussels, stopping at Ghent. The city can also be reached from all over Britain and Europe on the Eurolines network, via London or Brussels. For schedule and fare information, contact Eurolines at tel. 08705/808080 in Britain, or tel. 02/274-13-50 in Belgium.
By Car--Ghent is 50km (31 miles) northwest of Brussels and 51km (32 miles) southeast of Bruges, both on A10/E40; it's 45km (28 miles) southwest of Antwerp on A14/E17.
Ghent's main tourist office, Dienst Toerisme Gent, Predikherenlei 2, 9000 Gent (tel. 09/225-36-41; fax 09/225-62-88; www.gent.be), is open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to noon and 1 to 4:30pm. More convenient for personal visits, the Infokantoor (Inquiry Desk) in the Belfry cellar, Botermarkt 17A, 9000 Gent (tel. 09/266-52-32; fax 09/224-15-55; www.gent.be), is open April to October daily from 9:30am to 6:30pm, and November to March daily from 9:30am to 4:30pm.
Korenmarkt lies at the center (Centrum) of the city. Most of the city's important sights -- including the Town Hall, Saint Bavo's Cathedral, and the Belfry -- lie within a half mile of this central square. The Leie River winds through the center to connect with the Scheldt River and a network of canals that lead to the busy port area. Citadel Park, location of the Fine Arts Museum, is near Sint-Pieters Station. Patershol (which means the cave -- or hole -- in which monks lived a hermit's existence) is an ancient enclave not far from the Castle of the Counts. The place is fast becoming a gastronomic center, as more and more small restaurants move into renovated old buildings in the area.
Ghent has an excellent tram and bus network (tel. 070/22-02-00), with many lines converging at Korenmarkt and Sint-Pieters railway station. Walking is the best way to view the center. Farther out, you're better off using public transportation, particularly the trams. Most lines travel along Nederkouter and continue to Korenmarkt.
For a taxi, call V-Tax (tel. 09/225-25-25).
During 10 days around July 21, plunge into the swirl of Belgium's greatest extended street party, the Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festivities; tel. 092/269-46-00), a time of free music, from classical through Tin Pan Alley to alternative rock and the latest disco sounds, along with dance, street theater and performance art, puppet shows, a street fair, special museum exhibits, and generally riotous fun and games in the heart of the city.
The colorful Begonia Festival takes place the last weekend in August.