A few weeks ago I made an impromptu trip to Gent (or Ghent in English and Gand in French). A good friend of mine, Ellie, was heading that way and she told me she had a double room if I was keen on joining her. A few text messages later to my husband and voila, the next morning I was driving to Gent.
Belgium is divided into three regions, the north (Flanders, Dutch-speaking), the south (Walloon, French-speaking) and Brussels Capital Region (mostly French-speaking). The two north and south regions are each divided into five provinces. East Flanders is one of the north region’s province and the capital is Gent.
Driving in Gent isn’t that bad. The city centre itself is not super busy and outside the centre, traffic was pretty average. There are trams throughout the city and sometimes the lines are not clear. Parking is not very cheap either, the most central can be close to €25 where others can be about €15 for 24hrs.
I am not one to drive around a foreign city centre. Especially with a tram line. I have seen many cars being honked at by the trams and I just don’t want to be THAT person 🙈 I am also cheap and in general eco-friendly. So what I tend to do is find a Park and Ride and get into the city via public transport.
For this trip, I parked at the P+R GentBrugge Arsenaal. I did try to find space in GentBrugge, just a bit up the road but it was full that Wednesday at around 12:30. Arsenaal had plenty of space and the tram stop was just across the road.
The P+R was free (ok to do overnight – mine parked there from Wednesday to Saturday) and the tram ticket cost €3 (bought from the driver). I had a €20 on me when I boarded the first tram and I had to get off to break it because the driver wouldn’t accept. Then I learned the below…
From the tram website: On the tram or bus you can pay with a maximum 10 euro note. You may only pay with a 20 euro note for travel that costs more than 10 euro. You can only pay with a note of more than 10 euro or the driver cannot make change? Then you must complete a ‘passenger without exact money’ form. You have two weeks to pay for the journey via bank transfer (without administration costs). If you wait too long, you will be given a fine.
If you think you will be using the tram on a regular basis during your stay, you may want to consider either purchasing a 10 trip card (€16 or €1.60/trip) or a day pass card (1, 3 or 5 days choices with prices at €6, €12 and €17). The only card you can buy from the driver is a one-day pass card, the adult is €8 and a child is €5. All other purchases need to be done on a ticket machine which you can find in many tram stops. This is the website for the tram. It’s super informative and you can switch to English (if not already done so when you click on the link).
There is also a mobile ticket option. It’s not something I experimented with but if you are the paperless kind of traveller, this is for you.
The number two tram was clean and quick. About 10 minutes later I was dropped off near my hotel. Right smack city centre! Well done choosing, Ellie!
Gent is a charming city with a bit of everything for everybody in my humble opinion. With the awesome public transport network, bikes, and that it’s not a super big city that walking is also an option, Gent was a pleasure to wander and explore its 1400 years of history.
From the 11th to the 16th century, Gent was bigger than London and very close in size to Paris. Because it survived WW1 and 2, Gent is more less what it looked like many many years ago.
This trip I didn’t explore many of the sites: castle, church, homes, and museums. It was an impromptu trip after all and Ellie and I wanted to get as many street photos as possible. But next time when I go with the family… or maybe even myself (I felt super safe in Gent, even at night) I will get the City Card (48hrs €30 or €72hrs €35). Check out the website for the details but with the site entrance, you also have access to unlimited tram/bus rides, a day bike rental and also a boat ride. Oh, for children under 18yrs of age, many sites are free. Look up each site to confirm but depending on what you want to explore, the City Card may not be as much as a money saving tool for your children.
Below is a little map with places we ate and spots we photographed. I’ve also included a few more P+R spots just in case you came from other directions besides south. Ellie is vegan and the places we ate were vegan-friendly ones.
FYI, Gent is the vegetarian capital of Belgium. While not all restaurants serve a vegan dish, many are vegetarian-friendly. When you are window shopping for a restaurant/cafe, see if you can spot the Belgium vegan/vegetarian sticker on the door/window. If you see it, that establishment will have a few vegetarian/vegan choices.
Just to make the map a bit more complete, I did add a few other cafes, restaurants and bars. This way when I go again next time with the family, I can refer back to my own blog post 😜
Gent, in general, is very credit/debit card friendly. Surprisingly, some establishments do not take cash. A big (and for me positive) change coming from Germany (who is still very cash heavy). When travelling alone I feel safer with cards on hand than a lot of cash. Also, it’s less hassle trying to figure out what to do with a foreign currency that you’ll never use again when leaving the country.
From Gent, travelling to Brugge, Antwerpen and Brussels (city or airport) is very easy, frequent (every 15-30 minutes) and fairly inexpensive via train. A round-trip ticket to Brugge was about €14 and to Antwerpen/Brussels €20, which you can purchase at the train station. The tickets are open-ended tickets, which means you can hop on any train. Also, there is no need to validate the tickets after purchasing before boarding the train. A conductor on board will walk and stamp/punch.
I fell in love with Gent. I love it so much that I really wouldn’t mind moving there. The city is so clean, friendly, safe and it was impressive that the folks there could switch between multiple languages (Flemish, English, and French that I heard of) fluently. It really blows my mind because I am struggling with just English sometimes 😂😂😂
Well, that’s it for now. I hope you found something useful in this post for your next Belgium/Gent trip!
Until next time!