Parking in Gent
We had an absolutely miserable time trying to find a place to park in Gent, we finally found a spot on the street and then tried to use our credit card in a pay box. The machine wouldn't take it so we scrounged up enough change to cover the 2€ per hour charge.
To Gent by train
I came to Gent by train from Antwerp and left the city on the same route. Apart from that, I also went to Brugge by train from Gent. Both lines were served at least half hourly and travel times were approx. 1 hour to Antwerp and 30 minutes to Brugge.
In December 2013 a standard single ticket to Antwerp cost 9,20 Euro and to Brugge 6,30 Euro. During my visit of Gent the Belgian Railways also offered a special Christmas Deal for a day return ticket between any Belgian towns for only 10 Euro. So it seems to make sense to check all price options on the below mentioned website in advance.
Tickets can be bought online, at a staffed counter or at self-service machines. All machines take cards and some even take Euro coins (no notes). There is no price difference wherever you buy the ticket and tickets are not bound to any train.
Gent has two train stations: Gent Sint Pieters and Gent Dampoort. The more important Gent Sint-Pieters station is equipped with all facilities, which you expect to find at a modern train station. It is situated just over 2 km south of the historic city centre, which can be reached by tram #1.
The station Gent Dampoort can be found about 800 metres east of the city centre. So if you know what you are doing, you can also get off the train here, as all trains seem to stop at both stations.
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Explore Gent by tram
Gent's public transport network is operated by the Flemish transport company De Lijn. Although it consists of trams and buses, tourists will most likely only use the trams as they cover the main routes along the city centre.
A useful tram is line #1 which connects the train station Sint Pieters with the city centre (e.g. Castle Gravensteen).
Tickets can be bought from vending machines, at special De Lijn offices or for a supplement from the driver. In December 2013 a single ticket cost 1,30 Euro if bought in advance or 2,00 Euro if bought from the driver. The ticket has to be stamped on board of the vehicle and is then valid for 1 hour.
A day ticket costs 5 Euro and is valid on all De Lijn vehicles all over Flanders.
- Budget Travel
Explore Gent on foot
With approximately 240.000 inhabitants, Gent is Belgium's third biggest city. Still, the city centre is best explored on foot as most of the main sights can be found here. Apart from that, many small streets are pedestrianised and therefore not accessible to cars.
All around the touristy heart of the city, signposts with distances and directions to the main sights can be found, which make orientation quite easy.
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The Rambler - Ideal For A Beer Between Trains
On this visit (October 2013) I was literally just changing trains here, between Antwerp and Oostende, with about 40 minutes before my connection. It was a pleasantly sunny afternoon but with only 40 minutes I wasn't going to stray too far from the station and so a beer on a cafe terrace seemed like a good idea.
The Rambler is ideally located for such an arduous task, facing the corner of the square in front of the station. The terrace had a pleasant buzz, with I assume mostly fellow travellers, and service was swift and friendly - a bit too swift perhaps as I managed to squeeze three beers into my forty minutes!
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- Beer Tasting
Windmills Outside the Train Window
While riding the train between Ghent & Bruxelles the sight of modern-day windmills was common.
Riding anywhere by train in most of Europe, it is commonplace to see the wind turbines. Wind power is generating a larger share of the Continent’s electric power. Smart move!
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Trains to Gent
From Brugge to Gent there are two trains an hour. The journey takes less than an hour.
When I was there the price of a standard ticket was € 9.00 (as of 2012), but there was also such a thing as a summer ticket for € 7.50 (only in the summer, as the name suggests).
For us older folks there is a Seniors Ticket from any station to any other station in Belgium (and back on the same day) for only € 5.30 – so I took the Seniors Ticket even though I was only going one way, because that was still the cheapest.
Before travelling in Belgium it is worth while to spend a few minutes getting acquainted with the Belgian Railway website, because there are numerous reduced fares and special deals, one of which just might apply to you. They have a calculator called “Which is the right ticket for me?” which will help you get the best price. Like the rest of the website, this is available in Dutch, French, English and German.
There are also special fares for job seekers (“Travel to your job interview at reduced cost with the jobseekers’ discount”).
Pregnant women may travel in 1st class at no extra cost with a 2nd class ticket, but only in the last 4 months of pregnancy.
Gent has four tram lines and several bus lines, so you’ll have no trouble getting around town even before you have rented a bicycle.
To get to my hotel with my luggage I took the tram # 1 from the station.
All the trams and buses in Gent are operated by the Flemish Transport Company De Lijn (meaning The Line), which runs the local public transport services all over Flanders.
For example, De Lijn runs the bus lines in Brugge and the subways, trams and buses in Antwerp.
According to their website, De Lijn was established in July 1990, after urban and regional transport was transferred from the Belgian federal government to the three regions, namely Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders.
Weer een Auto Minder
When I visited Gent in August 2012, a lot of the bicycles had little signs on them reading “Weer een Auto Minder”, which means: Again one less car. Or: Another car less. Or: Another car fewer.
(When I was in school, were taught to say “fewer” instead of “less” when talking about countable nouns. But never mind, the point is to have more bicycles on the streets and not so many cars.)
Four Legs or Two Wheels
Getting around Ghent is easy on foot, your own two feet.
For those who want to relax as the sights pass by, try a horse-drawn carriage. A guide will explain the surroundings as the carriage slowly rolls through the streets.
Bicycling is popular too, especially with the locals.
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Bicycle parking at the opera
Apparently lots of people come to the opera and the concert hall by bicycle, because there is a sign (first photo) showing where there are additional bike parking spaces for evening visitors.
These additional spaces are in the Universiteitstraat (second photo), which is an ugly street but certainly does have a lot of modern, state-of-the-art bicycle stands in front of the Faculty of Law, Politics and Social Sciences.
Location of the concert hall (and the sign) on Google Maps
Bike rentals on Steendam
I asked at my hotel where the closest place was to rent a bicycle, and they gave me this address on Steendam, near the Friday Market.
When I got there they had only one rental bike left, supposedly, so I took it even though it was a bit small for me. I neglected to note down the price, but I don’t think it was excessive.
An interesting feature of this bike shop is the building it is in (fourth photo). It has a stepped gable, like many historic houses in Gent, but it is made of stones, not bricks.
Their bike did get me around town, all right, but I think the next time I’m in Gent I’ll try somewhere else. For instance there is a bike shop next to the railroad station that I haven’t tried yet.
Steendam 16, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Location in Google Maps
If you take my parking space . . .
. . . then take my handicap, too.
Obviously you aren’t going to drive around Gent in a car, as this would be irresponsible as well as inconvenient. But if you do, don’t park in places that are reserved for the handicapped.
Like most other Belgian cities, Gent has built numerous underground parking garages, which at least have the advantage of getting the bagnoles off the streets and out of sight. On the other hand, these garages have the effect of generating unnecessary car traffic, so they are a mixed blessing.
I should add, though, that the underground parking garages all have free toilets which are kept reasonably clean and are open to everyone, even non-motorists.
Transporting children by bike
Parents in Gent have various ways of transporting their children by bicycle.
What I like about the bike in the first photo is that the older child, at the front, has the option of peddling a bit whenever she wants to. I have seen several of these bikes, and usually the kids seem proud to be doing their share.
The kids in the second photo don’t have this option, but at least they are being chauffeured around town in a responsible way.
boat trips and cruises
A great alternative to see an old medieval town full of canals is by boat!
The boat tour lasts for 50 minutes and takes you through the canals. There are different companies but they offer more or less the same and usually a commentary in various languages.
The single ticket was (july 2012) 6,50euro (6e for 60+ or students).
The tour goes through Leie river (or Lys in frence) and gives you an alternative perspective of the city. The river is 126 miles long and comes from France, polluted in most parts but still has some nice scenic corners that can be seen if you take one of the cruises (we didn’t try that) that lasts for about 5 hours including a 60’ stop for walking in a Sint Martins Latem village.
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