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!
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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
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
. . . 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.
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.
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.
If you arrive by train have in mind that the Old Town (for cathedral, Belfort, castle etc) is about 2,5km to the north while citadelpark (for SMAK museum and Museum voor Schone Kunsten) is 600 meters away
As most of the sites are located in Old Town we just walked around this compact area where most of the churches are. You can easily see everything on foot and then take the tram back to the train station or if you have some extra time (or the day after) check also the citadelpark for SMAK museum and Museum voor Schone Kunsten.
I think the locals love cycling, check pic 4 to see a big amount of them parked outside Sint Pieters train station
There’s a big network of buses, trolley buses and trams that can take you anywhere in Gent. The most useful one is tram #1 that you can take from Sint-Pieters train station and reach the city center. Single ticket costs 1.20euro from the yellow ticket machine. On your way back take tram #1 again (direction Flanders Expo)
There is also 1day pass for 5euro, 3day pass for 10e and 5day pass for 15e
There were a few around but we didn’t dare to use one, they are expensive (minimum fare 8 euros during the day, more during the night)
No need to use your car in Gent so if you arrive by car just find one of the underground parking places (they have day tickets for about 10 euros). Cheaper options is to park near the train station. On Sundays parking is free.
Gent is 55km west of Brussels, 55km east of Brugge and 59km southwest of Antwerpen.
We took the train from Brussels, there are plenty of them throughout the day (2-3 per hour). The ticket costs 7,5 euro (july 2012) and the journey lasted about 40 minutes. The Sint-Pieters train station is about 2,5km from the old town (you can take tram #1 just outside the train station).
As Gent lies in between Brussels and Brugge you can easily reach it by car and/or use it as a base for the general area. There are some expensive parking areas in Gent but you can also you some streets if you don’t mind to park a bit far from the center.
“We arrived at Ghent about half an hour after five in the evening, but the place we intended to Lodge at being at some distance from the place where we landed we took a Coach which carried us and our baggage to the Hotel de St Sebastian, but were stopped at the gate by the custom house officers to examine our baggage and by the guard to give in our names to be sent to the governor. The Hotel de St Sebastian is an elegant large house built originally for some gentleman of fortune and is situated in a large square well planted with trees between which are pleasant walks in this square are two high poles at which the members of the Society of St Sebastian shot with bows and arrows at little wooden birds fixed on the top of them.”
— from James Essex’s (1722-1784) “Journal of a Tour through Parts of Flanders and France”
Sint-Pieters (Saint Peter’s) is Ghent’s main railway station. It is described as Belgium’s second or third busiest railway station.
Before 1881, when a small station on the line Ghent-Ostend was built on this spot, the city’s main railway station was the South railway station built in 1837. With the World Exhibition of 1913 being held in Ghent a new Sint-Pieters Railway Station was built. Designed by Louis Cloquet (1849-1920) it was finished in 1912.
One of the eye-catching features of the station’s decoration are a series of murals just inside the front door. Each mural is depicts the skyline of major cities in Belgium. During our visit to the country we visited three cities: Bruxelles (see photo #4), Brugges (see photo #3) and Ghent (see photo #2).
Since 1995 the station has been a designated national landmark. It has undergone several renovations and updating.
To reach the center of Ghent, you will need to ride the tram (it would take too long to walk), which can be boarded outside the main entrance to Sint-Pieters.
Traveling by public transportation is very easy in Europe – so many people use it and it just makes sense. Not only do you help the environment, but you save the expense and hassle of a car and fuel as well as having to find parking.
Our group took the train for our day excursions from Brussels. We arrived in Ghent by train from Bruges, which was not that far away. The Ghent central station was a bit of a walk from where we needed to be, so we purchased tickets at the station for the tram, which we boarded in front of the station and it took us to the city center (near St. Bavo’s Cathedral). Later, we hopped back on the tram and rode it to near the art museum. We returned to the train station in the early evening for our trip back to Brussels.
For the train, keep your tickets in hand since they do come around and check them. The trams were quite full and it would’ve been nearly impossible for someone to check the tickets, but have your tickets handy just in case.