Let me start off by saying that I did this trip TOTALLY alone (solo female traveler!) and felt completely safe the entire time. If you haven’t traveled alone before, this would be a good itinerary to start with.
Day 1: Getting to Belgium and Exploring
After a bit of research, I decided my home base in Belgium was going to be Ghent, as it is easily accessible by train to most locations I wanted to see. This ended up being a great decision, as Ghent was adorable, welcoming and easy to navigate. I flew from the US into Brussels via Aer Lingus, due to it having a very cheap flight. From Brussels, I took the Belgian Rail to the Gent-Dampoort station, about a half hour journey. Tickets can be purchased in advance, but there was no need to and I simply bought them at the station.
In Ghent, I stayed at this Airbnb, which was a 10 minute walk to the train station, a 10 minute walk to downtown, and surrounded by many restaurants and shops. (Use this link to get up to $55 off your first Airbnb booking!)
After getting settled, I decided to explore the old town a bit. After a short walk, I came upon Sint-Michielsbrug, or St. Michael’s Bridge, a beautiful old bridge right in the heart of downtown. The view from this bridge shouldn’t be missed!
From here, I wandered around Graslei and Korenlei, two areas of the city filled with beautiful architecture and amazing restaurants. I stopped for dinner here (there are lots of waterfront dining options!), and finished just in time to watch the sun set on the Leie River.
Day 2: Getting to know Ghent
As I had only had a small taste of Ghent the night before, I decided this day would be spent exploring more of what Ghent has to offer. My first stop would be Gravensteen, or the Castle of the Counts. This castle with surrounding moat has a very turbulent past, and is a great stop for any history lover. There is a torture museum inside and an audio guide is included with admission (tickets can be purchased here).
After the tour, I had worked up an appetite! As Belgium is known for their Belgian waffles, I stopped by one of the nearby cafes and indulged myself. They were, as expected, delicious!
Next, I decided to explore the Ghent Belfry, which is the tallest belfry in Belgium! After climbing the stairs, I was rewarded with a beautiful view of nearby St. Bavo’s Cathedral and surrounding Ghent.
As it is just next door, St. Bavo’s Cathedral (or Sint-Baafskathedraal) was next on the list of attractions. There is a small entrance fee to see this beautiful church, and tickets can be purchased at the door. If you are into art, you will be interested to know that “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” is found here. This altarpiece is described as one of the most influential pieces of art and is taught to all students in Belgium.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the small streets in this picturesque town. I went out for dinner and drinks and ended up making some friends, as the locals are very friendly!