A fixture on lists of Europe’s best alternative cities, Ghent is on the rise and with a location easy to travel to from across Europe the only surprise is that the Belgian city isn’t already among the most popular weekend breaks out there. From beer to food, architecture to nightlife the buzzing Flandrian student city is prime to be explored on two wheels, for this is a city in love with the bicycle.
Getting to GhentTravelling to Ghent is fast and simple with the Eurostar from London St. Pancras and THALYS trains in mainland Europe. Connections from Brussels are regular but if you want to cut costs you can opt out of the high-speed trains and take a slower route. If travelling from the UK and keen to take your own bike with you then be prepared to either fit it into a bike bag under 85cm at its widest point (free) or register it for the cargo hold on the train you are travelling on (£25 each way).
What to DoWith a population of about 250,000 and a majority of them cycling mad, you’ll find plenty of bike hire choices when you arrive. Zipping around the cobbled streets is safe and clean with plenty of tourist cycle routes.
Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or a week there are a few must-sees in Ghent. Hang out at Kouter Square and soak up the atmosphere as people meet and greet in the car-free open-air space. Cycle slowly along the Graslei Harbour where the beautiful, looming architecture provides more than enough distraction to tempt your eyes from the path in front. And definitely lock up your bike and take to the water for a canal cruise that departs from Grasbrug and gives you a floating tour of Ghent’s medieval heart. At this point we could also talk about the beer, mussels and frites… but it’s Belgium, so you already know they’ll feature on your agenda.
Nightlife is vibrant thanks to the large student population and the city is well known for its public festivals, with the legendary Six Day Races offering perhaps the most insight into Ghent as a city. Held in November every year, the city’s famous Kuipke Velodrome welcomes a track cycling event like no other. Running for six nights in a row, it’s 50% cycling/50% partying. People flock to the track to drink beer by the litre, eat frites by the handful and cheer on the warrior-like cyclists who race every night to the sound of Euro pop and whooping, drunken fans.
Relaxed, warm and welcoming, Ghent is a picturesque city impossible to dislike. It goes with cycling like its frites go with mayonnaise, which makes it one of Europe’s best destinations for a two-wheeled break.
Photo credit: https://visit.gent.be/en/bike