By Plane--Brussels Airport is the main international airport in Belgium but a coach service runs 9 times a day between Brussels-South-Charleroi Airport and Bruges via Ghent, making this small airport easier to access. Ticket prices vary; booking in advance online at www.flibco.com usually means a cheaper fare. A one-way fare ticket purchased at the airport is 19€.
By Train--Ghent is a 30-minute train ride from Brussels, and depending on the time of day, there are anywhere from three to seven direct trains every hour between the two, with a round-trip fare of 22€. The main station of Gent-Sint-Pieters is on Koningin Maria-Hendrikaplein, 2km (1.5 miles) south of the center city. Tram No. 1 runs into the Korenmarkt.
The city is called Ghent in English (and Gand in French), but look out for its Flemish name, GENT, written on the rail station name boards. Ghent's main rail station, Gent Sint-Pieters (tel. 09/222-44-44), is on Koningin Maria-Hendrikaplein, about 1.6km (1 mile) south of town. Unless you need to count every euro, don't walk to the center; it's a dull route, even though it might take you only around 20 minutes. Instead, from outside the station, take a taxi, or, from under the bridge to your left when you exit the station, tram no. 1, 10, 11, or 12, and get out at Korenmarkt. Save your shoe leather and energy for sightseeing in the oldest part of town.
By Bus--Ghent's main bus station adjoins the Sint-Pieters rail station. Eurolines operates a daily service from London's Victoria Coach Station -- via the Dover-Calais (France) ferry or the Channel Tunnel's Le Shuttle train -- to Brussels, stopping at Ghent. The city can also be reached from all over Britain and Europe on the Eurolines network, via London or Brussels.
By Car--Ghent is 50km (31 miles) northwest of Brussels and 51km (32 miles) southeast of Bruges, both on A10/E40; it's 45km (28 miles) southwest of Antwerp on A14/E17.
The Visit Ghent tourist office is a fabulously modern affair with a James Bond–esque computer table offering multilingual information. It’s in the former Fishmarket (Sint-Veerleplein 5; www.visitgent.be; tel. 09/266-5660) and is open daily 10am to 6pm.
Korenmarkt lies at the center (Centrum) of the city. Most of the city's important sights -- including the Town Hall, Saint Bavo's Cathedral, and the Belfry -- lie within a half mile of this central square. The Leie River winds through the center to connect with the Scheldt River and a network of canals that lead to the busy port area. Citadel Park, location of the Fine Arts Museum, is near Sint-Pieters Station. Patershol (which means the cave -- or hole -- in which monks lived a hermit's existence) is an ancient enclave not far from the Castle of the Counts. The place is fast becoming a gastronomic center, as more and more small restaurants move into renovated old buildings in the area.
Getting AroundOnce you get to the historical center of Ghent, most of the major sites are within walking distance, but both the city’s main train station, Gent-Sint-Pieters, and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent are quite far from the center—at least a half-hour by foot. Ghent has an integrated tram and bus network and the single electric trolley-bus line, all operated by De Lijn (www.delijn.be; tel. 070/220-200). The four tramlines (1, 4, 21, and 22) stop at Gent-Sint-Pieters station and at multiple points throughout the city center. Purchase your ticket (3€ for one hour) from the De Lijn sales point in the station or from an automated ticket machine before boarding the tram or bus; the largest bill you can pay with onboard is a 10€ note.
There are plenty of regulated taxis with ranks in the streets; you’ll find them outside Gent-Sint-Pieters and Ghent Dampoort stations as well as on Korenmarkt. Otherwise call Vtax (www.v-tax.be; tel. 09/222-2222).
During 10 days around July 21, plunge into the swirl of Belgium's greatest extended street party, the Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festivities; www.gentsefeesten.be; tel. 09/210-1010), a time of free music, from classical through Tin Pan Alley to alternative rock, along with dance, street theater and performance art, puppet shows, a street fair, special museum exhibits, and generally riotous fun and games in the heart of the city.
The colorful Begonia Festival takes place the last weekend in August.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.