If you want to know how the inhabitants of Ghent spend their weekends, read on. Ghent is a lively city, also on weekends. This charming Belgian city is really worth spending a weekend in. It’s full of character and the perfect place to be for epicureans. Being real Belgian bons vivants themselves, the congenial and hospitable inhabitants of Ghent know better than anyone else what good living is. These insider tips will give you an idea of how they typically spend a weekend. They cherish their hotspots in Ghent.

A relaxing weekend in Ghent, shopping for bons vivants

The residents of Ghent are really good at chilling. Relax, no stress. Many of them start their weekend with a good breakfast, followed by their weekly shopping trip. Known for their wilful nature, the Ghent citizens adore their city and like to visit local shops. After a busy working week, they love to go exploring on Saturday mornings. They enjoy their city to the fullest,  but avoid the busy streets. Care to join us?

Visit a market

After breakfast, the locals often start their shopping on one of the many markets. Sunday is the traditional market day, but there are markets on other days as well.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, the Bij Sint-Jacobs square is the place where you are likely to encounter people browsing through second-hand stuff and looking for vintage trinkets and antiques.

They then go on to buy their fruit and vegetables at Fruitco on the historical Vrijdagmarkt square, where everyone is served with a smile.

Everything for a perfect weekend break, Joyous Entry on Vrijdagmarkt

The Vrijdagmarkt square and its immediate surroundings are really worth a visit. The square has been the setting for celebrations for many centuries, and monarchs have always been formally received there during Joyous Entries. On Fridays and Saturdays you can visit one of the markets and during the summer months you can enjoy a concert while having a drink in one of the many outdoor cafés. There are plenty of opportunities to take a break on Vrijdagmarkt: the square is surrounded by restaurants and cafés.

Another thing the locals love to do is simply stroll through the streets of Ghent on weekends. So, under the approving eye of the statue of Jacob Van Artevelde, we cross Vrijdagmarkt and take the narrow Meerseniersstraat to Zuivelbrugstraat and the bridge crossing the river Lys.

Did you know that... Ganda, as Ghent was called originally, was founded at the confluence of the rivers Lys and Scheldt? The site is now a marina for passing boat traffic called Portus Ganda. This idyllic spot is most easily reached via Steendam, a street featuring a lot of trendy shops, restaurants and cafés. Saint Bavo’s Abbey is also nearby and is open for visits on weekends in the afternoon in the period from April to November.

But let’s return to the Zuivelbrug bridge and while you’re there, admire the retro shop window of wallpaper shop Priem. It’s always a sight to behold. If you have a sweet tooth, you should stop at Confiserie Temmerman, the place to be in Ghent for delicious old-fashioned candy and Ghent specialties like knopkes, muilentrekkers and cuberdons. You are guaranteed to leave this old candy shop with a smile on your face.

The House of Alijn: everyday life, but anything but ordinary

Now turn left into Kraanlei and walk along the water to the very heart of Ghent, toward the Castle of the Counts. You will pass the House of Alijn on your way. The House of Alijn collects, researches and shares mementos of the 20th century. Enter the courtyard and have a beer in the museum café. During the Ghent Festivities, numerous concerts and activities are organised here.

Patershol, the place to be with a folk soul, fun for foodies

A little further, turn to the right into Hertogstraat to enter the famous Patershol district, the culinary heart of Ghent. Do you remember? Disappear behind the scenes and enter the quiet little streets. This particularly beautiful part of Ghent is a city within the city. Forget where you are for a moment and imagine yourself in the Middle Ages. Experience the nostalgia of lifestyles of times gone by. Enjoy the picturesque streets full of inviting restaurants, authentic pubs and trendy bars. And while you’re here, you can already book a table for your meal on Saturday night. That’s what the locals do: enjoy a culinary experience at Patershol during the weekend. A must do!

Ghent specialities and delicacies

And now that you’re here, we can tell you a little secret: you are now very close to a few businesses on Groentenmarkt that sell typical Ghent specialties. Do you like treating your friends and relatives to local goodies? They’re delicious! Every bread loving local resident does not mind queuing on a Saturday or Sunday morning for the freshly baked products of the Himschoot bakery, located on the corner of Groentenmarkt square.

Cuberdons are the typical purple sweets from Ghent and are sold at stalls on the market square or at Confiserie Temmerman .

Ghent citizens love spicing things up. Do you want to impress your guests at dinner? Then buy a jar of real Ghent Tierenteyn mustard. An incomparable flavour experience! When stepping into the artisanal Tierenteyn-Verlent establishment, you relive a piece of Ghent history. There probably isn’t a single local resident who didn’t gawk at all those mysterious jars with herbs and spices as a child, holding their mother’s or grandmother’s hand.

Are you a coffee addict? Then we have good news for you. When you leave the Tierenteyn mustard shop, walk toward the lively Korenmarkt square. And no, the locals don’t enter the famous shopping street Veldstraat a little further on. Allow yourself to be surprised by a well-known coffee shop with a long history, just around the corner. Take the narrow Donkersteeg street to the left, and you will immediately spot the neon sign of Mokabon. This is the oldest and most authentic coffee shop in Ghent, that has been serving excellent coffee for many years. The coffee beans are for sale as well. The retro interior will take you back into time.

The City Pavilion, a modern construction in the heart of the city

After their mandatory stop at Mokabon, Ghent citizens who like to walk simply continue down Donkersteeg towards the City Pavilion.

At the end of the street on your right-hand side, you will see Ooost, where you can find all East Flemish regional products under one roof.

A little further on is the multifunctional open city pavilion, an architectural masterpiece. The relationship between the local residents and this modern structure had a rocky start. Its construction in the heart of the historical city centre initially met with a lot of resistance. But now a weekend in Ghent would not be complete if you hadn’t passed underneath the famous city pavilion. This once again proves there is a thin line between love and hate. The most remarkable features of the construction are its roof structure and the use of glass, wood and concrete. The city pavilion provides space for concerts, dance performances and markets: there’s always something going on.

The small park at the lower level, The Green, is surrounded by a stone wall and is a favourite spot for many locals to chill during summer. Steps and slopes connect the park with the higher street level. Diagonal footpaths connect Donkersteeg with Mageleinstraat and Cataloniëstraat and invite you to go shopping as a way to end your weekend.

Did you know that... the busy Veldstraat is not merely a shopping street? The two city palaces Hotel d’Hane Steenhuyse and Huis Arnold Vander Haegen were once the homes of noble families and will open their doors to anyone who wants to admire their grandeur. They are certainly worth a visit.

Practical information

Spending the night in Ghent

Do you like to be pampered once in a while? In that case you will certainly find a hotel to your taste in Ghent. The city boasts a wide array of large, small and boutique hotels.

Or do you prefer a homey atmosphere? Then you should book a room in one of the cosy B&Bs.

Ghent is also impressive at night

At night you will see Ghent in a different light. The light plan walk allows you to discover the city’s magical side.

A day of wondering through the streets of Ghent has surely whetted your appetite. There’s no shortage of restaurants in the city, with an offer ranging from star-awarded cuisine to local specialties and world cuisine.

And to end your day, you can explore the local nightlife or enjoy a cocktail or another beverage of your choice in one of the many pubs.

A good start of the day

Don’t you feel like having breakfast at your hotel? In that case, there are a lot of places in Ghent were you can start your day with a delicious breakfast.

Experience Ghent to the full

The CityCard Ghent gets you into ALL the top attractions in Ghent, including public transport at a ridiculously low price.

See you soon in Ghent!