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Bruges Or Ghent: Which Belgian City Should You Visit?

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If you’re wondering whether you should visit Bruges or Ghent on your next trip to Belgium, then the simple answer is… visit both! We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around both cities.

Of course, this doesn’t help you if you only have enough time and budget to explore one of these beautiful Belgian cities.

This is where we come in! By the end of this blog post, we hope you’ve discovered enough information to help you decide whether you should include Bruges or Ghent within your Belgium itinerary.

Happy reading and travel planning!

Bruges Or Ghent: Which Belgian City Should You Visit?

To help you decide between Bruges and Ghent, we’ve divided this blog post up into categories to help you compare the two. 

We’ll focus on the history and architecture of each city, as well as how much there is to see and do, what the vibe of each place is like and which city offers the best value for money.

Let’s begin.

RELATED: 3 Days in Belgium Itinerary (3 Cities in 3 Days!)

History & Architecture

Many buildings in Bruges and Ghent are from the Middle Ages / medieval period. 

From turreted castles and imposing fortresses to towering belfries and gabled shopfronts, both cities pack a punch when it comes to history and incredible architecture.

But both Bruges and Ghent are older than their impressive architecture suggests.

Ghent was founded in 630 AD when St Amandus constructed an abbey where the Lys and Scheldt rivers merge.

Walk along the canals in Ghent
Walking by the river in Ghent

Whereas Bruges was likely populated during the Ancient Roman era. However, the city’s name first appears in the history books during the 9th century.

Christmas in Bruges
Gabled shopfronts in Markt in Bruges

Therefore, whichever city you visit, you’ll have plenty of history to learn about and impressive buildings and architecture to marvel at.

WINNER: Both cities are beautiful and historic, so it’s seemingly a draw for this one.

Personally, I preferred the architecture in Ghent slightly more to that of Bruges. But maybe that’s because the architecture in Ghent was more of a surprise to me than the heavily photographed buildings of Bruges.

Old Fish Market Gateway, Ghent
Just look how stunning the architecture is in Ghent!

Things To Do

Speaking of incredible architecture, many top things to do in Bruges and Ghent revolve around their medieval buildings. As expected, there is plenty to see and do within each city.

Some of the most popular things to see and do in Bruges include:

  • Belfry of Bruges: An 83-metre-high medieval bell tower offering unmissable views across the city.
  • Basilica of the Holy Blood: A Roman Catholic basilica that’s said to contain a cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ on it.
  • Church of Our Lady Bruges: An imposing Gothic church dating back to the 13th century.
  • Burg Square and Markt: These are two of the most iconic areas of Bruges where you’ll find many of the city’s main attractions. Both areas feature stunning gabled architecture and historic buildings.
  • Minnewaterpark: A charming public park, which overlooks the city’s “Lake of Love”.
  • Chocolate Walking Tour: Given Belgium is practically famous for its delicious chocolate, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its most world-renowned city is also home to many chocolate shops, many of which can be visited via a walking tour (whether guided or self-guided).

Discover more things to do in Bruges in this itinerary >>

Minnewaterpark, Bruges
Pretty building near Minnewaterpark in Bruges

While Ghent has the following fabulous sights and attractions:

  • Gravensteen: A medieval castle with a varied history. It now houses a museum about torture, weapons and armoury.
  • Belfry of Ghent: This is the tallest belfry in Belgium and offers stunning views of the city. It’s also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Graslei: Home to row upon row of pretty painted buildings, which overlook a historic waterfront.

Ghent is also home to several historic churches and a cathedral, so some people embark on a mini tour of these during their visit as well.

Discover more things to do in Ghent in this itinerary >>

Views from St Michael's Bridge, Ghent
Pretty (and historic) Graslei in Ghent

Both cities also have impressive Christmas markets every year. So if you’re visiting Belgium in winter, you might also want to check these out during your trip.

WINNER: While there’s plenty to see and do within both cities, given Bruges’ appeal to tourists, you’ll probably find Bruges has a little more on offer.

Vibe

When most people plan a trip to Belgium, Bruges is almost always included in their itinerary. It’s also where many big tour companies go.

Because of this, Bruges feels more touristy than Ghent and sees far bigger crowds (especially during the peak summer season).

Ghent, on the other hand, while still enticing to tourists, feels more relaxed and where you can enjoy a more “local” experience. And all this with still plenty to see and do (as covered above).

WINNER: Technically, it depends on what you’re looking for, but we’d go with Ghent for its more relaxed local vibe.

Costs

If you consider how much it costs to stay in each city, eat out and explore the main tourist attractions, Ghent is considerably more affordable than Bruges. 

Thanks in large part to its lesser appeal to tourists than popular Bruges.

WINNER: Ghent is more affordable than Bruges, so Ghent is our winner for this one.

Day Trip Opportunities

For the most part, Belgium has fantastic connections across the country to help you see more during your trip. 

One of our favourite ways to get around Belgium is by train because it’s reliable, affordable and sustainable.

Bruges and Ghent have well-connected train stations where you can visit other popular Belgian cities, such as Antwerp and Brussels within around 60 to 90 minutes (or as little as 35 minutes in the case of Ghent and Brussels).

Grand Place Brussels
Beautiful Grand-Place in Brussels is a must-see!

Not to mention both cities are a relatively short walk away from their respective train stations, making day trips around Belgium easy, quick and stress-free.

WINNER: Ghent and Bruges have good well-connected train stations, so it’s another draw!

RELATED: Brussels In A Day – Action-Packed One Day In Brussels Itinerary

Bruges vs Ghent Conclusion

In conclusion, our overall winner is Ghent!

While many tourists think of Bruges when they think of Belgium, if you’d prefer a more relaxing low-key trip to Belgium, then Ghent is a great option. 

You’ll still experience plenty of beautiful architecture, historic sights and fun things to do during your visit to Ghent, but for a more affordable price and with far fewer crowds.

Geeraard de Duivelsteen in Ghent
Historic castle in Ghent

That said, I also want to circle back to our advice from earlier. If you’re able to, we’d recommend visiting both cities (especially if you’ve never seen either before).

You can even see both Bruges and Ghent in one day if you prefer as it takes less than half an hour to travel between the two by train. 

That said, if time and budget allow, we’d suggest spending at least a day in each city to make the most of your time there.

Chocolate Shop in Bruges
Cute chocolate shop in Bruges

Read More About Bruges and Ghent

To help you prepare for your trip, we have many Belgium travel blogs for you to read. Here are links to a few of them to get you started:

While you’re in Belgium, don’t forget about the capital city of Brussels, which is also a joy to visit! Check out this 2-day itinerary to find out more >>


Whether you visit Bruges or Ghent, we hope you have an amazing time. If you’d like to know anything else before your trip, then please drop us a line in the comments section below and we’ll reply asap.

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Bruges Or Ghent: Which Belgian City Should You Visit?
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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