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- 01 Aug 2021, 3 nights
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With impressive historic buildings, a booming beer scene and quirky clubs, the atmospheric city of Gent makes for an action-packed stop on a European tour. It's also a university city, so it has a fun, young vibe with plenty of trendy bars and modern restaurants for entertainment by day and night.
Ghent hostels make the most of the city's canal system by offering kayak rentals, while others have free walking tours to help you get to know the local history. And those with events like Belgian beer tastings will have you trying local beers made in Trappist monasteries. If you're looking for a really unique experience, try a Ghent hostel in a vintage caravan or on a boat moored up in one of the canals. A bunch of hostels in Ghent are set in grand buildings with high ceilings and spacious dorms – the perfect backdrop for photos of your European adventure.
To soak up the city's historic atmosphere, the neighbourhood of Patershol – Gent's central old quarter – is the ideal place for roaming cobbled streets dating back to the medieval era. Kouter is just as charming: it's laid out around a square that hosts a daily flower market, with indie shops leading off it. DOK-Noord, a former industrial area by the water, is up and coming, and local artists have given it a new lease of life. This is a top choice in summertime, as there's a pop-up beach along with regular flea markets.
In the city centre, standout attractions include historic architecture like the 12th-century Gravensteen castle, St Nicholas' Church and the guildhalls flanking the Leie river. Swinging by St Michael's Bridge gets you one of the best views around – especially by night when the city lights up. Belgium's famous for its beer – for a taste, wander over to the bars in Vrijdagmarkt to drink out of boot-shaped glassware.
Gent is served by two airports that are quite close by. Brussels Airport is around a 45-minute drive away and has train connections straight to Gent. Brussels South Charleroi Airport is about a 75-minute journey away, and shuttle buses travel between Gent and the main terminal. The city itself – and especially its historic centre – is relatively small, so it's easy to explore on two feet.