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Ghent with Kids – Belgium’s Hidden Gem Uncovered

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Ghent, Belgium is quickly becoming the no longer hidden gem of Europe. Welcoming to families, this city is filled with beautiful buildings and canals to explore as well as tasty treats to try. Here is the kid-friendly Ghent visitor’s guide for making the most of your family’s stay.

Ghent with kids

View of Ghent from Gravensteen Castle

Ghent Fest

When planning our trip, we had no idea the  Ghent Fest, the largest draw of the city all year, would be taking place during our visit. Over 100,000 people were in town enjoying food, music, vendors, carnival rides and shopping. To have that many people in town might seem overwhelming, but with so many attractions in Ghent, we never felt lost in a crowd or unable to see or do what we wanted.

We love Ghent, Belgium!

We love Gent!

A warm welcome

If a city makes us feel welcome with our boisterous kids, I put it in my ‘winner’ column. Ghent graciously accepted my brood and the other thousands of families visiting for the festival. Kids were everywhere at cafes and shops, which put us at ease.

Castle of the Counts knight

Castle of the Counts knight

Gravensteen Castle

Ghent’s most impressive and well-known structure has got to be Gravensteen Castle. Also known as the Castle of the Counts, it stands proudly in the middle of Ghent.

At Gravensteen’s drawbridge you will encounter a knight who beckons you inside and directs you to the ticket counter. From there you can choose to have a private tour or simply explore on your own.

If you’re up for a little macabre entertainment, explore the castle’s torture museum, which houses all sorts of horrific medieval devices used for inflicting pain on wrong-doers once upon a time. The castle’s stairs may be a bit challenging, but fortunately there aren’t that many and even our 2.5 year old twins concurred them without much problem.

Inside Castle of the Counts

Inside Castle of the Counts

Ghent must-have treats

Food provides a wonderful and tasty way to get to know a new culture. When in Belgium, you must eat Belgian waffles, of course! Delicious pastries awaited us at every turn on vendor carts and inside little shop doors. When we finally stopped to taste our waffles, we ate them so quickly I forgot to take a picture! These waffles were unlike any other I had ever eaten—so fluffy and melt-on-your-tongue.

A pastry case filled with waffles and other goodies in Gent, Belgium

A pastry case filled with waffles and other goodies in Gent

To find must-try cuisine, I search a destination’s name using its hashtag on Instagram (ie: #Ghent). This was how I discovered the mysterious “purple noses” of Ghent. These cone-shaped candies look like strange little purple noses and are filled with a burst of berry filling. We bought a bagful for 5€ and they were gone by the end of the day.

Purple noses of Gent

Purple noses of Ghent

Where to stay in Ghent with kids

I’m usually pretty skeptical if we see a “family-sized room” advertised at European hotels because hotels on the continent tend to run very small. Hotel Onderbergen, however, housed our family of five perfectly in a single large room with a HUGE bathroom and requested child’s crib. I was extremely impressed with the room’s cleanliness and modern decor.

Hotel Onderbergen family room

Hotel Onderbergen family room (Photo credit: Hotel Onderbergen website)

The hotel shares a courtyard with Patrick Foley’s an Irish pub and restaurant where we ate a scrumptious breakfast each morning. Staff at both the hotel and the restaurant went out of their way to make sure we had everything we needed. With its convenient location and friendly atmosphere, I would love to stay at this hotel again on our next trip.

Our Lady of St. Peter's Church Ghent

Our Lady of St. Peter’s Church

A must see on your tour of Europe

I feel so fortunate that this beautiful city is just an hour and a half drive from my family’s adopted town in the Netherlands. I foresee another trip or two to Ghent in our future before we pack up and return to the states. The small streets held sweet surprises around every corner. If you have the opportunity to see the sights of Belgium, don’t miss Ghent.

Have you ever been to Ghent with kids? What were your favorite attractions to do and see in Ghent?

All photos by Farrah Ritter unless otherwise noted.

About Farrah Ritter, The Nomadic Travel Mama

Farrah Ritter is an adventure-seeking mama to a twin boys and their older brother. Her family of five moved to the Netherlands in 2012. Originally from Michigan, she and her husband relocated to the South in 2006 and jumped over the pond with their boys in tow. She blogs at An Instagram and Twitter junkie (@Momofthreeunder), Farrah loves to see perspectives of others and experience the beauty of old towns and historic places.

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says

    I have been hearing so much about Ghent lately – it does look like a lovely city to visit. That room looks awesome – it’s so hard to find a room with three beds in Europe! Wouldn’t you love to know what the story is behind the purple noses? (And that’s a great tip about using Instagram to find must-try foods!)

    • It is Lisa! You need to add it to your ‘must see’ list, I was really impressed! And that hotel had fabulous service. They treated us all so wonderfully. I can’t say enough about them. I must find the story somewhere- there’s so much to learn about the city.

  2. Nathalie Dumon says

    Yes, those cuberdons (red noses) are a delicious and sweet treat. But…that’s not what we told these tourists 🙂 Take a look:

  3. Hey Farrah, seeing the photos I can say it would have being a great trip with your kids. I too agree with Lisa that room looks awesome.

  4. I’ve just woken up after spending the night in Ghent, thought I’d do a quick google to check what to do with the kids today, and there’s the hotel room I’m sitting in right on your page! *lol*

  5. We are traveling to Ghent this summer and have the opportunity to either stay at a bed and breakfast 20k from town or right in town. We are traveling with our one year old. One of the nice things about the place outside of town is they serve dinner, so we don’t have to rush and can put our son to bed and still hang out. But I don’t know if we will regret not staying inside the city. Thoughts? This is our first big trip with our son.

    • HI Katie!

      My only thought on this is that parking is a real pain in the city. We parked our car in a lot and left it the entire time. If you stay the far out is it possible to take the train in? Because that’s what I would do.

      Overall Ghent is a lovely, quiet city compared to others with many cafes and restaurants. It’s also rather rural before you get into the city- so it just depends on what you’re looking for!

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