Ghent with Kids – Belgium’s Hidden Gem Uncovered

Ghent is quickly becoming the no longer hidden gem of Belgium. Welcoming to families, this city is filled with beautiful buildings and canals to explore as well as tasty treats to try. Use this Ghent visitor’s guide for making the most of a visit to Ghent with kids.

Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium
Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium (Photo credit: TTstudio,

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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, then explore the castle’s torture museum. It houses all sorts of horrific medieval devices used for inflicting pain on wrongdoers 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 conquered them without much problem.

Waffles are a must-try street food in Ghent, Belgium
Waffles are a must-try street food in Belgium (Photo credit:

Belgian Waffles

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 in Ghent, on vendor carts and inside little shop doors. These waffles (gaufres in French or wafels in Dutch) were unlike any other I had ever eaten — so fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth!

Purple noses of Ghent
Purple noses of Ghent (Photo credit: YAYImages,

Purple Noses of Ghent

The local delicacy of choice is the purple nose of Ghent. This cone-shaped candy is also called cuberdon, Ghentse neus, or nezeke in Dutch. In French, it’s known as chapeau-de-curé and chapeau-de-prêtre (priest’s hat). This sweet treat is filled with a burst of berry filling. Be sure to get a bagful to enjoy during your visit to Ghent with kids. If your family is like mine, then they’ll be gone by the end of one day!

Opening ceremony of the Gentse Feesten
Opening ceremony of the Gentse Feesten (Photo credit: durktalsma,

Ghent Festivals

When planning our trip, my family had no idea one of the city’s largest festivals of the year would be taking place during our visit. Gentse Feesten (Gent Fest) draws over 100,000 people each July for 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.

Ghent Winter Festival in front of Saint Nicholas Church
Ghent Winter Festival in front of Saint Nicholas Church (Photo credit:,

In winter, look for the Gentse Winterfeesten (Ghent Winter Festival). Korenmarkt is the center of the Christmas market, aptly located in front of the landmark Saint Nicholas Church. Most years, more than 150 wooden huts spread throughout the city, selling snacks, drinks, gifts and authentic crafts. 

Ghent boat tour
Ghent boat tour (Photo credit: Alesinya,

Ghent Boat Tour

See Ghent from the water during a 40-minute boat tour down the Leie River. Kids and parents alike will enjoy this relaxing boat ride. Travelers will see medieval landmarks along the way, including Saint Bavo’s Cathedral and 13th-century monasteries. 

Saint Bhavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium
Saint Bavo Cathedral (Photo credit: mistervlad,

Where to Stay in Ghent with kids

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

Hotel Onderbergen family room in Ghent for kids
Hotel Onderbergen family room (Photo credit: Hotel Onderbergen)

The hotel shares a courtyard with Patrick Foley’s 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.

Patrick Foley's Bar & Restaurant in Ghent, Belgium
Patrick Foley’s Bar & Restaurant in Ghent (Photo credit: Patrick Foley’s)

Why Visit Ghent with Kids

The small streets of Ghent hold sweet surprises around every corner. The main attraction in this charming city really is the city itself. This welcoming beautiful Belgian town really is a treat for families. If you have the opportunity to see the sights of Belgium, then don’t miss Ghent!

The beautiful city of Ghent, all lit up at night
The beautiful city of Ghent, all lit up at night (Photo credit: vichie81,

More Travel Tips for Families

Belgium and the Netherlands share a border, making it easy to add a trip to Amsterdam to your itinerary. Here are our picks for the best kid-friendly attractions in Amsterdam.

For another gorgeous and welcoming European city, discover why your family will love Strasbourg, France.

Ghent boasts an impressive Winter Festival. Take a look at these other must-see Christmas markets around the world.

Strasbourg, France
Lovely Strasbourg, France (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Save this Kid-Friendly Ghent Visitor’s Guide

For future travels, be sure to save these fun things to do in Ghent with kids. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Family-Friendly Attractions in Ghent with Kids

Have you ever been to Ghent with kids? Would you like to visit this family-friendly city in Belgium? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. 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.

    1. 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!

  2. 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*

  3. 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!)

    1. 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.