Must-Try Foods & Drinks in Ghent: What to Eat in Ghent

Ghent, Belgium’s third largest city, often gets overlooked by visitors. Most people tend to focus on the country’s capital, or head on over to the beautiful storybook city of Bruges. Yet I’d say Ghent is highly worth a visit, mainly due to its amazing food and beer scene.

I spent a night in Bruges, before catching a train over to Ghent. Ghent was certainly very different to Bruges. Bruges is the most well preserved medieval town in Belgium, and it almost feels like you’re walking through a movie set. Bruges is very beautiful, but also very touristy. Ghent still has canals, medieval buildings and impressive architecture, but it’s also a university city. Venture away from the canal and the waterside cafes, and you’ll find Ghent has a more gritty, urban vibe.

If you’re a foodie I think you’ll really like Ghent. I had around 1 1/2 days to explore the city, and most of that was spent discovering the city’s food and drink! It turns out there are a number of must-try foods in Ghent, so sit back while I take you on a tasting tour of the city.

Must-Try Foods in Ghent

Purple Noses at Temmerman

When in Ghent you must buy some candy from Temmerman- the city’s famous candy shop. Try the Cuberdons, known as “Purple noses” or “Gentse neuzen” because of their cone-shaped appearance. These purple sweets are a Ghent speciality- made of Arabic gum and raspberry juice. You’ll find they are are chewy and gummy, with a syrup center. This shelves of this old-fashioned sweet shop are lined with all sorts of different candy- perfect if you have a sweet tooth!

Deposit Your Shoe For a Kwak at De Dulle Griet

I was advised when I visited Ghent that I should deposit my shoe and order a ‘kwak’ at De Dulle Griet. Not knowing what a ‘kwak’ was, I ventured there to check it out. A ‘kwak’, as it turns out, is a yard of beer. It was the middle of the day and I didn’t really need one all to myself, so I ordered a dark Belgian beer. It was very entertaining though to watch all the other patrons wearing only one shoe! When you order a ‘kwak’, a bell rings and a basket zooms down from the ceiling. The waiter puts the shoe in the basket and then it catapults back up again!

Moules-Frites

If I order mussels in the UK, I’m usually served about 10. Order mussels in Belgium and you get more like 50. Belgium is known for its incredible moules-frites- that’s mussels with fries to you. I had the classic mussels with white wine at Brasserie ‘t Stropke (now closed) and boy were they good!

Some other good spots to try mussels include:

Tierenteyn Mustard

Belgian chocolates are the typical souvenir to take home from Belgium, but if you like mustard, this is also a great gift to take back with you. Tierenteyn Verlent is the best mustard in Flanders and the company dates back to 1790. You can pick out the size of jug you would like and the clerk will fill it with fresh mustard from the barrell. The Tierenteyn mustard contains no preservatives, so it can be only be purchased on the premises.

Meat From the Great Butchers’ Hall

The Great Butchers’ Hall (Groot Vleeshuis) in Ghent is an illustrious emblem of the city’s rich culinary heritage, dating back to the 15th century. Today, it’s a haven for food-lovers, showcasing the best of East Flanders’ regional specialties. Here, amidst the ancient oak rafters, visitors can savor authentic local treats such as ‘Gentse Ganda’ ham, artisanal cheeses, and an array of fine meats.

Begin your culinary journey at the majestic Great Butchers’ Hall, a 15th-century market hall sitting elegantly along the Lys River. For centuries, until the late 1800s, this was the only authorized venue for meat inspection and sales in the city. While prime meats found their buyers inside, the surrounding ‘Tripe Houses’ dealt in offcuts and offal.

The hall now celebrates regional delicacies within its medieval walls. Take in the awe-inspiring timber roofing as you observe Ghent’s famous Ganda hams aging on the beams for nearly a year. Savor breakfast or lunch with a selection of 175 products from East Flanders, including East-Flemish tapas, handcrafted cheeses, croquettes, and sweet delights. A visit to the Great Butchers’ Hall is a feast for both the eyes and the palate, not to be missed!

Bread Pudding From Himschoot Bakery

Nestled next to the historic Tierenteyn mustard shop on the Groentemarkt, the Himschoot Bakery holds the title of the town’s oldest operational bakery. With a legacy stretching over 400 years, it has been producing bread in its brick basement and serving it from the ground floor. The Himschoot family, custodians of the bakery since 1880, have handed down recipes for nutritious and palatable delights through generations. Among their cherished offerings, the “broodpudding” stands out—a semi-sweet bread made from leftover bread, raisins, and cinnamon, fashioned into dense, moist squares. Another favorite, the “mastel,” is a doughnut-shaped cinnamon roll, offering a lighter but equally traditional treat.

Gentse Waterzooi

Gentse Waterzooi is a traditional Belgian stew, originating from Ghent. Originally made with fish from the local rivers, the modern version commonly features chicken, simmered gently with leeks, carrots, potatoes, and celery in a rich, creamy broth, thickened with egg yolk. This hearty and comforting dish is seasoned delicately with herbs and served with a side of bread, making it a perfect meal for cold days.

Fries from Frites Atelier

Frites Atelier elevates the humble fry to an art form, turning a simple street food into a gourmet experience. Founded by renowned chef Sergio Herman, this upscale establishment serves up perfectly crispy fries made from carefully selected potatoes, fried in pristine vegetable oil, and artfully seasoned with a variety of exquisite salts. The fries are accompanied by a selection of handcrafted sauces that range from classic mayonnaise to adventurous flavors. Each order is beautifully presented, reaffirming that at Frites Atelier, fries are not just a side dish, but a culinary delight worth savoring on their own.

Chocolates from Chocolaterie Luc Van Hoorebeke

Chocolaterie Luc Van Hoorebeke is a famous chocolatier nestled in the heart of Ghent, where the art of chocolate-making ascends to heavenly levels. As a family-run establishment, they guarantee the finest handcrafted chocolates, with each piece reflecting years of Belgian confectionery tradition and passion.

Using only the highest quality ingredients, the chocolates from Luc Van Hoorebeke burst with flavors that range from the classic pralines to innovative combinations that tickle the taste buds of connoisseurs and casual enthusiasts alike.

Visiting the Chocolaterie, patrons are greeted by an elegant display of beautifully molded chocolates and exquisitely wrapped gift boxes, making it a perfect stop for both indulgence and gift shopping.

Pubs and Breweries to Visit in Ghent

Ghent is known for its thriving beer scene, and it’s thought that at one point in history (the 17th century to be more precise), there were as many as 500 brewers in the city!

Interestingly, Ghent likes to brew its beer a little differently. In medieval times, the River Lys was the dividing line between two distinct brewing philosophies. To the Dutch-aligned side, hops were the favored ingredient for flavoring beer, but on the French-influenced side, a rich palette of local herbs and spices were used instead. This historical split created two distinct brewing styles within the same city.

Today, within Ghent’s vibrant beer scene, the Gruut Brewery stands at the forefront, championing a revival of these herbaceous, hop-free ales.

While you’re in Ghent, I’d highly recommend trying a beer tour, or you can explore the city’s beers and breweries yourself.

Here are some of the best breweries and pubs to check out:

Breweries:

  • Gruut Brewery – Renowned for reviving the medieval tradition of making hop-free, herb-infused beers.
  • Hal 16 – A modern hub that features multiple craft brewers under one roof, offering a varied tasting experience.
  • City Brewery Artevelde – Offers a deep dive into Ghent’s brewing legacy with traditional methods and flavors.
  • Stroom – Known for their innovative approach and sustainable brewing practices.

Pubs:

  • ‘t Galgenhuisje – One of Ghent’s smallest and most charming pubs with a great selection of local beers.
  • Dulle Griet – A legendary pub that boasts over 500 different kinds of beers and a unique medieval atmosphere.
  • Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant – Famous for its riverside views and extensive beer menu featuring local and international options.
  • De Alchemist – Well-loved for its cozy ambiance and exceptional craft beer selections.

Best Restaurants in Ghent

Ghent boasts an impressive culinary scene, ranging from traditional Belgian fares to contemporary and international cuisines. Here’s a list of some of the best restaurants that promise an unforgettable dining experience:

Bridge – Known for its innovative approach to international cuisine, presented in a modern setting with scenic views.

De Graslei – A charming eatery set in a historic building along the picturesque Graslei, offering a variety of seafood and traditional Belgian dishes.

Volta – A contemporary restaurant set in a former power station, known for its dynamic atmosphere and a menu that blends local produce with global flavors.

De Parkiet – A cozy spot known for its intimate ambiance and a menu that showcases classic dishes with a modern twist.

Oak – This restaurant offers a gastronomic experience with a seasonal menu crafted from high-quality ingredients in a refined yet relaxed setting.

Pakhuis – A beautifully restored warehouse featuring a unique industrial chic decor and serving exquisite seafood and French-Belgium cuisine.

Otomat – Notable for its inventive pizza offerings that incorporate Belgian elements, making it a favorite for a casual yet trendy meal.

Keizershof – A venerable establishment that offers a rich array of Belgian and French dishes, savored in a classic dining room.

Meme Gusta – Famous for bringing traditional Belgian home cooking to the forefront, this restaurant offers a hearty and authentic local dining experience.

Getting Around Ghent

Navigating Ghent is a pleasant experience, thanks to the city’s well-organized and accessible transportation options. The heart of Ghent is pedestrian-friendly, inviting visitors to explore its charming streets and historic sites on foot. For longer distances, the city boasts an efficient public transport network of trams and buses operated by De Lijn, which easily connect the central areas to the suburbs and other points of interest.

Cycling is another popular mode of transportation, with numerous bike rental shops and an extensive network of well-marked cycle paths providing a safe and eco-friendly way to get around. Those looking to explore the city’s picturesque canals can do so by hopping on one of the many boat tours. For convenience, travelers can consider purchasing a Ghent CityCard, which offers unlimited access to public transportation, as well as entry to various attractions around the city.

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