Bruges Or Ghent – Which Is Nicer?


As our friendly, very chatty passport control guy checked our passports for re-entry he said…

“OK then, where was your favourite – Bruges or Ghent?”

I had to admit, I had no idea what the rest of the car party were going to say. I knew my answer, but the truth was, we’d had that much fun over the last few days I really couldn’t call it! We had been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time in Bruges and Ghent, but if you really were pushed to choose a trip to just one of these beautiful Belgium cities then which one do you go for?? Or, is it even possible to do Bruges and Ghent in one day, or at the very least one trip? To visit Bruges had certainly been the motivation for our trip, but I have to say – it’s a very close call to decide on a favourite. So, if you absolutely have to choose then let us help you decide…Ghent or Bruges?

(My answer was Ghent, in case you were wondering)

Bruges Or Ghent – Which One’s For You?

The Bruges to Ghent car journey is only about 45 minutes, and it actually only takes 20 minutes by train to connect these two Belgium cities. So, if you had planned a Belgium city break it’s practically a buy one get one free!

When we were planning our Bruges city break we realised it wasn’t the easiest city to fly to for us in the UK’s East Midlands. It would have meant several separate train journeys if we were to travel on the Eurostar via Brussels, or a longwinded flight also with an interconnecting train from Brussels. Add to that the cost of hotels in Bruges city as well, and we ended up booking the Chunnel and driving it! From door to door it worked out a little bit quicker for us to choose this option too – from Calais to Bruges it’s only just over an hour’s drive.

As there were four of us visiting Bruges, not only could we split the cost of fuel and Chunnel crossing, but we also found this amazing apartment in the nearby town of Loppem. Loppem is a cute little Belgian town only 5 minutes from Bruges city centre, and Bruges has plenty of parking options. There is also a local bus that travels into Bruges too, although we never used it. There are some EXCELLENT places to eat in Loppem and it even has a local pub, Cafe St Elooi, so you can try all the Trappist beers you want and stumble home on foot afterwards.

For the best deals at this Loppem apartment, click here.

Now, back to our little run-down of Bruges and Ghent for you…

Brugges Belgium…

The city of Bruges is probably what stirred some interest in a Belgium city break in the first place – a picture postcard scene with the promise of beer and chocolate. Throw is a Belgian waffle and you were sold, am I right? Well, you won’t be disappointed. Brugges Belgium is one of the most picturesque places you are ever going to visit.

Its fairytale features are so well preserved and the city centre is almost a car-free zone, you’ll have no problem forgetting modern life for a while. In fact, every instagrammable corner you turn you just bump into more history and more medieval backdrops. Canals and bridges, churches and chocolate shops, it’s pretty and precious wherever you look.

But a day trip to Bruges can be more than a boat cruise and a cocoa-fest, it surpised me how much there was to do in this city. We wandered around markets, checked out a few worthwhile museums and spent a while people-watching in the main Grote Markt Square. But there are towers to climb, churches to visit (especially the Church of Our Lady to see Michelangelo’s Madonna) and beer to sample.

It’s at this point I should really hone in on the beer, because visiting Bruges without partaking of the beer would be like visiting Naples and not eating pizza. It has to be done. And there are so many different varieties you could actually dedicate your whole trip to this flavoured pastime. If you want to know your Trappists from your Kwaks and your Dubbels from your Tripels then book yourself in for a brewery tour at De Halve Man, otherwise put it all down to research and set off on a bar crawl. We can recommend you start with the 12 beer tasting float from Biertelier Brugge, and take it from there. But beware, plenty of beer in Bruges is over 9% and can really take you by surprise!

In order to decide if you’ll visit Ghent or Bruge we think a list of pros and cons will help…


  • Bruges is compact, you could circle it in an hour. And, if you take a boat tour not only do you get your bearings but you see a lot of Bruges’ sights at a faster pace. You could definitely get a good feel for the place in a day or two.
  • The beer. Whilst Ghent obviously has plenty of places to drink, there’s nothing like a pint in a place steeped with history and Bruges’ bars have cashed in on this USP. There is a better selection of traditional bars in Bruges.
  • It’s jaw-droppingly pretty. And it’s always going to be one of those places that people ask ‘have you been to Bruges?’.
  • Of the 8.3 million tourists who visit Bruges every year, 6 million of them are day-trippers and many of those come in off the cruise ships. That being the case it’s a much nicer place to stay and enjoy the evenings when many have gone home and things are calmer. Whereas Ghent is a university city and is buzzing in the evening.


  • There are far too many chocolate shops! I know, I never thought those words would ever be said by me, but there’s only so much chocolate you can buy. And, dare I say it, I wasn’t even that impressed. Give me a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut any day. We actually did our research to find the supposedly ‘best chocolate in Bruges’ but honestly, it tasted no better than the cheaper stuff we bought for gifts. There are dozens and dozens of chocolate shops, 10 would have been enough!
  • There are too many tourists. Like I said, many only come for the day, but it really is nose-to-tail.
  • Hotels are more expensive in Bruges than Ghent. (Although you could do what we did and stay in Loppem)

That’s enough about Bruges, let’s look at why we loved Ghent so much…

Ghent Belgium…

We had absolutely no intention of visiting Ghent on our Belgium trip but Bruges was so compact we were wondering what else to do by the third day – there’s only so much beer and chocolate one can consume! So as you can see our expectations were more modest than what we’d hoped for in Bruges. And, Ghent just isn’t talked about is it?!

But seeing as you know my answer to the passport guy was GHENT, I had best sell it to you quick!

Having not done much research beforehand and hoping for just a pleasant day in Ghent we were more than impressed by what we discovered. This beautiful university city has such a vibe, it’s palpable from the minute you arrive. In fact, somebody said to us ‘There’s always something going on in Ghent’, and we certainly detected that too. At one point we stood for a good 10 minutes watching a local acapella harmonising choir under the awesome acoustics of Stadshal, just one of Ghents’ amazing pieces of architecture. Ghent is a city of the people and whilst there are definitely tourists here, modern life also continues on around the visitors.

It’s worth noting that Ghent and Bruges are very different in terms of size, and you could easily spend a few days in Ghent and still not see everywhere. But I think that was part of the appeal to me – as you wandered from neighbourhood to neighbourhood you almost felt like you’d entered a different city each time. There’s the tightly knit cobbled streets of the Patershol, where the food and drink of Ghent is taken to another level in funky medieval bars and restaurants. Or, if you’re visiting Ghent on a Sunday, the Kouter Market where oysters, flower stalls and live music all combine for the perfect sabbath. Or the popular Korenmarkt for restaurants and bars in an eclectic mix of buildings from all eras. It’s like each neighbourhood has had its moment in time.

Aside from just wandering, or sampling the city’s culinary delights, there are also a myriad of Ghent tourist attractions to keep you busy too. Both Ghent and Bruges are centered around canals, so again a canal boat trip will teach you a lot about Ghent’s history. A large part of that history stems from Ghents castle, Gravensteen, and a tour of this epic fortress is both eye-opening and slightly harrowing! And if you need a little calm after the torture stories from Gravensteen, then wait until you see Belgium’s favourite modern art museum, SMAK – this is curation at its finest, I promise you!

Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons for Ghent…


  • Ghent feels more cultured that Bruges, which does have that Disneyland feel to it. You feel like you’re eating and drinking with the locals in Ghent.
  • There is SO much to see and do.
  • The food scene is another level.
  • Hotels are slightly cheaper and there is more choice depending on your budget.
  • Gravensteen Castle is worth a visit all on its own!


  • Sadly, nobody’s heard of Ghent!
  • It’s a busy working city and moves at a faster pace than Bruges.

So in conclusion, in a competition of Bruges v Ghent, our car party chose Ghent. But may I just put it to you that you consider visiting both Bruges and Ghent? Afterall, it’s only a 20 minute train ride between the two cities and we think you’ll find that Bruges is such a quaint little city that you will definitely have time to see both and not be rushed. Like us, you may have been attracted to a Belgian city break from the photographs of fairytale Bruges, and Ghent may not even have been on your radar. But, it would be such a shame to miss out on Ghents superbness as a thriving modern city in an ancient shell.

Also, if you are arriving in Belgium by plane or Eurostar, you will likely be coming via Brussels and Ghent is only 30 minutes by train from Brussels. You could stay in Ghent, take advantage of the food scene and just do a day trip to Bruges from Ghent.

Whatever you decide, we know you’re going to love both Bruges and Ghent!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Janet says:

    I’m all about Bruges. I love it’s compact size, and it just generally feels like a nicer place to me personally

  2. Sarah Samith says:

    Belgium looks so beautiful from your perspective! Never really thought about going there, but it seems so nice! Thank you for sharing!

  3. You have given me a lot of insight and inspiration for my next trip to Belgium. I love how you described the pros and cons of each city and shared your honest opinion. Your photos are stunning and make me want to visit both places. Thank you for this informative and entertaining post!

    1. Alex says:

      That’s a lovely comment, thank you very much. Have fun in Belgium though!

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