I find Ghent as a city that has some of the romance and sweetness of Brugge's, the Antwerp's majesty and mystery and the grandeur of Brussels. Located 55 km from Brussels, Ghent is easily reached by train; the traveling distance is about 40 minutes. In terms of accommodation you’ll have many options, but as a suggestion once I stayed at Hotel Ibis Gent St. Baafs Kathedraal, which is downtown, good services, about 70 euro (breakfast included).
The city has a large and famous university full of history and populated by very young students and many tourists. The locals exude so much elegance, sophistication and beauty that I had the feeling that I’m in a special world. The owner of the city is St. Lievin. The city is part of the top 4 cities of Belgium, with so much beauty, especially Brugge, (both are called the ‘Venice of the North’, but how many ‘Venices’ they can have?J). The city has several landmarks, the historic center which houses the Cathedral Saint Bavona, Beffroi – the clock tower, Church of Saint Nicolas, the Municipal Hall and Gerard’s Castle. The Grese area includes the Saint Michel Church, Bridge St. Michel, the former Hall of Meat and another heritage building of the old Post Office. Gravensteen, is where are the famous Castle of the Counts, Aljin Museum, the old fish hall, a former Carmelite monastery and other old buildings. You cannot see so many wonderful buildings in a single glance, as you can see on Bridge St. Michael, the bridge that connects the Grese and Koren quays. This is the heart of the thriving inner city. Each house on Grese and Koren has its own history. Vrijdaqmarkt is the shopping paradise where you will find only shops housed by the ground floor of some monumental houses. Here you’ll see also the Saint Jaques Church, (which I found it closed) unfortunately. As tourist attractions, most impressed me the cathedrals and especially Sin Baafs with its extraordinary interior paintings made by the Flemish School (Van Eyck, for example). You can also visit the fortress-castle, the picturesque streets, houses and breweries. If you want to drink a real Trappist beer, go to the "Beer Academy" - where you can choose from an assortment of 250 types of beer!
The local cuisine is an ingenious mix between the French and the German style; the main ingredients used are meat and seafood. Belgians love fries and swears with hand on heart that they have invented. Most popular snacks are Croque-monsieur (a hot sandwich with ham and cheese), jambon d'Ardennes and canapés au fromage blanc (a sandwich from a slice of black bread, covered with white spreadable cheese that is served with sliced radishes and green onions).
Though not a tourist destination frequented by tourists, Gent is a modest town filled with students, it captures by its tourist attractions, cafes, restaurants with reasonable prices and a vibrant energy. It is a city with Stropke beer, a great mustard and the Gent 10 day festival held annually in July, where people go out on the streets, where are held concerts, songs, dances and are a lot of stalls with food and drinks.
I highly recommend you to buy your souvenirs from two famous stores with tradition: the chocolate shop Van Hoorebeke (right next to the Cathedral of St. Bavo), where the famous Belgian chocolate is made in front of you, and Temmerman (Kraanlei 79) for candies and other sweets extremely tasty. Beer, beer and again beer, at Dulle Griet Café (actual called the Beer Academy, right in the center of city. In the old days, here was the custom to leave a shoe as you guarantee that you will pay, so drink in moderation and make sure you do not stay barefoot! :)
Ghent Christmas Market is again something that I recommend you to visit, since November. The beauty and romance, the smell of gingerbread and mulled wine with cinnamon, carols and the stalls filled with culinary delights and souvenirs, sure will delight all your senses!