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Bruges to Ghent for alterpiece

Staying in Bruges. Day trip to Ghent, primarily to see the altarpiece. Lease, provide information regarding getting from Ghent train station to cathedral and historic center and buying tickets to see altarpiece. Suggestions regarding Ghent sightseeing and restaurants would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Gladys

Posted by
1666 posts

When you take the train to Ghent from Bruges, you will arrive at Gent Sint-Pieters train station. From there, you can take the #1 Tram in the direction of Evergem Brielken. You will get off the tram at Korenmarkt. It's about 10 minutes on the tram.

When you get off the tram you should see a big church directly in front of you. That's St. Nicholas Church. Walk toward it, and then turn right. You'll see the bell tower (Belfort), and St. Bavo Cathedral is just beyond that, a short walk.

When I was there I bought a ticket at the entrance and went right in. There was a short wait (maybe 5 minutes) so they wouldn't have too many people in the room at the same time.

Your RS guidebook should have good info for Ghent as well as Bruges for other sightseeing. I think just walking around that area near the Korenmarkt is delightful.

The best meal I had in Ghent was at the Pakhuis ( It's an easy walk from St. Bavo and Korenmarkt.

Posted by
5685 posts

I saw the alterpiece in 2013 - it was in a church at that time and we didn't pay to enter, though I did take a paid walking tour, and the tour guide seemed to have some special access to get us in. Not sure if things have changed since then.

Getting from Bruges to Ghent is easy by train: it's about a half hour and trains run pretty often. But, the Ghent train station is pretty far from the center. You can probably do what I did, which is take a tram from the station to the center. I forget the details, but they should be easy to find by googling. You can probably ask someone at the Ghent train station when you arrive. In fact, as I recall, Ghent's public transit is on the same system as Bruges's, so you might even be able to buy a tram ticket (maybe a smart card now that you must reload) in Bruges that will work in Ghent also. Then it's just a matter of which tram to get on.

Ghent's core town is lovely and charming - like a fairy tale town just less crowded than Bruges. There are some sites other than the alterpiece, I guess, but for me the highlight was just wandering around soaking up the views. I did take the walking tour - it was a bit dry, but who knows if you'd get the same guide today! I'd hope not.

Posted by
15301 posts

Can't help you with transport from Gent Sint-Pieters station as we walked to town center from there. I will say that there was no attendant working there there when we arrived but maybe that was unusual.

I saw the alterpiece in 2013 - it was in a church at that time and we
didn't pay to enter,

The altarpiece is in a special section of St. Bavo's Cathedral and there is a 4-euro fee for access, which includes an audioguide explaining the details/meaning of the panels. Info, including hours one can visit, are on the cathedral's website. Do not skip the crypt with some of its frescoes dating from the 12th century.

Ghent's tourism website:

You might enjoy checking out Gravensteen Castle (we did). No reservations needed:

We also enjoyed poking around (very old) St. Nicholas' (Sint-Niklaaskerk) and St James (Sint-Jacobskerk) church.

Posted by
309 posts

I was there in May. The front panels of the altarpiece are being restored at the Museum of Fine Arts which is 1.1 km walk from the Sint Pieters train station. You can view the restoration room (through glass). It is not a great view. It is several feet back from the window. When I was there they were not working on it, but it was visible.

For more details go to:

The restored back panel is at St Bavo's as described above. You can enter the cathedral for free, but to see the altarpiece turn to the left as you enter and pay €4 to see it. You will probably see the line.

Within the cathedral itself there are at least two copies in the 'free area' including at the altar where it was originally.

Posted by
307 posts

We visited in April.
The Bruges Madonna is worth the trip.
The Korenmarket and City Hall are fun to look around; lots of cafes and chocolate shops!

In Bruges, we ate at Panier d'Or on the square. It was recommended to us by another couple who ate there as a child. Food was very good and well-prepared.

St. Bavo's in Ghent is breathtaking. Recommend the audio tour which is included in the entry fee.
The entire Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece with an interesting history.

Employees at both sites are very helpful to answer historical questions as well as making recommendations for other sites to see in both cities.

In Ghent we ate at 3 Monkeys off the Square. Good burgers and omelets and beer!

Others have already given instruction on directing you to the sites from the train station. It is very easy and their instructions are excellent.

Have fun!

Posted by
6829 posts

On a pleasant day, it is possible to walk from St. Bavo's to the rail station. But it's through the modern part of downtown, and thus not as rewarding as using your energy to see that along with the indoor attractions. I was underwhelmed by the Castles of the Counts.

Daytrips in this section are very simple and relatively inexpensive. You can run into crowds during commuting and school hours on the trains. And you may miss your first desired train if in line to buy a ticket. But the train thing is easy. Google Maps can help you feel better about walking.

Posted by
15301 posts

Oops, had a brain fart here....

We came into Gent-Dampoort and not Gent-Sint-Pieters as I wanted to get a look at the remains of St Bavo's Abbey/Coyendanspark along the way and that was a closer station. A lot of trains to that one from Brugge require a change but there were enough which didn't that worked for timing. Anyway, it wasn't an unpleasant walk into the center from there.

Apologies for my dysfunctional grey matter!

Posted by
105 posts

Lane has it right.
Entrance to the church is free, but there is a separate charge to see the altarpiece. If you are there at noon, they close and open the side panels. It's cool to see, but not at all necessary, as you can see the whole piece in any case.
I also recommend Pakhuis for a meal.
For your chocolate, go to Van Hoorebeke. So, so good.

Posted by
207 posts

I was just there on Monday. It’s 4 Euros to see the altarpiece and that comes with an audio guide. The altarpiece is closed from 12-1pm.

I took the train from Brussels to Gent and then bought tickets for the tram using the ticket machines. The line up in the little container building where you can buy from a person, was too long. I took the number 1 line to the Korenmarkt station and was good to go from there. All the main sites are in walking distance. I also took a boat along the canals.

It was no problem to return to the station as there is a stop just outside the castle.

Posted by
11 posts

We visited both places last year. Michelangelo's Madonna and the Memling Museum in Bruges are fantastic. We saw so many masterpieces of the Northern Renaissance! Bought some lace for my windows and dressers--such a treasure.
In Ghent, we thought the audio for the altarpiece was good. I made a point of seeing the restoration panels in the modern museum, too, and it was interesting to see the person working on them. Enjoy!

Posted by
1899 posts

This webside is interesting for viewing the Altarpiece at home and see the incredible level and amount of detail. The length scale at the left bottom of each image gives you a feel about the proportions. It is certainly worth visiting the restoration in the Museum of Fine Arts to see all the panels. Half of the most interesting panels, those you can see when the Altarpiece is open are there now. Be aware of closing times of the museum and other possible absences of the specialists due to meetings, coffee breaks etc.

For an explanation of the website see the leftside menu under "Take a tour of this site" .

Posted by
13237 posts

Wil, thanks for that website link. Very interesting!