East Flanders is well known, popular, and contains the iconic city of Ghent. But there are many hidden gems for those who seek something special! Home to the famous cycling event of the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen), East Flanders has beautiful countryside to explore for cyclists and hikers plus some of the best of Belgium’s cities. East Flanders is a Dutch speaking province of Belgium super close to the Netherlands. It’s the second biggest province in the whole country.
Ghent is East Flanders' most well-known city for a reason. It’s not just the capital of the province, it’s super pretty! Like Bruges, you can see Ghent from its canals for the best city views. There’s medieval buildings side by side with modern architecture and galleries. Ghent is mostly known for one of its iconic castles Gravensteen (aka The Castle of the Counts). But you’ll discover so much more. Ghent is a thriving city with lots to do. It's busiest in the summer, but pretty in every season. Since Ghent is right in the middle of Flanders, it makes a great starting city for your trip. See our Ghent city guide to help you out!
Steep hills of the Flemish Ardennes in the south of the province, but other than that East Flanders is flat and super cyclist friendly. The flat cycling routes make East Flanders perfect for a relaxing bike riding trip for everyone, even beginners. The province has cycling routes all over, but the areas of Scheldeland, Meetjesland, and Waasland are the top favourites for cyclists. For more experienced cyclists, there are challengers to be found around the hill of Koppenberg. Ever heard of it? Koppenberg is the famous hill of the Tour of Flanders. Give the well-known cobblestone climb a try for yourself.
These days East Flanders is a popular place to visit for all groups, but it’s more than a pretty face. Did you know that the Medieval tale of Reynard the Fox took place here? Travel to Ghent and you’ll see the history of East Flanders everywhere from the castle walls to the streets. Back in the 11th century, East Flanders was a massive trade centre of the Netherlands. See it for yourself! One of the most iconic symbols of the province lies in Ghent. Here you’ll find the medieval castle of Gravensteen, the Castle of the Counts, in the city centre.
Ghent: the beautiful capital of the province. Lots of medieval sights to see, artsy vibes with thriving music festivals, and one of the most iconic castles in Belgium.
Ronse: a calming city surrounded by nature with a long history and historic sights aplenty. The city centre dates back to the 7th century! Lots of cute walking trails right on this city’s doorstep.
Laarne: a unique town with hidden gems all about witches. Salem isn’t the only place to have witch trials. Retrace the “witches” steps and see the castle just a short drive from Ghent.
Aalst: home to the famous carnival of Aalst where a Prince is selected to rule over the city for three days, including a parade. The carnival has faced some controversy in recent years for its costume choices.
East Flanders has its best weather in May to October like most of Belgium. The busiest time of the province, the tourist season, really varies depending on where you are. Ghent always has a steady flow of tourists, though it's quietest in April.
You can easily get to East Flanders by car. Ghent especially is connected to two major highways (E40 & E17). Brussels is around 45 minutes away by car, but traffic can make that much longer if you’re driving at a busy time.
Fly into Brussels National Airport. From there, it’s a 1 hour train ride to Ghent. We recommend getting the train to Ghent, then from there going to smaller cities on public transport if you’d like. Ghent is quite central with good connections.
Gent-Sint-Pieters station is the nearest train station to the airport. You’ll have no trouble getting a train to Ghent - it’s the 4th busiest station in Belgium. You can catch a train from the major cities of Belgium to Ghent (including from Bruges, Brussels, Ostend, Leuven, Liege, Antwerp and more). The fastest trains are IC.
You can get into East Flanders on the coach. Eurolines offer regular bus trips into East Flanders (mainly Ghent) from Amsterdam, Brussels, and London. It’s probably the cheapest way to get into East Flanders, but the trip will take a bit longer!
Ghent’s city centre is easy enough to get around on foot as the city isn’t that big. You can also get the tram or bus to help you get around quickly. Gent-Sint-Pieters station is a 30 minute walk away from the city centre. You can also catch a bus or tram from the station into town.
Having a car makes East Flanders more convenient to get around, though there are some things you should know. It’s best to Park & Ride when you’re in Ghent as there’s red lined bike roads, one way streets, and forbidden entries. The city is also like Brussels and Antwerp a low-emissions zone city so older cars will be heavily fined or you have to buy a day pass. Getting around in Ghent by car can be done, but we don’t recommend it for tourists. Other than that, most cities in East Flanders are at most a 1 hour drive from each other.
New to East Flanders? When you arrive at the train station, pick up the free map of Ghent with all the public transport info to help you get around or see De Lijn’s website for live bus info. Ticket prices vary (around 1.60 at ticket machines, more when you’re on the bus), so it’s best to buy tickets in advance online or on the app. When you arrive in Ghent, you’ll notice that there’s a decent number of buses to cities around the province, though for some others you’ll have to catch the train. Getting the bus is an affordable option to get around East Flanders.
Instead of the bus, some cities in East Flanders are better connected by train. From Ghent, it’s a 50 minute train ride. From Ronse to Sint-Niklaas, you’re looking at a 1 hour 40 minute journey. Trains are a decent option for those without a car to get around East Flanders, though if you want to reach the smaller cities it may require some planning ahead of time.
Cycling is super popular in East Flanders. You won’t have any trouble finding a bike rental in the cities and even near the smaller towns. The roads also tend to be cyclist friendly, especially in the popular biking areas of Scheldeland, Meetjesland, and Waasland. However, East Flanders is pretty big so you might want to combine it with public transportation to really get around and see the whole province, unless you plan on a long cycling trip.
Languages: Flemish (Dutch)
Emergency numbers: Police urgent: (101), Fire, ambulance, police: 112
Various offices, including in London and Brussels.
VISITFLANDERS Visitor Information Centre, Grasmarkt 61 - 1000 Brussel
Address: Grote Markt 13, 2000 Antwerp, Central Station, Koningin Astridplein, 2018 Antwerp
Tel. +32 (0)3 232 01 03
Email: [email protected]