Dates Back to Stone and Iron Ages // Museum voor Schone Kunsten // Saint-Jacob’s Church // Praline Chocolate // Mastel // 50,000 Students // 250,000 people...
Ghent, sometimes spelt and pronounced ‘Gent’ is the largest city and capital of East Flanders. Flemish is the main language spoken, although as in all Belgium, a lot of people will also speak French.
There is evidence showing that Ghent dates back as far as the Stone and Iron Ages. Up until the 13th Century, Ghent was the second largest city in Europe after Paris, bigger even than London, with a population of some 65,000. It was then in the 18th and 19th Centuries that the textile industry really flourished once again. Even today the Port of Ghent is the third largest in Belgium.
Today Ghent is a university city with a large student population and so arts and culture are very much part of the local fabric.
Culture and Museums The city is home to many churches, the most well-known being Saint-Jacob’s, Saint-Nicolas and Saint Michael’s. Ghent also has some wonderful museums worth visiting, such as the Museum of Fine Arts (Museum voor Schone Kunsten). Ghent has a number of large cultural events each year including a music festival, the Flanders International Film Festival and the Botanical Exhibition in the Flanders Expo attracts a lot of visitors to the city.
Local Cuisine and Food East Flanders is well-known for its version of a bagel, which is really more of a donut and is called a ‘mastel’, which you will find in all the local bakeries. Belgium chocolates are world renowned and in Ghent the delicacy is locally produced praline chocolates. The classic meat stew you will find in restaurants is called ‘Stoverij’ and is made with a strong beer and comes with good old French Fries. Their fish stew made from locally sourced freshwater fish is called ‘Waterzooi’, but can also be made with chicken. The city interestingly caters for vegetarians and promotes Thursday as being a meat-free day.
Transportation Ghent is accessible from other major cities in Belgium with Brussels being 30 minutes away by train. Gent-Sint-Pieters is the city’s main station, whilst Gent-Dampoort, although more central, only has trains that run to and from Antwerp. The public transport is very good and reliable with single tickets costing €2 if bought in the bus or tram or €1.20 at a machine. Tickets are valid for one-hour and need to be validated at the machines by the door of the bus or tram. A one-day ticket costs €6 (€5 in advance) and is valid for any bus or tram. If you are going to be in the city for a few days, it may make sense to buy a pass which is valid for 10 rides. The trams tend to be the most efficient way of getting around the city and it’s worth noting that the night buses on Friday and Saturday evenings are free to use!
Bikes are a popular way to get around the city and if you are a student they can be rented at the vzw studentENmobiliteit. But make sure you lock it securely when you are not using it as bikes have a habit of disappearing.
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