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Enchanting Ghent

Picturesque squares, lovely paved little streets and impressive cathedrals characterise Ghent’s enchanting urban image.
 
CityZapper’s editors selected the best tips and advice on Ghent for you and the team created this online city guide to make your visit an unforgettable one. Rest assured that you’ll get to see the city’s best and most unique sights, spots and venues.

 
Ghent is the capital of the East Flanders province and it has more than 240.000 inhabitants. The city’s historic centre has many sights and it is characterised by an impressive row of cathedrals and churches and their spires, all of which can be taken in from Sint-Michielsbrug (Saint Michael’s Bridge). Ghent has a large student population which means that the city is home to many cafés, bars and restaurants. It is virtually impossible to find a street in this city which doesn’t have at least a café or a bar so you’ll be spoilt for choice if it’s the famous Belgian beer that you’re after. An ideal spot to snap some great photos is Sint-Michielsbrug (Saint Michael’s Bridge). The guild houses of Korenlei and Graslei, Gravensteen Castle, St. Niklaaskerk (Saint Nicholas’ Church), the Belfort (Belfry of Ghent), St. Baafskathedraal (Saint Bavo’s Cathedral) and St. Michielskerk (Saint Michael’s Church) can all be seen from Saint Michael’s Bridge. Climb one of the bell towers for a spectacular view of Ghent and discover impressive works of art in the city’s churches and cathedrals. You can also take in Ghent from the water by taking a boat trip on the city’s waterways.
 
The main shopping area of Ghent is concentrated in and around Veldstraat where you’ll find many well-known retailers. Another shopping street is Lange Munt which is home to boutiques and vintage stores. If it’s markets that you’re after, then the Sint-Jacobs market will be right up your alley. Antiques, curiosities, clothes, furniture and many other used items can be found here. But museum lovers will also be spoilt for choice in Ghent. The Design Museum Ghent, for example, is the only museum in all of Belgium with a collection that focuses on 20th century design. This museum can be found in a beautiful little street close to Korenlei. The MIAT, SMAK and STAM museums also come highly recommended.
 
If you’ve worked up an appetite, head over to LKKR for a steaming cup of coffee and an authentic Belgian waffle. The Groot Vleeshuis (a former indoor meat-market) will have you discovering its many herbs and spices and those with a sweet tooth shouldn’t leave Ghent without having tried a Ghent Nose. This purple-coloured, cone-shaped Belgian candy (which resembles a nose) has a relatively hard exterior and a soft centre. Ghent Noses can only be bought in Ghent so make sure to buy some to take home with you! Meat lovers can feast at Gillis; hipsters will be in hipster heaven at Mosquito Coast. In the evening, visit a performance at the city’s old theatre or dance the night away at Charlatan.
 
Embark on a Ghent city break to discover all this picturesque and enchanting city has to offer!

History

The name Ghent was derived from the old Celtic word 'Ganda', which means confluence, and which refers to the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Leie. Both rivers ran through lands that were prone to flooding, which didn’t make them ideal for agriculture. They were, however, very well suited for sheep herding. For centuries, Ghent used to be the most important city in Europe where products such as wool, flax and cotton were concerned. During the seventh century, the founding of two abbeys, St. Bavo’s Abbey and St. Peter’s Abbey, helped shape and expand the city of Ghent. This made construction of a second city wall, which was fitted with fifteen gateways around the newly built parts of the city, necessary. 
 
Ghent transformed into a city which, at the time, was bigger than cities such as Cologne, London and Hamburg. Ghent used to be as big as Paris. In the thirteenth century, the city was home to more than 50.000 people. During the 17th and 18th century, until the famine of 1845, Ghent was Belgium’s largest city. However, at the end of the 18th century, the city recovered from its misfortunes as it started industrialising its linen and cotton industries. It turned Ghent into an important industrial textile city with over 1500 factories in and around the city.
 
The majority of factories have closed their doors but the MIAT is an example of an operational textile factory and it can be visited. The building is now a museum showcasing the industrial revolution in Ghent.