Ghent

Ghent (Dutch: Gent, French: Gand) is a city in East Flanders in Belgium. Ghent is a city with a population of a quarter of a million, with rich history. At the same time, Ghent has a relatively high share of young people, and a student population of 50,000

Ghent at night

Understand

During the Middle Ages, Ghent was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. It was once considered the second largest city north of the alps, after Paris. The impact of this rich past can be clearly seen when viewing the imposing architecture of churches and the houses of rich traders. The whole of the city center is restored in this fashion, and still breathes the atmosphere of a thriving late-medieval city state. As the city council made the center free of cars, it is now a very welcoming and open area, which does not fail to impress even the people who live there.

Unlike Leuven, another university town in Flanders, youth is not the only category of people living there. There is an interesting mixture of foreigners who came to live there, or artists, among the native people of Ghent. This mixture makes the people more tolerant and open-minded. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of city life than the smaller provincial cities or the bigger city of Antwerp.

Get in

Gent Sint-Pieters

By train

Ghent is only a 30-minute train ride away from Brussels and is on the line from Brussels to Bruges and the coast. If you're planning to visit Bruges and Brussels, definitely stop over in Ghent as well. There are also direct trains to Brussels Airport, Antwerp, and Lille.

There are two train stations in Ghent, Gent-Dampoort and Gent-Sint-Pieters. Gent-Sint-Pieters is the main station, to go to the centre, take tram 1 (until 'Korenmarkt'). Journey time is ten minutes. Gent-Dampoort is located closer to the center (about 15 minutes walk), but only trains coming from/in the direction of Antwerp stop there.

If you're visiting from Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp during the weekend, it's much cheaper to get a return ticket (special rate: weekendreturn).

By car

The dense highway network in Belgium allows you to access Ghent easily by car. Two main highways E40 (Liège-Brussels-Ghent-Bruges-Ostend) and E17 (Antwerp-Ghent-Kortrijk-Lille) cross at Ghent. Brussels and Antwerp are 40 min away, Bruges 30 min. During rush hour you can easily double these times.

By plane

The two biggest airports nearby are Brussels (Zaventem, Belgium) and Lille (France). Direct trains are available from Brussels Airport to Ghent.

Get around

On foot

The center of Ghent is quite small, so you can walk around on foot. However, the main station (Gent Sint-Pieters) is not in the city center, but takes a walk of about half an hour. The best option is to take the tram, which takes you directly to the center in 10 to 15 minutes.

Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation around Ghent

By bicycle

A bicycle is the recommended way to get around in Ghent. However, there are many roads with cobblestones that make cycling a shaking experience. Also make sure you stay clear of the tram rails. Nevertheless, you will see you are not alone on your bike: many inhabitants use bikes to get around. Even the former mayor uses his bicycle all day! There are many bike stands around to make it easy to lock your bike (important!). Many one-way roads are made two-way for bikes.

Public transportation

The transport system is Ghent is excellent and usually on time. A single ticket costs € 3 and can be bought in the bus/tram or from ticket machines near stops, such ticket is valid for an hour's travel on all trams and buses. If you are planning to stay for a while, buy a pass for € 14.00, it is valid for 10 trips within the city and can also be used in other Flemish cities (such as Antwerp or Bruges). The trams are the quickest and most comfortable way to travel, especially from the railway station to the city centre.

Note that if the bus/tram stop has a ticket machine, you will have to buy the ticket there, as the bus/tram driver will not sell you one in this case. You can also buy a ticket through SMS if you have a Belgian cell phone, instructions are on the poles at each stop. The transportation company is De Lijn.

In the Lijnwinkel kiosk (located near Sint-Pieters train station), you can get free map of city and surroundings, with all bus and tram lines.

The Belfort and front of the Lakenhalle

See

Sint-Baafskathedral
He Gravensteen
Sint-Niklaaskerk
Bondmoyson (Ons Huis) in the Vrijdagmarkt
Rabot

Museums

The STAM, housed in the Bijloke Abbey
Museum Dr. Guislain
SMAK museum

Do

Polé polé Festival in 2009, by night

Events

Buy

Book market in Ghent
Cuberdon - Ghent nose, street seller
Inside of the Tierenteyn-Verlent mustard shop

Eat

Ghent provides an excellent and affordable sample of Flemish cuisine, which in the eyes of the locals is one of Europe's finest as it combines French delicacy with northern European sturdiness. Try some local specialties like mussels, spare ribs or 'stoverij' (a kind of tender meat cooked for three hours in dark beer with a brown gravy) with Belgian fries.

Another dish from Ghent is the "Gentse waterzooi" (litt. "boiled water from Ghent"), which was the food for the poor originally, a stew of cheap fish (usually turbot) and vegetables. Now it is often made with chicken as well.

Belgium Waffle are available from a number of street stalls around the town.

The restaurants on Korenmarkt and Vrijdagmarkt are a good deal, reasonably priced; the menus and 'menus of the day' at the Brasserie Borluut provide terrific value and this includes Gentse waterzooi. The real upmarket restaurants are to be found in the 14th century quarter called 'Patershol', near the Castle. There is also a big Turkish community in Ghent, centred around Sleepstraat a bit further north, which is home to numerous Turkish restaurants.

Vegetarian/Vegan Food

Information on vegetarian restaurants and shops is available from the campaign group EVA. Paper copies of their Guide to Veggie Ghent map is stocked by the Tourist Information Office on Veerle Plein.

Drink

For authentic pubs, go to St. Veerleplein (the square in front of the Castle), the pubs around St. Jacob's church (especially during weekends), or the student area around Blandijnberg (Mount Blandin), especially in the proximity of the School of Arts and Philosophy, recognisable from afar by the 64 metres tall art deco Library Tower. Ghent is known for its many pubs and clubs and most have friendly staff. If you visit Ghent for it's great nightlife, be sure to check out the bars listed in the "Off the beaten path" section.

Central Area: Castle-Korenmarkt-Graslei

Graslei

Sint-Jacobs & Vrijdagmarkt (Vlasmarkt-Beestenmarkt)

Student Area

Off the beaten path

Want to try some bars you won't find in any tourist guide? This is a great selection:

This is not the only great place in De Visserij. Check out the cosy De Kleine Kunst and jolly Fabula Rasa along the canal at the Ferdinand Lousbergkaai. Drinks and food are generally quite cheap in this area.

You may have heard about the beautiful "Red light district" that Ghent has, better known as "Het Glazen Straatje" (The Glass Street). Just across you can find this lovely Chilean bar. Every week you can pick up a concert from a band of the associated record label. You can try the lovely local cuisine and some of the imported specialities like Pisco Sour or Malta Con Huevo (Beer with egg). Although this place is somewhere between the city centre and Zuid-area, its prices are below average.

Sleep

Portus Ganda, where you can find the Boatel

Budget

The Flandria Palace, a new-abandoned historic hotel

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Werregarenstraat - Graffiti alley, continuously changing art and messages

Telephone

If you want to call to North America, find the "Club Plus" card. Do not be talked into any other card. They are usually found at the nightshops (Nacht Winkels). You can get more than 200 minutes to North America for €5 from a payphone. This is great since payphones cost quite a lot if you just insert money.

Internet

In recent years, the number of Internet Cafes has grown very rapidly; it is always very easy to find one within walking distance. The going price ranges from €1.50-3 per hour. There is also free wifi on the Graslei near the center. Above, a great variety of wifi networks are available in hotels, bars and snackbars. Sometimes in return for making use of their services. Also Ghent is widely supported for mobile networks, all major operators have high speed networks, data roaming is available if you have supporting devices.

Go next

The Belgian train system is very efficient and the country not that large, so getting between major cities by rail is a blast. A day trip to even multiple cities is easily doable. From Ghent, multiple railway lines radiates to major destinations in Flanders:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.