Ghent is a city in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium.
Ghent (Gent in Dutch; Gand in French) is a city with a population of a quarter of a million. Its size and position allow the inhabitants to enjoy a city with an interesting crossover between open cosmopolitanism and the quiet atmosphere of a provincial town. Ghent is thriving as many young people choose to live here instead of in the countryside or the crowded and disintegrating city centers of Brussels and Antwerp
Ghent is a city of history. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe, in some quarters considered second only to Paris (the Italian peninsula excluded). 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.
Ghent is also a university city with more than 50,000 students. As such, its streets are filled with young people. But, 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, amongst the native people of Ghent. Interestingly, other than the smaller provincial cities or the bigger city of Antwerp, this mixture makes the people more tolerant and open-minded. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of city life. Many people of Ghent truly see the place like home, and are very proud to live there, seeing it as a place that will always welcome them back home.
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, Lille and Paris.
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).
The dense highway network in Belgium allows you to access Ghent easily by car. Two main highways E40 (Liege-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.
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.
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.
The transport system is Ghent is excellent and always on time. A single ticket costs € 1.60 if bought in the bus/tram or € 1.20 if bought 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 € 8.00, 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.
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.
Belfort en Lakenhalle (Belfry and Cloth Hall), +32 09/223-99-22, Mid-Mar to mid-Nov daily 10am-12:30pm and 2-6pm; free guided tours of Belfry Easter vacations and May-Sept Tues-Sun 2:10, 3:10, and 4:10pm, Emile Braunplein, Tram: 1 or 4 to Sint-Baafsplein, The Belfry was a symbol of the city's autonomy, begun in 1313 and completed in 1380. This municipal tower holds the great bells that have rung out Ghent's civic pride through the centuries. Take the elevator to the Belfry's upper gallery, 66m high, to see the bells and take in fantastic panoramic views of the city. The Cloth Hall dates from 1425 and was the gathering place of wool and cloth merchants.
Sint-Baafskathedraal (St. Bavo's Cathedral), +32 09/269-20-45, Cathedral: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 8:30am-6pm, Sun 1-6pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 8:30am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm. Mystic Lamb chapel and crypt: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 10:30am-4pm, Sun 1-4pm, Sint-Baafsplein, Tram: 1 or 4 to Sint-Baafsplein, Don't miss this cathedral. Rather unimpressive exterior of Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture. However, the interior is filled with priceless paintings and sculptures, including the 24-panel altarpiece
Het Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts), +32 09/225-93-06, Apr-Sept daily 9am-6pm; Oct-Mar daily 9am-5pm. Closed Jan 1, Dec 24-25 and 31, Sint-Veerleplein, Tram: 1 or 4 to Sint-Veerleplein, Built by Count Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders, soon after he returned from the Crusades in 1180 with images of similar crusader castles in the Holy Land. If its walls (2m thick), battlements, and turrets failed to intimidate attackers, the count could always turn to a well-equipped torture chamber inside. You can view relics of the chamber in a small museum in the castle. Climb up to the ramparts of the high central building, the donjon, which has great views of Ghent's rooftops and towers.
Sint-Niklaaskerk (St Nicholas's Church), +32 09/225-37-00, Mon 2:30-5pm; Tues-Sun 10am-5pm, Korenmarkt (entrance on Cataloniestraat), Tram: 1 or 4 to Korenmarkt, A mixture of surviving Romanesque elements of the Flemish architectural style known as Schelde Gothic, the impressive 13th- to 15th-century church was paid for by Ghent's wealthy medieval merchants and guilds. In recent years, it has undergone extensive renovation work that's still ongoing. The tower is one of the
Rederij Dewaele Canal Cruise , +32 09/223-88-53, April to October, daily from 10am to 6pm, and November to March on weekends from 11am to 4pm, Graslei or Korenlei, A cruise on the canals is a good way to view the city's highlights. The tour lasts approximately 40 minutes; longer tours are available.
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 German 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.
The restaurants on Korenmarkt 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 pizza places.
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. Central Area: Castle-Korenmarkt-Graslei
Waterhuis aan de bierkant (The Waterhouse on the beerside), Groentenmarkt 9 (near the Castle), Tel +32 9 225 06 80 email@example.com,. Boasts about 400 different kinds of Belgian beer, but is fairly touristy.
Het Galgenhuis (the Gallows house) near Waterhuis aan de Bierkant is a tiny tavern in a lean-to built on to the Gothic Butchers' Hall. A good selection of draught and bottled beers.
't Dreupelkot, Groentenmarkt 12 (near the Castle), Tel +32 9 224 21 20 firstname.lastname@example.org, . 200 kinds of Belgian Genever, a number of which is home made. Try the pepper genever if you are a tough guy/girl (be cautious!). Pol, the owner, is a friendly guy, altough it might look the other way at first sight. Around € 2 for a genever.
Hot Club de Gand, Schuddevisstraatje - Groentenmarkt 15b, is not a club, but a small, cracking little pub accessed down a narrow lane and has its own small courtyard. Barman told us it closes "when the last person leaves", famous for its jazz concerts and jam sessions. The same owners opened the pub Hot Cub Reserva, Jan Breydelstraat 32, offering food and more live concerts a few hunderd meters further.
On Korenmarkt, you'll find the live Jazz pub Damberd. Sint-Jacobs (Vlasmarkt-Beestenmarkt)
Charlatan, Vlasmarkt 6, Popular club with many live concerts (http://www.charlatan.be/).
Surrounded by the bars Jos (http://www.charlatan.be/jos), Vlasmarkt 7 and Bar des Amis (http://www.bardesamis.be/), Vlasmarkt 5.
More alternative bars are Kinky Star (http://www.kinkystar.com/), Vlasmarkt 9, and Video (http://www.cafevideo.be/), Oude Beestenmarkt 7, they both regularly have live concerts. Student Area
Overpoortstraat is a street packed with 34 pubs and bars where during the week (especially Wednesday and Thursday nights) all the students go crazy. Because on Thursday it is so crowdy over there, dancing usually happens on the tables. Some notorious bars/clubs are the Cuba Libre (commercial, R&B,...), Decadance (house, techno, drum&bass), Twieoo (alternative).
Hemelsbreed Verschil, Stalhof 31-33 (near the Overpoortstraat). The official pub for Erasmus students from over Europe. Free internet access available.
Youth Hostel De Draecke, Sint-Widostraat 11, Tel.: +32 9 233-7050 Fax: +32 9 233-8001 - email@example.com, . This hostel is located on a quiet street in the city center. Free breakfast and bedsheets are provided. Youth Hostel De Draecke has a bar on the premises that offers a range of Belgian beers.
A list of B&Bs can be found at: http://www.bedandbreakfast-gent.be/
Hotel Trianon I St-Denijslaan 203, Tel.: +32 9 220-4840 Fax: +32 9 220-4950.. Hotel Trianon I is situated close to St. Pieter's train station. Prices start at €62 per night; breakfast is an additional €5. Each room has an attached bathroom. The luxury rooms are equipped with jacuzzi's.
Best Western, Cour Saint-Georges Botermarkt 2, Tel. +32 9 224-2424 Fax:+32 9 224-2640. , 'The oldest Hotel in Europe, since 1228'. Right in the center, near the towers. Recently, it was taken over by the American "Best Western" hotel group. Rates from €125 - €200 for a room.
Brooderie Tel.: +32 9 225-0623. Primarily a cafe & bakery, but with three rooms located on Jan Breydelstraat opposite the Design Museum. Shared bathrooms and showers with the cafe below but a cheap way of getting a fine room in a superb location - delicious bread with breakfast. €50 for a single, €70-75 for a double.
Autour des Tours (Around the Towers), Limburgstraat 26, 9000 Gent, +32 (0)4220.127.116.11 . This recently renovated house dates from the 19th century and offers a B&B formula. No car needed here, this hotel is located nearby the historical city centre. Exploring the area can be done by foot.
Ecohostel Andromeda Bargiekaai 35, +32 (0)418.104.22.168 . Low-energy, low-budget (beds start at €22) hostel-on-a-boat, 10 minutes walk from the centre. Creative, modern interior, surprisingly spacious and with better showers than many "land" hostels! Internet and breakfast available.
As Ghent is a part of Flanders, the main language is Dutch. Many of the inhabitants will be happy to answer you in English but not in French. German is also quite prevalent.
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 Euros from a payphone. This is great since payphones cost quite a lot if you just insert money.
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 1.5 euro to 3 euro per hour.
There is a cargo line to Gothenburg, Sweden.
World War I Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial: 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Ghent in Waregem, along the Lille-Gent AutoRoute E-17. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9AM to 5PM The final resting place for 368 American military dead lost during the liberation of Belgium. The chapel is inscribed with the names of 93 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. Free.
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