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The capital and largest city of Belgium’s East Flanders region. There are over 250,000 people living within the municipality, making it Belgium’s 2nd largest and around 600,000 in its metropolitan are, making it Belgium’s 3rd largest.
The history of Ghent as a city began around 650 AD, St Amand established two abbeys here. By the 13th Century, it was the largest city north of the alps after Paris. Around this time, its textile industry came to prominence. It was devastated in the Eighty Years War and was occupied by the Germans in both world wars.
Today, Ghent is a major university city and as such many research companies are based in the city. It has a cosmopolitan yet welcoming vibe. Tourists come to see its beautifully preserved medieval architecture and experience its charming Flemish hospitality.
For information about gay rights in Belgium, please check out our Gay Brussels City Guide page.
Ghent has a compact yet very visible gay scene. There are a couple of Gay Saunas, some Gay Bars & Dance Cubs and Male Massage spa. You may find cruising action around the citadel. The large student population means that the city is open minded and gay visitors are welcomed everywhere in the city.
Despite its compact gay scene, Ghent has been at the heart of gay liberation movements in Belgium since 1969. Local gay charity Casa Rosa do a “Pink Walk” of Ghent that takes in the city’s LGBT history. They also organise LGBT events throughout the year.
Ghent does not have an airport of its own. You are likely to arrive in Ghent via Brussels Airport (BRU) or Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL).
Brussels Airport (BRU) is Belgium’s largest airport and offers connections to destinations across Europe as well as long-haul connections to Africa, Asia and North America. Direct trains to Ghent take around an hour and can be taken directly from Brussels Airport-Zaventem from level 1 of the terminal.
Ghent has two major train stations. Ghent Sint-Pieters operates regular services to Brussels and has international connections to Antwerp where you can connect to the greater European rail network. It is a 30-minute walk from the centre or a 15-minute tram (line 1). Ghent-Dampoort offers direct connections to other destinations in Belgium.
The centre of Ghent is compact and easy to navigate. It is a great way to take in the medieval city centre as it is pedestrianised.
Ghent has nearly 250 miles of cycle paths and as such cycling is very popular here. It has a cycle street in which cyclists have priority. Some parts of the city centre have cobbled paving which make cycling a bit of a challenge in these areas.
By public transport
Ghent has a reliable system of buses and trams operated by De Lijn. If the stop has a ticket machine you will have to buy a ticket there and the driver will not sell you one. Pre-bought tickets cost €1.40 whereas from the driver they are €3. A ten trip pass can be bought for €14 and is valid in other Flemish cities. Remember to validate tickets.
Services run pretty regularly during the day from the early morning until later in the evening. There are some night services but these are limited.
By water tram
A quirky way to get around Ghent is by water tram. For €12.50 (discounts apply for groups and others) you can hop on and hop off at popular locations in Ghent. The service runs from April 1st to November 1st every Saturday and Sunday.
Taxis can be found at many popular locations in Ghent but are expensive when you consider the size of the city. Most restaurants, bars and hotels will be happy to order you a taxi.
For a list of recommended hotels in Ghent, please check out our recommended hotels in Ghent page.
Saint Bavo’s Cathedral – this gothic cathedral was completed in 1569 and is one of the medieval city’s most prominent landmarks. Of special note is the Ghent Alter, which is considered the best work by Hubert and Jan van Eyck
SMAK – Ghent’s modern art museum is a must for culture vultures. Here you can find works by Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon.
Vrijdagmarkt – running since the 13th Century the “Friday Market” is a lively shopping experience. It is also open on Saturdays and Sundays but Sunday is known for its bird market.
Belfry – the Belfry has been a symbol of Ghent since 1380. You can take an elevator to the tower for views of the city and to see the iconic bells up close.
Cloth Hall – next to the Belfry. The Cloth Hall has been the meeting place of Ghent’s merchants since 1425.
Canal Cruise – in spring, summer and early fall a canal cruise is a romantic way of taking in the sights at a leisurely and relaxed pace.
Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen – a nature reserve on the outskirts of Ghent. There are excellent hiking trails and spots to have a picnic in the summer sun.
Flanders Field American Cemetery – located 30 miles out of Ghent. This is a touching memorial to American lives that were lost in the devastation of the World War I.
The summer months are warm and pleasant however many tourists come here then. Christmas time is also popular despite the cold and wet weather that Ghent experiences in winter. Rain is common throughout the year so be prepared just in case.
Ghent has a variety of festivals and events held throughout the year. Gentse Feesten is a 10-day festival in July with free music and one of the most popular events of the calendar. In October, Film Fest Ghent attracts film buffs from Belgium and abroad, with the World Soundtrack Awards being the jewel in the festival crown.
Belgium is within the European Schengen visa area. If travelling from outside Europe, check to see if you require a Schengen visa.
Belgium is a member of the Eurozone. Cash dispensers are widely available. You may be asked for photo ID if paying with a credit or debit card in a shop.
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