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Municipality of Belgium
Belfry of Ghent. Saint Nicholas church is visible in the background.
Belfry of Ghent. Saint Nicholas church is visible in the background.
Flag of Ghent
Coat of arms of Ghent
Coat of arms
Ghent is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
Country Belgium
Community Flemish Community
Region Flemish Region
Province East Flanders
Arrondissement Ghent
 • Mayor (list) Daniël Termont (sp.a)
 • Governing party/ies sp.a, Open VLD, Pro Gent
 • Total 156.18 km2 (60.30 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2013)[1]
 • Total 248,242
 • Density 1,600/km2 (4,100/sq mi)
Postal codes 9000–9052
Area codes 09

Ghent (; Dutch: Gent, pronounced ; French: Gand, pronounced: ) is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe with some 60,000 people in 1300 AD, 70,000 in 1400[2][3] growing to 175,000 shortly after 1500 AD.[4] Today it is a busy city with a port and a university.

The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 240,191 inhabitants in the beginning of 2009,[5] Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,205 km2 (465 sq mi) and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium.[6][7] The current mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont, leads a coalition of the sp.a, Groen and Open VLD.

The ten-day-long "Ghent Festival" (Gentse Feesten in Dutch) is held every year and attended by about two million visitors.


Ghent in 1775

Archaeological evidence shows human presence in the region of the confluence of Scheldt and Leie going back as far as the Stone Age and the Iron Age.[8] Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, 'Ganda', is derived from the Celtic word 'ganda' which means confluence.[8] There are no written records of the Roman period but archaeological research confirms that the region of Ghent was further inhabited.

When the Franks invaded the Roman territories (from the end of the 4th century and well into the 5th century) they brought their language with them and Celtic and Latin were replaced by Old Dutch.

Middle Ages

Around 650, Saint Amand founded two abbeys in Ghent: St Peter's Abbey (nl) (Blandinium) and St Bavo's Abbey (nl). The city grew from several nuclei, the abbeys and a commercial centre. Around 800, Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne, appointed Einhard, the biographer of Charlemagne, as abbot of both abbeys. In 851 and 879, the city was however attacked and plundered twice by the Vikings.

Within the protection of the County of Flanders, the city recovered and flourished from the 11th century, growing to become a small city-state. By the 13th century, Ghent was the biggest city in Europe after Paris; it was bigger than Cologne, or Moscow. [9] Within the city walls lived up to 65,000 people. The belfry and the towers of the Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas' Church are just a few examples of the skyline of the period.

The rivers flowed in an area where a lot of land was periodically flooded. These richly grassed 'meersen' ("water-meadows": a word related to the English 'marsh') were ideally suited for herding sheep, the wool of which was used for making cloth. During the Middle Ages Ghent was the leading city for cloth.

The wool industry, originally established at Bruges, created the first European industrialized zone in Ghent in the High Middle Ages. The mercantile zone was so highly developed that wool had to be imported from Scotland and England. This was one of the reasons for Flanders' good relationship with Scotland and England. Ghent was the birthplace of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. Trade with England (but not Scotland) suffered significantly during the Hundred Years' War.

Early modern period

The city recovered in the 14th century, when Flanders was united with neighbouring provinces under the Dukes of Burgundy. High taxes led to a rebellion and eventually the Battle of Gavere in 1453, in which Ghent suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Philip the Good. Around this time the centre of political and social importance in the Low Countries started to shift from Flanders (Bruges–Ghent) to Brabant (AntwerpBrussels), although Ghent continued to play an important role. With Bruges, the city led two revolts against Maximilian of Austria, the first monarch of the House of Habsburg to rule Flanders.

Buildings along the Leie river in the city of Ghent
Justitiepaleis, City of Ghent in Flanders, (later modern Belgium), c. 1895

In 1500, Juana of Castile gave birth to Charles V, who became Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. Although native to Ghent, he punished the city after the 1539 Revolt of Ghent and obliged the city's nobles to walk in front of the Emperor barefoot with a noose (Dutch: "strop") around the neck; since this incident, the people of Ghent have been called "Stroppendragers" (noose bearers). The Saint Bavo Cathedral (Saint Bavo Abbey) was abolished, torn down, and replaced with a fortress for Royal Spanish troops. Only a small portion of the cathedral-abbey was spared demolition.

The late 16th and the 17th centuries brought devastation because of the Eighty Years' War. The war ended the role of Ghent as a centre of international importance. In 1745, the city was captured by French forces during the War of the Austrian Succession before being returned to the Empire of Austria of the House of Habsburg following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, when this part of Flanders became known as the Austrian Netherlands until 1815, the exile of the French Emperor Napoleon I, the end of the French Revolutionary and later Napoleonic Wars and the peace treaties arrived at by the Congress of Vienna.

Member of the British 7th Armoured Division ("Desert Rats"), parade in city of Ghent, of Flanders, in modern Belgium on 8 September 1944, after liberation by the western Allies in World War II

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the textile industry flourished again in Ghent. Lieven Bauwens, having smuggled the industrial and factory machine plans out of England, introduced the first mechanical weaving machine on the European continent in 1800.

The Treaty of Ghent negotiated here and adopted on Christmas Eve 1815, formally ended the War of 1812 (the North American phase of the Napoleonic Wars between Great Britain and the United States, - since June 1812). After the Battle of Waterloo, Ghent and Flanders, previously ruled from the House of Habsburg in Vienna as the Austrian Netherlands, became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands with the northern Dutch for 15 years. In this period, Ghent established its own university (1817) and a new connection to the sea (1824–27).

Belgian Revolution

After the Belgian Revolution, with the loss of port access to the sea for more than a decade, the local economy collapsed and the first Belgian trade-union originated in Ghent. In 1913 there was a World exhibition in Ghent. As a preparation for these festivities, the Sint-Pieters railway station was completed in 1912.


Ghent was occupied by the Germans in both World Wars but escaped severe destruction and most of the city was liberated by the British 7th Desert Rats Armoured Division on 6 September 1944. However, the northern part of the city was not liberated and suffered from artillery shelling until 19 September. The liberation of the northern part of the city was achieved through close cooperation between the 1st Armoured Division (Poland) and local Belgian fighters. The life of the people and the German invaders, in Ghent during WW1 is described by H.Wandt in "etappenleven te Gent"



After the fusions of municipalities in 1965 and 1977, the city is made up of:

Neighbouring municipalities


The climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year round. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Ghent has a marine west coast climate, abbreviated "Cfb" on climate maps.[10]
Climate data for Ghent, Belgium
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6
Average low °C (°F) 2
Avg. precipitation days 21 15 20 18 20 19 16 17 18 19 19 19 221
Source: Weatherbase [11]


The Graslei is one of the most scenic places in Ghent's old city centre


Historical centre of Ghent – from left to right: Old post office, Saint-Nicholas Church, Belfry, and Saint Bavo Cathedral.
Ghent at Night
Riverside in Ghent
Sunset over the river Leie in Ghent

Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium. Interesting highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen castle, and the splendid architecture along the old Graslei harbour. Ghent established a nice blend between comfort of living and history – it is not a city-museum. The city of Ghent also houses three béguinages and numerous churches including the Saint-Jacob's church, the Saint-Nicolas' church and the Saint Michael's church.

In the 19th century Ghent's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera house and the main courthouse. Highlights of modern architecture are the university buildings (the Boekentoren or Book Tower) by Henry Van de Velde. There are also a few theatres from diverse periods.

The beguinages, as well as the belfry and adjacent cloth hall, were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1998 and 1999.

The Zebrastraat, a social experiment in which an entirely renovated site unites living, economy and culture, can also be found in Ghent.


Important museums in Ghent are the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens, and many Flemish masters; the SMAK or Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (City Museum for Contemporary Art), with works of the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol; and the Design Museum Gent (nl) with masterpieces of Victor Horta and Le Corbusier. The Huis van Alijn (House of the Alijn family) was originally a beguinage and is now a museum for folk art where theatre and puppet shows for children are presented. The Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel or MIAT displays the industrial strength of Ghent with recreations of workshops and stores from the 1800s and original spinning and weaving machines that remain from the time when the building was a weaving mill. The Ghent City Museum (Stadsmuseum, abbreviated STAM), is committed to recording and explaining the city's past and its inhabitants, and to preserving the present for future generations.

Restaurants and culinary traditions

In Ghent and other regions of East-Flanders, bakeries sell a donut-shaped bun called a "mastel" (plural "mastellen"), which is basically a bagel. "Mastellen" are also called "Saint Hubert bread", because on the Saint's feast day, which is 3 November, the bakers bring their batches to the early Mass to be blessed. Traditionally, it was thought that blessed mastellen immunized against rabies.

Other local delicacies are the praline chocolates from local producers such as Leonidas, the cuberdons or 'neuzekes' ('noses'), cone-shaped purple jelly-filled candies, 'babeluten' ('babblers'), hard butterscotch-like candy, and of course, on the more fiery side, the famous 'Tierenteyn', a hot but refined mustard that has some affinity to French 'Dijon' mustard.

'Stoverij' is a classic Flemish meat stew, preferably made with a generous addition of brown 'Trappist' (strong abbey beer) and served with French fries. 'Waterzooi' is a local stew originally made from freshwater fish caught in the rivers and creeks of Ghent, but nowadays often made with chicken instead of fish. It is usually served nouvelle-cuisine-style, and will be supplemented by a large pot on the side.

The city promotes a meat-free day on Thursdays called Donderdag Veggiedag[12][13] with greenhouse gas emissions.

Ghent has the world's largest number of vegetarian restaurants per capita.[14]


The city is host to some big cultural events such as the Gentse Feesten, I Love Techno in Flanders Expo, "10 Days Off" musical festival, the International Film Festival of Ghent (with the World Soundtrack Awards) and the Gent Festival van Vlaanderen (nl). Also, every five years, a huge botanical exhibition (Gentse Floraliën) takes place in Flanders Expo in Ghent, attracting numerous visitors to the city.

The Festival of Flanders had its 50th celebration in 2008. In Ghent it opens with the OdeGand City festivities that takes place on the second Saturday of September. Some 50 concerts take place in diverse locations throughout the medieval inner city and some 250 international artists perform. Other major Flemish cities hold similar events, all of which form part of the Festival of Flanders (Antwerp with Laus Polyphoniae; Bruges with MAfestival; Brussels with KlaraFestival; Limburg with Basilica, Mechelen and Brabant with Novecento and Transit).


The numerous parks in the city can also be considered to be tourist attractions. Most notably, Ghent boasts a nature reserve (Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen, 230 hectare[15]) and a recreation park (Blaarmeersen, 100 hectare).


The port of Ghent, in the north of the city, is the third largest port of Belgium. It is accessed by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, which ends near the Dutch port of Terneuzen on the Western Scheldt. The port houses, among others, big companies like ArcelorMittal, Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Parts, Honda, and Stora Enso.

The Ghent University and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city, such as Ablynx, Innogenetics, Cropdesign, Bayer Cropscience.

As the largest city in East-Flanders, Ghent has many hospitals, schools and shopping streets. Flanders Expo, the biggest event hall in Flanders and the second biggest in Belgium, is also located in Ghent. Tourism is becoming a major employer in the local area.


As one of the largest cities in Belgium, Ghent has a highly developed transport system.

  • In addition Ghent also has two ringways:
    • The R4: connects the outskirts of Ghent with each other and the surrounding villages, and also leads to the E40 and E17 roads.
    • The R40: connects the different downtown quarters with each other, and provides access to the main avenues.
  • The municipality of Ghent comprises five railway stations:
    • Gent-Sint-Pieters Station: an international railway station with connections to Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, Kortrijk, other Belgian towns and Lille. The station also offers a direct connection to Brussels Airport.
    • Gent-Dampoort Station: an intercity railway station with connections to Sint-Niklaas, Antwerp, Kortrijk and Eeklo.
    • Gentbrugge Station: a regional railway station in between the two main railway stations, Sint-Pieters and Dampoort.
    • Wondelgem Station: a regional railway station with connections to Eeklo once an hour.
    • Drongen Station: a regional railway station in the village of Drongen with connections to Bruges once an hour.
  • Ghent has an extensive network of public transport lines, operated by De Lijn:
    • Ghent tram system (see pictures below):
      • Line 1: Flanders Expo – Sint-Pieters-Station – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Evergem
      • Line 4: Sint-Pieters-Station – Muide – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Zuid – Moscou
      • Line 21: Zwijnaardebrug – UZ – Sint-Pieters-Station – Zonnestraat (city centre) – Zuid – Melle Leeuw
      • Line 22: Zwijnaardebrug – UZ – Sint-Pieters-Station – Zonnestraat (city centre) – Zuid – Gentbrugge
      • Line 24: Sint-Pieters-Station – Korenmarkt – Zuid – Melle Leeuw
    • City buses (see picture below):
      • Line 3: Mariakerke – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Dampoort-Station – Gentbrugge (formerly a trolleybus line; see picture below)
      • Line 5: Van Beverenplein – Sint-Jacobs (city centre) – Zuid – UZ – Zwijnaarde
      • Line 6: Watersportbaan – Zuid – Dampoort-Station – Wondelgem – Mariakerke
      • Line 9: Mariakerke – Malem – Sint-Pieters-Station – Gentbrugge
      • Line 17/18: Drongen – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Dampoort-Station – Oostakker
      • Line 38/39: Blaarmeersen – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Dampoort-Station – Sint-Amandsberg
    • At Sint-Pieters-Station and the Zuid bus station there are several regional buses as well.

Ghent has the largest designated cyclist area in Europe, with nearly 400 kilometres of cycle paths and more than 700 one-way streets, where bikes are allowed to go against the traffic. It also boasts Belgium’s first cycle street, where cars are considered ‘guests’ and must stay behind cyclists.[14]


In the Belgian first football division Ghent is represented by K.A.A. Gent. Another Ghent football club is KRC Gent-Zeehaven, playing in the Belgian fourth division. A football match at the 1920 Summer Olympics was held in Ghent.[16]

Every year the Six Days of Flanders, a six-day track cycling race, is held in Ghent. It takes place in the Kuipke velodrome.

The city also hosts an annual track and field meet at the Flanders Sports Arena: the Indoor Flanders meeting. It is one of the IAAF's foremost indoor track and field events and two-time Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj set a world record at the event in 1997.

Famous people

Emperor Charles V was born in Ghent in 1500
Statue of Jacob van Artevelde on the Friday market in Ghent

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

Ghent is twinned with:[17]

See also


  1. ^ Population per municipality on 1 January 2013 (XLS; 607.5 KB)
  2. ^,000+inhabitants&hl=da&sa=X&ei=SxpRU4ePDoLQtAa_g4CQDg&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=chent%20in%2014th%20century%20with%20100%2C000%20inhabitants&f=false
  3. ^,000&hl=da&sa=X&ei=MEFBU-SnHqLW7QbKs4HADg&ved=0CFkQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=bruges%20in%201400%20population%20of%20125%2C000&f=false
  4. ^,000+people&hl=da&sa=X&ei=7JJNU4DGMpLb7Aaz2YHICw&ved=0CFwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=flemish%20cities%20in%201500%20century%20200%2C000%20people&f=false
  5. ^ )excel-file (Werkelijke bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2009Statistics Belgium; Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2009. Retrieved on 2010-11-28.
  6. ^ )excel-file (Werkelijke bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2008Statistics Belgium; Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2008. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
  7. ^ )pdf-file (De Belgische Stadsgewesten 2001Statistics Belgium; Definitions of metropolitan areas in Belgium. The metropolitan area of Ghent is divided into three levels. First, the central agglomeration (agglomeratie) with 278,457 inhabitants (1 January 2008). Adding the closest surroundings (banlieue) gives a total of 423,320. And, including the outer commuter zone (forensenwoonzone) the population is 594,582. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
  8. ^ a b "History of Ghent". Archived from the original on 2012-12-22. Retrieved 2006-05-05. 
  9. ^ Nicholas, David. The Domestic Life of a Medieval City: Women, Children and the Family in Fourteenth Century Ghent. p. 1. 
  10. ^ Climate Summary for Ghent, Belgium
  11. ^ "". Weatherbase. 2013.  Retrieved on October 26, 2013.
  12. ^ "Ghent's veggie day: for English speaking visitors" on
  13. ^ "Belgian city plans 'veggie' days" on BBC News (12 May 2009).
  14. ^ a b Belgium breaks: The best way to see glorious Ghent? On two wheels... | Mail Online
  15. ^ Nature Domain De Bourgoyen -
  16. ^ FIFA Confederations Cup - Olympic Football Tournament Antwerp 1920 -
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ghent Zustersteden". Stad Gent (in Dutch). City of Ghent. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  18. ^ "European networks and city partnerships". Nottingham City Council. 11 March. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  19. ^ "Wiesbaden's international city relations". Retrieved 24 December 2012. 

Further reading

Published in the 19th century
  • "Ghent", Belgium and Holland: Handbook for Travellers (6th ed.), Leipsic: Karl Baedeker, 1881 
  • The visitors universal handybook and guide to Antwerp, Brussels, Waterloo, Ghent, Bruges, Liège, etc. etc. (5th ed.). Antwerp: John De Wit & Joris. 1884. 
Published in the 20th century

External links

  • Official website (Dutch)
  • Official Tourist website (Dutch) (English) (French) (German) (Spanish)
  • Flanders Tourism Website (Dutch) (French) (German) (Spanish) (Swedish) (Danish) (Italian) (Czech) (Japanese) (Chinese)
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