Don’t be put of by the fact the people of Ghent have a nickname meaning, ‘noose’. It’s not depressing at all. In fact, it’s actually rather vibrant. The Flemish word ‘Stropke’ refers to the 16th century when the city folk of Ghent wrapped ropes around their necks to suggest to Emperor Charles V they would rather be hanged than pay more taxes – an act so popular with Belgians, they named a beer after them.
Ghent may not be as popular as its counter-parts Antwerp and Bruges, but Belgium’s fourth largest city still holds plenty of pulling power with its charming blend of medieval and modern architecture looking out across the harbour and decorated with flowers. In fact, Ghent is the flower city of Belgium and the people grow begonias and azalea’s here which sell all over the world.
The quaint surroundings are inspired by the Flemish settlers from neighbouring Holland and a stroll along the cobbled streets and sultry canals are as pleasant as a visit to the historical attractions. The stunning St. Bavo cathedral is a must, as is the fascinating Bijloke Museum and Castle Gravensteen, often referred to as Castle of the Counts after the Counts of Flanders who were based there during their reign of power in the early Middle-Ages.
All seems very quaint and serene doesn’t it? And at first glance it is. But underneath the surface Ghent is waiting to explode. And as night falls, that’s exactly what it does. Ghent is where a healthy percentage of the student population in Belgium hang out and after a night in the bulging bars playing drinking games and performing madcap tricks, they won’t be a healthy percentage for much longer. The pulsating nightlife in Ghent offers everything from bulging bars to live bands and techno clubs. For bars head towards Groentenmarkt and for clubs you can’t go wrong around Vlasmarkt. The Ghent beer festival from 14-23 July is rated one of the best in Europe.
With no shortage of places to eat in Ghent, finding a good restaurant is easy. Cuisine from all around the world is represented so unless you’re prepared to pay high-end prices for national dishes, fussy eaters may not want to risk trying the local cuisine as beef casserole or stewed eel served with a slab of chewy oatmeal bread is not to everyone’s liking.
Ghent is not far from Brussels and it’s not unheard of for the locals to make the short journey to eat out in the capital for the evening. Should you feel the need to escape the hub-hub of city life altogether the quaint Ghent countryside is stunning and only a short bike ride away.
Travelling to Ghent by Ferry
All three of the UK to Belgium ferries will get you within 40 miles of Ghent, then it’s an easy drive through Belgium that should take you less than hour at most times of the day. There is actually seven separate UK to Europe ferries that will get you within a 2 hour drive of Ghent. Where ever you live the UK, driving to the Ghent should be easy with ferries available from Scotland, Newcastle, Hull, Harwich and Dover.