Ghent Tourist Attractions
The old city of Ghent (Flemish Gent; French Gand), capital of the province of Oost- Vlaanderen and seat of the university, is situated on the confluence of the Scheldt and the Leie, the many branches of which intersect the city.
With the surrounding communities Ghent is the third largest urban region in Belgium.Ghent is the largest industrial conurbation in West Belgium. For centuries the most important industry was textiles which made Ghent into a "Manchester of the European mainland". Today the city still has large cotton spinning mills and linen weaving mills where the world famous Flemish cloth is produced, but the decline of the textile industry has forced the establishment of new areas of economic activity. Thus, today factories in and around Ghent produce paper, chemicals, cars, optical, engineering, electrical and electronic components with a large steelworks being the major industry. Many of these companies are on the Ghent-Terneuzen canal, exploiting the advantages of the waterway network.Together with Antwerp and Zeebrugge, Ghent is one of the three most important sea ports in Belgium. The harbor is linked by various canals with the Westerschelde (Gent- Terneuzen canal) and with the North Sea (Bruges-Ghent canal, Bruges-Zeebrugge canal and Bruges-Ostend canal) and can accommodate vessels up to 60,000 tons. The annual turnover of goods handled amounts to about 25million tons; Ghent is an important trade center, especially for the import and export of cereals. In addition the city and its environs are the heart of the garden and cut flower growing area: 80 per cent of all foliage plants in Belgium are grown here, chiefly for export.As far back as the Romans a settlement had been established on the small island at the confluence of the Scheldt and the Leie. In the seventh C. the missionary St Amandus came to this area and founded two abbeys dedicated to St Petrus, in between which Ghent itself developed.The Norman threat led to the first fortifications being built, with the Gravensteen around 1000.Around 1000 a council of 11 jurors governed the city, where the cloth industry was gaining more and more in importance. After Paris Ghent became the most powerful city north of the Alps.In 1228, 34 patricians took over the further fate of the town. The oligarchical rule of their successors, who together with the Counts of Flanders followed the French king, increasingly aroused the anger of the powerful guilds that were seeking independence.When the import of English wool, upon which the Ghent cloth industry depended, was stopped, the citizens of Ghent united in 1337 behind Jacob van Artevelde with England and led other Flemish towns in opposing France. Artevelde ruled for years with dictatorial powers until he was murdered in 1345 by the head of the weavers' guild. The defeat of the Flemish army under Artevelde's son Philip near Rozebeke put a temporary stop to the Ghent citizens' desire for self- government.The marriage of the heiress of Count Louis II of Flanders to Duke Philip the Bold brought Flanders under Burgundian domination. His attempts to curb the power of the guilds again led to resistance. After the Battle of Gavere on the Scheldt on the 23 July 1453, when thousands of Ghent citizens lost their lives, the most prominent burghers and the Council had to come out beyond the town gates wearing only their shirts and beg the victor for mercy. Following the death of the Duke in 1477 his daughter Maria of Burgundy was forced to grant the citizens of Ghent greater rights. The Burgundian period of the 15th C. was a time of prosperity for Ghent when culture and the arts flourished. The van Eyck brothers (Altar of Ghent) were active here at this time.Ghent fell to the Habsburgs on Maria of Burgundy's marriage to the future Emperor Maximilian. In the 16th C. under the government of Emperor Charles V (born 1500 in the Prinsenhof in Ghent) Ghent tried to make up for the decline of the cloth industry as river navigation developed. Time and again the citizens of Ghent opposed the ruling dynasty; the climax was reached when the Protestant Geuzen rose up against the Spanish who reacted by sending troops in 1567, commanded by the Duke of Alba who exacted terrible revenge. In 1576 the "Pacification of Ghent" was signed in the city, a peace and friendship league between the general states and the southern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands. After Alexander Farnese, the Spanish governor of the Netherlands, had finally subjected Ghent to Spanish rule again in 1584, the town's downfall was sealed.The establishment of the cotton industry brought a new revival in the 18th C. under Austrian rule; in 1800, under French occupation, Lieven Bauwens brought in English cotton looms and revolutionized the trade. In the course of the 19th C. the town experienced real prosperity with the rapid growth of industry and trade.Ghent was occupied by German troops in both world wars but mostly escaped damage.The Belgian-French poet and Nobel prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck was born in Ghent in 1862.
Ghent's historic inner city offers a superb collection of splendid buildings along picturesque canals, only superseded by Bruges. A walk through the town on a summer's evening, when the most important buildings are illuminated, is a particularly unforgettable experience. In high summer the canals, almost at a standstill, have their own distinctive aroma which permeates the city in the heat. However, this hardly mars the overall impression of this unique city.As the historic Old Town is quite compact it can be taken in on one day and still include a detailed visit to the Sint-Baafskathedraal, the Gravensteen and the Museum of Ethnography. A visit to the Museum voor Schone Kunsten requires more time.Cars should not be driven into the city center. There are parking lots at Vrijdagmarkt, at the University, at Kouter Square, at Sint-Pieterskerk and at Sint-Pieter station (tram to the city center).
Botanical Garden M. Thiery
A botanical garden with a permanent collection known as the "Honeybee."
Address: Berouw 55, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Opening hours: 9am-12pm, 1:30pm-5pm; Fri: 9am-12pm, 1:30pm-5pm; Closed: Sun
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26)
Entrance fee: Adult Free
Boat trips on the Leie River
Historical Archive and Documentation Center Municipal Education
A permanent display of the "henceforth school."
It is possible to tour the city by minibus or by taxi.
Hof van Ryhove
Museum Dr. Guislain
Museum Dr. Guislain features the history of psychiatric care.
Address: Josef Guislainstraat 43, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Opening hours: 9am-5pm; Sun: 1pm-5pm; Sat: 1pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Christmas Eve - Christian (Dec 24)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €5.00, Concession or reduced rate €2.50
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Several events take place around the year in the city of Ghent.
This annual month-long festival is in September and October and includes orchestral, choral and chamber concerts, organ and piano recitals and dance performances. The festival opens with a "Great Happening" which is a large celebration that signals the beginning of the festival season. Once the festival begins, numerous events are held every week in venues throughout the town.
International Film Festival of Flanders
This annual festival takes place in October. Since its inception in 1974, the festival has drawn thousands of film buffs to this town. Hundreds of films are presented, along with various musical concerts and work shops.
The Ghent Festival Week takes place in mid-July with music and theater literally on every street corner and stands selling food and drink set up everywhere.
The ultra-modern exhibition site "Flanders Expo" in Sint-Denijs-Westrem has been instrumental in gaining Ghent prestige as a venue for trade fairs and exhibitions.
Every five years (next in 2000) the Ghent Floralien is held with the gardeners of the region showing their produce.
Patershol Festival in the historic quarter of Het Patershol.
More Ghent Pictures
Map of Ghent Attractions