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Ghent ( ; , ; , ; and formerly Gaunt in English) is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish regionmarker of Belgiummarker. It is the capital and biggest city of the East Flandersmarker province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldtmarker and Lysmarker and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. Today it is a busy city with a portmarker and a universitymarker.

The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the towns of Afsneemarker, Desteldonkmarker, Drongenmarker, Gentbruggemarker, Ledebergmarker, Mariakerkemarker, Mendonkmarker, Oostakkermarker, Sint-Amandsbergmarker, Sint-Denijs-Westremmarker, Sint-Kruis-Winkelmarker, Wondelgemmarker and Zwijnaardemarker. With 237,250 inhabitants in the beginning of 2008, Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium. The current mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont, leads a coalition of the SP.a,SLP and VLD.

Every year a ten day long street festival is held called the "Ghent Fests" (Gentse Feesten in Dutch). About 2 million visitors attend the festival every year.


Archeological evidence shows human presence in the region of the confluence of Scheldt and Lys going back as far as the Stone Age and the Iron Age. Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, 'Ganda' is derived from the Celtic word 'ganda' which means confluence. There are no written records of the Roman period but archeological 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.

Around 650 Saint Amand founded two abbeys in Ghent: the Saint Peter Abbey and the St. Bavo's Abbeymarker . 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.

The city recovered and flourished from the 11th century on. Until the 13th century Ghent was the biggest city in Europe after Paris; it was bigger than Londonmarker, Cologne or Moscowmarker. Within the city walls lived up to 65,000 people. Today, the belfry and the towers of the Saint Bavo Cathedralmarker and Saint Nicholas' Churchmarker are just a few examples of the skyline of the period.

The rivers flowed in an area where a lot of land was periodically inundated. These richly grassed 'meersen' ("water-meadows": a word related to the English 'marsh', but not meaning exactly the same, a 'meers' is not permanently under water) were ideally suited for herding sheep, the wool of which was used for making cloth. In fact, Ghent was during the Middle Ages the most important city for cloth.

The wool-industry, originally established at Brugesmarker, 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, Duke of Lancaster. The trade with England (but not Scotland) suffered significantly during the Hundred Years' War.

The city recovered in the 14th century, while Flanders was united with neighbouring provinces under the Dukes of Burgundy. High taxes led to a rebellion and eventually the Battle of Gavere, in which Ghent suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Philip the Good. Around this time the center of gravity in the Low Countries started to shift from Flanders (Bruges–Ghent) to Brabant (AntwerpmarkerBrusselsmarker), although Ghent would continue to play an important role.
Buildings along a canal in Ghent

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 Abbey was abolished, torn down, and replaced with a fortress for Spanish troops. Only a small portion of the abbey was spared demolition.

The late 16th and the 17th century brought devastation because of the Religious wars. At one time Ghent was a Calvinistic republic, but eventually the Spanish army reinstated Catholicism. The wars ended the role of Ghent as a center of international importance.

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

Ghent was also the site of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent which formally ended the War of 1812 between Britainmarker and the United States of Americamarker. After the battle of Waterloomarker Ghent became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for 15 years. In this period Ghent got its own universitymarker (1817) and a new connection to the sea (1824–27).

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 stationmarker, was completed in 1912.



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

Neighbouring municipalities



Much of the city's medievalarchitectureremains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree areain Belgium. Interesting highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedralmarker with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfrymarker, the Gravensteen castlemarker, 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 houses also three béguinagesmarker and numerous churches, among which the Saint-James' church, the Saint-Nicolas' churchmarker and the Saint Michael's churchmarker are the most beautiful examples.

In the nineteenth century Ghent's most famous architect, Louis Roelandt, built the university hall Aula, the opera and the main courthouse. Highlights of modern architecture are the university buildings (the Boekentorenmarker 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 UNESCOmarker as World Heritage Sites in 1998 and 1999.


Important museums in Ghent are the Museum voor Schone Kunstenmarker (Museum of Fine Arts), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Jean Fouquet, and many Flemish masters; the SMAKmarker or Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (City Museum for Contemporary Art), with works of the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Panamarenko; and the Designmuseum.The Huis van Alijn (House of the Alijn family) was originally a beguinagemarker and is now a museum for folk art.This museum often presents theatre and puppet shows for children. There is also a museum presenting the industrial strength of Ghent, the Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel or MIAT. Here you can find recreations of workshops and stores from the 1800s and can see the spinning and weaving machines that remain in this building what was once a weaving mill.

Restaurants and culinary traditions

As most Belgianmarker cities, Ghent offers a rich variety of local and foreign cuisine.The city centre and quarter called "Patershol" has a huge concentration of restaurants. The "Sleepstraat" a little bit further north houses a number of Turkish restaurants and food bars. By contrast, restaurants are rather spartan beyond the "historic centre".

In Ghent and other regions of East-Flandersmarker, bakeries sell a donut-shaped bun called a "mastel" (plural "mastellen"), which is basically a bagel."Mastellen" are also called "Saint Hubertbread", 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 is thought that blessed mastellen immunize against rabies.

As with many areas of northern Belgium the diet centres around hearty stews and soups. Flemish beef stew (stoverij) is available almost everywhere as is "Waterzooi", 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 Veggiedag, with vegetarianfood being promoted in public canteens for civil servants and elected concillors, in all city funded schools, and promotion of vegetarian eating options in town (through the distribution of "veggie street maps"). This campaign is linked to the recognition of the detrimental environmental effects of meat production, which the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organizationhas established to represent nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.


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

The International Festival van Vlaanderen, which had its 50th celebration in 2008, is one of the fastest growing music festivals in Europe. Yearly it opens with the OdeGand City festivities that takes place on the second Saturday of September. Some 50 concerts takes place in diverse locations throughout the medieval inner-city and some 250 internationally acclaimed virtuosi performs. The new Festival MADEdimension of the festival introduces in its program both the innovative experiments of local artists and feature the original version of Mozart's Kleine Nacht Music. Since 2002, the festivities have begun with the now renowned OdeGand street festival that takes Classical Music to every corner of the city, even onto the boats on the canals where spectators get 'live' classical rides. The whole of the medieval town of Ghent turns classical in September, and although the Festival has something of the exuberance of a 'Night of the Proms', it is many notches higher on the scales of inventiveness and quality. Other major Flemish cities follow suit with similar events during Festival Time, all of which form part of the International Festival (Antwerp with Laus Polyphoniae; Bruges with MAfestival; Brussels with KlaraFestival; Limburg with Basilica, Mechelen and Brabant with Novecentoand Transit).


The port of Ghentmarker, 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 Dutchmarker port of Terneuzenmarker on the Western Scheldtmarker.The port houses, among others, big companies like Sidmar, Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Parts, Honda, and Stora Enso.

The Ghent Universitymarker and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city.

As the biggest city of East-Flanders, Ghent has many hospitals, schools and shopping streets.

Tourism is increasingly becoming a major employer in the local area.


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

  • By car the city is accessible by two of the country's main roads:
Ghent at Night
Riverside in Ghent

  • 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 train stations:
    • Gent-Sint-Pieters Stationmarker: an international train station with connections to Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, Kortrijk, other Belgian towns and Lille. The station also offers a direct connection to Brussels Airportmarker.
    • Gent-Dampoort Stationmarker: an intercity train station with connections to Sint-Niklaas, Antwerp, Kortrijk and Eeklomarker.
    • Gentbrugge Station: a regional train station in between the two main train stations, Sint-Pieters and Dampoort.
    • Wondelgem Station: a regional train station with connections to Eeklo once an hour.
    • Drongen Station: a regional train station in the village of Drongenmarker with only a limited number of trains a day.

  • Ghent has an extensive web of public transport lines, operated by De Lijn:
    • Tram (see pictures below):
      • Line 1: Flanders Expo - Sint-Pieters-Station - Korenmarkt (city centre) - Evergemmarker
      • Line 4: Sint-Pieters-Station - Muide - Korenmarkt (city centre) - Zuid - Moscou
      • Line 21: Zwijnaardebrug - UZ - Sint-Pieters-Station - Zonnestraat (city centre) - Zuid - Melle Leeuwmarker
      • Line 22: Zwijnaardebrug - UZ - Sint-Pieters-Station - Zonnestraat (city centre) - Zuid - Gentbruggemarker
    • Trolleybus (unique in Belgium; see picture below):
      • Line 3: Mariakerkemarker - Korenmarkt (city centre) - Dampoort-Station - Gentbrugge
    • City buses (see picture below):
      • Line 5: Van Beverenplein - Sint-Jacobs (city centre) - Zuid - UZ - Zwijnaardemarker
      • Line 6: Watersportbaan - Zuid - Dampoort-Station - Wondelgem - Mariakerke
      • Line 8: Zuid - University - Sint-Pieters-Station - Blaarmeersen
      • Line 9: Mariakerke - Malemmarker - Sint-Pieters-Station - Gentbrugge
      • Line 17/18: Drongen - Korenmarkt (city centre) - Dampoort-Station - Oostakkermarker
      • Line 38/39: Blaarmeersen - Korenmarkt (city centre) - Dampoort-Station - Sint-Amandsbergmarker
    • At Sint-Pieters-Station and the Zuid bus station there are several regional buses as well.

When arriving in Ghent, it is best to leave cars in Park & Ride zones next to the road. The actual city centre is a car free area, and parking is difficult and expensive in the city. On weekends, night buses provide free transportation through the night.

File:HermeLijn Korenmarkt.JPG|Low floor tram vehicle (type: HermeLijn)File:Trolley wacht1.JPG|TrolleybusFile:Vanhool gent 27-01-06.JPG|Regional bus

Famous people

See also: Notable people from Ghent

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Ghent is twinned with:

See also


External links

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