Ghent is Flanders’ unsung city. Sandwiched between Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp, this attractive medieval canal city has long been overlooked by visitors on the traditional art-town hop between Belgium’s big three. But if you’re the type who prefers exploring away from the tourist hordes, funky Ghent’s definitely the go.
Known as Gent in Flemish and Gand in French, Ghent was medieval Europe’s largest city outside Paris. Sitting on the junction of the Leie and Scheldt Rivers, it was the seat of the counts of Flanders who built a fearsome castle, Het Gravensteen, that’s visible today. By the mid-14th century Ghent had become Europe’s largest cloth producer, importing wool from England and employing thousands of people. The townsfolk were well known for their armed battles, civil liberties, and protests against the heavy taxes imposed on them.
Charles V, one of the most important rulers in European history, was born in Ghent in 1500. In 1540, when the townsfolk refused to pay taxes to fund Charles’ military forays into France, he came down swiftly and heavily on the city, crushing the rebellion and abolishing the town’s privileges. His actions gave the locals a nickname.
These days, Ghent is the capital of the province of Oost-Vlaanderen and is Flander’s biggest university town. Time your trip to coincide with the fabulous Gentse Feesten to see the city at its liveliest.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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21 March 2012
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