The second-largest municipality in Belgium's Flemish Region and the third-largest city in the country, Ghent (also spelt Gent) is home to more than 260,000 residents. Known in the region as ''the Historic Heart of Flanders,' Gent is rife with culture, art, and, of course, history.
According to archaeological evidence found in the area, the first humans arrived around Ghent, Belgium, almost 60,000 years ago, during the Middle Paleolithic era. However, it wasn't until the 4th and 5th centuries, when the Franks were invading Roman territories, that the region began to develop more permanently.
Gent truly began to flourish during the Middle Ages, transforming into an economic and religious powerhouse in Europe, despite invasions by the Vikings in 851 and 879. After the Hundred Years' War, political and civil unrest in the country led to multiple revolts that deepened the devastation caused by the Eighty Years' War that followed. The city's second revival would not come until the 18th and 19th centuries, when the textile industry revitalised the economy.
Nowadays, the city is home to the Port of Ghent, a major economic hub and the third-largest port in Belgium. Celebrated across the globe for its extraordinarily well preserved medieval architecture, stunning inland waterways, and vibrant culture, Gent is the epitome of classic European charm.
Luggage Storage near Ghent's Train Stations
Thanks to Gent's well-organised public transport and easy to navigate streets, navigating the city is a breeze for residents and visitors alike. In addition to extensive regular bus and tram services, Ghent's railway system connects the city to the country and the rest of Europe.
Gent - Sint - Pieters Train Station
The busiest station in Flanders, and the fourth-busiest station in Belgium, the Gent-Sint-Pieters Railway Station, sees over 17 million passengers annually. The Gent-Sint-Pieters Railway Station, located 3 kilometres (a little less than 2 miles) from the city centre, is Ghent's primary transit station, connecting passengers with bus, tram, taxi, and bicycle rental services.
In anticipation of the 1913 World's Fair, construction on the current station began in 1910 and finished in 1912. Today, the historic local landmark recalls its origins through fierce preservation of its features, including its ornately decorated ceiling and wall murals that depict various scenes of Belgian cities and its iconic clock tower.
Gent-Sint-Pieters Railway Station currently offers nine intercity services, two local services, two S-train services, and seven Peak Hour train services. Additionally, the station serves three lines of the Ghent Tram and connects internationally via the IC 04 and TER 19700 Lines.
Gent - Dampoort Station
Situated just 1.9 kilometres (a bit over a mile) from the city centre, the Gent-Dampoort Station is the second busiest station in Gent. The station consists of one island platform and three tracks, including one for drive through, on Lines 58, 58D, and 59.
Initially opened as the Gent-Eecloo Station in 1861, the original station building was demolished and replaced by the current station in 1973. As recently as 2008, though, Gent-Dampoort Station underwent renovations to improve the flooring, repaint the shelters, and construct a Panos Sandwich Shop within the corridor before the station platform.
Fully accessible to people of all abilities, passengers can reach the station's platform by elevator, escalator, or fixed staircase. Gent-Dampoort Station offers three intercity services, two local services, and three S-Line services during the week, in addition to five regular weekend services.
Luggage Storage at Airports near Ghent
Do you plan on flying into the city of Ghent for your visit? If so, then it's more than likely that you'll be arriving at one of the three following airports: Brussels Airport, Antwerp Internationa Airport, or Lille Airport.
An international airport located 68 kilometres (around 42 miles) southeast of Gent's city centre in Zaventem, Belgium, Brussels Airport, is used as a public and military airfield. Brussels Airport serves over 26 million passengers per year with nonstop international and domestic flights to more than 180 destinations in over 60 countries.
Brussels Airport has a long history of aviation, starting in 1940 when occupying Nazi German troops first utilised the land for the Luftwaffe as a reserve backup airfield. The Belgian government took over the site after Allied forces liberated the city in September 1944, and the airport was opened to the public as a civil aerodrome in 1948.
Now, Brussels Airport is the busiest in the country and the 24th busiest airport in Europe. As home to more than 250 companies and the home base for TUI fly Belgium and Brussels Airlines, the airport is an economic and transit hub for the entire country of Belgium. Featuring over 60 shops, restaurants, and bars for travellers to enjoy, Brussels Airport consists of a single terminal with four levels and two piers.
Antwerp International Airport
One of Belgium's minor international airports, Antwerp International Airport, is located in the city of Antwerp, 65.3 kilometres (just over 40.5 miles) northeast of Ghent. The airport, which is frequently used for private and corporate aviation, also offers charter, seasonal, and regularly scheduled flights, in addition to general aviation services.
Antwerp International Airport, which began as a pilot training school in 1923, features a museum dedicated to its history. The Museum Stampe-Vertongen exhibits 20 aeroplanes and full-size aircraft reconstructions, some of which date back to World War I, in the same building that was initially erected at the site in 1930.
The airport serves more than ten foreign destinations, due in large part to its principal tenant, TUI fly Belgium, which operates most passenger flights. Keep in mind that Antwerp International Airport is designed with a single terminal concept and only offers limited facilities. However, travellers heading into Gent from the airport may be interested in knowing that it has a combination cafe/bar and a VIP Lounge.
Also known as Lille-Lesquin Airport, or more simply, Lesquin Airport, Lille Airport sits 71 kilometres (44 miles) southwest of Ghent. Located in the city of Lesquin, in northern France, the Lille Airport is the 12th busiest airport in France, serving more than 1.5 million passengers in a typical year.
Lille Airport offers regularly scheduled, non-stop flights to more than 40 destinations, connecting travellers with eight countries worldwide, including France and Belgium. A dozen commercial airlines operate at the airport, including Air France, Ryanair, and Tui fly Belgium, providing charter and seasonal flights in addition to passenger flights.
Visitors to the Lille Airport can stop in for some duty-free shopping at the Aélia Shop and grab last-minute items before departure at the Relay Shop. Or, if you're looking for somewhere to grab a bite while visiting the airport, head over to Jardins Pamplemousse, Salon Blériot, or Your's Restaurant and Bar for authentic French dining.
What to do in Ghent
- Travel back in time on a riverboat cruise along the Leie, home to some of Gent's oldest and most beautiful landmarks and buildings.
- Climb 366 steps up to the top of the Belfry of Ghent, where you can enjoy incredible views of the city alongside the copper dragon statue, the city's faithful guardian since the 14th century.
- Visit Flander's only remaining medieval castle with a moat, Gravensteen, 'the Castle of the Count.' Throughout the course of the city's history, the castle has fulfilled a multitude of roles, including that of residence, court, prison, mint, and cotton factory.
- Catch a show at Nederlands Toneel Gent, or NTGent, as it's often called, Ghent's Royal Dutch Theater.
- Take a moment to snap a photo at Sint-Michielshelling (St. Michael's Bridge, in English). As the only place in the city where you can see all three Medieval Towers of Ghent (see below), this is one Kodak moment you don't want to miss.
- Stroll along Gent's graffiti alley, Werregarenstraat, where the art is ever-changing and always stunning.
Gent has an oceanic climate due to its proximity to the North Sea and experiences four distinct seasons. While the winds in the city are generally calm, humidity in the city is often high, remaining above 60 percent relative humidity, even during its dryest month, April. On average, Gent experiences around 180 sunny days and 124 days of precipitation per year.
If you're going to visit Ghent, locals recommend planning your stay between June and September, when rainfall is limited, and temperatures are pleasantly warm. July, in particular, is one of the warmest months in the city, with average high temperatures of around 23.9 degrees Celcius (75.1 degrees Fahrenheit) and average low temperatures above 13.9 degrees Celcius (57.1 degrees Fahrenheit) more often than not.
Fun Facts About Ghent
- Ghent is a city of many nicknames, including Fiere Stede, the Artevelde City, the Flower City, 'the Medieval Manhattan,' 'a City of All Times,' and 'Europe's Best-Kept Secret.'
- In commemoration of the Revolt of Ghent, Gent's inhabitants have been known as stropdragers, Dutch for "noose bearers," since the mid-1500s.
- Together, the towers of St. Nicholas' Church, St. Bavo's Cathedral, and the Belfry of Ghent make the Three Towers of Ghent collectively one of the city's biggest tourist draws.
- The bell tower at the legendary Belfry of Ghent stands at 91 metres tall (298.5 feet) and has been known to, on occasion, chime out whimsical tunes like the theme song to the Pirates of the Caribbean.
- When a baby is born in the city's maternity wards, the parents are given the opportunity to flash the streetlights at Sint-Veerleplein square in celebration, as part of artist Alberto Garutti's work of art, Ai Nati Oggi ("For Those Born Today").