Gent (Ghent)

No other people are as stubborn and as self-willed as the people of Ghent – or the Gentenaars, as they are known. It is built into their genes. In the Middle Ages, the Gentenaars revolted against Emperor Charles V and later they formed the first trade union, but they also built many great monuments and churches. You can admire the magnificent Lamb of God altarpiece by the van Eyck brothers in Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, before settling down on one of the many terraces along the Graslei or Korenlei. Afterwards, you can take in the stately Belfry, the much discussed new city hall and the less controversial old town hall (a splendid building with protected monument status). There is also the Gravensteen, a fortress built in 1180, and the nearby Patershol, a medieval neighbourhood full of crooked streets and winding alleyways. The House of Alijn, the Design Museum, the SMAK (Museum of Contemporary Art) and the STAM (City Museum) are all distinctive and thought-provoking. The same words could also be used to describe Ghent’s large student population and the colourful vibe they create in the city’s nightlife and cultural scene. The highlight of the year is the Gentse Feesten, Europe’s largest city festival, which is organised annually in mid-July and sets the Artevelde city alight!

there is a direct train connection between Bruges and Ghent (Sint-Pieters) (journey time: 23 minutes; www.belgianrail.be).

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