An ancient area, this part of Belgium shows evidence of human occupation dating back as far as the Stone and Iron age. Ghent is derived or Ganda as it is believed to have been known before, means confluence or the meeting of two bodies of water. It is this ecology which helped make Ghent a center of importance and by the 13th century, Ghent was the biggest city in Europe only after Paris with over 65,000 residents. Today, Ghent remains one of the most influential and largest cities in the East Flanders province and all of Northern Europe. A busy port city, it has over 600,000 residents today making it one of the most populous cities in Belgium.
Ghent’s Popular Sites
The entire city is filled with sites and sounds which will inspire and draw you into the unique history and culture of the area. From the taste of the local fare from its inspired local chefs to the opera, concerts, exhibitions and festivals, visitors have a variety of options for inspiration. That being said, there are some must see sites important for every visitor to leave time for. These attractions include the art, the museum, monuments and architecture as well as its green space.
The Cast of the Counts is one must see. Built in 1180 by Philip of Alsace, this imposing castle overlooks the city and offers tours and living history.
Old St Elizabeth Beguinage is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating back to 1235, it is one of the best preserved sites of its kind dating before the French Revolution.
Graslei and Korenlei are Medieval ports and often called the most beautiful spots in the city. Visitors and residents alike spend time relaxing on these streets in bustling cafes and patios, soaking up the atmosphere.
STAM Ghent City Musuem is the last in our list of must sees. Home to a massive collection of pieces which tell the story of the city from a Medieval metropolis to a cultural hub, it is made up of a 14th century abbey, a 17th century monastery and its newest development.
Ghent in Popular Culture
Telling the story of the biggest art theft in history, Ghent was featured in the movie Monuments Men which was recently released. A movie based on actual history, Ghent’s history of occupation by the Germans during the World Wars and its subsequent liberation by the British, the Polish and the local Belgian fighters and its significance for art and culture led to a clash which was featured in the movie. A number of the most popular sites in the city today are in relation to this part of Ghents history and include:
- The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb – Currently being restored
- The Ghent Altarpiece
- The Madonna of Bruges
- City Cart Ghent
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