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Ghent (play /ˈɡɛnt/; Dutch: Gent, pronounced [ʝɛnt]; French: Gand, pronounced: [ɡɑ̃]) is a city and a municipality located in the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Lys and in the Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. Today it is a busy city with a port and a university. Although many of Belgium's visitors overlook Ghent, its beauty is often compared to the more well-known Bruges.

The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 240,191 inhabitants in the beginning of 2009,[2] Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,205 km2 (465 sq mi) and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium.[3][4] The current mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont, leads a coalition of the sp.a, Open VLD and Pro Gent.

Every year the ten-day-long "Ghent Festival" (Gentse Feesten in Dutch) is held. About two million visitors attend every year.

Ghent in 1775

Archaeological 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.[5] Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, 'Ganda', is derived from the Celtic word 'ganda' which means confluence.[5] There are no written records of the Roman period but archaeological 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 Abbey. 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 London, Cologne or Moscow[citation needed]. Within the city walls lived up to 65,000 people. Today, the belfry and the towers of the Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas' Church 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 Bruges, 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 1453, in which Ghent suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of Philip the Good. Around this time the center of political and social importance in the Low Countries started to shift from Flanders (Bruges–Ghent) to Brabant (Antwerp–Brussels), although Ghent would continue to play an important role.
Buildings along the Leie river in Ghent
Justitiepaleis, Ghent, ca. 1895

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 1745 the city was captured by French forces during the War of the Austrian Succession before being returned to Austria following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

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

Ghent was also the site of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent which formally ended the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. After the battle of Waterloo Ghent became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for 15 years. In this period Ghent established its own university (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 station was completed in 1912.

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

I Ghent
II Mariakerke
III Drongen
IV Wondelgem
V Sint-Amandsberg
VI Oostakker
VII Desteldonk
VIII Mendonk
IX Sint-Kruis-Winkel
X Ledeberg
XI Gentbrugge
XII Afsnee
XIII Sint-Denijs-Westrem
XIV Zwijnaarde

Neighbouring municipalities

De Pinte

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The Graslei is one of the most scenic places in Ghent's old city centre. The bridge to the right is the Sint-Michielsbrug, the building on the corner is the former postal office and in the distance to the right the three towers of Ghent can be seen.
The Gravensteen
Historical centre of Ghent – from left to right: Old post office, Saint-Nicholas Church, Belfry, and Saint Bavo Cathedral.
Ghent at Night
Riverside in Ghent

Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its centre is the largest carfree area in Belgium. Interesting highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen castle, 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 béguinages and numerous churches, among which the Saint-Jacob's church, the Saint-Nicolas' church and the Saint Michael's church are the most beautiful examples.

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

Important museums in Ghent are the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Paul Rubens, and many Flemish masters; the SMAK or Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (City Museum for Contemporary Art), with works of the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol; and the Design Museum with masterpieces of Victor Horta and Le Corbusier. The Huis van Alijn (House of the Alijn family) was originally a beguinage and is now a museum for folk art where theatre and puppet shows for children are presented. The Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel or MIAT displays the industrial strength of Ghent with recreations of workshops and stores from the 1800s and original spinning and weaving machines that remain from the time when the building was a weaving mill. STAM, the new Ghent City Museum, is committed to recording and explaining the past of the city and its inhabitants, and to preserve the present for future generations.
Restaurants and culinary traditions

In Ghent and other regions of East-Flanders, bakeries sell a donut-shaped bun called a "mastel" (plural "mastellen"), which is basically a bagel. "Mastellen" are also called "Saint Hubert bread", 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.

Other local delicacies are the praline chocolates from local producers such as Leonidas and Dascalides, the 'neuzekes' ('noses'), cone-shaped purple jelly-filled candies, 'babeluten' ('babblers'), hard butterscotch-like candy, and of course, on the more fiery side, the famous 'Teirenteyn', a fine mustard that is at least as hot yet refined in taste as the French 'Dijon' mustard.

'Stoverij' is a classic Flemish meat stew, preferably made with a generous adittion of brown 'Trappist' (strong abbey beer) and served with French fries. 'Waterzooi' is 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 Donderdag Veggiedag[6][7] with vegetarian food being promoted in public canteens for civil servants and elected councillors, 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 Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has 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 in Flanders Expo, "10 Days Off" musical festival, Flanders International Film Festival Ghent (with the World Soundtrack Awards) and the Gent Festival van Vlaanderen. Also, every five years, a huge botanical exhibition (Gentse Floraliën) takes place in Flanders Expo in Ghent, attracting numerous visitors to the city.

The Festival of Flanders had its 50th celebration in 2008. In Ghent it opens with the OdeGand City festivities that takes place on the second Saturday of September. Some 50 concerts take place in diverse locations throughout the medieval inner-city and some 250 international artists performs. Other major Flemish cities hold similar events, all of which form part of the Festival of Flanders (Antwerp with Laus Polyphoniae; Bruges with MAfestival; Brussels with KlaraFestival; Limburg with Basilica, Mechelen and Brabant with Novecento and Transit).

The port of Ghent, 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 Dutch port of Terneuzen on the Western Scheldt. The port houses, among others, big companies like Arcelor-Mittal, Volvo Cars, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Parts, Honda, and Stora Enso.

The Ghent University and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city, such as Ablynx, Innogenetics, Cropdesign, Bayer Cropscience.

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

Flanders Expo, the biggest event hall in Flanders, second biggest in Belgium, is also located in Ghent.

Tourism is increasingly becoming a major employer in the local area.[citation needed]

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:
The E40: connects Ghent with Bruges and Ostend to the west, and with Brussels, Leuven and Liège to the east.
The E17: connects Ghent with Sint-Niklaas and Antwerp to the north, and with Kortrijk and Lille to the south.

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 Station: 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 Airport.
Gent-Dampoort Station: an intercity train station with connections to Sint-Niklaas, Antwerp, Kortrijk and Eeklo.
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 Drongen with only a limited number of trains a day.

Ghent has an extensive web of public transport lines, operated by De Lijn:
Ghent Tram (see pictures below):
Line 1: Flanders Expo – Sint-Pieters-Station – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Evergem
Line 21: Zwijnaardebrug – UZ – Sint-Pieters-Station – Zonnestraat (city centre) – Zuid – Melle Leeuw
Line 22: Zwijnaardebrug – UZ – Sint-Pieters-Station – Zonnestraat (city centre) – Zuid – Gentbrugge
Line 4: Sint-Pieters-Station – Muide – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Zuid – Moscou

City buses (see picture below):
Line 3: Mariakerke – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Dampoort-Station – Gentbrugge (former Trolleybus (see picture below))
Line 5: Van Beverenplein – Sint-Jacobs (city centre) – Zuid – UZ – Zwijnaarde
Line 6: Watersportbaan – Zuid – Dampoort-Station – Wondelgem – Mariakerke
Line 8: Zuid – University – Sint-Pieters-Station – Blaarmeersen
Line 9: Mariakerke – Malem – Sint-Pieters-Station – Gentbrugge
Line 17/18: Drongen – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Dampoort-Station – Oostakker
Line 38/39: Blaarmeersen – Korenmarkt (city centre) – Dampoort-Station – Sint-Amandsberg
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.

Low floor tram vehicle (type: HermeLijn)

Former trolleybus

Regional bus


In the Belgian first football division Ghent is represented by K.A.A. Gent. Another Ghent football club is KRC Gent-Zeehaven, playing in the Belgian fourth division.

Every year the Six Days of Flanders, a six-day track cycling race, is held in Ghent. It takes place in the Kuipke velodrome.

The city also hosts an annual track and field meet at the Flanders Sports Arena: the Indoor Flanders meeting. It is one of the IAAF's foremost indoor track and field events and two-time Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj set a world record at the event in 1997.
Famous people
Emperor Charles V was born in Ghent in 1500
Statue of Jacob van Artevelde on the Friday market in Ghent
See also: Notable people from Ghent

Saint Bavo, patron saint of Ghent (589–654)
Saint Livinus of Ghent, (580–657)
Henry of Ghent, scholastic philosopher (c. 1217–1293)
Jacob van Artevelde, statesman and political leader (c. 1290–1345)
John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (1340–1399)
Jan van Eyck, painter (c. 1385–1441)
Hugo van der Goes, painter (c. 1440–1482)
Jacob Obrecht, composer of the Renaissance (c. 1457–1505)
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Karel V, Charles Quint (1500–1558)
Cornelius Canis, composer of the Renaissance, music director for the chapel of Charles V in the 1540s–1550s
Daniel Heinsius, scholar of the Dutch Renaissance (1580–1655)
Caspar de Crayer, painter (1582–1669)
Josse Boutmy, composer, organist and harpsichordist (1697–1779)
Frans de Potter, writer, (1834–1904)
Jan Frans Willems, writer (1793–1846)
Joseph Guislain, physician (1797–1860)
Hippolyte Metdepenningen, lawyer and politician (1799–1881)
Louis XVIII of France was exiled in Ghent during the Hundred Days in 1815
Charles John Seghers, Jesuit clergyman and missionary (1839–1886)
Victor Horta, Art Nouveau architect (1861–1947)
Maurice Maeterlinck, poet, playwright, essayist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1862–1949)
Frans Rens, writer, (1805–1874)
Leo Baekeland, chemist and inventor of Bakelite (1863–1944)
Pierre Louÿs, poet and romantic writer (1870–1925)
Marthe Boël, feminist (1877–1956)
Karel van de Woestijne, writer (1878–1929)
Corneille Jean François Heymans, physiologist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1892–1968)
Gustave Van de Woestijne, painter (1881–1947)
Suzanne Lilar, essayist, novelist, and playwright (1901–1992)
Jean Daskalidès, gynecologist and founder of Leonidas chocolates (1922–1992)
Willy De Clercq, liberal politician and European Commissioner (1927–2011)
Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee President (1942–)
Marc Mortier, first CEO (1986–2002) of Flanders Expo (1948–2004)
Gabriel Ríos, musician
Cédric Van Branteghem, sprinter athlete
Soulwax, electronic/rock band: brothers David and Stephen Dewaele
Xavier Henry, shooting guard for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies
Bradley Wiggins, British cyclist

International relations
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Belgium
Twin towns — Sister cities

Ghent is twinned with:[8]

United Kingdom Nottingham, England, United Kingdom
Estonia Tallinn, Estonia
Germany Wiesbaden, Germany
Japan Kanazawa, Japan

Germany Melle, Germany
Morocco Mohammedia, Morocco
France Saint-Raphaël, France

See also

List of Mayors of Ghent



^ Population per municipality on 1 January 2010 (XLS; 221 KB)
^ Statistics Belgium; Werkelijke bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2009 (excel-file) Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2009. Retrieved on 2010-11-28.
^ Statistics Belgium; Werkelijke bevolking per gemeente op 1 januari 2008 (excel-file) Population of all municipalities in Belgium, as of 1 January 2008. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
^ Statistics Belgium; De Belgische Stadsgewesten 2001 (pdf-file) Definitions of metropolitan areas in Belgium. The metropolitan area of Ghent is divided into three levels. First, the central agglomeration (agglomeratie) with 278,457 inhabitants (2008-01-01). Adding the closest surroundings (banlieue) gives a total of 423,320. And, including the outer commuter zone (forensenwoonzone) the population is 594,582. Retrieved on 2008-10-19.
^ a b "History of Ghent". www.gent.be. Retrieved 2006-05-05.[dead link]
^ "Ghent's veggie day: for English speaking visitors" on Vegetarisme.be
^ "Belgian city plans 'veggie' days" on BBC News (2009-05-12).
^ Gent van A tot Z: Zustersteden.

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