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A treasure trove of medieval buildings and exquisite architecture, Ghent is a serene city to visit with the network of canals and waters. The skyline is doted with church spires and castle structures and the streets are a web of cobbled walkways. With a successful industrial centre and a famous university, the city has a young vibrant feel, yet there is still a strong culture and pride in its history. For many years Ghent sat in the shadow of Antwerp and Bruges, but more recently this fashionable and unusual city has been attracting visitors increasing its popularity as a short break destination. With many interesting sights and attractions, over 300 restaurants or cafes and a busy nightlife, there is more than enough to keep you busy.
The history of Ghent
The River Scheldt and Leie meet where a community was first established in Ghent during the Roman era, then in the middle ages the Abbey of Saint Peter (now the Abbey of Saint Bavo) was founded.
Thriving in the 11th and 12th century, the most important aspect of the area was its trade centre, importing wool from England and then exporting the cloth it produced. During this time the city was one of the richest and most powerful in Europe and saw Garvensteen (the Castle of the Counts) built along with a number of imposing churches and houses for the wealthy industrialists.
In 1500, Charles V was born in Ghent, who later became one of the greatest rulers in Europe. By the late 15th century the cloth trade was suffering and the city tried to shift focus to the shipping trade in order to protect its prosperity, however at the end of the century the River Scheldt closed causing a unavoidable decline
Caught in the midst of political and religious conflicts it was not until the 19th century that Ghent began to prosper as the resurgence of the clothing industry saw cotton mills spring into life.
Today, Ghent is classed as the capital of East-Flanders, with a population of around a quarter of a million people. Over 50,000 of these are students attending the flourishing and popular university, ensuring a young and vibrant community. Over recent years, a varied mix of foreigners have been drawn to the city, creating a wonderful mix of cultures that live in harmony and have added to the attraction of the city, increasing the variety of restaurants, market stalls and shops. Over recent years the city council have made the centre a car free zone, the largest pedestrianized centre in Europe, making it an attractive and welcoming area for anyone visiting or living in the Ghent.