The Flemish region of Belgium includes the city of Ghent (or Gent, based on your language).

Rather than the French capital of Brussels, many people associate with the Dutch tongue and Belgium’s northern neighbors, the Netherlands.

Many people are surprised to discover that Belgium is actually divided into three regions: the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) province in the north, the French-speaking central region, and a small German-speaking province in the east.


Belgians take great pleasure in their ability to work together across linguistic and cultural barriers. This cooperative spirit permeates all levels of Belgian society, from the national level (try doing government business in three languages!) to the individual level.

That naturally means I met some of the nicest individuals ever there.

For 7 euros, I took the train from Brussels Zuid to Ghent’s St. Peters Station and then walked to a great hotel in the Turkish neighborhood of Rabot.

I took a tour of the city after dark and was completely taken aback by what I saw. A feeling of calmness pervaded every location I visited. I doubt I was alone, as there appeared to be a few other visitors enjoying the illuminated canals.

To give you an idea, I walked into a packed square admiring the Gravensteen, a magnificent Medieval Castle based on a structure built in Syria in the 12th century.


Ghent locals are extremely warm and welcoming, and they communicate an absurdly high level of English. In other countries, asking a counter clerk if they understand English might make you feel awkward.

A friendly “hello!” from a Ghentian was generally welcomed and offered frequently.

I received the impression that, despite the fact that its often ostentatious canals and gothic style architecture combine to make it an extremely attractive tourist destination, it has not yet been overrun by visitors.

Most of my time was spent taking lengthy walks along the harbor and up to the Belfry to take in the view of the historic St. Niklaas Cathedral, which is located at the top of 390 steps.

I dined on delicious vegetarian cuisine (Ghent is home to the highest concentration of vegetarians per capita in Europe!) and local raspberry candy called Cuberdons (Dutch: “noses”).

I ate artisan hipster pizza at Ottomat and gawked at Wasbar, a brunch spot where you can actually do your laundry while you eat, before wandering into De Post, a posh shopping complex built in a repurposed market.

Sipping a hot cider and taking in the cultural melting pot of people, languages, and smiles hidden behind drinks of every hue, I spent my last night at the Hot Club, a bar frequented by people of all ages and renowned for its weekend live music.

The quiet magic of Ghent has been the biggest delight for me in all of Western Europe. (whichever way you spell it).

Follow us on