Ghent, a city in the Flanders region of northwestern Belgium, is a destination that often flies under the radar of most business travellers.
However, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and robust economy, Ghent offers much more than just a convenient stop for business meetings from its medieval architecture to its modern business landscape.
Ghent is one of the oldest cities in Belgium, and it has a rich history dating back to the 10th century. Despite its age, the city boasts a vibrant contemporary scene, both in terms of culture and commerce. Ghent is the historical capital of Flanders and is known for its thriving textile industry, significant historical landmarks, and its status as a horticultural hub. The city is also home to numerous prestigious educational institutions, including the state university founded by William I in 1817, and an agricultural college.
Getting to Ghent
Ghent is strategically located and well-connected by plane from many UK airports and train from Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp, making it a convenient destination for business travellers. The city is served by Belgian Rail, and the journey times from these cities range from 25 minutes from Bruges to 30 minutes from Brussels. The fares are also quite reasonable, making train travel a cost-effective option.
Local’s Tip: If you’re arriving from Antwerp, consider stopping at Ghent-Dampoort station. It’s a short 15-minute walk to the city centre from there, and you’ll be treated to a unique view of the city’s towers as you approach.
Ghent’s Business Landscape
Beyond its historical and cultural allure, Ghent also offers a robust business landscape. The city is a centre of horticulture and market gardening, with the Gentse Floralien (Floralies Gantoises), a renowned flower show, held every five years. Ghent’s commercial and industrial activities span oil refining, banking, paper manufacturing, chemical production, and light machinery manufacturing.
Of particular note is Ghent’s thriving textile industry. The introduction of cotton-spinning machinery and the construction of a port in the 19th century sparked a revival of the city’s textile industry. Today, Ghent is the centre of the Belgian textile industry, an important aspect for business travellers in the textile and fashion sectors to note.
Ghent’s Business Hospitality
For business travellers, Ghent offers a range of accommodation options that cater to different budgets and preferences. One notable option is Ghent River Hotel. The hotel offers clean, comfortable rooms and is just a short walk away from key attractions like Graslei & Korenlei, Gravensteen, and Patershol.
Diving into Ghent’s Rich History
Ghent’s history is a fascinating tapestry that spans centuries. The city boasts an array of historical landmarks, including the Gravensteen or the “Castle of the Counts”, a 12th-century castle that houses the Arms Museum and the Museum of Judicial Objects. Another notable site is the St. Bavo’s Abbey, a structure dating back to the 7th century.
The city’s impressive medieval architecture is best admired from the St. Michael’s Bridge, a picturesque vantage point that offers stunning views of the surrounding architecture and the river. Ghent is also home to numerous public squares and marketplaces, the most notable being the Vrijdagmarkt or “Friday Market”, a bustling meeting point for locals and visitors alike.
Ghent’s cultural scene is as vibrant as its business landscape, offering opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment in between business commitments. The city is famous for its local Belgian beers, with numerous pubs and taverns offering a wide selection. The city is also known for its street art, with several hotspots featuring works inspired by Van Eyck, as well as the Graffiti Alley.
For a dose of culture, visit the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses a collection of paintings by Flemish masters who lived and worked in Ghent during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Tip: For a unique Ghent experience, consider going on a self-guided scavenger hunt around the city. This activity offers a fun way to explore the city while challenging your problem-solving skills.
Ghent’s food scene offers a range of culinary experiences, from traditional Belgian fare to international cuisines. One must-try dish is “waterzooi”, a traditional Flemish dish that originated in Ghent. For a sweet treat, try the local Belgian beers, particularly the fruity varieties like the Lindeman’s Apple beer.
Unwinding in Ghent
After a day of business meetings, Ghent offers several options for relaxation and leisure. One popular option is to embark on a canal cruise, which provides a different perspective of the city. Another option is to visit Citadel Park, a quiet retreat from the city’s bustle.
Ghent, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and robust business landscape, is a destination that deserves to be on every business traveller’s radar. Whether you’re attending a business meeting, exploring potential business opportunities, or simply looking for a unique travel experience, Ghent has something for everyone. So the next time you’re planning a business trip to Belgium, make sure to include Ghent in your itinerary.