Ghent, Belgium: The Historical Heart Of Flanders And Best Kept Secret

The inhabitants of Ghent-Belgium have always been aware of it, and now the rest of the world has also discovered this bustling city. In 2008 National Geographic Traveler Magazine published a list of the 109 most authentic destinations worldwide. Ghent ranked third! Moreover, Ghent was included in the 2011 edition of the Lonely Planet 'Best in Travel' guide, where it ranked seventh on the list of must-see cities.

Ghent, founded in the 7th Century, is Belgium's second largest municipality and much overlooked by tourists in favor of Bruges. The city however feels much less touristy and more authentic. Here at the EventInterface Resource Blog, we think Ghent, or Gent as it is called in Flemish, is an ideal location to host a meeting or conference no matter the size.



The city is only 45 minutes away from Brussels Airport, which has flights from over 70 international destinations. Thanks to the high speed trains, Ghent is only two hours away from Paris, and less than three hours from London, Amsterdam and Cologne. The city boasts fantastic meeting and event facilities. Hotels range from high-end family run operations to familiar international chains with full conference facilities. We've compiled a list of properties near the end of this post.

Much of the historic center of the city is pedestrian only, but if needed, local transportation via bus, light rail and train is punctual, clean, affordable and safe.

CULTURE:

STAM Gent STAM - Picture by Phile Deprez

Ghent is a city that is passionate about culture, in the broadest sense of the word. The city prides itself on the recently opened City Museum: STAM, and of course also has a host of other museums. UNESCO has named Ghent Creative City of Music. Not a surprising move, considering its many fantastic music festivals: The International Festival of Flanders Ghent, The Flanders International Film Festival Ghent, the Floralies, and of course the first Light Festival, which was a huge success. These are just a few of the city's many assets, which put Ghent on the map internationally. Ghent is continuously striving to improve in the city and to attract international visitors through various projects and investments, such as new hotels.

As a progressive town, Ghent also believes that sustainability is the way forward. By 2050 Ghent aims to become a climate neutral city.

MEETING VENUES

Whether you are organizing a small meeting or a major conference, an incentive trip or exhibition, a seminar or staff party, there's always a perfect location in Ghent. The city boasts an amazing array of facilities from brand new conference centers, to fabulous centuries old buildings refurbished to meet the needs of today's meeting and event planner. There are intimate venues and massive expo halls.

Gent - Eskimofabriek

Amongst some of the unique places you will find the Eskimofabriek (pictured above), a recently renovated textile factory. It can host intimate personal events or receptions for 2,000. The facility kept all of its industrial charm while offering a high-tech venue for meetings and events.

Flanders Expo is by far the largest venue in Ghent. Located outside of the city center, it has 7 meeting rooms and 8 exhibit halls featuring more than 580,000sqft of exhibition and meeting space.

If you are looking for event or meeting space with more historic flair, the city makes available a number of its historic buildings. The medieval Castle of the Counts (pictured below), and the former Saint-Peter's Abbey are magnificent event spaces.

Gent - Gravensteen

The Oude Vismijn, is an old fish, meat and vegetable market, located in the historical heart of the city. This recently renovated monument offers fabulous views of the rivers that grace the center of Ghent. The venue can hold reception style events for up to 1,200 guests.

Of course, Ghent offers more traditional meeting venues. There is the International Convention Center Ghent, the Aula at the University of Ghent, the Handelsbeurs (concert hall) and the Ghent Opera House.

HOTELS

Ghent too offers a wide variety of hotels. There are elegantly appointed family owned hotels and larger business oriented properties. Larger in Ghent would be considered a medium sized property in the United States. If you needed 500 hotel rooms, you won't find them at one property; however you can find 500 rooms in a combination of properties within walking distance of each other, giving your attendees an opportunity to choose.

The Ghent Marriott will be a familiar brand to most of our readers. This property (pictured above) is in a fabulous location, right on the water, and within walking distance of almost everything Ghent has to offer, from fabulous restaurants to great shopping. I have spent much time in Ghent and the area of this hotel may be one of my most favorite places ever. The Ghent Marriott has 150 sleeping rooms, underground parking (a treat here) and 8 meeting spaces, the largest holding 300 reception style.

Also located in the center of town are the ibis Gent Centrum, which features 134 rooms; the NH Gent Belfort with 174 rooms and meeting space for up to 300; Novotel Ghent has 117 rooms and meeting facilities for up to 150.

The Holiday Inn Ghent Expo is located next to Flanders Expo and easily accessible via light rail from the historic center of town. The hotel has 169 sleeping rooms, 8 meeting rooms and an atrium. The atrium can hosts events for up to 750.

Smaller groups can be accommodated at Hotel de Flandre with 46 sleeping rooms and 7 meetings rooms with room for 350. Hotel Gravensteen by the Castle of the Counts features 49 rooms and meeting space for up to 30. Hotel Harmony has 25 rooms and meeting space for 40.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

Gent Congres is the official convention bureau for Ghent and East Flanders. Its team will help you find the ideal venues and hotels, the right partners and the most original concepts to turn your event and meeting into a real success. They guarantee a fast response and a professional service. Best of all, the service is complimentary. Click here to visit their website.

Other helpful sites:

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Pictures by Tourist Office-City of Ghent, and respected venues.

- Al Wynant