"Ghent should rank as the most surprising city in Flanders, combining beauty and culture with creativity, cutting edge design and a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene."
John Brunton, The Observer, 18 January 2009
Ghent is a city of history. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe, in some quarters considered second only to Paris (the Italian peninsula excluded). The impact of this rich past can be clearly seen when viewing the imposing architecture of churches and the houses of rich traders. The whole of the city center is restored in this fashion, and still breathes the atmosphere of a thriving late-medieval city state. As the city council made the center free of cars, it is now a very welcoming and open area, which does not fail to impress even the people who live there.
Ghent is also a university city with more than 50,000 students. As such, its streets are filled with young people. But, unlike Leuven, another university town in Flanders, youth is not the only category of people living there. There is an interesting mixture of foreigners who came to live there, or artists, amongst the native people of Ghent. Interestingly, other than the smaller provincial cities or the bigger city of Antwerp, this mixture makes the people more tolerant and open-minded. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of city life. Many people of Ghent truly see the place like home, and are very proud to live there, seeing it as a place that will always welcome them back home.