In Belgium, it is sometimes said that Ghentians are a breed apart, but is there a kernel of truth in that statement? Our search for the quintessential Ghentian character has resulted in a list of traits shared by many Ghentians and Ghent projects. Curious? Discover the things that make Ghent tick!

Typifying Ghent in a few lines: it is no easy task. You will agree if you take the time to get to know the city and its inhabitants. Ghent is a city of good-natured pertness, of friendly stubbornness, of being different together. Ghentians follow their hearts and like breaking the mould. Ghent is a haven for free spirits: a place where there is room for experiment, self-expression and individuality. It always brings people together, because people watch out for each other in Ghent. Solidarity is not an empty word in Ghent. 


Are Ghentians rebels at heart? You bet! Did you know that the city’s inhabitants did not want to pay taxes to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the sixteenth century? They did not want to contribute financially to his expensive imperial wars. This act of rebellion was nipped in the bud by the emperor when he entered the city with his army. Another example: in 1949, students of Ghent University called for an occupation of the Castle of the Counts in protest against the beer price increase. As they considered drinking beer to be a basic right, they went to the historic monument en masse for a humorous demonstration that made the international press. This shows that the rebellious side of Ghent goes back a long time. And it is still going strong. In 2011, for instance, the people of Ghent organised a huge happening on the occasion of the ‘government formation world championship’. It was playful a kick in the pants of the political establishment.  

During the annual Ghent Festival, "noose bearers" re-enact the punishment that was imposed on the leaders of the revolt in the 16th century by Emperor Charles V.
Even the newspapers in New York wrote about the 138 students who occupied the Castle of the Counts on 16 November 1949 in protest against a beer price increase. This happening is commemorated annually by Ghent students.


Ghent also wants to bring people together instead of dividing them. Let’s return to the so-called ‘government formation world championship’ The organisers explicitly asked not to bring any political symbols (e.g. flags) to the event. Everyone was welcome, but personal opinions had to remain personal. This created an exceptional sense of connection. More recently, a non-profit organisation started at the grassroots: Enchanté. It is aimed at having Ghentians from all walks of life taking care of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This initiative enables you to buy a ‘delayed’ coffee or meal at various establishments.  This way, you donate refreshments to someone who really needs them. That person can walk into a bar or restaurant and look for a voucher for a cup of coffee, soup or some chips. Another example of an initiative that connects people? ‘Allez, Chantéz!’ organises singing sessions which anyone can participate in free of charge. At these sing-alongs, everyone can forget their worries while singing their hearts out to classics and pop songs. Music as a catalyst for social contact, how cool is that? 

Allez, Chantéz! brings people together through sing-alongs


Various projects and activities in the city demonstrate that Ghentians form their own ideas and opinions. Just think of how Ghentians protest. The way Ghent students protested against rising beer prices was not only rebellious, but also different. A more recent example is ‘Dobberdag’: a day when everyone was invited to bob up and down on the water in a boat at Houtdok, as a friendly call for more outdoor swimming venues in the city. And then there was the protest with the pink pants. When a neighbour complained about noise and a judge decided that the outdoor swimming pool, playground and patio of recreational park Rozebroeken had to be demolished, local residents hung up pink pants and balloons in protest. Because they did not want the outdoor facilities to disappear. Their action was not without success: the outdoor swimming pool could stay. Taking a different approach to an issue so as to attract positive attention: Ghentians have become experts in it.  

A typical Ghent expression is: ‘Nie neute en nie pleuje’. This means: don’t whine, don’t give up.


The Ghentians’ questioning accepted views and pushing the limits is noticeable in lots of ways. A few years ago, the people of Ghent wondered whether cars should still be allowed to cruise through the city centre. The local authorities then drew up an ambitious mobility plan. They were not fazed by the stiff opposition. The common interest – cleaner air in the city – was paramount. Cycle roads, car sharing, cargo bike parking stations: Ghent is leading the way in mobility. Ghent has also blazed a new trail in terms of food strategy. ‘Thursday Veggie Day’ was launched in Ghent and adopted by numerous other towns and cities. In a lot of restaurants, you can ask to take your leftovers home in a box called ‘Restorestje’. And Ghentians are also pioneers in the integration of newcomers. Refu Interim looks for volunteer work for people who have recently arrived in Belgium so as to bring them into contact with others. Looking at a situation from a different perspective and approaching it in a new way is something Ghentians are good at. And they know that when you fail, you have to pick yourself up and move on. 


Cars have made way for cycle roads, bicycle bridges and countless cyclists who cross the city on their cargo bikes or longtail bicycles

Come and experience it yourself

Describing Ghent’s character in words is great, but experiencing it for yourself with an open mind is even better.  Are you staying in Ghent? Then have a chat with a local shopkeeper or with a real Ghentian in a bar. Be a courteous guest and show an interest in what sets Ghent apart from other cities. You will get a lot back! 


Gent heb je niet op één dag ontdekt en beleefd. Boek een overnachting in een Gents hotel, deel een kamer in een hostel of kies voor een kamer met ontbijt bij een Gentse B&B. Van het avontuurlijke type? Reserveer een plekje op de camping en zet je tent op aan de Blaarmeersen.

Plan je trip

Festivals, tentoonstellingen, concerten..., cultuur ligt voor het rapen in Gent. Plan je trip naar Gent door gebruik te maken van de hartjesiconen en verzamel al je favorieten in een handig lijstje onder 'Mijn trip'.

Laat je inspireren

Of je nu komt citytrippen in de herfst of winter, alleen of in gezelschap, Gent is altijd een idee. Laat je inspireren en plan je uitje naar de Arteveldestad.