Jacob van Artevelde: there he stands, with his arm outstretched towards England. The statue in the middle of the Vrijdagmarkt is a reminder of a grandiose age gone by. It is almost as though he were pointing the market stallholders in the direction of prosperity. If he were to spin a quarter-turn to the right, he would be showing visitors the way to all the cafés and restaurants on the square, pointing out where they can go for their favourite tipple.

Local beer in the market square

The Vrijdagmarkt and surrounding area are well worth a visit. You can spend hours and hours on and around the square. On Fridays and Saturdays, visit the market that gave the square its name. Soak in the atmosphere in the alleyways that surround the square and admire the magnificent façades. Then, go and enjoy a local beer at one of the cosy pubs such as the Dulle Griet. It is a place you won’t easily forget with its famous shoe-for-a-glass ritual. Find out for yourself how it works! Just be careful not to break the glass... although if the worst comes to the worst, there are plenty of shoe shops nearby.

Shopaholic

Alternatively, shop ‘til you drop in the Serpentstraat and Baudelostraat. Browse through a treasure trove of vintage books and LPs. Put together the perfect outfit at one of the many trendy fashion stores. And why not stop somewhere for a cup of tea? Let yourself be captivated by creative ideas at the many original gift shops. Believe us, there are some real gems to be found. Getting hungry? The restaurants on the Vrijdagmarkt are always close by. Follow the row of shops in Oudburg into the Patershol, the culinary heart of Ghent.

Piece of history

The Vrijdagmarkt has a rich history, but there is a dark side to the story. Celebrations have been held on the square throughout the centuries. It is here that royalty were officially received at the ceremonies known as Joyous Entries. And, sadly, where people were also executed. No need to panic though: it is a long time since anyone has been guillotined or burned at the stake. The last public execution was in 1863. The Little Tower, which was already here in the 15th century, is pretty much the only remaining building to have witnessed these gruesome practices. The others were built in the 19th century. The imposing building belonging to the socialist movement, with the words Bond Moyson on the façade, was only built at the beginning of the 20th century.

Statue of Jacob van Artevelde

Jacob van Artevelde managed to undo the boycott of English wool imports during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France in the 14th century. The textiles industry in Ghent was revived and Artevelde was hailed a hero. In 1345 he was murdered during a riot. Since 1863 his statue at Vrijdagmarkt has been pointing to England.

Travel back in time

Can’t get enough of tales of the Middle Ages? Visit the Hof van Rijhove nearby. It is an authentic Ghent patrician mansion with a history dating back to the 12th century. Or do you prefer the atmosphere of the recent past? Be sure to cross the river to the Patershol. The picturesque Huis van Alijn just across the water is really worth seeing. This recently renovated museum, with its own cosy local pub, is a nostalgic nod to our Flemish customs and traditional rituals. Take a trip down memory lane with all five senses!