Moving to Ghent
Are you moving to Ghent? Located in the Flemish region in the northern part of Belgium, it is the second-largest municipality in Belgium.
One of the most beautiful city’s in Belgium, Ghent is a mix of both provincial and cosmopolitan aspects that define its strong heritage. A great variety of accommodation is available, whether for a single person or a family, and the canals prove popular with stunning views from waterside apartments. Ghent has a very high quality of living and is a safe city.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Ghent report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Ghent on the Map
Ghent is the capital city of the East Flanders province in the north of Belgium and is the second largest municipality in Belgium.
Lying at the junction of the Leie Canal and Schelde rivers, in the middle of an urban complex that incorporates Sint-Amandsberg, Ledeberg and Gentbrugge, Ghent is a mere 30-minute drive from the capital of Brussels and is on the train line from Brussels to Bruges and the coast.
In the decentralised country of Belgium, local governments play a big part in running their regions. Cities are generally subdivided into sub-municipalities which are called deelgemeenten. There are 14 of these in Ghent, each with its own admin centre, unique character and postcode. Central Ghent has the postcode Ghent 9000.
The well organised, and extremely cost-effective, public transport is mainly buses and trams, that run to all corners of the city and suburbs. Tickets and passes can be used on both which can be bought at vending machines around the city, in Lijnwinkels and in an E-shop.
Gent-St-Peters is the main train station and Gent-Dampoort is the alternative station.
The Zaventem International Airport in Brussels is only 45 minutes away. Brussels South/Charleroi airport is 70 minutes away with more than 20 bus connections from the airport into Brussels, where there are frequent train connections to Ghent, along with bus connections to Charleroi-Sud Railway Station where trains run to Ghent.
Driving in Ghent comes with all the normal city traffic conditions. Rush-hour traffic takes up to twice as long as it would normally, and parking is expensive. The city centre has the largest car-free area in the country.
Blue-Bike is a cycle-hire service. There are 53 stations throughout the city.
The majority of expats who choose to live in the city centre live in areas such as Miunparkwijk with its affordable single-family homes with gardens or Coupure, older houses and a lovely river running through the district. Leafy and quiet, Visserij has terraced houses adjoining industrial lofts and grand old manor houses and a lovely waterfront walking trail. Prinsenhof and Patershol, with their winding cobblestone roads, are lively areas with a good choice of restaurants and museums. The university and the international school are here. The area between Citadelpark and St. Peter’s Abbey is a student nightlife hotspot, so gets pretty noisy. The southern edge of the old port, close to Gent-Dampoort station is undergoing gentrification around the old docks. Dok Noord (the northern dock) has a lovely shopping centre and some high-end apartments.
Long streets, lined with narrow terraced houses are found in Sint-Amandsberg, Gentbrugge and Ledeberg, all formerly workers’ districts for employees such as factory and railway workers. This vibrant area has many points of interest. De Punt is an office and support centre for entrepreneurs, Campo Santo cemetery In Sint-Amandsberg is the site of the zeppelin crash in 1915 but is now home to the Rozebroeken sports centre. In Ledeberg you will find small traditional old workers’ homes, called beluiken. Gentbugge has its own railway station, Gentbugse Meersen is one of the main green areas of the city, with allotments and play facilities for the kids. Apartments along the canals offer scenic views over the Scheldt valley.
Single-family homes intermingle with social housing and apartment blocks in Wondelgem, where young local families built their dream houses a short tram ride away from the city centre. On the southern side is an older, more traditional workers’ quarter mainly inhabited by Moroccan and Turkish families, which creates a vibey atmosphere at weekends, with shops remaining open on Sunday. Mariakerke is famous for striking old villas stretching long the Ghent-Bruges canal and bordering the Bourgoyen nature reserve.
SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST
Zwijnaarded, Dongen and Sint-Denijs-Westrem were once small villages but were absorbed into Ghent in the 20th century. With mainly detached houses, apartments have been added recently. The Kortrijksesteenweg in Sint-Denijs-Westrem is lined with large shopping chains, strip clubs and garages selling Mercedes and Porche, and other high-end vehicles.
Stretched alongside the eastern part of the port, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Mendonk, Oostakker and Desteldonk are small suburban areas and all but Oostakker line the Gent-Terneuzen canal which runs through the industrial area. Oostakker is by far the largest with the most amenities.
For those working at the university, Zwijnaarde is connected to the city by a new tram line.
Who Lives and Works in Ghent
With a population of around a quarter of a million people, this small city attracts many global companies, creating employment for expats. Its central location has ensured that many world leaders in various industries are established in the port of Ghent. These include the automotive, paper, energy, chemical, foodstuff and steel industries. The accessibility of the port with its sterling port equipment and outstanding transportation connections by road, rail and inland waterways are decisive factors in investing in the Ghent canal zone, which creates employment for around 65,250 direct and indirect employees. Approximately a quarter of the working population of Ghent work in the port area at companies such as Stora Enso, Honda and Volvo Cars, all of which employ many expats in senior and technical positions.
Clearly, the local economy is based on the port, which is the third largest in Belgium and it is a major hub for exports coming from the Netherlands.
Research and Development is another sector of the economy, based out of Ghent University and many private companies, including Cropdesign, Bayer CropScience and Ablynx. Other significant sectors include banking, paper manufacturing, chemicals, light machinery and oil refining. Tourism is also important in this city with its surfeit of culture, not forgetting horticulture and market gardening. Gentse Floraliën, the flower show is held here every five years.
The Best Bits
There is much to do and see in Ghent.
- The old part of the city boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Belfry of Gent and the Flemish Béguinages. The 14th Century Belfry stands at 300 feet high with a 52-bell carillon, topped with a gilded copper dragon, which dates back to 1377.
- There is a large number of galleries and museums, including the Ghent City Museum, the Design Museum and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten.
- The Gentse Feesten, or the Ghent Festival, is held annually and celebrates theatre, music and culture. It lasts 10 days and attracts around 10 million people. Events include the Comedy Festival, the Belgian Summer Sing and the Jazz Festival.
- The Vrijdagmarkt or Friday Market is the heartbeat of the medieval city.
- The Treaty of Ghent, signed on 24th December 1814 marked the end of the war between the USA and Britain.
- For culture-vultures, the 7th-century ruins of the Abbey of St Bavo, the birthplace of John of Gaunt, is now home to the Lapidary Museum. The Gothic Cathedral of the same name, dating back to 12th century, is a veritable feast of artworks, including the work started by Hubert, but completed by his brother, Jan van Eyck, the polyptych altarpiece, known as the Ghent Altarpiece or, alternatively, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, created in 1432. Little is known about Hubert van Eyck, but the myth that surrounds him says that when he died his arm was cut off and mounted over the main cathedral door in a casket.
- The White Cavalry during World War I, headed by British Captain Hayward, witnessed the Germans throwing granite and shooting at an empty plot of land, then turning and fleeing. After being captured the German colonel declared that they had seen an army, dressed in white, riding white horses trotting towards them through the rocks and bullets. They panicked and ran.
- Goed ten Briele, a farm near Gwent, was settled by a family in 1800. Within days all their horses had died. Asking the services of some local priests, the conclusion was that only the Virgin Mary could save them. They told the family to position one of the dead horses, with its legs upwards, in front of the farm and construct a chapel on top of it. The horse deaths stopped immediately. The chapel was destroyed in 1951 during the construction of a road but was rebuilt shortly afterwards.
Bringing the Kids
Children must attend school between six and 18 years of age in Belgium. Public schooling is free but is conducted in the area’s local language. Gwent schools teach in Dutch, with a few schools offering English lessons after hours. Younger kids would benefit from this, and many expat children start public school only speaking English. It is not ideal for older children who are not conversant in Dutch.
The International School of Ghent is the only one of its kind and offers the education chosen by most parents. However, the shortage of places means that some children are sent to the international schools in Brussels or Antwerp.
The University of Ghent is ranked in the top 100 of universities around the world, excelling in international relations, life sciences and philosophy. The majority of teaching is in Dutch.
Relocating to Ghent
This stunning city, with a surfeit of culture, including two UNESCO World Heritage sites, excellent accommodation and area choices – from modern apartments overlooking canals to old freestanding manor houses – and an outstanding standard of living makes Ghent an excellent choice for expats. Its thriving economy has strengths in banking, manufacturing, tourism and transport, centred on its port. The world-renowned university offers excellent opportunities resulting in a well-educated workforce. The crime rate is low and all the areas offer their own unique characteristics. Whilst many people do speak some English, the language barrier may be daunting at first. Using the services of a local expert relocation agent will help ease you through the red tape, helping with form filling and finding the right accommodation in the right area.
Average Monthly Rental - Ghent
|1 bedroom apartment, City Centre||€673 (£599)|
|1 bedroom apartment, Suburbs||€549 (£489)|
|3 bedroom apartment, City Centre||€1090 (£971)|
|3 bedroom apartment, Suburbs||€849 (£756)|