Ghent

Capital of East Flanders, the port city of Ghent recently eclipsed Belgium’s previous football powerhouses of Brussels and Bruges when KAA Gent won the title in 2015 and reached the knock-out rounds of the Champions League.

The seventh-oldest club in the country, thus awarded with the matricule number of 7, Gent date back to the earliest days of the Belgian game.

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Welcome to Ghent/Peterjon Cresswell

As a multisports operation, Gent, originally known as La Gantoise, can trace their history back to 1864. By the time a football team was added to hockey, cricket and fencing ones in 1900, the club had a serious local rival: Racing.

Formed the year before from an amalgamation of AC Gantois, FC Gantois and SP Gantois, Racing nonetheless received a matricule number of 11. Playing in black and white, RC de Gand were early frontrunners, making the first Belgian Cup final of 1912 and achieving two top-five league finishes between the wars.

The post-war years weren’t kind to the venerable club, who went through several mergers in modern times before a final one with KFC Oostakker in 2002. Now officially known as KRC Gent-Zeehaven but still referred to as Racing, the black-and-whites are based at the PGB-stadion at Eikstraat 85A in Oostakker, by the city’s main port north-east of central Ghent. Bus Nos.70, 71 and 73 run from stop 3 at Gent-Zuid and stop 8 at Gent-Dampoort to Oostakker-Eikstraat, journey time 15-20min. The club currently plays in Division 3, Group A, at the 2,500-capacity PGB.

By contrast, KAA Gent – like Racing, the club switched names from French to Flemish in the modern era – now run out at the swish new-build Ghelamco Arena, opened in 2013. Having switched from black and white to blue, and gained a bizarre nickname after Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West circus to town, the Buffalos had been based at the Jules Ottenstadion from 1920.

Built just before the Antwerp Olympics, the Ottenstadion was named after one of the club’s founders. It only hosted one match for the 1920 football tournament, the great pre-war Italians Renzo De Vecchi and Adolfo Baloncieri playing in a 2-1 victory over Egypt.

The Ottenstadion witnessed the rise of the Buffalos to cup winners and league runners-up in 2010. Set in Gentbrugge close to the N9 that runs south of Ghent to Brussels, it is not too far as the crow flies from the Ghelamco, south-west of town.

Several years in the planning, strangled by red tape and squeezed by the credit crunch, the Ghelamco eventually opened in 2013 – at least three years after its due date and two after the Ottenstadion had staged a last international, Belgium’s 1-1 draw with Finland.

All the delays were forgotten about when KAA beat Standard Liège to win the Belgian title at the Ghelamco in May 2015. They went on to overcome Valencia and Zenit St Petersburg the following autumn to face Wolfsburg in the Champions League round of 16.

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Ghent

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KAA Gent/Jules Ottenstadion: 51.032138, 3.766594
KAA Gent/Ghelamco Arena: 51.017723, 3.734536
KRC Gent-Zeehaven/PGB-stadion: 51.089211, 3.763504
Gent-Sint-Pieters station: 51.036806, 3.710117
Gent-Zuid: 51.048290, 3.730904
Gent-Dampoort: 51.056257, 3.740146
Holiday Inn Express Gent : 51.019827, 3.735801
Hôtel Campanile Gand : 51.019194, 3.735932
Hotel Castel: 51.037201, 3.711812
Hotel Carlton: 51.036150, 3.713934
Best Western Chamade : 51.037418, 3.714735
Boatel : 51.053954, 3.735156
Erasmus Hotel: 51.054582, 3.717308
Celtic Towers : 51.053787, 3.721177
‘t Galgenhuisje : 51.056026, 3.722065
De Dulle Griet : 51.056543, 3.725264
Charlatan : 51.055953, 3.728515
Porter House : 51.039684, 3.726184
Speakers Corner: 51.038235, 3.726146
De Drij Zinne : 51.037319, 3.711711
New Watson: 51.036982, 3.712639
\'T Center: 51.036995, 3.712719

Bearings

Ghent is the same distance from Antwerp and Brussels airports, around 65km (40 miles) away.

From Antwerp, bus Nos.51, 52 and 53 run to nearby Berchem station, where a direct train to main Gent-Sint-Pieters (€9.50) takes 50min.

Brussels Airport has its own rail terminal. A train to Ghent (€15.50) takes 1hr-1hr 15min, either direct or via Brussels Midi, site of the Eurostar terminal.

Sint-Pieters is a short tram ride south of the mainly pedestrianised town centre – Gent-Zuid bus station is walking distance.

Local transport in Ghent consists of trams and buses. A single ticket (valid 1hr) is €3 from a machine, Lijnwinkel kiosk or on board. A day pass is €6 or €8 on board.

For a local cab, call Taxi Gent on +32 9 333 3333.

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Hotel Castel/Peterjon Cresswell

Bed

Visit Ghent has a hotel database.

There are two affordable chain hotels within walking distance of the out-of-town Ghelamco Arena: the Holiday Inn Express Gent and the Hôtel Campanile Gand.

Opposite Sint-Pieters station, the friendly, family-run Castel has its own brasserie while the nearby mid-range Carlton is more business-like. Further up, nearer town, the Best Western Chamade is a standard three-star.

In town, the floating Boatel is conveniently located near Dampoort station while the characterful Erasmus is a short stroll to the main sights.

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De Drij Zinne/Peterjon Cresswell

Beer

Traditional bars serving varied Belgian beers dot Ghent’s historic centre. There’s an Irish pub too, the Celtic Towers, with three big screens for sport and live music.

Local landmarks include historic ‘t Galgenhuisje and De Dulle Griet, with its huge range of beers. After hours, the Charlatan is where to head for DJ nights and live music.

In Ghent’s busy student quarter, on the city side of Citadelpark, Porter House appeal to a young clientele while Speakers Corner is more late-night and party-oriented than expat pub.

Opposite Sint-Pieters station, De Drij Zinne and New Watson and ‘T Center round the corner are both handy for a terrace drink and TV football inside.


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