Ghent Festival

The Ghent Festival in Belgium, also known as the Gentse Feesten, is the largest and most popular outdoor cultural festival in Europe. Gentse Feesten is known for its free-flowing beer and music, and today houses four different festivals all happening at once, right in the bustling city center. The festival is held every July in Ghent, the largest city in East Flanders, which is found in the Flemish region of Belgium.

Ghent Festival
Photo Credit: Stampmedia

Harking from the middle ages, where large-scale carousing was thought to. In the 19th century, the city heads of Ghent decided that it might be possible to lower the rate of drunkenness amongst its constituents by allotting ten days in the year for everyone to simply get drunk. They decided to time it during the celebration of the first anniversary of the creation of Belgium in 1832.

True to its medieval roots, there were even role reversals, where the rich, who funded the festival, were by the sidelines as the middle class peasantry took over the city. The festival eventually lost steam until 1969, when musician Walter de Buck decided to organize his own activities with his artist friends, many performances exhibiting attacks at the church and local government and arousing the interest of the people.

It is on this track that the Gentse Feesten evolved into how we see it today. The Ghent Festival has several different festivals happening at once. The longest standing festivals are the Gent Jazz Festival, which is formerly known as the Blue Note festival, the International Street Theatre Festival, the International Puppetbuskersfestival and 10 Days Off, an electronic dance music festival. In general, the Ghent Festival is a free festival, although several new festivals have decided to incorporate themselves within the larger festivities and some need to charge entrance tickets. These newer festivals include the Comedy Festival Gent, the Polé Polé World Music Festival and Boomtown, a festival of alternative music. And of course, the food and beer in abundance all throughout the festival are for sale.

The Ghent Festival traditionally begins on the Saturday before July 21, which is the Belgian national holiday, and goes on for ten days. The Monday that is also always the tenth day of the festival is often called De dag van de lege portemonnees or the Day of Empty Wallets. In the days of Walter de Buck, there was one stage for performances, situated at the Saint Jacob Church, but as the event has grown to rival even Oktoberfest in mass and popularity, Gentse Feesten currently takes up almost all of Ghent’s inner city. So, no matter which part of the city you decide to stay, you will still find yourself in the middle of all the action.

There are many hotels, bed and breakfast inns, and hostels in Ghent, with price ranges ready to suit any traveler’s budget. However, given that there are over 2 million attendees of the Ghent Festival every year, it is best to book your accommodations way in advance. For more information about Gentse Feesten visit the official website of the Ghent Festival.

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