Gent makes for a great summer getaway

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Summer has finally arrived – or so it seems – so thoughts naturally turn to hazy, lazy days out.

Here´s a few ideas to help fill your summertime diary.

There´s nothing better when the sun is out than messing about on the river and, despite being landlocked, Gent offers some particularly great opportunities to indulge yourself.

The Flemish city has been a magnet for tourists for years, of course, and, post-pandemic, it seems that tourists are once again flocking to this lovely city.

It will shortly become the centre of the global arts world with the annual Gent Festivities, an arts jamboree expected to attract no less than 2.5 million people. It runs from 19 to 28 July and takes place across all streets in the city. 

It is a stimulating cultural festival with countless national and international artists: unique in Europe because of a varied and free range of (music) performances, (street) theatre, exhibitions, children’s entertainment, fair, parades and processions.

Something else you can also do while in Gent is try out the Minerva boat company (www.minervaboten.be) where you can rent a boat for an hour, half a day or whole day. You don´t require a boating license or experience but a bit of commonsense and care is still needed to navigate your way around.

In its easy-to-navigate boats, you´ll peacefully pass beautiful gardens as well as the painter´s villages of St Martens-Latem and Deurle, as well as the historic centre of Gent itself. You will not encounter any swing bridges en route and qualified staff provide all the necessary info and advice.

There is a good selection, no less than 26 vessels, in fact. They include 18 smaller boats suitable for up to 4 people and eight larger ones which can accommodate up to 12 persons.

The season runs until end of October though that can depend on the weather and that is something Andy, the owner, and Eros, who is in charge of the day-to-day-running of the business, hope will improve in the days and weeks ahead.

Eros told this site: “It has been disappointing so far this summer but, despite this, we have had very good bookings and the business is going very well.”

You can choose from a couple of routes. The first takes you out of the city, past some lovely countryside and also some of the most expensive real estate in Belgium while the other will enable you to discover the city itself.

Some top tips for those who fancy a spot of boating: always give priority to other boats and try to stay in the middle of the river. A lot of info is available via the website or the company’s recently much improved Instagram page.

Whatever the weather, it is great fun and great value.

Another fantastic attraction in Lago Gent Rozebroeken (www.sr-rozebroeken.be), a subtropical swimming paradise with water rides, tyre slides, wave pool, outdoor children´s pools, plus sauna and steam bath. Open 7/7, it is ideal for families but also for anyone visiting the city.

This is a great place to while away a few happy hours and, with no end of slides and numerous other aquatic pleasures it makes for  a great place to entertain the kids during the (very) long Belgium school holidays.

If you are a beginner swimmer or an experienced athlete, head for the Olympic swimming pool. The temperature is maintained at a pleasant 28°C and it is made up of no less than 10 lanes, each 50 meters long and is open 7 days a week.

Worth noting also that this fab centre boasts a fitness boutique where people train train as they wish, whatever their age, sporting level or personal goal.

The little ones are not overlook and, at “WaiWai”, babies and children can follow a fun programme where skill, safety, motivation and pleasure are the main objectives. Experienced teachers guide your child(ren) through the Social Sports Policy Network (formerly ISB) learning path.

You can even treat yourself to a moment of relaxation and book a beauty treatment while the kids enjoy the water-based fun.

This very well-equipped sports centre, which also has a nice bistro, is just the job for family entertainment in particular and is conveniently located just outside the city centre and with easy access to Brussels.

Gent, of course, has been a tourists’ magnet for years and latest research shows one of the reasons why that continues to be the case.

According to Oxford Economics’ new ‘Global Cities Index’, Gent ranks 9th in the world when it comes to quality of life.

Quality of life is 1 of the 5 categories examined in the index (the others being economy, human capital, environment and governance).

The cities of New York, London and San Jose (California – USA) score best overall.

To determine a city’s quality of life score researchers looked at life expectancy, per capita income, income equality, housing costs, culture and recreational opportunities in the city as well as internet speed.

In the ‘quality of life’ category, Gent ranks 9th with a score of 93.5 out of 100, putting the East Flemish capital in the company of the Swiss cities of Bern, Basel and Zurich. The French city of Grenoble comes out on top in this category.