Ghent has been voted the ‘Erasmus Destination of the Year 2023’. From the 6th to the 9th of April, the Erasmus Generation Meeting took place in Bucharest, Romania, where international students of all cities in Europe voted for the locations where they have the best experience. Ghent ranked highest thanks to a good cooperation between colleges, the university (UGent), the city and the international student association. “We competed against Vienna, Valencia, Toulouse and Padua in the final,” Frederik De Decker of Ghent University told VRT News.
The Erasmus exchange program was launched 35 years ago. A year later in 1989, the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) was founded in Ghent. ESN is an international student association that aims to make Erasmus exchange students feel welcome in their respective host countries.
We were chosen as the top destination by the European Commission and representatives of various international student associations.Frederik De Decker, Ghent University
The association currently has almost 14,000 members. Around 12 million people from all over Europe have taken part in the Erasmus exchange program during the past 35 years. Both students and teaching staff can now go on the program.
“Because of the quality of service provided by the various higher education institutions in Ghent, the way the higher education institutions cooperate with the city and the student associations, the commitment to integrate Erasmus students through all kinds of activities, and the way we deal with all kinds of problems including housing,” De Decker told VRT. “We suspect this recognition will have an impact. At UGent there is still margin to receive more foreign students.”
Currently, Ghent receives about 1,500 Erasmus students per year. Especially Spaniards, Poles, Germans and French find their way to the city. “We have a very good reputation among Spanish students,” said De Decker. “They like to stay here and vice versa, for our students Spain is an attractive destination to study.” The recognition may ensure that even more international students find their way to Ghent.
Beyond the city’s stunning architecture, quaint streets and beautiful canals, Ghent offers something else which draws people in: street art. Demonstrating the city’s energy and vibrancy, the walls and buildings of Ghent are a canvas for artistic expression and cultural statements.
A great way to experience the street art of Ghent is to follow the ‘Sorry, not sorry’ street art plan of the city, either by bike or on foot, which shows you the best of the city’s colorful graffiti and offers background information on the street artists and their incredible works. The street art map below shows just how much there is to see in the city.
The car-free Werregarenstraatje is in the center of Ghent and is a graffiti tolerance zone, meaning that although officially it is not permitted to paint pieces and tags here, the authorities turn a blind eye. The tolerance zone emerged during the Ghent Festivities in 1995 as a graffiti project with a limited number of works on the walls, and the Werregarenstraatje quickly earned the nickname “graffiti street”. There are also now three other zones in the city where people can practice their street art, as the graffiti street space for experimentation has been so well used. Nowadays, the street provides a public canvas for young street artists to experiment with and create their own artworks, leaving the alley filled with a cacophony of colors and patterns.
Ghent has also a rich religious and architectural heritage. In 2021, St Bavo’s Cathedral reopened its doors after years of renovation, welcoming visitors for a truly incredible experience. Not only have the panels of the famous Ghent Altarpiece been restored, but a new visitor center now welcomes more visitors in better conditions. The experience is taken to a whole new level using modern technology and showcasing the authentic art treasures held within the Cathedral in all their glory.
The Ghent Altarpiece, also called the ‘The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers was completed in 1432 and is recognized worldwide as a great work of art and one of the most influential paintings ever made. Its 18 panels depict scenes from the Bible, as well as a portrait of the church warden, Joos Vijd, who commissioned the altarpiece, and his wife Elisabeth Borluut. However one panel is a replica, due to a theft in 1934 which saw two of the panels stolen, only for one to be anonymously returned and the other to remain an intriguing mystery to this day. Restoration on the masterpiece started back in 2012 and has recently been completed, showing the work at its very best.
The Mystic Lamb is not the only attraction to have undergone some impressive renovations. The cathedral itself now has a brand new visitor center, located within the spacious Crypt below the building, whilst a glass lift tower has also been added to the side of St Bavo’s, making all four floors 100% accessible to everyone.