Gentse Feesten 2016!

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

Ten days of festivities in the center of a town. Even during my furthest travels I never found anything that even remotely looked a little like the Gentsche fieste. (In English you could translate de Gentse Feesten as the 'Celebrations in Ghent')
Traditionally, I've always been in Belgium when the festivities in Ghent start. This year I wanted to go the full ten days and that of course takes its toll. Bags under my eyes, a headache and a not so healthy liver without a doubt... Luckily I have 353 more days to fully detox and prepare for the next Gentse feesten!

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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The Korenmarkt during the festivities in Ghent!

The Korenmarkt during the festivities in Ghent!

In recent weeks, Belgium has been plagued by rain, storms and all kinds of terrible weather perils. It seemed as if the weather Gods had finally improved their mood!
The last ten days were hot and sticky; undoubtedly the best weather we ever had during the Ghentse feesten!

On July 14, 2016 I arrived at my dear niece, Lisa, who would let me stay for ten days, resting from the exhausting celebrations.
The parties would erupt the next day only, but we already went exploring the city. Most precautions, stalls, bars, stages, … were already waiting impatiently for the Gentse feesten to start.
Here and there, some impatient pre-partyers already began to party. Had I not been so tired, I had perhaps been one of them. But hey… The next ten days would already be tiring enough!

I decided not to stay long, so I could sleep one more decent night before Norbert would arrive.
Norbert, you might remember him from my previous blog posts, I met in the Dominican Republic.
He is a Hungarian, but lives in the UK for a bit over a year now. There he works as a paramedic.
He had a long weekend, and decided to travel to Belgium. It was not difficult to convince him to come to the Ghent Festivities.

On my way to Polé Polé during de Gentse feesten.

On my way to Polé Polé during de Gentse feesten.

Fearful start

Because of the tragic terrorist attacks in Nice during the French national holiday, Norbert was much delayed and he only arrived quite late in Ghent.
A lot of people had clearly become frightened by the constant terror waves that plagued Europe. It immediately struck me that there were a lot less people on the opening day.

Normally the opening night (Friday) of the Gentse Feesten always are a big hit. This time I could easily walk from square to square, from stall to stall, from activity to activity. Normally you need to patiently wait because of the huge amounts of people in front of you.
I myself refuse to be scared. Because that’s just what the terrorists want. Scare us!
Life is too beautiful to sit inside and be anxious. Life should be celebrated! And there’s no better place to do this than in Ghent during the Gentse feesten!

I won’t pretend that I never thought of terror attacks, because they can of course always happen. But still, if it happens… It happens! And the chances are pretty much impossible, so why should I hide?
The city of Ghent and its police did an excellent job and took a lot of precautions to secure the Ghent Festivities while still don’t scaring people away because of too much police or army officers.

The people’s fear seemed to linger quite long, because it was only from day six that the normal hordes of people seemed to return to Gent.
The tropical temperatures took people out of their houses and brought them to the gorgeous city. The people working in bars, clubs and at the festival needed to work a lot harder, the dance floors were (finally!) packed with people and the stages started groaning under the heavy loads of dancing feet.

These are the Ghentse feesten! And no one would stop them from happening!

The city hall in Ghent is also called the 'Sheep Stable' by locals.

The city hall in Ghent is also called the ‘Sheep Stable’ by locals. During the Gentse Feesten there is a lot to do here!

Culture, fun and non-stop partying

I think the Gentse Feesten are so successful because they are accessible to everyone.
During the day there is animation and entertainment for the little ones throughout the whole city. In the Baudelopark (Baudelohof) you’ll find dance lessons for beginners and advanced dancers alike. At Polé Polé, you’ll hear salsa beats going on all day. The Korenmarkt and Groentemarkt is perfect for sitting down at the terraces to watch people while they look around the many stalls or gorging themselves with fast food. Throughout the city there are quite some theatrical or musical geniuses who give the best of themselves.

The festival in Ghent once started as a small town festival and has grown into a gigantic festival that delights many people.
When the little ones begin to go home, the party animals awake from their hibernation and the city of Ghent turns into one giant playground for adults.

The bars and the many concerts start to boast their loud music, and the night shops need to barricade their doors no longer. Alcohol flows freely through the city, and the stages groan under the dance moves of its many guests.

By four o’clock most concerts get to a halt and you see the whole crowd flocking to one place. The birthplace of the Gentse feesten: The Vlasmarkt!
The iconic Charlatan and the cozy Bar Des Amis gives one more party infusion to all the party animals and leaves all the drunkards dancing or sobering up until eleven o’clock in the morning.

When most people stranded somewhere in the gutter, the Vlasmarkt seems to have become an apocalyptic picture. The dance floors and podiums are half abandoned, and pretty much everyone that is still awake looks like a zombie. On the cobblestones you can now find thousands of cans and cups, mixed with non-eaten packets of fries and the piercing smell of spilled beer.

Once the Vlasmarkt is empty, you know it’s time to go home. Fortunately, there are ten days to stumble home and fall asleep with a giant smile on your face. Ready for the next day!

Polé polé during the Gentse feesten 2016. During the evening's this is one of the best places to be!

Polé polé during the Gentse feesten 2016. During the evening’s this is one of the best places to be!

Where to go to?

For anyone who is not familiar with the Gentsche fieste –Shame on you– Here’s a list of things that you should absolutely do while visiting next time:

Baudelohof (Baudelo park) – Great during daytime and evening. It’s nice to walk around in the more alternative Baudelohof. During the day there are a lot of activities for young and old. Especially moving and dancing. At night it’s more a place of relaxing, chilling and talking with nice background music.

Bataclan – A little bit out of the festival area, about ten minutes from the Baudelohof, lays Bataclan. Every year the celebrations are celebrated with tons of humor!
A social theme is stripped down in the most ridiculous way and the organisers bring the most daring jokes to the ashamed audience.
In 2016 they took a laugh at the refugee crisis. Instead of constantly thinking of our ‘misery’ we’d better laugh it off, right?!

Pole Pole – Every year this is one of the bigger events. On Polé Polé our multicultural society is put in the spotlight. Artists from around the world bring their tribute to the diversity and bring pleasant, uplifting songs from all parts of the earth. Salsa, African music, pop music, hip hop, … Everyone will enjoy this stage for sure!

Sint-Baafs – Around the Sint-Baafs Cathedral you’ll find a lot of great concerts. Especially during the day with some famous Belgian singers and artists. A golden tip: if your favorite band is playing, try to go in advance! Once the square is too full, it is closed for security reasons.

“The sheep barn” (Town Hall – Poeljemarkt) – This gigantic roof has a different concept every year I think. In 2016, the New Orleanse Mardi Gras festival was brought to Ghent and the amazing NOLA atmosphere definitely was liked by the large audience!
Are you too drunk to keep on dancing? Then you can always chill a bit in the nearby park.

Korenmarkt – Both during daytime and evening a crowd pleaser. Lesser known bands and theater groups have the opportunity to put themselves in the spotlight here. You can also find most restaurants, fast food stalls and shop stalls back here.

Groentenmarkt (The ‘vegetable market’) – One of my personal favorites is the groentenmarkt. Every day a lot of cover bands come and give the best of themselves. From the early evening until the early hours.

Vlasmarkt – You have not visited the Gentse feesten if you have not danced on the vlasmarkt. After the other concerts and squares are left for what it is, it is customary that everyone goes to the iconic Vlasmarkt. Both inside and outside people are celebrating all night and morning. These last party people usually stay until the cleanup team from Ghent starts sweeping and brushing the cobblestones, making it ready for the next day.

A part of the Vlasmarkt at the end of the Gentse Feesten. See you next year!

A part of the Vlasmarkt at the end of the Gentse Feesten. See you next year!


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