When you think “green” cities in Europe, Ghent — the medieval Belgian city with a population only slightly bigger than it was during the Middle Ages — probably wouldn’t even be a blip on your radar. But just last month, the city approved the construction of what will become the world’s largest bio plant, just one part of the many eco-friendly initiatives the city’s enacted over the past decade. Here’s how to see the Ghent’s eco side:
“Being green” in Ghent begins in the literal sense with landscape. Tucked between the medieval architecture is an assortment of park spaces, including, right in the city center, a nature reserve, and botanical gardens. A favorite is the Our Lady of Ter Hoyen Beguinages, a UNESCO Heritage Site that dates back to 1235. Stepping even further into the greenery, Ghent opened its first city-farm in April, which sits directly across from one of the city’s most heavily trafficked roundabouts. How’d they manage this? Well, the land was formerly the site of, essentially, an old industrial wasteland, so an architect took it upon himself to design the farm. Now, families can pick flowers, feed chickens, collect eggs, and even sip a few of those famous Belgian brews here.
Exiting the mindset of literal greenery, Ghent took massive strides in the ‘90s to implant green initiatives, and a major influence was barring the use of cars in the city center. The city council at the time aimed to inspire cycling and strolling about the city in order to combat the insane traffic and the city’s declining population, and it worked.
Finally, and probably the most drastic of green initiatives, Ghent instituted Veggie Days to encourage citizens to reduce their meat consumption. Every Thursday, nearly every restaurant serves up a vegetarian menu. Factor this on top of Ghent’s insane amount of vegetarian restaurants, which ranks as the most, per capita, in all of Europe. You could easily spend a week eating out in this city and never once encounter a meat option.
Of course, if you’re itching to adventure through Ghent’s old, medieval architecture — and maybe read The Canterbury Tales in the park — you should stay at one of the city’s many eco-friendly hotels. Ghent Marriott or Su’ro Bed and Breakfast are just two examples.