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Why Gentse Feesten Should Be On Your Travel Bucketlist


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Blakelee Kellner



If you are a lover of arts, culture, and vibrant festivals, then Gentse Feesten should definitely be on your travel bucketlist. Also known as the Ghent Festival, this magnificent event takes place in the historic city of Ghent, Belgium, and is one of the largest cultural festivals in Europe. It is a time when the city comes alive with a festive spirit, attracting locals and tourists from all over the world.


The Gentse Feesten has a rich history dating back to 1843 when it was first organized. Originally, the festival was a purely cultural event aimed at reviving and promoting traditional Flemish culture. However, over time, it has evolved into a diverse celebration of music, art, cuisine, and entertainment, while still honoring its roots and heritage.


What sets Gentse Feesten apart from other festivals is its unique blend of centuries-old traditions and contemporary attractions. From enchanting music performances to mouthwatering gastronomic delights, from colorful parades to captivating exhibitions, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The festival is not just a celebration of art and culture, but also a reflection of the vibrant spirit of Ghent itself.


The Gentse Feesten takes place annually in July, transforming the city into a lively and bustling spectacle. The duration of the festival spans over ten days, giving visitors ample time to immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere and explore all that it has to offer.


History of Gentse Feesten

The history of Gentse Feesten traces back to 1843 when it was first organized as a response to the dying traditional Flemish culture. At that time, the festival aimed to revive and promote the unique cultural heritage of the city of Ghent. It quickly gained traction and became an annual event, marking the start of a beloved tradition that has endured for over a century and a half.


Initially, Gentse Feesten was a small-scale event, featuring local performers showcasing their talent in the streets and squares of Ghent. It focused on traditional folk music, dance, and theater, providing a platform for artists to display their skills and celebrate Flemish traditions. Over time, the festival grew in popularity, attracting more participants and spectators from near and far.


During the 20th century, Gentse Feesten faced some challenges due to political and social unrest. However, it managed to survive and adapt to the changing times. In the late 1960s, the festival experienced a resurgence, embracing a more modern and diverse approach to cater to evolving artistic tastes. This shift allowed for the inclusion of a wide range of cultural activities, attracting a larger and more diverse audience.


Today, Gentse Feesten has become a showcase of the city’s artistic and cultural richness. It has grown from a small cultural event to one of the largest festivals in Europe, attracting millions of visitors each year. The festival has embraced a fusion of traditional and contemporary performances, offering a platform for both established and emerging artists to captivate audiences with their talent.


Throughout its history, Gentse Feesten has remained committed to preserving and promoting local traditions. Traditional Flemish music, dance, and theater still have a significant presence in the festival, ensuring that the cultural heritage of the region is celebrated and passed down to future generations. However, the festival has also embraced the modern artistic scene, incorporating a wide range of genres and styles, making it a vibrant and dynamic celebration of art and culture.


Dates and Duration

Gentse Feesten is an annual event that takes place during the summer months, specifically in July. The festival typically spans over ten consecutive days, creating an immersive and extended experience for both locals and visitors. Each year, thousands of people flock to Ghent to be a part of this vibrant celebration of arts, culture, and entertainment.


The exact dates of Gentse Feesten vary slightly from year to year, so it is advisable to check the official festival website or local tourism information for the most up-to-date schedule. However, the festival usually begins on the second or third Friday of July and concludes on the following Sunday. This ensures that visitors have ample time to explore the various attractions and events spread throughout the city.


The duration of Gentse Feesten allows attendees to fully immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere and take part in the numerous activities taking place throughout the day and night. From morning until the late hours, the city of Ghent comes alive with performances, parades, exhibitions, and culinary delights, offering non-stop entertainment for everyone.


One advantage of the extended duration of Gentse Feesten is that it provides an opportunity to explore and experience different facets of the festival. Each day offers a multitude of events and performances, allowing visitors to create their own personalized itinerary based on their interests. Whether you are a music lover, art enthusiast, or food connoisseur, Gentse Feesten has something for everyone.


It is worth noting that the festival attracts a large number of visitors, and certain days may be busier than others. If you prefer a more relaxed experience, consider visiting during the weekdays when crowds are typically smaller compared to the weekends. However, regardless of the day you choose to attend, Gentse Feesten promises an unforgettable and enchanting experience that showcases the best of Ghent’s cultural heritage.


Famous Attractions at Gentse Feesten

Gentse Feesten offers a plethora of famous attractions that make the festival an unforgettable experience for attendees. From captivating music and performances to delectable culinary delights and cultural events, there is something for every taste. Here are some of the must-see attractions at Gentse Feesten:

  1. Music stages and concerts: One of the highlights of Gentse Feesten is the wide array of music performances taking place throughout the city. From rock and pop to jazz and folk, there are stages dedicated to various genres, featuring both local and international artists. The lively atmosphere and electrifying energy make these concerts a favorite among festival-goers.
  2. Street theater and performances: The streets of Ghent transform into open-air stages during Gentse Feesten, with talented street performers showcasing their skills. From circus acts and acrobatics to mime and puppetry, these engaging and interactive performances captivate audiences of all ages.
  3. Parades and processions: Gentse Feesten is known for its colorful parades and processions that weave through the streets, mesmerizing spectators. These vibrant displays feature elaborate costumes, traditional music, and choreographed routines, providing a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Ghent.
  4. Culinary delights: Food lovers will be delighted by the variety of gastronomic experiences at Gentse Feesten. From traditional Belgian dishes like waffles, fries, and chocolates to international cuisines, the festival offers a wide range of culinary treats. Street food stalls, food markets, and pop-up restaurants are scattered across the city, ensuring that festival-goers never go hungry.
  5. Art exhibitions and installations: Gentse Feesten embraces the visual arts with numerous exhibitions and installations throughout the city. From contemporary artworks to historical masterpieces, there are galleries and pop-up exhibitions showcasing a diverse range of artistic expressions.
  6. Fireworks: The festival concludes with a mesmerizing fireworks display that lights up the night sky, creating a magical atmosphere. As the fireworks burst into beautiful colors and patterns, spectators gather in awe to bid farewell to Gentse Feesten in style.

These are just a few examples of the famous attractions that await visitors at Gentse Feesten. The festival’s diverse and dynamic program ensures that there is always something exciting happening around every corner, promising a truly unforgettable experience for all who attend.


Music and Performances

Music is at the heart of Gentse Feesten, and the festival offers a spectacular lineup of performances that cater to a wide range of musical tastes. From local bands to renowned international artists, the music stages at Gentse Feesten showcase an eclectic mix of genres, creating a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere throughout the city.


One of the main draws of Gentse Feesten is the diverse range of music stages spread across different locations. These stages serve as platforms for both established and emerging artists to captivate audiences with their talent. Whether you’re a fan of rock, pop, jazz, folk, or electronic music, there is a stage for every preference.


The performances at Gentse Feesten are not limited to traditional concert venues. One of the unique aspects of the festival is the abundance of street performances and impromptu jam sessions. Talented musicians and street artists can be found on nearly every corner, adding to the festive atmosphere and allowing visitors to stumble upon hidden musical gems.


In addition to live music, Gentse Feesten also offers a wide variety of other performances. Street theater, comedy shows, dance performances, and circus acts can be enjoyed throughout the festival. These diverse acts bring a sense of entertainment and wonder to the streets, providing a multidimensional experience for festival-goers.


What sets Gentse Feesten apart is its commitment to promoting local talent. The festival serves as a platform for up-and-coming artists and bands to showcase their skills and gain recognition. This focus on nurturing the local music scene contributes to the festival’s vibrant and authentic atmosphere, ensuring there is always something fresh and exciting to discover.


Gentse Feesten also offers unique collaborations and special performances that are exclusive to the festival. From once-in-a-lifetime collaborations between established artists to experimental and avant-garde acts, these performances push boundaries and offer a truly exceptional experience for attendees.


Whether you’re dancing to the infectious beats of a local band or being mesmerized by the magical street performances, the music and performances at Gentse Feesten are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. The festival’s dedication to showcasing a diverse range of musical genres and performances ensures that there is something to suit every musical preference and create unforgettable memories for all who attend.


Gastronomic Delights

Gentse Feesten is not just a celebration of arts and culture; it is also a paradise for food lovers. The festival offers a tantalizing array of gastronomic delights that showcase the rich culinary heritage of Ghent and Belgium as a whole. From traditional Belgian treats to international cuisines, there is something to satisfy every palate at Gentse Feesten.


One of the highlights of the festival is the plentiful street food stalls that line the streets and squares of Ghent. Here, visitors can indulge in a variety of mouthwatering delights. Treat yourself to a piping hot cone of Belgian fries, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, served with a dollop of tangy mayonnaise. Sink your teeth into a warm Liege-style waffle, with its caramelized sugar coating and delicate dough. Sample the rich flavors of Belgian chocolates, handmade with love and precision.


Beyond the traditional Belgian fare, Gentse Feesten also offers a global culinary experience. Explore the food markets and pop-up restaurants where you can savor dishes from different cuisines around the world. Whether you’re craving a plate of paella, a mouthwatering burger, or a fragrant curry, you’ll find a wide range of choices to satisfy your taste buds.


In addition to the street food stalls, Gentse Feesten is also known for its gastronomic events and experiences. Food and drink tastings, cooking demonstrations, and culinary workshops take place throughout the festival. Here, visitors can learn techniques from expert chefs, discover new flavors, and gain insights into the culinary traditions of Ghent and beyond.


No culinary experience at Gentse Feesten would be complete without indulging in the local beers. Belgium is renowned for its beer culture, and the festival provides the perfect opportunity to sample a wide variety of Belgian brews. From refreshing wheat beers to flavorful Trappist ales, there is a beer to suit every taste preference. Raise your glass and toast to the vibrant atmosphere and the delightful flavors of Gentse Feesten.


Whether you’re a passionate foodie or simply enjoy trying new tastes, the gastronomic delights at Gentse Feesten are sure to leave you craving for more. Immerse yourself in the culinary wonders of the festival, and let your taste buds embark on a delicious adventure through the flavors of Ghent and beyond.


Cultural and Artistic Events

Gentse Feesten is a cultural extravaganza that showcases the rich heritage and artistic talent of Ghent. The festival is a melting pot of cultural and artistic events that cater to all interests and passions. From art exhibitions to historical tours, from dance performances to literary readings, Gentse Feesten offers a diverse range of activities that celebrate the arts and ignite the imagination.


One of the highlights of the festival is the plethora of art exhibitions and installations that can be found throughout the city. From established artists to emerging talents, these exhibitions present a vibrant tapestry of artistic expressions. Visitors can immerse themselves in various art forms, including painting, sculpture, photography, and multimedia works. These exhibitions provide a unique opportunity to engage with the local art scene and witness the creativity that thrives in Ghent.


Gentse Feesten also embraces the performing arts, with theatrical performances, dance shows, and spoken-word events taking place throughout the festival. Local theater groups, dance troupes, and spoken-word artists grace the stages and captivate audiences with their storytelling and performances. These events offer a glimpse into the contemporary artistic landscape of Ghent and provide a platform for emerging talents to showcase their skills.


For history enthusiasts, Gentse Feesten offers guided tours and historical reenactments that allow visitors to delve into the city’s past. Follow knowledgeable guides as they lead you through the cobblestone streets, sharing fascinating stories and revealing hidden gems. Explore historic landmarks, uncover centuries-old traditions, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich history that permeates Ghent.


Literature lovers can indulge in readings, book signings, and literary discussions featuring local and international authors. These events provide a platform for literary exchange and exploration, allowing visitors to discover new voices and perspectives. Engage with renowned authors, join book clubs, and immerse yourself in the world of words and ideas.


Gentse Feesten is also a celebration of traditional Flemish culture, with folklore performances, traditional music, and dance events embedded in the festival program. Experience the vibrant energy of traditional music played on authentic instruments, marvel at the intricate movements of traditional dance groups, and witness the cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations.


Whether you’re a lover of visual arts, performing arts, literature, history, or cultural traditions, Gentse Feesten has a multitude of events that will satisfy your artistic and cultural appetite. Immerse yourself in the creativity and heritage of Ghent, and let the cultural and artistic events at Gentse Feesten transport you to a world of inspiration and wonder.


Excursions and Tours

Gentse Feesten not only offers an array of cultural and artistic events within the city, but it also provides opportunities for visitors to explore the surrounding areas through excursions and tours. These experiences allow festival-goers to discover the beauty and history of Ghent and its neighboring regions, providing a well-rounded and enriching festival experience.


One popular excursion during Gentse Feesten is a boat tour along the picturesque canals that wind through the city. These guided tours offer a unique perspective of Ghent, allowing visitors to admire the stunning medieval architecture and charming waterfront scenes. Sit back and relax as you glide through the canals, learning about the city’s history and legends from knowledgeable guides.


For those seeking a more in-depth exploration of the region, day trips to nearby destinations such as Bruges or Antwerp are available. These guided tours provide an opportunity to venture beyond Ghent and discover the unique charm and cultural heritage of these historic cities. Explore Bruges’ cobbled streets and medieval buildings or marvel at the artistic masterpieces in Antwerp, gaining a deeper understanding of the broader Flemish culture.


Nature enthusiasts can embark on excursions to the picturesque Flemish countryside. Take a bicycle tour through the scenic landscapes, pedaling through rolling hills, quaint villages, and lush farmland. These tours offer a refreshing escape from the bustle of the festival, allowing visitors to connect with nature and soak up the peaceful ambiance of the countryside.


Within Ghent itself, guided walking tours provide a deeper insight into the city’s history, architecture, and cultural landmarks. Join knowledgeable guides as they lead you through the city’s iconic sites, such as the medieval Gravensteen Castle, the vibrant Korenmarkt square, or the majestic Saint Bavo’s Cathedral. Learn about the fascinating stories behind these landmarks and uncover hidden gems that you might have otherwise missed.


Alternatively, self-guided tours are available for those who prefer to explore at their own pace. Armed with a map and a sense of adventure, visitors can wander through the city’s charming neighborhoods, stumbling upon hidden gems, quaint cafes, and local boutiques. This self-guided exploration allows for a more personalized and intimate experience of Ghent, creating memories that will last a lifetime.


From boat tours to day trips, Ghent provides a range of excursions and tours that complement the festivities of Gentse Feesten. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in the city’s history, venture into the surrounding countryside, or explore neighboring cities, these excursions offer a diverse and enriching experience that enhances your festival experience.


Nightlife and Entertainment

When the sun sets over the city of Ghent, Gentse Feesten takes on a whole new dimension as the nightlife and entertainment scene comes alive. The festival offers a vibrant and electrifying atmosphere that caters to night owls and party-goers. From thrilling concerts to lively bars, Gentse Feesten offers a plethora of options for those seeking an unforgettable night out.


Live music continues to be a highlight of the evening entertainment at Gentse Feesten. Music stages across the city feature a lineup of renowned bands and DJs, providing an energetic and exhilarating experience for music enthusiasts. Dance to the infectious beats of the latest chart-toppers or groove to the rhythms of local talent, creating memories on the dance floor that will last a lifetime.


For those who prefer a more intimate setting, cozy pubs and bars offer a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a drink or two. Ghent is known for its vibrant beer culture, so be sure to indulge in local brews and sample the wide variety of craft beers available. Join the locals in their favorite haunts, strike up conversations, and immerse yourself in the laid-back ambiance of Ghent’s nightlife scene.


If you’re in the mood for a different kind of entertainment, theater performances and comedy shows can be found in various venues across the city. Laugh along with talented comedians or be captivated by the powerful performances of theatrical productions. These shows provide a chance to experience the cultural diversity and artistic talents that thrive in Ghent’s vibrant entertainment scene.


Gentse Feesten is also known for its vibrant club scene, with venues hosting themed parties and DJ sets that cater to a variety of musical tastes. Dance the night away to the pulsating beats of electronic music or immerse yourself in the underground club culture. The festival offers a diverse range of clubs and party venues, ensuring that you find the perfect spot to let loose and create unforgettable memories.


Exploring the illuminated streets of Ghent during the festival is an experience in itself. The calm waters of the canals reflect the lights, casting a magical glow over the city. Take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the vibrant street atmosphere, encountering impromptu performances, lively street artists, and late-night food stalls that keep the festivities going until the early hours of the morning.


Whether you’re captivated by live music, enjoy a cozy pint in a local pub, or dance the night away, Gentse Feesten offers an electrifying and diverse nightlife and entertainment scene. Embrace the festive spirit, mingle with locals and fellow festival-goers, and revel in the unforgettable experiences that the nights at Gentse Feesten have to offer.


Tips for Enjoying Gentse Feesten to the Fullest

Gentse Feesten is a vibrant and immersive festival that offers a wide range of experiences. To make the most of your time at the festival, here are some tips to help you enjoy Gentse Feesten to the fullest:

  1. Plan ahead: Gentse Feesten spans over ten days, so it’s helpful to plan your itinerary in advance. Take a look at the festival schedule and decide which events, performances, or attractions you don’t want to miss, ensuring you have enough time to explore all that interests you.
  2. Get a festival map: The festival covers various locations in Ghent, so it’s a good idea to get a festival map or use a navigation app to easily find your way around. Familiarize yourself with the different stages, attractions, and food stalls to make navigating the festival grounds a breeze.
  3. Arrive early for popular events: Some music performances and shows are quite popular and may have limited seating. If there’s a specific performance you want to see, arrive early to secure a good spot or be prepared to stand in a crowd.
  4. Sample the local cuisine: Gentse Feesten offers an array of gastronomic delights, so be sure to try the traditional Belgian delicacies like waffles, fries, and chocolates. Additionally, explore the various food stalls and restaurants for a taste of international cuisines.
  5. Embrace the festival atmosphere: Immerse yourself in the festive spirit of Gentse Feesten by wearing colorful and comfortable clothes, and be prepared for changeable weather. Bring an umbrella or raincoat, as some events might take place outdoors regardless of the weather.
  6. Interact with locals and fellow festival-goers: Don’t be shy to strike up conversations with locals and fellow visitors. The festival creates a lively and friendly atmosphere, and engaging with others can enhance your experience, provide insights into the local culture, and even lead to new friendships.
  7. Stay hydrated: It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re attending the festival on warmer days. Bring a refillable water bottle with you to quench your thirst and keep yourself refreshed throughout the day.
  8. Try different events and activities: While it’s great to have a plan, also leave room for spontaneity. Allow yourself to explore different events and activities that you may not have initially considered. You might discover unexpected gems, hidden performances, or unique experiences that add to the magic of Gentse Feesten.
  9. Respect the festival and its surroundings: Gentse Feesten is a time of celebration and joy, but it’s important to show respect to the festival organizers, performers, and fellow attendees. Keep the festival grounds clean by using designated waste bins and be mindful of the historical and cultural significance of the city and its landmarks.
  10. Take breaks and pace yourself: With so much to see and do, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Gentse Feesten. Remember to take breaks, find a comfortable spot to relax, and recharge your energy. This will ensure that you can fully enjoy the festival without feeling overwhelmed.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to make the most of your time at Gentse Feesten. Embrace the vibrant atmosphere, immerse yourself in the cultural and artistic wonders, and create lasting memories at this remarkable festival in Ghent.



Gentse Feesten is a celebration that showcases the very best of Ghent’s rich cultural heritage, artistic talent, and vibrant spirit. This ten-day festival offers a multitude of experiences, from captivating music performances and art exhibitions to mouthwatering gastronomic delights and cultural excursions. It is a time when the city comes alive with a festive atmosphere, welcoming locals and visitors from around the world.


The history of Gentse Feesten, dating back to 1843, is a testament to the festival’s enduring appeal and its ability to adapt to the changing times. It has grown into one of the largest cultural festivals in Europe, yet it has maintained its commitment to preserving and promoting traditional Flemish culture.


Gentse Feesten offers a diverse and dynamic program that caters to a wide range of interests. Whether you are a lover of music, art, theater, dance, literature, or simply enjoy immersing yourself in the vibrant festival atmosphere, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


From strolling along the illuminated canals to dancing the night away at lively music stages, Gentse Feesten offers a truly immersive experience. It is a time to indulge in delectable treats, discover hidden artistic gems, and create lasting memories.


To make the most of your time at Gentse Feesten, plan ahead, sample the local cuisine, explore the various events and activities, and take time to soak in the festival’s enchanting atmosphere. Interact with locals and fellow festival-goers, visit the stunning historical sites, and let yourself be captivated by the artistic performances that fill the city’s streets and venues.


Gentse Feesten is a festival that invites you to embrace the joy of celebration and immerse yourself in the cultural and artistic wonders of Ghent. It is an experience that will leave you with cherished memories, a deeper appreciation for the arts, and a desire to return year after year.


So pack your bags, mark your calendar, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the fascinating world of Gentse Feesten. Prepare to be enchanted by the vibrant atmosphere, immersed in the rich cultural heritage, and captivated by the artistic wonders that await you in the beautiful city of Ghent.