Nearly a fifth part of Ghent’s population consists of students. The youth have brought in the city’s life a vivid and hip spirit.
The streets are filled with a lot of excellent affordable restaurants offering superb local cuisine.
Although Ghent has a reputation of a vegetarian city, some good examples of authentic Flemish meat and seafood dishes are to be found in a number of budget, mid-range and upscale restaurants. Brasserie Kaiserhof (Vrijdagmarkt 47), Soup'r (Sint-Niklaasstraat 9), De Papegaai (Annonciadenstraat 17), Hot Club Reserva (Jan Breydelstraat 32–34) are inexpensive eateries serving local and international food.
Most classic Flemish dishes originate from the medieval kitchens. For instance, the typical "Gentse waterzooi" (boiled fish with vegetables) was the food for poor in the Middle Ages. With the course of time it has overgrown with history and is now known as one of the signature dishes of a Flemish table.
The list of vegetarian restaurants is abundant: Greenway (Nederkouter 42) and Pacha Mama (Jan-Baptist Guinardstraat 9) in a student district, the lunch-spot Avalon (Geldmunt 32), a buffet restaurant Komkommertijd (Reep 14) and many others.
The drinking scene is concentrated within the student quarter, around Blandijnberg hill. Numerous pubs, night shops, snack bars lie along Overpoortstraat. This street is a place where students meet, drink and dance, especially on Thursday night when it gets overcrowded. The renowned dancing bars include Decadance (electronic music), Boom Boom (rock’n roll), Den drummer (rock), Cuba Libre (R&B) and gay-friendly Twieoo (1970s and 1980s pop and rock).
About 2 km up the Overpoort is another party area - Vlasmakt. Charlatan is its headlining dance pub that weekly hosts live concerts. The square is dotted with a number of smaller but no less hip bars (Giraf, Aap, Jos, Bar des Amis, Kinky Star). On Fridays and at the weekend mornings the Sint-Jacobsplein flea market unveils its treasures to the audience.
Across the Leie river is Patershol and Oudburg neighborhood. Patershol is mainly known for its cosy lanes filled with fine restaurants and cafes. However there’s a place for a party hidden in this labyrinth of streets. White Cat (Drongenhof 40) is a bar in a 14th century cellar with a 70s design interior and live DJ sessions. Folklore (Lange Steenstraat 69) is an authentic brown pub with a historic ambiance and some jukebox performances. Oudeburg is becoming more and more popular. Abundant with bars and cafes this street has something to offer for everyone.
Jazz lovers will take a delight in visiting Hot Club de Gand (Groentenmarkt 15b), Hotsy Totsy (Hoogstraat 1), Damberd (Korenmarkt 19).
Ghent’s nightlife is as vivid and buzzy that any guideline can hardly comprise all the drinking and dancing spots. The best way to explore Ghent nightlife is to stroll around its bars and restaurants in search of authentic Flemish flavors and yield to the festive spirit of this beautiful city.