Gent, Belgium

Submitted by: Jan Vilain

Pedestrian area along the shores of the River Leie in the medieval city centre of Gent.

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Why It Works

The Graslei was part of the medieval harbour of the City of Gent. The river Leie played a key role in the development of the City and has several historic buildings adjacent (e.g. the castle Gravensteen). In the 20th century the Graslei became a car park until the city council decided to integrate the place in a wider structure of a 35ha pedestrian area. The place has been completely refurbished during the second half of the 1990's and is now an attractive place in the heart of the city centre. It is an important venue during 'Gentse Feesten', an annual 10-day culture festival when over 1 million people visit the city.

What Makes Graslei a Great Place?

The Graslei is the arrival and departure place for tourist boats which cross the city centre. Both the tram network and tourist horse coaches have stops nearby, and the area is linked to other pedestrian areas and shopping streets. The Graslei is mainly paved with cobblestones which could make access for wheelchairs or buggies less evident.

The Graslei has a very particular identity, with its stone strips which feature as sitting places overlooking the river. It's a popular spot both amongst locals and tourists. Being a part of the historic centre, the area is well maintained and looks attractive. From the Graslei, visitors have a spectacular view over the historic buildings of the city centre, which are illuminated by night as a part of the Gent Light Plan.

The wide range of activities around (pubs, shops, boat trips, coach tours etc) make this place well visited. During the summer months people just hang around to enjoy the sun, while others have a drink at the terraces.

Since the Graslei has its own characteristics and identity, most people know this place. Its location in the historic heart of the city centre and the opportunities to sit down and relax make it a popular meeting place. Gent has one of the major universities in Flanders and has a large student population. The students are a particular group of inhabitants who appreciate the spirit of the Graslei.

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