Georgia and I spent six days in Belgium in September, 2016 and visited four cities: Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Brussels. Ghent is a city and a municipality in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province and after Antwerp the largest municipality of Belgium. The city started as a settlement at the confluence of the Rivers Scheldt and Leie and in the Late Middle Ages became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe, with some 50,000 people in 1300. It is a port and university city. The municipality comprises the city of Ghent proper and the surrounding towns of Afsnee, Desteldonk, Drongen, Gentbrugge, Ledeberg, Mariakerke, Mendonk, Oostakker, Sint-Amandsberg, Sint-Denijs-Westrem, Sint-Kruis-Winkel, Wondelgem and Zwijnaarde. With 240,191 inhabitants in the beginning of 2009, Ghent is Belgium's second largest municipality by number of inhabitants. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 1,205 km2 (465 sq mi) and has a total population of 594,582 as of 1 January 2008, which ranks it as the fourth most populous in Belgium. The current mayor of Ghent, Daniël Termont, leads a coalition of the Socialistische Partij Anders, Groen and Open VLD.
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country. The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares, including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee meaning "Bruges on Sea"). The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval and about 430 hectares in size. The city's total population is 117,073 (1 January 2008), of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008. Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and Stockholm, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port and was once the chief commercial city in the world. Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, an elite university institute for European studies regarded as "the EU's very own Oxbridge.
Antwerp is a city in Belgium, the capital of Antwerp province in the region of Flanders. With a population of 510,610, it is the most populous city proper in Belgium. Its metropolitan area houses around 1,200,000 people, which is second behind Brussels. Antwerp is on the River Scheldt, linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary. The Port of Antwerp is one of the biggest in the world, ranking second in Europe and within the top 20 globally. Antwerp has long been an important city in the Low Countries, both economically and culturally, especially before the Spanish Fury (1576) in the Dutch Revolt. The inhabitants of Antwerp are nicknamed Sinjoren, after the Spanish honorific señor or French seigneur, "lord", referring to the Spanish noblemen who ruled the city in the 17th century. The city also hosted the 1920 Summer Olympics.
Brussels is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the region of Flanders (in which it forms an enclave) or Wallonia. The region has a population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, the largest in Belgium. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a major centre for international politics and has become the home of numerous international organizations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions (the other administrative centres are Luxembourg and Strasbourg). The secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also located in Brussels. It has seen a language shift to French from the late 19th century onwards. Today the majority language is French, and the Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish Region. All road signs, street names, and many advertisements and services are shown in both languages. Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual with increasing numbers of migrants, expatriates and minority groups speaking their own languages. (Wikipedia)
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