Melle borders Ghent, the capital of East Flanders. The town covers an area of 156,18 km2 and has a population of 243,366 (2010). It is the centre of a metropolitan area covering 1,205 km2 with a total population of 594,582.

There were already settlements in the Stone Age and Iron Age but Celtic nuclei were the origin of the later city of Ghent. Most historians believe that the older name for Ghent, ‘Ganda’ is derived from the Celtic word ‘ganda’ which means confluence (of the rivers Scheldt, Lys and Lieve).

Until the 13th century Ghent was the biggest city in Europe after Paris. The growth of the city was due to a flourishing wool industry. Furthermore, flax and linen industry and a staple right enhanced the wealth and expenditure of the city. Within the mediaeval city walls up to 65,000 people lived. Today, the belfry and the steeples of the Saint Bravo Cathedral, the Saint Michael’s church and the Saint Nicolas church are just a few examples of the skyline of the period. Because of the wool trade there were intensive trading relations with England and Scotland. The late 16th and 17th century brought devastation because of the Religious wars. At one time Ghent was a Calvinistic republic but eventually the Spanish army regained control and reinstated Catholicism. The wars ended the role of Ghent as a centre of international importance but the city remained an important city in the Flemish region.

Gent was twice the site of important treaties. In 1576 the Pacification of Ghent was signed. The Pacification was an alliance of the provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands for the purpose of driving mutinying Spanish mercenary troops from the country, and at the same time a peace treaty with the rebelling provinces Holland and Zeeland. The town hall of Ghent still has a large hall named after this treaty. In 1814 the Treaty of Ghent formally ended the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.

Ghent was also the birthplace of Charles V, who became Holy Roman emperor and King of Spain. Although native to Ghent he would later punish Ghent severely when the city revolted against him in 1539. The emperor obliged the city’s nobles to walk in front of him in a white tabard, barefoot with a noose around their neck. He hung four of them. Hence the people of Ghent are still called the noose bearers.

In the 18th and 19th century the textile industry flourished again in Ghent. In 1800 Lieven Bauwens , having smuggled the plans out of England, introduced the first mechanical weaving machine, the Mule Jenny, on the continent. The textile industry brought great wealth to the families of the entrepreneurs but plunged thousands of labourers in destitution while they had to live in slums of which some remains can still be visited.

After the battle of Waterloo Ghent became a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands for 15 years. In this period Ghent established its own university (1817) and a new connection to the sea(1824-27).

After the Belgian revolution, with the loss of port access to the sea for more than a decade, the local economy collapsed and the first Belgian trade-union originated in Ghent. A Ghent citizen, Pierre De Geyter , would write the lyrics for The Internationale at the end for the 19th century.

Present-day Ghent is again a thriving city. The port of Ghent, in the north of the city, is the third largest port of Belgium. It is accessed by the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, which ends near the Dutch port of Terneuzen on the Western Scheldt. The port houses, among others, big companies such as Arcelor-Mital, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Cars, Volvo Parts and Honda. The Ghent University and a number of research oriented companies are situated in the central and southern part of the city.

Besides university students Ghent also welcomes thousands of students attending the many institutions for non-academic higher education.

As the biggest city of East-Flanders, Ghent has many hospitals and shopping streets.

Tourism is increasingly becoming a major employer in the local area as the city has many touristic assets. First, there are the mediaeval churches of Saint Michael , Saint Nicolas and Saint James. Then there is the Saint Bavo cathedral housing the famous Ghent altarpiece or Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. This polyptych is one of the world’s treasures. Also the mediaeval buildings of the Belfry and The Meat Hall are worth visiting. The Graslei (The Grass Quai) is a protected city sight. As in many cities in the Low Countries Ghent has several beguinages that can still be visited. The beguinages, as well as the belfry and adjacent cloth hall, were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1998 and 1999. Charles V ordered to tear down the Saint Bavo Abbey and the ruins are now an open air museum. For all these marvels The National Geographic labelled the historic centre of Ghent the third most authentic historic destination worldwide.

Important museums in Ghent are the Museum voor Schone Kunsten(Museum of Fine Arts), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Paul Rubens Peter Paul Rubens many Flemish masters; the SMAK or Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (City Museum for Contemporary Art), with works of the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol; and the Design museum with masterpieces of Victor Horta and Le Corbusier. The Huis van Alijn (House of the Alijn family) was originally a beguinage and is now a museum for folk art where theatre and puppet shows for children are presented. The Museum voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel or MIAT displays the industrial strength of Ghent with recreations of workshops and stores from the 1800s and original spinning and weaving machines that remain from the time when the building was a weaving mill. STAM, the new Ghent City Museum, is committed to recording and explaining the past of the city and its inhabitants, and to preserve the present for future generations.

Both the opera house and the Bijloke music hall are the centre of high standing performances of renown musicians.

The Vooruit, a building in a brilliant 19th century eclectic style is meeting place for lovers of rock, pop, jazz etc.

Ghent is host to some big cultural events such as the Gentse Feesten (The Ghent festivities) that take place on the many squares of the city in July, I Love Techno, “10 Days Off” musical festival, Flanders International Film Festival (with the World Soundtrack awards) and The Festival van Vlaanderen for classical music. A newcomer is the Ghent Jazz Festival. The brilliant opener of the Festival van Vlaanderen takes place on the second Saturday of September and is called OdeGand. In various churches and halls several musical events take place simultaneously and repeatedly so that music lovers can stroll through the city or board a boat on their way to a venue and enjoy a variety of brilliant performances. The day is closed by a performance of a famous artist and spectacular fireworks at the Graslei. Also, every five years, a huge botanical exhibition (Gentse Floralieën) takes place, attracting numerous visitors to the city.