From it’s split-down-the-middle website to its obscure art publications, RIOT is quite the characterful addition to Ghent’s literary scene. Part bookshop, part gallery, the plywood-rich space belongs to a growing subset of initiatives by the city’s young creatives. It settled in the affordable but increasingly attractive Dampoort neighbourhood in 2014 and has become a great underground source for art mags and events like graphic design printing workshops.
Dendermondsesteenweg 80, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 223 39 53
Helped by an eclectic event calendar that doesn’t necessarily stick to the literary field – think exhibits showcasing the works of local artists or ‘Swedish folk on a Sunday afternoon’ – and a 60-seat café serving a decent cup of joe, Paard Van Troje (‘Trojan Horse’) has become one of the best-known independents in Ghent. The spacious family-run business on the Kouter square likes a good classic (as its name would suggest), and stocks some beautiful special editions on its wooden bookshelves spread across multiple rooms. A wide selection of children’s books from toddler to YA is part of its charm, and a Kathleen Kelly quote can’t help but pop to mind: “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading does.” Well, they organise midnight Harry Potter sales. Enough said.
Kouter 112-113, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 330 08 83
For those who ‘prefer to read in the language of Shakespeare, Molière, Goethe, or even Strindberg,’ Limerick boasts a wide offer of English, French, German and Swedish literature alongside its Dutch-language books. Gert Brouns’ place has been profiled together with Walry as one of Ghent’s literary strongholds, going its own way in a sea of chainstores thanks to unequalled personal service. The point is emphasised by the grand typewriter collection of renowned Dutch author Willem Frederik Hermans that found a home here in 2013, and by the assortment of both nostalgic and new children’s books.
Koningin Elisabethlaan 142, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 222 17 57
A couple of years ago, closed café Le Bal Infernal rose like a phoenix from its ashes to become even more of an exciting rendezvous hub for the Gentenaar. Now a used book café-cum-coffee bar, literature with a previous life lines the walls. Visitors are encouraged to bring their old favourites and exchange them for a new reading adventure at a mere euro a pop. Write a personal or inspiring message in the flap, and the swap is free of charge.
Kammerstraat 6, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 486 80 70 48