The town of Sint-Niklaas is located in the East Flanders area of Belgium, between the larger cities of Ghent and Antwerp. It is this location which has helped Sint-Niklaas to achieve the prominence it has, and is also responsible for one of the most striking visitor attractions in the town. Due to the numbers of merchants travelling to and from the two larger neighbours, the town of Sint-Niklaas became a popular stopping off and resting point, and, as a result, it developed the largest market square in the whole of Belgium. Bearing in mind the fact that virtually every town or city in Belgium has a market square at its very heart, this is a deeply impressive boast to be able to make.
The history of Sint-Niklaas can be traced back to the year 1217, when the Bishop of Tournai established a church on the site in the name of Saint Nicholas. The fact that the city, unlike many Medieval Belgian towns and cities, didn’t have a wall built around it meant that it was vulnerable to attacks and invasion over the centuries, and was burned more or less to the ground as early as 1381. The aforementioned strategic location of Sint-Niklaas saw it rise from the ashes of this experience to become increasingly prosperous, however, and by the 18th century the textile industry was well established. Although this industry has declined noticeably in the years and decades since, the centre of the town is still rich in history and well worth taking the time to explore.