A day in Ostend • Sights
In Dutch there is this word "uitwaaien", which literally means "to walk in the wind". That is exactly what the seaside is all about for me. Walking on the beach and forgetting everything. More than any other place, the coast gives me a real feeling of getaway inside my own country. And Ostend is one of my favorite cities on the coast because it has so much to offer. Not only is the city really alive, with lots of great initiatives, but it also has a rich history. During the Belle Époque, Ostend was the place to be for the rich and famous and you can find architectural gems reminiscent of Ostend's glorious past all over the city. Follow me!
Start by having coffee at CultuurCafé, inside De Grote Post. The former post-office building was turned into a cultural center in 2012 but the original structure and the main hall were preserved in a brilliant way. Inside, notice the ceramic scenes that symbolize the old and the new postal services. Whereas on the outside, the monumental sculpture of four women of different races united by a floating goddess symbolizes the fraternity created by the international postal system. In front of De Grote Post, you'll find Leopoldpark, a parc with lots of statues and a beautiful music kiosk.
For lunch, head over to the promenade, passing by the Casino-Kursaal, to reach Histoires d'O. With a gorgeous view on the sea, you can enjoy homemade shrimp croquettes (a classic of the Belgian coast) or various tapas. Make sure to have a look at their impressive list of cocktails and gins too! With its vintage floor tiles and wooden furniture, it feels like an authentic retro brasserie.
After lunch, enjoy a walk on the promenade towards West and keep your eyes open to spot some of the most beautiful buildings on the seafront, such as Villa Maritza. You'll eventually reach the Venetian Galleries - in which open air exhibitions are held throughout the year - and the Royal Galleries, one of my favorite places in the Kingdom! During the Belle Époque, the galleries were intended to protect the beautiful people from sun, wind and rain. Nowadays they have lost their splendor, some might even say they are in ruins, but I love it this way. Walking on the tiled floor between the arches, I can almost smell the fragrance of the ladies that used to walk here in their corsets.
Time to really "uitwaaien"! Leave the promenade, take off your shoes and head to the sea. Notice the gorgeous art work "Altar" by Kris Martin, an open canvas on the sea inspired by "The Adoration of the Lamb" in Ghent. Head East with your feet in the sand until you reach the Pier of Ostend. If you walk its 650 meters, you'll literally be in the middle of the sea. After walking back, stop at the Zeeheldenplein characterized by its fountains and the Mariners Monument. The square honors all the Ostend fishermen who have been lost at sea over time and is located where the first lighthouse of Ostend once stood.
To end your afternoon in pure maritime style, take the ferry to the Oosteroever. All day long, you can take the ferry for free on the Visserskaai (around the North Sea Aquarium) to reach the East bank. Just look for the boots named "Roger Raveel", "Het Rode Vierkant op de Zee" or "De Nieuwe Visie". One you've reached the other side, head over to Fort Napoleon. Historically the pentagonal fortress was built by order of Napoleon to offer resistance to the threat coming from Britain. Today it offers a unique experience in the middle of the dunes. Take a seat on the terrace and enjoy some refreshing drinks!
How to get there:
The train will take you from Brussels to Ostend in 1h30 and the city center is just a 10min walk from the station. If you come by car, there is free parking on the Ieperdreef, near the Maria-Hendrikapark. You can even rent a bicycle for free at this parking!
This itinerary is suitable for Saturday and Sunday, as the above mentioned addresses are open all weekend.