Winter in Ostend
I've been going to Ostend in summer for several years now, but this year I got to rediscover the city as a winter destination. As temperatures drop, the city at the seaside transforms into a pre-Christmas haven, complete with ice skating rink and hundreds of light decorations. And since Ostend is also all about shopping, a trip in December is the perfect occasion to find all your Christmas presents while enjoying the winter magic. So grab your coat and your gloves and follow me!
Stay at Hotel Bero | Hofstraat 1a, 8400 Oostende
The only thing better than one day at the seaside, is two days! If you're planning to spend the weekend here, I recommend staying at Hotel Bero. This four star hotel has been in the hands of the Bero family for four generations and benefits a great location, close to the beach. An additional asset is the free swimming pool and wellness center where you can relax in the afternoon or in the evening (it's open 'til 22:00).
Lunch at Sanseveria Bagelsalon | Wittenonnenstraat 36, 8400 Oostende
Sanseveria Bagelsalon has already acquired a fan base in Bruges where it has been open since 2014. This year a second address opened its doors and luckily they picked Ostend! In a decor that might remind you of your grandmother's living room, they serve fresh, homemade bagels that are guaranteed to suit everyone (vegetarians included). The vintage tableware is oh so cute and the atmosphere is really homey so you'll surely want to stay a little longer (which is why I recommend the 'Bagel Lunch', complete with drink and dessert).
Visit of Mu.ZEE | Romestraat 11, 8400 Oostende
Ostend is home to Mu.ZEE, "the art museum by the sea for Belgian art". Until April 15th 2018, you can visit the exhibition 'The Raft. Art is (not) Lonely' curated by Jan Fabre and Joanna De Vos. 73 national and international artists have been brought together with artworks that relate to the story of the French ship Medusa that sunk 200 years ago and left many people dying on a raft until it was eventually found by another ship. The exhibition is also a real dialogue with the city, as many artworks are displayed beyond the walls of the museum, in various locations across Ostend.
Winter in het park | Leopoldpark, 8400 Oostende
To really feel those Christmas vibes, you have to head to the charming Leopoldpark. This is where you can enjoy 'Winter in het park' until January 7th 2018. I'd say the best time to go there is after 17:00, when it's dark already and all the whimsical lights are turned on. The main attraction is the 1,000 m² ice skating rink set up on the river, but that's not all. 50 wooden chalets with red roofs are scattered across the park, selling Christmas decorations, warm clothing but also food and drinks. Last but not least, you'll find three bars in the park to fulfill your hot chocolate and gluehwein cravings (my personal favorite is the Buddha Icebar near the ice skating rink).
Dinner at 't Groote Huys | Karel Janssenslaan 10, 8400 Oostende
Just a few steps away from the Leopoldpark, you'll find 't Groote Huys, a real institution when it comes to fine dining in Ostend. Inside a gorgeous renovated mansion from 1891, they serve the best of Belgian cuisine, such as brill filet and filet mignon. We had the three course menu (complete with cava) for €40.00 per person and it was delicious from beginning to end!
Before heading to your comfy bed at Hotel Bero, why not make a stop at the Lindores Whisky Lounge located on the ground floor. In 2013 it was voted best whisky bar in Belgium. Don't be alarmed if, like me, you don't know anything about whisky. Their menu boasts elaborate descriptions for each of their 45 single malt whisky's to make sure you pick one that's closest to your taste.
Shopping in the city center
On Sunday morning you can stay in bed late... The breakfast buffet at Hotel Bero is open until 10:30. After that you'll be ready for a full day of shopping for presents for your loved ones (and perhaps some for yourself along the way). Ostend counts many hotspots for fashion, accessories and deco and luckily they're open on Sunday (though some only in the afternoon)! Some of my favorites are concept stores Ferm (women at Vlaanderenstraat 5, men at Sint-Paulusstraat 38) where you can find the best of Scandinavian brands, and Lily (Hertstraat 6), an Ali Baba's Cave for all the girly girls. Make sure to go to the James Ensorgalerij too for additional unique boutiques.
Lunch at CultuurCafé | De Grote Post, Hendrik Serruyslaan 18a, 8400 Oostende
I told you about the Grote Post before, the glorious renovated post office from 1953 that has been turned into a cultural center. Not only can you find the original booths inside, you can also find the CultuurCafé, a favorite place to eat among locals. Nothing too fancy on their menu, but lots of really appealing dishes, including many vegetarian ones. The fact that they work mostly with biological and local products is the cherry on the cake.
Christmas specials on the Wapenplein
On the Wapenplein you'll find two Christmas specials until January 7th 2018. The first one is the Huis van de Kerstman, Santa's little house complete with working fireplace, where you can take the perfect Christmas picture. The second is the Inpakbar inside the shopping mall. Head over here at the end of the day to have all your presents wrapped for free in the unique Ostend gift wrapping (a great bargain if, like me, you totally suck at it)!
Coffee break at De familie Jansen kaffiebar | Kapucijnenstraat 2, 8400 Oostende
If you're in need of a sweet break in between all the shopping, stop at De familie Jansen. In a surprising interior that is both design and warm, the charming owner Coby serves many coffee and tea specials: think chocolate with chili or cappuccino with lime and coconut milk!
The train will take you from Brussels to Ostend in 1h40. Hotel Bero is just a 10 minute walk away from the station. If you come by car, it will take you 1h30. The hotel has a private parking but you need to book it in advance.
Tip: If you book your stay via the Winter in Oostende website, a special gift will await you in your hotel room!