With its rich history, elegance and unrivaled beauty, Ostend is primarily thought of as a seaside resort – it was the height of fashion in the Edwardian period due to its miles of fine sandy beaches and excellent bathing facilities. But Ostend is also an ancient town with a lively historic port – the ‘Gateway to the Continent’. It was the scene of a three year siege in the early seventeenth century and suffered severe damage in the Second World War.
Today’s Ostend is thankfully devoted to more tranquil pursuits and offers a wide variety of attractions and activities to suit all tastes, from the excitement of the famous ‘Kursaal’ casino and the Wellington racecourse to the lively cafés and bars interspersed along the waterfront.
For those interested in historical sites, the city boasts the only remaining intact Napoleonic fortress in Europe as well as numerous museums which describe Ostend’s colourful past and major role in European history. There is also a famous market, aprofusion of shops, lovely quiet parks and a splendid promenade overlooking the famous sands.
We use the excellently located New Astoria Hotel, which is housed in a prominent art-deco building just 2 minutes walk from the markets and shops.
The town centre fans out from the ferry terminal in a hive of narrow, straight cobbled streets with the harbour on one side and the beautifu beach on the other. The best shopping region is in the pedestrianised area known as Kapellestraat, where there is a number of chic designer boutiques and of course, the opportunity to purchase some lovely Belgian chocolates! The best restaurants are on the Visserskaai, where one can sample some of the best seafood in the world whilst enjoying magnificent views of the harbour.
There are five sandy beaches in total which are accessed by the tiled, traffic free Albert 1st Promenade, which stretches for three miles and provides a wonderful opportunity for a gentle stroll. Whilst there are several pretty parks dotted throughout the city, including the lovely Leopold and Maria Hendrika parks, the natural highlight of the region is just outside the city and is known as the ‘Raversijde Domain’. It is a collection of dunes which were unaffected by the nineteenth century tourism boom and has since developed into a wonderful nature reserve