travel guide

Enjoy Flemish Beach Life

A long time coastal resort, made more famous by King Leopold I in the 19th century. It has miles of wide sandy beaches and, not surprisingly, much of its tourist attractions revolve around the sea or its military historical importance. There is an excellent aquarium, a floating museum, the Mercator, which was an old navy training ship and many war museums ranging from the Napoleonic to the 2nd World War. Until fairly recently, fishing was the main occupation of the inhabitants of Ostend. The fish market is still a wonder to behold and make sure you treat yourself to a snack from one of the many fish kiosks in the area or an even more wondrous restaurant meal of the many specialty fish dishes which come from the region. Ostend is also the home to one of Europe’s largest casinos. If you can afford it, stay at the Thermae Palace Hotel, near the seafront and thermal baths complex. It is a traditional hotel, built in the 1930s and has become a landmark of Ostend. 

Not too far away from Ostend is De Panne another resort made famous by Leopold 1 and perhaps more stunning with its sand dunes, white sandy beach and wildlife of migratory birds and Highland cattle than Ostend. Don’t be surprised, however, to see what appears to be a herd of elephants trundling down the beach towards the sea. They are in fact, beautiful, life-sized wooden sculptures created by a South African artist, Andrias Botha, in 2006 – a quirky but effective sight to see. 

De Panne has great historical importance due to the fact that King Leopold the First initially landed here in Belgian territory in 1831. Also it was amongst the dunes, between Dunkirk and De Panne that British troops were evacuated during the second world war. Both of these events are honoured in the town with a monument for King Leopold and an interesting World War 2 Museum with free entry. Today most holiday-makers come for the fabulous white sandy beach fringed with bars and bistros and to enjoy a stroll amongst the dunes which are the oldest in Europe. If preferred the surrounding countryside has many walking routes as well as routes for cycling. Nearby is a theme park and also an aqua park.