Located 110 km northwest of Brussels, Ostend combines a fascinating history with a thriving modern culture. The city boasts sandy beaches, a casino, racetrack, art museums, good shopping, and some great seafood, making it a popular destination for holidaymakers. Additionally, Ostend is a busy ferry port, receiving regular ferries from the UK.
Most flights go to the international airport in Brussels, although Ostend also has a small airport. Transfers from either airport are easy via bus. By car from Brussels and Brugge, take the E40 (A10) west; from the other coast resorts, take the N34 coast road. Trains depart hourly from Brussels, taking 1 hour, 10 minutes; from Brugge, the journey is 15 minutes. Fast, auto-transporter jet-catamaran ferries from Dover are also a popular method of transport.
The Albert I promenade runs the entire length of the city’s five km beachfront and is lined with elegant private seaside villas and modern hotels. Ostend’s five beaches are crowded in the summer with sunbathers and swimmers.
De Plate Folklore Museum and the Fine Arts Museum are good places to spend some time away from the beaches. De Plate Folklore Museum houses an intriguing range of Neolithic and Roman artifacts excavated in the area; while the Fine Arts Museum has paintings by natives James Ensor, Jan de Clerck, Constant Permeke and Leon Spilliaert.
Ostend is a good base from which to explore Belgium’s coastline. De Panne is 26kms southwest of Ostend and offers some lovely sandy beaches which have been the scene of several significant historical events, including the massive evacuation of Allied forces in 1940. Twenty kilometers southwest of Ostend are the family-oriented resorts of Oostduinkerke, Koksijde-Bad and Sint-Idesbald.
Visitors can try their luck at Casino-Kursaal Oostende, one of Europe’s largest casinos. The lavish interior has a concert hall, panoramic rooftop restaurant, disco, and much more. Another fun place is the Wellington Renbaan (Wellington Racetrack), the only racetrack on the coast.