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Ostend and the Sea

Ostend, it's all about the sea

Ostend, it’s all about the sea, that’s the train station in the middle

I looked at the yachts and I looked at the sea, I felt like I should’ve just stepped out of a boat, not a train. I knew Ostend was a coastal city, but I hadn’t realized how much of coastal city it really was. Even the train station was surrounded from two sides by the sea and the harbour.

There were boats coming and going; on one side you had the yachts and on the other side the commercial crafts. I was half expecting the train station to also be the ferry terminal. Still, step out of the train station, and you’re surrounded by yachts, that doesn’t happen every day.

Once you’ve had your fill of yachts, it’s best to head towards the coast, and towards the beach boulevard where you can find plenty of tourists and locals strolling about, trying to figure out which cafe or restaurant to go to. The beach looks gorgeous and it goes on for miles to each direction; I can imagine it being full of sunbathers and swimmers in the summer months.

Ostend harbour

Ostend harbour

ropes, you always needs ropes when you have boats

Rope, you always needs rope when you have boats

Even my hotel rooms had ship theme going on

Even my hotel room had ship theme going on

It was slightly windy as we got to the beach, which I’m imagining was making the kite festival visitors happy. The kite festival is held every year in Ostend before the summer really starts. And it’s  awesome.

There were hundreds of different kinds of kites flying about, supermen, squids,  pants, flags, you name it. Apparently you can do all sorts of kites. There was also a competition for synchronized kiting (alright, I just made up that word), but it’s a real competition and seeing eight kites fly within inches of each other doing formations is pretty awesome, and it should totally be an Olympic sport. These people takes kites seriously.

With the wind you’d expect wind surfing and kite surfing to be a thing in Ostend, and they are. So if wind based activities are your thing, you’re in luck.

Kite festival on the beach

Kite festival on the beach

Hundreds and hundreds of kites

Lots of kites

Ostend sunset

Ostend sunset

The wind however doesn’t bother the fishing ships going out and coming back in in the early morning hours with fresh catch that is sold on the local markets, but you’ll have to go early to get the best catch. The nearby areas are especially good for shrimps, so it’s hardly surprising that Ostend is famous for its shrimp crockets, which I did try, and can attest are indeed worth their fame.

Once you’ve had your fill of seafood, you can take the free ferry to the other side of Ostend. The other side is mainly occupied by the fishing industry, but it also offers plenty of sand dunes, World War II bunkers, lighthouses and more beach; which means it’s great for exploring. And if you’re into photography, then you could easily spent a day there getting that dramatic shot of the war time bunkers by the sea. Well, at least I could.

I’d recommend taking a bike with you, or you can rent one for free from the other side, err, I suppose that’s loaning then.

There are a lot of lighthouses

There are a lot of lighthouses

The city also has two museum ships when you’ve had enough of walking and biking, but you’d still like to stick to sea related activities. The other one is an old fishing ship called Amandine which gives you a glimpse into the harsh realities of the fishermen. I mean I’ve seen the Deadliest Catch, it’s like that.

The other one is a three mast training ship called Mercator which was used for scientific research and sailed to various world fairs. The ship apparently is named after Gerardus Mercator, not after what I thought was the Dutch word for merchant (which turned out to be something completely different). I already had this awesome joke about naming a ship after its role, but it’s pointless now. So while it doesn’t give you an opportunity for a pun, it does offer great photo opportunities and insight into the history of the Belgium trade empire.

Museum ship Amandine

Museum ship Amandine

Shows you the harsh life of a fisherman

Shows you the harsh life of a fisherman

Museum ship Mercator is a lot older

The museum ship Mercator however is prettier

Besides the sea and the coast, there are parks, fountains, restaurants and chocolate shops a plenty. And this being Belgium, there is plenty of Belgium beer, I mean, it’s pretty obvious, this being Belgium and all, but figured I should still mention it.

Tips for a trip to Ostend:

  • Fly or take the train to Brussels and get the local train to Ostend, it takes about an hour and runs two times every hour
  • Great seafood
  • There is a bar street with plenty of bars and pubs if you’re interested in nightlife
  • It’s a very bike friendly city

Disclaimer: I was hosted by the Ostend Tourism board, but all opinions, especially regarding the wind are my own.

For city that is on the coast, they seem to have surprisingly many fountains

For city that is on the coast, they seem to have surprisingly many fountains

Everywhere in the city

Everywhere in the city

What’s your favorite seaside city?