Ostend (Dutch: Oostende) is a seaside city in West Flanders in Belgium. Its North Sea beaches have drawn in tourists since the 19th century. Formerly a fashionable outing for royalty and aristocracy, it has since become more democratic and is now densely built up with tall 20th-century blocks of holiday apartments and hotels. Its waterfront promenade features every cliche of a European seaside holiday, including a large musical theatre and casino. Besides being a holiday destination, Ostend is also a sizeable port for both cargo and passenger traffic, particularly across the English Channel.
Ostend has its own airport within the city limits just out of the centre. The airport is served by holiday charters to other warmer destinations, mainly around the Mediterranean, and cargo flights. Regular scheduled passenger traffic is very limited, but some holiday charter specialists offer open seats to general public.
Most travellers arriving by air will however find it easier to fly to Brussels National Airport (IATA: BRU), which handles by far the most international traffic in and out of Belgium. There is no direct connection between BRU and Ostend, one has to change trains at the Bruxelles-Midi station, which is fairly problem-free.
By the same token, one can also fly in to other airports with direct connections to Bruxelles-Midi, such as Paris Charles de Gaulle or Amsterdam Schiphol, or the airport of Chaleroi, branded as "Brussels South" by the low-fare carriers flying there. The former two feature direct high-speed trains to Midi, the latter is served by buses to the station.
The train station is in the centre of Oostende and offers many direct connections within Belgium. Changing in Brussels, Ghent or Antwerp adds even more options, both domestic and international. In particular, changing in Brussels-Midi allows one to use the high-speed trains of Eurostar (from London) and Thalys (i.e. Paris, Lille, Amsterdam, Duesseldorf and Cologne), as well as other services from the Netherlands, France and Germany. The Thalys used to serve Ostend as well, but does not anymore as of 2015.
The travel time by train is little over an hour from Bruxelles-Midi, with 40 minutes to Ghent and just 15 to Bruges.
Coming to Ostend by car is also possible. Ostend has plenty of parking lots.
Ostend used to feature a ferry connection to England, but it was no longer operational as of 2015.
Most points of interest in town are close together. You can easily reach them by foot or by renting a bicycle from the rail station for €9 per day. De Lijn bus lines 5, 6, and 39 go along the seafront to the west; if you want to get to points farther along the coast, in either direction, take the Coast Train from a stop next to the rail station. You can pick up a taxi at the rail station, or call Taxibond (+32 (0) 184.108.40.206).
- James Ensorhuis (James Ensor House), Vlaanderenstraat 27, ☎ +32 59 80-53-35. June-Sept and Easter vacation week Wed-Mon 10am-noon and 2-5pm; Nov-May Sa-Su 2-5pm. Closed Oct. The house where Anglo-Belgian artist James Ensor lived from 1916 has been restored and transformed into a museum of his life. Studio and lounge on the second floor. Only reproductions are displayed. €2 adults, €1 seniors and students, free for children under 18.
- Kunstmuseum aan Zee (Art Museum by the Sea), Romestraat 11, ☎ +32 59 50-81-18. Tues-Sun 10am-6pm. Created after the 2008 merger of the Museum voor Moderne Kunst (Modern Art Museum) and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts). Also known as Mu.ZEE. €9 adults, €7.50 seniors; free for children under 13.
- Leopold Park. The Leopold Park was set out in 1860 on the old city walls in British style, with ponds, paths and flowerbeds. The first park regulations gave free access to tourists, but local residents had to pay. The beautiful bandstand was inaugurated in 1885. The best-known statue of Oostende, called The Sea, but there is not one person who calls it that. Nearly everyone remembers the statue only by its popular name ‘Dikke Mathille’ - ‘Fat Mathilde’. There even is a “Dikke Mathille” beer that you can taste in local pubs. Near the Fat Mathilde on the right hand side is the famous Floral Clock created from 20.000 flowers and plants. It has a diameter of 9 metres, the hands are 3 and 4 metres long and weigh 70 and 90 kilos. The date, made entirely of flowers, is reset every day during the summer months.
- Sint-Petrus-en Pauluskerk (St. Peter and Paul Church), Sint-Petrus-en-Paulusplein. This vast, neo-Gothic church from 1907 has a suite of stained-glass windows and a memorial chapel dedicated to Belgium's first queen, Marie-Louise of Orleans, who died in Ostend in 1850.
- Driemaster Mercator (Three-Master Mercator) (Not far from the rail station). May, June, September daily from 9am-noon and 1-6pm; July and August daily from 9am-7pm; April to June and September daily from 10am-1pm and 2-6pm; October to March weekends and holidays from 11am-1pm and 2-5pm.. Formerly a Belgian merchant marine training ship, this three-masted schooner is now a floating maritime museum. It has a length of more than 78 meters and a width of 11 meters. This beautiful ship is really worth a visit. Great for kids as well. €4 for adults, €2 for children ages 5-14, free for children under 5.
- Noordzeeaquarium (North Sea Aquarium), Visserskaai (Near the old fishing harbor), ☎ +32 59 50-08-76. April to September daily from 10am-noon and 2-6pm; October to March weekends from 10am-noon and 2-6pm.. Small aquarium with a collection of fish, mollusks, shell, and crustaceans from the nearby waters of the North Sea. Popular with children. €2 for adults; €1 for children 4-14.
- Museumschip (Museum Ship), Vindictive-laan 35Z, ☎ +32 59 23-43-01. Monday from 2-7pm and Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-7pm.. Sits in a dry basin on a plastic "sea" as a museum of the history and traditions of Ostend's Icelandic fishery. €2.50 for adults and €1.25 for children under 14..
- Oostends Historisch Museum De Plate (De Plate Oostend Historical Museum), Langestraat 69 (Close to Wapenplein), ☎ +32 59 80-02-89. Sat 10am-noon and 2-5pm; school vacations Wed-Mon 10am-noon and 2-5pm. Housed in King Leopold's restored, 19th century summer residence, the museum holds displays of Neolithic and Roman objects excavated in the vicinity and exhibits depicting Oostend traditional dress, folklore, and history. There's a re-created fisherman's pub, a fisherman's home, and an old tobacco store. €2 adults, €1 seniors and chilrdren 14-18, free for children under 14..
- Ostend Beach. Ostend is visited by many 'day' tourists, especially during July and August. Tourists from the Belgian inland and foreigners mostly arrive by train (day trips) and head for the closest beach area from the station (kleinstrand). The locals and other residents in Belgium usually occupy the larger beach (grootstrand). Ostend is widely visited by British, Germans, French and Dutch. Buses from Brussels tend to pass through giving the opportunity to North American and Asian tourists to view Ostend.
Ostend is a paradise for shopaholics. First of all, you have the Kapellestraat with all the important large chain stores. In the Adolf Buylstraat you can find designer clothing, shoes and accessories. Ostend has also a shopping center Shopping Center Feest- en Kultuurpaleis with 17 different shops. Other shopping streets are Christinastraat, Witte Nonnenstraat, James Ensorgalerij and Alfons Pieterslaan
There are a number of places to eat in Ostend, ranging from a Pizza Hut to charming old style Flemish Pannenkoekenhuis (Pancake Houses). There are also a number of chocolatiers and Dutch style Snoepje (Sweetie) stores, the latter lit up in bright pink neon. Most street corners are either a coffee shop or a bar.
The Restaurant l'Enfant Terrible, located at Nieuwstraat 16, an easy walk from the town centre and seconds from the harbour, serves an excellent selection of good, well prepared food. In particular, their entrecote steak with fries is outstanding.
No doubt the place with the most charm and character in Oostende is 'Stad Kortrijk', a 'friterie chique', offering you excellent steak, fish, omelettes,... with freshly baked fries and home-made mayonnaise. And all this for an excellent price. The shark mouth hanging on the wall, the boat lights,... all add to the character of the place...
A common sight is a coffee served with a small advocaat (eggnog). Sometimes these come with three or four profiteroles, free of chocolate sauce, for dipping in the liqueur.
Tati's Jazzclub (tatis), Langestraat 71 (Getting in the Langestraat (main bar/pub street in Ostend), you should walk up to the quay (sea, harbor, ...). It has a saxophone hanging out. Just next to the Irish bar Celtic.). Depending. Just go and see if it's open.. The Langestraat area is the area with the most bars in Ostend. You have a widespread choice of over 30 bars, restaurants, ...
- HI De Ploate Ostend, Langestraat 72, ☎ +325 980 52 97, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 10:00 - 22:00 (rooms available after 15:00), check-out: before 10:00. Fairly new hostel located in the city center. Almost all year round there is a high chance that a large part of the people staying in the hostel are going to be groups of school children. Lockers and luggage storage are available. There is also a kitchen and a self service restaurant. €22.00 to €32.00.
- Hotel de Hofkamers, IJzerstraat 5. Check-in: 14.30, check-out: 11.00. Small charming hotel with only 25 rooms, situated in a quiet street in the heart of Ostend. The hotel has a secure parking/garage. Close to the Casino-Kursaal of Ostend and the beach. €100.
- Hotel Ter Streep, Leopold II laan 14. Check-in: 13.00, check-out: 11.00. Hotel Ter Streep, situated in Ostend along the avenue Leopold II, embellished with flowers. The hotel is near the beach, the casino of Ostend and the shopping centre. €90.
- Ramada Ostend, Leopold II laan 20, ☎ +32 59 70-76-63. Located in the centre of Ostend and just stones throw from the beach. Rooms are spacious and comfortable. Hotels offers free wifi and has Mercator restaurant serving international favourites.
- Hotel Empire, Van Iseghemlaan 31, ☎ +32 59 70-42-59. Located in the centre of Ostend and just a 20 second walk to the beach. Rooms are spacious and comfortable. Hotels offers free wifi and has its own lounge bar and restaurant serving delicious food.
- Burlington Hotel by the yacht marina opposite to main train station.
- Thermae Palace, Koningin Astridlaan 7, ☎ +32 59 80-66-44, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The majestic landmark hotel right at the Ostend beach remains full of grand history, but is now rather worn and outdated in many ways.
- De Haan is a beach resort with many fanciful buildings in the belle époque style. Residential streets are lined by many quaint houses. De Haan is an easy side-trip from Ostend by the coastal tram (Kusttram). Get off at the station De Haan aan Zee.