The Belgian coast. An ideal getaway for the weekend, or let’s just say, any day. The 65 km long Belgian coast counts 10 ‘seaside cities’. Oostende, Knokke and De Panne are probably the most popular ones, but the others are worth a visit too for sure. Never heard of these places? No worries, just keep reading.
The coast is mostly popular with Belgian people, but you’ll run into other nationalities during high season for sure. With its 500 hotels and 27.000 beds, there’s almost never a dull moment. Although, summer is obviously the busiest period.
3 of the most popular ‘seaside cities’
Knokke-Heist borders the Netherlands and is therefore the most northern seaside city. Lots of people know Knokke-Heist as the more ‘fancy’ area near the coast but it for sure has a lot to offer.
In Knokke-Heist you can find ‘Het Zwin’, a big nature reserve. Het Zwin was initially formed by a big storm that hit the Flemish coast in the year 1134. The new waterway that was then created offered access from the sea to the city of Bruges, which is located about 14 kilometers awayea. Bruges then became one of the most important medieval port cities of Europe. But years went by and in the late 13th century, the waterway was affected by silting which caused it to become unusable and cut off the harbour of Bruges from the sea.
The nature reserve that we know present-day was founded in 1952. It is known for its big variety in salt-resistant flora and birds.
With 270.000 registered visitors in 2020, you might say Ostend is the most popular seaside city. Not only during summer it is a place to be. Ostend’s ‘Winter in the Park’ festival draws more than 600.000 people to the seaside city each winter. On the Ostend’s Christmas market, you’ll find tens of food stands along with an ice-skating rink, music and other events. A lightshow tunnel in one of the major shopping streets attracts visitors from all over Belgium and Europe. You might want to start booking already!
Apart from the popular seaside, many restaurants and Christmas market, the city is also known for its huge casino, better known as ‘Kursaal Oostende’, built in 1950. Ever since the 19th century the casino has been very popular in Ostend.
Would you like to know what the building looked like in the early 80’s? Easy! Just watch Marvin Gaye’s hit ‘Sexual Healing’ video clip. This comeback hit was written in an apartment at the seaside where Gaye took refuge in 1981. He later recorded video in the ‘embassy room’ located in the one and only ‘Kursaal Ostend’.
De Panne, another popular seaside city, borders France, which makes it the westernmost location of Belgium. The name of the city comes from the word ‘dune pan’. A pan or panne is a bowl-shaped depth in the dunes.
King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth both lived and died in De Panne. The whole Belgian royal family lived in this seaside city during the First World War because it was located in the tiny part of our country that was not conquered by the German army at the time.
Looking for a getaway with the kids? Then De Panne is the ideal city to go to. De Panne is also popular because it’s home to ‘Plopsaland’, a theme park for young children.
Convinced? Now all you have left to figure out is how to get there. The coast is easily accessible by train and tram/metro. Schedules are available on the website of NMBS.