With majestic buildings steeped in history, golden beaches just off the beaten track, and the best pancakes this side of the Atlantic, it’s easy to see why people love visiting Ostend, the ‘City by the Sea’. Buildings boast giant murals, sand sculptures line the water’s edge, and markets and festivals pop up throughout the year, making this a very exciting place to be.
Got a day to spare? Here’s our handy guide of what to do when you have 24 hours in Ostend.
24 hours in Ostend: The pulse of creativity
After arriving in Zeebrugge, drive west along the stunning coastline and you’ll find yourself at the heart of Ostend in just 40 minutes. In 1981, Marvin Gaye took refuge from his tumultuous lifestyle on the town’s ancient streets, and his renewed verve prompted him to write ‘Sexual Healing’.
Walls across the city are home to artworks by world-renowned street artists, and performers take over the town during the festivals. Ostend’s creative vibe is what makes it one of the best places to visit in Belgium.
Morning: Living like a local
Start your 24 hours in Ostend by taking a walk along the promenade. Explore the narrow streets of Vissersplein on foot, home to a vibrant Christmas market in December, before heading to one of the Flemish Pannenkoekenhuis (pancake houses) for a morning treat.
In fine weather, drive a short distance down the coast to escape the tourist hotspots. Get yourself a quiet spot on the beach with the locals and take a refreshing dip in the sea.
Afternoon: Back to nature
Leopoldpark lies just a couple of blocks inland. Grab some Belgian frites and a bottle of Dikke Mathile beer on your way in, and enjoy a picnic in the stunning grounds. Hikers flock to this park to explore the sculpture trail, and especially to see George Grard’s The Sea – though the locals call this large stone woman lying at the centre of the park’s pond ‘Dikke Mathile’ – which bluntly translates as ‘Fat Matilde’.
Other highlights include a beautiful flower clock, and a massive lioness and cub seated on the sole remaining piece of the inner city’s old fortifications.
Evening: Seafood in the historic centre
To finish the afternoon, be sure to visit the Atlantic Wall museum towards the south of the city. This open air attraction lets you explore the history of the World Wars from the original trenches, which are some of the very best preserved in Europe. Afterwards, treat yourself to some of the continent’s freshest seafood as you watch the sun set over the North Sea.
Whether you’re spending 24 hours in Ostend, or staying for the whole week, you’ll never be at a loss for what to do, so why not start planning your Belgium break and book your Dover to Calais or Hull to Zeebrugge crossing today.