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Oostende City Guide

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Pipe organ, Ostend Cathedral
Oostende City Guide

Along the coastline of Belgium lies Oostende, the biggest coastal city in the country with a population of over 68,000. Its name is derived from the Dutch translation of “east-end”, which is oosteinde. Until the middle ages, it was a humble fishing village that had to contend with mood swings of the sea. The inhabitants later on decided to build big dikes to protect themselves from the unpredictable water.

Centuries passed and Oostende has become a valuable harbor for trade and transportation and at the same time a preferred vacation place for royals. The kings Leopold I and Leopold II spent time here, which helped boost the municipality’s popularity and resulted to it being called the “Belgian Queen of Seaside Resorts”. Today, its fine-sand beaches and unlimited supply of wind attract tourists and sportsmen alike to visit and try out windsurfing and kite surfing.

Water sports aside, there are a lot of things that can be done in this city. For those who are into arts and culture, there are several museums and historical places that could be visited. Some of the most popular ones are the St. Petrus and St. Paulus Church, also known as Sint Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, which is a church built at the beginning of the 20th century in Neo-gothic architecture; and the Mercator, a battleship turned educational museum docked at the harbor.

There also are shopping spots where tourists could dig for good bargains and great finds. The street Kapellestraat is the go-to place of designer lovers. Along this high street stands Inno Department Store, a very important retail facility in the country. Other popular shops like The Body Shop and H&M are also present. From the central square named Wapenplein stretches out all the other major shopping streets like Adolf Buylstraat, Alfons Pieterslaan, Christinastraat, and of course, Kapellestraat.

Nightlife is thriving in this city by the sea. It is abundant in bars, pubs, and clubs that serve a multitude of beers from Belgian brews to Irish Guinness. These places are packed with tourists and locals alike who want to have a good time and enjoy live music and some dancing. Those looking for fine food and relaxing ambiance could go to Ostend Queen, a rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view. There also are coffee shops and snack bars around for casual dining.

The best time to visit Oostende is summer. It is, after all, a beach resort. The warmer weather during this season would be ideal for treading along the coastline or walking the harbor promenade where establishments like spas, shops, and sports and activity centers could be found.

It is not difficult to reach the city for there are many options available for transportation. The main railway station is found at the center of town near the shopping center and the marina. Its lines run to Brussels and all the other major cities in Belgium. Taxis and buses wait right outside the station for the visitors’ convenience. However, the best way to travel around Oostende is by the tram, which has a station right beside the railway’s. It is a speedy system with many stops along the Flemish coast and also provides a magnificent view of the whole seaside.

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