Ostende Tourist Attractions
Ostend (Flemish Oostende, French Ostende) on the North Sea coast is the home of the largest high seas fishing fleet in Belgium and the location of three technical schools of fishing.
It is the most important ocean and ferry harbor in the country and deals with a large part of the ferry traffic to Great Britain.In addition, Ostend is the largest Belgian seaside resort and one of the most popular in Europe and can look back on a fashionable past; since 1933 the town also is able to call itself a spa.Foreign trade is the lifeblood of Ostend, especially as fishing has suffered a decline, and the economy of the harbor is threatened by the building of the channel tunnel and with competition from the very modern port facilities of Zeebrugge, so that industry (ship building and fish processing) is of increased importance. Since 1733 oyster farming has been practiced in Ostend.The town was originally a village at the east end of the spit of land Ter Streep which has meanwhile silted up. It is first mentioned in 814 and received its charter in 1267. A new harbor was built in the 15th C. and new defenses in 1583. At the end of the 16th C. Ostend was the last bastion of the Dutch in the southern Netherlands and was violently attacked by the Spaniards.The archduchess Isabella vowed in 1601 to change her shirt only if this bastion fell. One can only hope that she did not comply with her vow for the siege lasted three years and caused 72,000 deaths. In the following centuries the town had various masters, Spanish, French and Austrian until it finally became Belgian. Shortly after that the first British arrived for a seaside holiday and Ostend began to develop into an extensive seaside resort of the Belle Epoque. In 1834 Queen Victoria and later the Belgian rulers also visited it. In the First World War Ostend, like Zeebrugge, was a German U-boat base and suffered greatly from the effects of the conflict; the Second World War brought several bombardments during which almost all the important buildings were damaged. The flood of 1953 also caused considerable damage when the dike between Ostend and Knokke-Heist gave way.Visitors and residents of Ostend have discovered the joys of windsurfing and kite surfing. Wind is never in short supply on the Belgian coast thus providing ample opportunity for the sports. Ostend is also noted for its sea-side esplanade, pier, and fine-sand beaches.
The carnival-like prawn and shrimp festival and the Blessing of the Sea in May attract many visitors.
Ostend has five bathing beaches with all facilities such as showers, cabins, deck-chairs etc.: the small beach between the dike and the harbor entrance, the western beach between the kursaal and the racecourse, the beaches of Mariakerke and Raversijde west of the racecourse, and the beach to the east of the harbor.
The facilities for sport are so comprehensive (including archery, sailing, riding) that almost every activity is catered for.
A good survey of beach activities can be had from Albert I promenade which is lined with restaurants and a few villas.
Ostend Leisure Complex, originally dating from 1745 and re-opened in 1953 after destruction in the Second World War. The first floor is decorated with frescoes by Paul Delvaux.
Spa and Race Course
The road along the beach promenade continues on the 10m/33ft-high and 30m/98ft-wide Zeedijk which extends as far as the dunes near Westende, 15km/9.5miles. Here can be seen the royal residence, the spa complex and the Wellington racecourse.
The Ostend Harbor, protected by two massive breakwaters, contains a number of interesting tourist attractions, including Fish Hall and the North Sea Aquarium.
In the center of old Ostend on the Wapenplein stands the Feestpalais which was built in 1957 in place of the old town hall of 1711 destroyed in the Second World War.
On the first floor of the Feestpalais is the local museum "De Plate" where a great deal of interesting material about the resort and the fishing at Ostend can be seen.
North of the Wapenplein in Vlaanderenstrat No. 27 James Ensor was born. The house is now furnished as a museum, in which the old shop of his uncle and aunt, personal belongings and sketches, as well as the living room and studio of the painter can be seen.
In Kapellestraat, leading south from the Wapenplein, stands the three-aisled Gothic Sint- Petrus-en-Pauluskerk (1905). Only the brick tower "Peperbus" from the first half of the 18th C. with relics of the 15th C. remains from the old church. The funeral chapel of the Belgian Queen Louise-Marie, who died in Ostend in 1850, was built on to the choir.
Provincial Museum of Modern Art
The Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst is devoted to contemporary Belgian art.The museum will exhibit the works of Emile Claus through October 5, 1997.
South of the city center extends Maria-Hendrike-Park with a prominent water tower. Here visitors can walk or take boat trips.
Remains of the Atlantic rampart can be seen in the suburb of Raversijde situated to the southwest of Ostend.
In Gistel, 10km/6miles to the south of Ostend, the saint Godelieve was born in 1045. Her husband had her strangled in 1070 and threw the body into a pond; from then on the water was thought to have miraculous powers. The church and the museum are dedicated to the legend of St Godelieve.
Gistel - Abdij Ten Putte
The pretty whitewashed abbey of Ten Putte to the west outside Gistel was laid out around the wonder-working pond. Here can be seen the cellar where Godelieve was incarcerated, as well as the chapel on the spot of her first miracle.
Ball of the Dead Rats
The most celebrated festival in Ostend is the "Ball of the Dead Rats" which takes place during the carnival. It was created by Ostend's greatest son, the painter James Ensor (1860-1949) and his friends who had seen it in Paris in the cabaret "Au Rat Mort" in Montmartre.
De Haan, Belgium
Situated in the dunes, 6km/3.75miles to the northeast, is De Haan which is more tranquil than Ostend. Strict building regulations ensure that no concrete tower blocks are erected but only pleasant looking houses and villas in green surroundings. De Haan has today, therefore, something of the look of the Belle Epoque.
International Firework Festival
The International Firework Festival is held in Ostend every two days from the middle of the month of August.
Belgium Kite International
Belgium Kite International is a model kite festival.
Map of Ostende Attractions