Ostend literally means the "East End" and just 17 km from Bruges, located along the 67 km long Flemish coast you will find the port town of Ostend, and its wide sandy beaches. The rise of Ostend as a seaside resort began in the 19th century. Drawn by the developments orchestrated there by Leopold II, the nobility of Europe, English monarchy and even the Russian tzar came to Ostend for their holidays. Follow in their footsteps and discover this charming North Sea coast which is stuffed with cultural treasures.
On the Fishermen's Quay in Ostend you'll find a lively and colourful scene with fishermen coming and going, the Vistrap fish market. Get your fill of shrimps, mussels and fish in this market which is open to all: the only one on the Belgian coast which allows individuals to buy straight from the fishermen. You'll also find plenty of restaurants offering fresh fish dishes, where you can sit and watch the hustle and bustle of the port. Try the Ostend-style sole or hot, Ostend-style snails, which will fortify you against the stiff sea breeze.
Next it's time to discover one of Ostend's most famous natives, artist James Ensor. Pop along to the James Ensor House where you'll see objects reflecting the maritime soul of Ostend, and which inspired the artist, in this souvenir shop which was left to Ensor by his uncle. Garish masks, turtle shells, boats made out of shells, the interior has not changed, giving us a little insight into the mind of this painter who created works such as masks and death. Every year, during the Ostend Carnival you can join in with the Dance of the Dead Rat an Ensor-initiated custom.
Ostend is full of artwork and you can get your fill at the PMMK - Museum of Modern Art. Here you'll find a comprehensive overview of painting trends of the twentieth century. 15 minutes from Ostend, in the countryside of Jabbeke explore the Raversijde Domaint which is dedicated to German expressionist Constant Permeke, and is well worth a little excursion.
Nesting in the dunes at Vuurtorenweg, the Fort Napoleon has had a long and interesting military history and now houses a rather smart restaurant.
Whether you're with family or friends, there's plenty to keep you busy around Ostend: you can go sailing, fishing, cycling and walking, or perhaps take the kids to the North Sea Aquarium, or to see the Earth Explorer park: a fascinating and educational experience.
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