When thinking about destinations full of sun and vitamin sea, Belgium would be one of the countries that most definitely won’t pop out into anyone’s head. Never. And though country has a 70-kilometers-long coastline by the North Sea, we have to admit that visiting it was in the back of our things-to-see list here. For ten months we were exploring every piece of Belgian architecture that we could find, even in the smallest towns, leaving Belgian beaches behind. Nevertheless, as much as dumb we sometimes are, eventually, something does reach our heads. That something this time, was the name of Oostende, biggest Belgian resort by the North Sea.
Some of the Facts
Often called the Queen of Belgian Seaside, Oostende is the largest and the most popular city here. With long and wide sandy beaches, it is a beloved destination not only among Belgians, but also among Dutch, French, British and German travelers.
Though the story of Oostende started back in the early Middle Ages, the period of growth and prosperity came by the 19th century. With a proper attention from Belgian kings – Leopold I and Leopold II – for whom Oostende became a loved holiday resort, city rose to become a significant port and cherished resort town. What is more, with the goal to please the members of royal family, by that time many of the significant city’s building appeared.
Sadly, great times has to come to an end, and in a case of Oostende, the name of that end was World War 2. City was damaged significantly and after the war ended, bombed gaps of the city, where once stood awesome architectural examples, were filled with modern buildings. And that is one of the saddest things that could have ever happen not only to Oostende, but to all the cities here in Western Europe.
Some of Our Experience
Modern Oostende is a city which is hard to describe. There aren’t any spectacular sights or landmarks to see. The architecture doesn’t have the unity or authenticity that many of the other Belgian cities have. There is no spectacular Grote Markt square which we are so used to find as a central point of interest here in Flanders region. In other words, city is completely different from all the others you, Dear Reader, could find while exploring Belgium.
Sea is the scent of the city. Wide and spacious promenade along the North Sea is Oostende’s Grote Markt. Peaceful parks, resort-type residences, bars and restaurants, long malls leading you to the middle of the sea, are the guarantee for a relaxing holiday mood.
We have to admit, that though our journey started from visiting two of the main city landmarks – majestic Church of St Peter and St Paul and the beautiful Oostende Railway Station, the feeling that we felt definitely wasn’t the love at first sight. But. But! Everything changed when we stepped on the wide, long and spacious promenade by the North Sea.
The Most Relaxing City in Belgium
Wide sandy beach, the power of the North Sea and this spacious promenade, framed with lovely resort-type residences and cozy restaurants. It won us over! We sat on the mall; we walked along the promenade; in one of the cafes we bought two lemon sorbet cocktails, took them to the nearest bench and enjoyed them along with the view of the sea. This one promenade gave us so much great emotions that P. even declared it as his No. 1 place in Belgium.
From that moment when we stepped on the promenade, everything in Oostende started to look so peaceful and lovely at the same time. The North Sea breeze in our hair, relaxed and suntanned passers-by, the scent of the sea, cherished and nourished parks to take a breath from the heating sun, and vibrant city streets. It all made us feel like we were walking somewhere far in the South.
After three-hour stroll in Oostende, we felt so relaxed and so full of great emotions, that we promised ourselves to be back here again. We just love cities that know how to make their guests feel this easy like a wind!
As always, circumstances are the things that decide if one places, becomes more special than the others. We reached Oostende on a sunny and hot day, therefore the breeze of the North Sea seemed to be the thing that we needed that day the most. We have been exploring a lot of architecture places before, therefore sea seemed to be something that we needed in awhile. These and a lot of other circumstances made that for us Oostende will always be this completely different and a very relaxing place to visit in Belgium.
Hope you, Dear Reader, will reach it at least once and will have as lovely day there, as we did!