Ever since I was little, Ostend has been my favorite coastal town. I guess that’s mostly due to the fact that besides the beaches, Ostend really has that vibrant city feeling too. And I wasn’t the only one who fell in love with Ostend, that’s for sure! Famous painter James Ensor spent many years in the Belgian city and Marvin Gaye even wrote his iconic song ‘Sexual Healing’ in Ostend while recovering from his drug addiction. I honestly feel like there is always something exciting to do in Ostend. Going from the Q-Beach House to the musical performances at the Casino Kursaal. Unfortunately those events did not take place this year because of Covid-19, but even then the city has a lot of fun things to offer. So if the sun is out, and you want to escape your traditional city break for a weekend at the seaside, here’s what I’d suggest you do!
Explore Ostend’s main sights
When you exit the railway station you will immediately spot one of the highlights of Ostend; the St.-Petrus- and Paulus I Church. This neogothic gem was built in 1907 on the ashes of the ancient St. Pieterskerk and is for sure the most impressive building in the city.
On our way to the hotel, we passed by the Mercator ship. This impressive three-master was built by arctic traveler Adrien de Gerlache. The Mercator had only two commanders and made 54 voyages. In 1960, it sailed into the harbor of Antwerp and in 1961, it was turned into as a museum ship. Since 1964, it has been the pride of Ostend.
While wondering around the city you will come across plenty of murals. The street art festival in Ostend is called ‘The Crystal Ship‘ and there are already over 50 murals around town. We spotted a lot of great works. You can download the walking route from the website of Visit Oostende in case you’re interested.
Lunch at Ohana
If you are game for a quick and healthy lunch, Ohana is where you need to be. Ohana, as the name predicts, is a Hawaiian restaurant with a focus on poké bowls. The fun thing is that you can make your own poké bowl. First you pick the size of the bowl (small, medium or large). We had a small one and that was more than enough. Than you select your favorite ingredients. Mine included sushi rice, salmon, edamame, corn, mango, avocado, spring onions and a Japanese mayonnaise. I loved it!
Take the ferry to Oosteroever
With the free ferry at Visserskaai, you can get to Oosteroever, where you’ll be able to explore interesting sights like the charismatic ‘Lange Nelle’ lighthouse and the historic Fort Napoleon. Of course, you will also find a part of the Chrystal Ship graffiti route in this area. Oosteroever is also a fun spot to go if you enjoy hikes in the dunes along the shore and chill on the beach.
Coffee Break at De Familie Jansen Kaffebar
As coffee is always a good idea, we went to De Familie Jansen Kaffebar for a cup of black gold. I was pleasantly surprised with the choice in cappuccinos and lattes. My hazelnut cappuccino was so good! The owners are also super friendly, so I can’t wait for a next visit.
Check-in at Mercure Oostende
Dinner at De Markt
De Markt is one of my favorite restaurants in Oostende. I have been there a couple times now and the food has always been very good and the waiters hospitable. On the menu you can mostly find Belgian classics like Steak Frites or Vol-Au-Vent. Both Jill and I had the Mussels and they were delicious. Yummy!
Enjoy an evening walk on the beach
As I don’t live that far from the Belgian Coast, I mostly go there for day trips. But this time I was staying for the night, so I really wanted to go for an evening walk on the beach and watch the sun go down. Visit Oostende offers guided walking tours, where you download a route on your phone to follow. A popular choice is Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love Tour.
Lazy morning in Ostend
Breakfast was included for us at Mercure Oostende, so after a lovely breakfast buffet, we went back to exploring Ostend. We wanted to fit in some shopping, but as the stores weren’t open at that point, we walked along the boulevard and enjoyed the views upon the beach and the Venetian Galleries. In 1900 King Leopold II commissioned architect Henri Maquet to build the first royal gallery. After the Belgian royal family decided they would no longer use their coastal residence, the city of Ostend started to adapt it into an exhibition space.
Lunch at Mommy’s Basterds
Another foodie hotspot in Ostend is Mommy’s Bastards. The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner. On the menu you can find a little bit of everything; pasta, shrimp croquettes, tuna poké bowl, spare ribs, burgers and much more. Jill went for the Veggie Burger and I had the Mommy’s Dirty Hamburger. Both burgers were served with fries. The food was really good, but service was very slow. We were waiting for an hour, while everyone else around us, was getting their food. Eventually when the food came, they informed us that they were experiencing some trouble with the deep fryer. Which we can totally understand, but it would have been nice to know that while waiting.
Obviously, if you’re heading to Belgium’s biggest and sunniest coastal town, you can’t really skip on some beach fun right?! So go for a swim, enjoy the water sports or work on your tan. Dolce far niente you guys! 😉
Cocktails at Pole Pole Beach
What better way to end your weekend at the seaside, then with a cocktail at one of the many beach bars? We went to Pole Pole Beach, but Petite Plage and Bondi Beach looked like a lot of fun as well.
- Covid-19 measures: Since 25th July 2020 it’s mandatory to wear a face mask in all public areas at the entire Belgian Coast. Practically this means on public transportation, shops, markets, busy pedestrian areas like the shopping streets, sea boulevard and when you are moving around in restaurants (so while taking your seat and going to the bathroom). You can take the mask off to eat and swim.
- On peak days you have to register for the three busiest beaches. These are the Klein Strand, the Groeistrand and the Groot Strand (up to the Venetian Galleries). Those peak days will be announced at least three days in advance and will be determined based on the weather forecasts and on visitor numbers of the past years.
- Every hour there is a direct train from Ghent Sint Pieters to Ostend.
- Currency: €
Note that my visit to Ostend was a couple of weeks ago and before the latest Covid-19 measures. Back then we did not have to wear the mask outside yet, so make sure to check Visit Ostend for more information if you’re planning a visit!