Last fall when we were in Belgium, we took a day trip to Ostend, a Belgian seaside town. It’s just a quick 2 hour train ride from central Brussels and definitely worth a day trip next time you find yourself in the area.
We arrived at the train station around 9am. As soon as you walk out of the station, you know you’re in a seaside town. We spent a few minutes taking in our surroundings. Then we were off to explore the town.
I was a bit nervous, because Ostend is in the Flanders region of Belgium, meaning they speak Dutch. Even in a small town like Ostend, this was never an issue. Everyone spoke great English and were more than happy to speak English to us. I even overheard our waitress switching from Dutch, to French, then English in the same sentence when speaking to another table. I’ll forever be amazed by people who are fluent in multiple languages.
Our first stop was taking a free ferry over to Fort Napoleon. While it’s just a short ride to the other side of the canal, even the ferry was a fun experience. After crossing canal, it was about a 10 min walk over to the fort.
I’m not much of a history buff, so something like Fort Napoleon isn’t always at the top of my list when visiting a new city. But I’m really glad we went here. Built in 1811, this fort has a really unique history. It was taken over by the Germans. Twice. And was an art museum for a while after WWII, before being abandoned. Now restored, it’s now open to the public and cost about $10-14 to get in. As a bonus, you can get up onto the roof and see some great views of the city.
After our visit at the fort, we got our first glimpses of the beaches. Part of the reason I picked Ostend as a day trip was the beaches. Pro Tip: a less busy part of the beach is right next to Fort Napoleon. Take in the same great views of the sea without all of the tourists.
de Grote Post
We headed back to the other side of town via the free ferry, and wandered through town. We made our way over to Cultuurcafe in de Grote Post for lunch. This building is a former post office, and is now home to an entertainment venue and arguably the cutest café in all of Ostend. It’s worth your time to swing by, even if just for a cup of coffee and to explore the lobby of this building.
Once we were full of delicious Belgian foods, it was time for a walk by the beach. Since we visited at the end of October, it wasn’t exactly swimming weather, but it was nice to walk along the boardwalk and feel that sea air.
There are a lot of interesting buildings along the boardwalk. It was fun to wander down the beach and take in the unique architecture and views of the sea. While Ostend is a small town, there were indications that it’s a very popular spot for local tourists in the summer. Since we were here in the fall, I think we had a much more low-key experience than compared to going in the summer.
We ended the day by following the canals back to the train station. We found a little park in the middle of town to take a break on a bench and enjoy the scenery.
Next time you’re in Belgium, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Ostend and exploring the little seaside town.