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Belgium Europe

Atomium building in Brussels

Atomium Belgium

The Atomium is situated in Heysel, the northern downtown of Brussels. The design is based on a crystallized molecule of iron magnified 150 milliard times.

Welcome at the Belgian Coast

There is only one province in Belgium out of 10 that have access to the see. It is West Flanders province facing the North See coast, the part of the coast that is most adjacent to the English Channel coasts.

Belgians love their coast and head there at every opportunity. With its 67 km of sand and 13 coastal resorts, it’s a coastline of contrasts with something for everyone. Add to that the wide sandy beaches, a natural playground for children of all ages, and the promenades, crammed with restaurants and shops, and you can be sure there is always something to do at the Belgian coast. Taking into account the 11 millions people leaving in Belgium it comes to 164 people for one meter of the length of the beach and assuming that the sandy beach is on average 250 meters wide we come to the result that there is about 1,5 m2 of beach for one Belgian citizen. It is not much when comparing with Nederland where there is 37 Dutch citizens per one meter of the coastal length or France with 19 French citizens per one meter coastal length or just 5 Brits for one meter of coastal length in Great Britain.  

Belgian Coast

Linking the coastal resorts is the Coastal Tram, the longest tram route in the world and featured recently in BBC series “Coast”. It is also the most urbanized see coast in Europe thus, the tram will not be so big surprise after all.               

The Belgian coast is really a coast of all seasons. There’s a lot happening in each of the coastal towns with their own unique resort highlights, from shopping and culture to culinary delight, but also discovering nature, the maritime world and the British side to Belgium. And if you want to get away from the crowds, you can always go ahead and explore the inland.

Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist is a municipality bordering the marshy Zwin at the Dutch border at the east and the Zeebrugge see-port at the west. It comprises the towns of Heist-aan-Zee, Knokke, Duinbergen, Ramskapelle and Westkapelle. On January 1, 2006 Knokke-Heist had a total population of 34,063. The total area is 56.44 km² which gives a population density of 603 inhabitants per km². Knokke-Heist is located in a polders area on the Belgian border with the Netherlands. It is one of Belgium’s better known and more affluent seaside resorts.

On the right the Zeedijk in Heist-aan-zee, the sandy beach begins just to the left.

Zeedijk Heist

Originally, the marshy Zwin area was mostly settled by shepherds and fishermen. With the encouragement of the Counts of Flanders, several dikes were built between the 11th and the 13th century and the land successfully dewatered, giving rise to agriculture and further sheep breeding. New parishes were founded and the early settlement of Sint-Anna-ter-Muiden, later made part of Westkapelle, obtained city rights in 1242.

Duinbergen

The strategic importance of the Zwin harbour came to light in 1301, during the war between Count Guy of Dampierre and the French King Philip the Fair. During the Hundred Years' War that followed shortly after, several battles were fought between France and England for supremacy of the area, most famously the Battle of Sluys in June 1340. The local population tried to remain neutral as it was politically tied to Flanders, then allied to France, but economically dependent on wool from England.

On the left, few hundreds meters from the beach in Knokke Duinbergen, 20th century villas built right on the sandy dunes.

Knokke has railway connection with the city of Brugge and direct speedway to the city of Antwerp.

Zeebrugge

Zeebrugge is a village on the coast of Belgium and a subdivision of Bruges, for which it is the modern port today. Zeebrugge serves as both the international port of Bruges-Zeebrugge and a seafront resort with hotels, cafés, a marina and a beach.

The central location of Zeebrugge on the Belgian coast, short distance to Great Britain and close vicinity to densely populated industrialized cities make Zeebrugge port a crossroads for traffic from all directions. An expressway to Bruges connects Zeebrugge to the European motorway system; one can also get to and from Zeebrugge by train or tram.

On the right, inside the Zeebrugge harbor which is in fact located outside the coastline.

Zeebrugge port

Zeebrugge is also the Belgium's most important fishing port and the wholesale fish market located there. It is one of the largest in Europe. Close to the commercial port of Zeebruge there is also military harbor of Belgian Marine and the yacht haven. Zeebrugge is today the second Belgian portafter Antwerp and is the fastest growing.

Zeebrugge plage

Aside from being a passenger terminal with ferries to the United Kingdom, the harbor serves as the central port for Europe's automotive industry and is important for the import, handling and storage of energy products, agriculture products and other general cargo. Zeebrugge has also the largest LNG terminal complex in Europe.

Close to the Zeebrugge harbor there is small holiday village called Zeebruge-bad, with the widest sandy beach in Belgium of 500 to 900 meters wide.

On the left the widest Belgian beach at Zeebrugge-bad.

Blankenberge

Located next to the west from Zeebrugge-bad, Blankenberge is the municipality comprising the town of Blankenberge proper and the settlement of Uitkerke. On 1 January 2010 Blankenberge had a total population of 18,907. The total area of the municipality is 17.41 km², giving a population density of 1,086 inhabitants per km².

Like most other Flemish coastal towns, a main characteristic of this one is that it is a national and to a certain extent international seaside resort. Apart from the sandy beach, there's a structure unique along the Belgian coast: a 350-m long pier, constructed in 1933.

On the right, Blankenberge coastline seen from the pier.

Blankenberge

There is also a middle size yacht harbor in Blankenberge and railway connection with the city of Brugge. By road, Blankenberge has connection with the city of Brugge and Knokke-Heist.

Wenduine

Wenduine

Next to the west from the town Blankenberge there is holiday village Wenduine with lots of nice sandy beaches. This holiday village is the part of the municipality De Haan.

Wenduine has the highest dune in the east part of Belgian Coast. This dune measures 31 meters and serves as a local attraction. Only the dune in Koksijde is 2 meter higher and has 33 meters. There is also a mill from 19th century.

Wenduine can be only reached by the coastal road or the coastal tram.

On the left the highest dune in Wenduin called the Spioenkop with nice view on the see.

De Haan

Next to the west from Wenduine there is a village of De Haan.  De Haan is also a municipality that comprises the villages of De Haan proper, Klemskerke, Vlissegem and Wenduine. On January 1, 2006 De Haan had a total population of 11,925. The total area is 42.17 km² which gives a population density of 283 inhabitants per km².

The coastal village of De Haan proper has maintained a low skyline so its many buildings in Belle Époque style are still prominently visible. This is the only see resort in Belgium where 10 stories block houses are forbidden and De Haan still can prosper qute well.

The town has a 18-hole golf course situated in its dunes, founded by King Leopold II in 1903. Today, it is the only links course in the country. Its most famous resident was Albert Einstein, who lived in the villa "Savoyarde" for six months in 1933 after leaving Nazi Germany.

On the left example of picturesque old houses in De Haan.

De Haan

Bredene-aan-zee

Bredene

Next to the west from De Haan there is a small town close to the see, Bredene, north part of which is called Bredene-aan-zee. It is also a municipality that comprises only of the town of Bredene proper.

On January 1, 2006 Bredene had a total population of 15,118. The total area is 13.08 km² which gives a population density of 1156 inhabitants per km².

Near the Duinen reservat there is a nude beach (the only one in Belgium) near tram stop "Bredene Renbaan, Hippodroom".

On the left view on the Bredene town from the duinen.

Bredene-aan-zee is situated at the Belgian coast and makes its income mostly out of tourism. In the period of July and August, the population doubles due to many events that attract people from everywhere.

Bredene-aan-zee can be only reached by the coastal road or the coastal tram.

Oostende (Ostend)

In earlier times, Ostend was nothing more than a small village built on the east-end (Dutch: oost-einde) of an island (originally called Testerep) between the North Sea and a beach lake. Although small, the village rose to the status of "town" around 1265 when the inhabitants were allowed to hold a market and to build a market hall. The major source of income for the inhabitants was fishing. The North Sea coastline has always been rather unstable and in 1395 the inhabitants decided to build a new Ostend behind large dikes and further away from the always-threatening sea.

The strategic position on the North Sea coast had major advantages for Ostend as a harbor but also proved to be a source of trouble. The town was frequently taken, ravaged, ransacked and destroyed by conquering armies. The Siege of Ostend, 1601 to 1604, of which it was said that "the Spanish assailed the unassailable and the Dutch defended the indefensible", cost a combined total of more than 80,000 dead or wounded, makes it the bloodiest battle of the Eighty Years' War.

In 1722, the Dutch again closed off the entrance to the harbor of Antwerp, the Westerschelde. Therefore, Ostend rose in importance because the town provided an alternative exit to the sea. The Southern Netherlands (largely the territory of present Belgium) had become part of the Austrian Empire.

On the right the map of Ostend from 1775.

Ostend 18th century

The Austrian Emperor Charles VI granted the town the trade monopoly with Africa and the Far-East. The Oostendse Compagnie (the "Ostend trade company") was allowed to found colonies overseas. However, in 1727 the Oostendse Compagnie was forced to stop its activities because of Dutch and British pressure. The Netherlands and Britain would not allow competitors on the international trade level. Both nations regarded international trade as their privilege.

Ostend Coastline

In 1838, a railway connection with Brussels was constructed. Ostend became a transit harbor to England in 1846 when the first ferry sailed to Dover. Today it no longer serves the Dover route, but now has passenger and freight connections with Ramsgate.

Very important for the image of the town was the attention it started to receive from the Belgian kings Leopold I and Leopold II. Both liked to spend their vacations in Ostend. Important monuments and villas were built to please the Royal Family. The rest of aristocratic Belgium followed and soon Ostend became known as "The Queen of the Belgian sea-side resorts". The town hosted all but one of the sailing events for the 1920 Summer Olympics in neighboring Antwerp. They also hosted the polo events.

Ostend was the precursor of the phenomena that we called today the Belgian Coast. As in 19th century Ostend was the first see resort, then followed by Blankenberge and today there are 13 municipalities on the Belgian Coast, all leaving from being the see resort of Belgium.  

Left, view on the Ostend Coastline from the see.

Middelkerke

Middelkerke is a municipality located west of Ostend. The municipality comprises the towns of Leffinge, Lombardsijde, Mannekensvere, Middelkerke proper, Schore, Sint-Pieters-Kapelle, Slijpe, Westende and Wilskerke. On January 1, 2006 Middelkerke had a total population of 17,841. The total area is 75.65 km² which gives a population density of 236 inhabitants per km².

In the past it was living from fishing and agriculture by making and using polders. Today, more than half of the municipality is located on the polders areas. This municipality has the longest part of Belgian sandy beaches.

On the right, view on the Casino and on the beach of Middelkerke.

Middelkerke

The Middelkerke village can be reached by the Coastal Tram or by coastal road.

Westende

In earlier times, Westende was a fishing village located on the most west part of the island Testerep, the same island on which most east part the Ostend was located. This gave the name to the Village. The name Westende was mentioned for the first time in 1087. In 1196 Westende got their first parish.

Westende

The village was located more inland and the part that used today as see resort was uninhabited. The see resort was installed around 1888 by the businessman Eduard Otlet who purchased 64 hectares of dunes and constructed in 1897 the zeedijk.

He also built an electricity plant, post, tennis fields and finally extended the tram line Middelkerke – Ostend to Westende.

The Westende village can be reached by the Coastal Tram or by coastal road.

On the left see-front of the Westende village with characteristic for Belgian Coast 10 story buildings and white chalets on the beach.

Nieuwport

Nieuwpoort is a municipality that comprises of the city of Nieuwpoort proper and the towns of Ramskapelle and Sint-Joris. On January 1, 2008 Nieuwpoort had a total population of 11,062. The total area is 31.00 km² which gives a population density of 350 inhabitants per km².

In Nieuwpoort, the river Yser flows into the North Sea. It is also the home of a statue created by Jan Fabre called Searching for Utopia.

Nieuwport obtained its city rights in 1163 from Count Philip of Flanders. The Battle of Nieuwpoort, between the Dutch and the Spanish, happened here in 1600. The city was a Dunkirker base. The city was also occupied by French forces for six years between 1757 and 1763, as part of the conditions of the Second Treaty of Versailles between France and Austria.

Map of Nieuwport

Above on the right the map of Nieuwport dated 1775.

Nieuwport Ijzer monding

During the Battle of the Yser, part of the First Battle of Ypres in World War I, Karel Cogge opened the sluice gates on the mouth of the river Yser twice to flood the lower lying land, thus halting the German advance.

Nieuwport, as well as Ostend, is a nice stop for all yachts sailing between Great Britain, France and Holland. The harbor of the KYCN (Royal Yacht Club of Nieuwport) is very well protected and easy to access at any time, with low or high tide.

The Nieuwport town can be reached by the Coastal Tram or by coastal road or by A18 national speedway.

On the left two piers securing the Yser river entering the North See. This is also the way to the see from Nieuwport haven.

Oostduinkerke

Oostduinkerke is a popular seaside resort on Belgian Coast. The name Oostduinkerke can be translated as 'east of Dunkerque'. Oostduinkerke is part of Koksijde municipality, which also includes St-Idesbald and Wulpen.

It is possible to go for walks in the nature reserves (7 km²) or on the beach (8 km) or on the promenade (3.6 km). The sandy beach stretches from 250 to 700 m wide at ebb-tide and extends over 30 km, via De Panne to the beach of Dunkirk (France), which explains why Oostduinkerke is popular with sand yachters and parakarters.

On the right, the dunes of Oostduinkerke.

Oostduinkerke Duinen

Oostduinkerke is known for its shrimpers working on horseback, a considerable tourist attraction. It is the only place in the world where you can see such shrimpers. Fishery folklore is still very much alive and watched by the tourists.

Schrimper on the Horse

Oostduinkerke has several museums. The National Fishery Museum gives a historical survey of Flemish fishery and shows among other things scale models of fishing boats from 800 AD up to the present, and an original fisherman's cottage. Other museums are: 'The Key and Lock Museum' (a unique historical survey of 3,000 years of keys and locks), a regional museum Het Krekelhof (a huge collection of craft objects and curiosities from the 19th century), and Florishof (old crafts and folkloristic objects).

There is British Military Cemetery (1940-1945) bearing witness to British sacrifices in the Battle of Dunkirk.

On the left, Shrimper on the horse.

The Oostduinkerke village can be reached by the Coastal Tram or by coastal road from Nieuwport.

Koksijde

The municipality of Koksijde comprises the Koksijde proper, Oostduinkerke and Wulpen. The old town centre of Koksijde proper is located about two kilometers from the shoreline. Close by the sea, a new tourist centre, Koksijde-bad, has been developed. A bit to the east on the territory is the hamlet of Sint-Idesbald.

The old town centre of Oostduinkerke is located more than one kilometer from the coastline as well, with Oostduinkerke-bad close to the sea. Over 4 kilometers inland is the rural polder village of Wulpen.

On January 1, 2006 Koksijde had a total population of 21,269. The total area is 43.96 km² which gives a population density of 484 inhabitants per km².

In Koksijde is the Hoge Blekker, the highest dune on the Flemish coast that is up to 33 meters high.

On the right, the highest dune on Belgian Coast, the Hoge Bekker 33 meters AMSL.

Hoge Blekker

The Koksijde village can be reached by the Coastal Tram or by coastal road.

De Panne

De Panne Beach

De Panne is the last to the west municipality located along the North Sea coast of the Belgium. The municipality comprises the towns of Adinkerke and De Panne proper.

On 1 January 2006 De Panne had a total population of 10,060. The total area is 23.90 km² which gives a population density of 421 inhabitants per km². De Panne is also the most western point in Belgium and borders with France France.

The name De Panne comes from the characteristic concave forms of the dunes.

On the left the last beach of the Belgian Coast seen from the most west point.

Famous people that lived or died in De Panne include King Albert I and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium (lived there during World War I), and John Aidan Liddell, VC, who died in De Panne in August 1915.

On 17 July 1831, Leopold I, the first Belgian king, sailed to Calais from England, and then, arrived in Belgium in De Panne. The Leopold I Esplanade, which includes a statue of him, commemorates his arrival.

De Panne is also home to Plopsaland, a themepark aimed at young children and located at the former Meli-Park. De Panne was also the place where the first land yachts intended for sport were built and used by the Dumont brothers in 1898.

Albert I De Panne

The De Panne town can be reached by the Coastal Tram, by coastal road, by A18 national speedway and by train.

Dunes of De Panne