Most people will agree: the Belgian coast is ugly as hell. The coastline is spoiled with tower blocks made of doubtful architecture. So is Ostend. It used to be one of the most beautiful European coast cities with the most wonderful Art Nouveau, but due to a building boom in the eighties not much of that is left. In the nineties, Ostend was a city to avoid. But now it’s coming back. New charming initiatives pop up everywhere. Even most Belgians haven’t discovered them yet. But when visiting Belgium, why not spend a weekend in Ostend?
Art at the coastline: Beausite
Many bars and restaurants at the coastline are not worth a visit: they are expensive, the staff is rude and the interior is hideous. But Beausite is an exception on that. It is a bar and shop at the same time. They sell art, furniture and delicious pie. Amongst visitors you’ll find both tourists and locals.
This is the kind of place that makes Ostend worth a visit even when there is (typical Belgian) bad weather. The design objects in this store are both vintage and very recent, often made by Belgian designers. Above all the atmosphere in Beausite is great with really friendly staff.
Beausite: Albert-I Promenade 39, Ostend.
Some more art at the coastline: Rock Strangers
“Rock Strangers” is a piece of art from the Belgian artist Arne Quinze. It was installed on the “Zeeheldenplein” (translated as Sea Heroes Square) during the 2004 edition of Beaufort, an art triennal. It symbolises the endless sea, the mysterious events that take place on the water and the wash ashore of the most strange objects.
(picture: Arne Quinze)
The piece of arts divides the inhabitants of Ostend. Some people call it genius, others talk about it as a waste of money. I think it’s pretty cool. It creates a surreal effect, just as we like it in Belgium. It gives the grey coastline of Ostend some colour and something to talk about. You can’t miss this when in Ostend.
Rock Strangers: Zeeheldenplein, Ostend.
Some Art Deco that survived the eighties: Bistro du Parc
Ostend used to be a very ambitious city, only for the beau monde (fancy people in the good old days). In 1932 a very fancy hotel was built for the beau monde, with a very fancy bistro: Bistro du Parc. Ostend has changed a lot since 1932 but Bistro du Parc is still in place. Enjoy a drink in the beautiful scenery where waiters wear bow ties.
However not at the seaside, the outside seats of Bistro du Parc stand all next to each other, so you have the chance to look at people and to be looked at. Bistro du Parc is not as chique or exclusive as it once was, but it is a great journey trough time to understand the history of Ostend.
Bistro du Parc: Marie-Joséplein 3, Ostend.
Grab some culture: De Grote Post
The old post office in Ostend is now a cultural venue. There are performances, music, dance, all kinds of activities. But even when you’re not interested in all that, you can just enter the building without a ticket to enjoy the great architecture.
(picture: de oude post)
This building was constructed in 1953 and you can still see many original remains such as the fabulous wall painting and the counters with an amazing system with pipes and air pressure to transport letters. But in combination with that, they inserted some modern elements which gives a really beautiful result. There’s a bistro too, where you can eat or drink something.
De Grote Post: Hendrik Serruyslaan 18, Ostend.
Magnificent dinner: Savarin
If you like great food and a romantic setting, visit Savarin. The restaurant is also listed in de Gault&Millaut list and that’s more than correct. They serve tasting menus with several courses. For a bit extra you get adapted wines with each course.
As Ostend is at the seaside it is evident for Savarin to serve mainly fish. They try to serve French classics with original twists and are not afraid of an experiment. That’s why we like it!
Savarin: Albert I-promenade 75, Ostend.
A cocktail please: Lafayette
You might know the name Lafayette as a writer from the 17th century or as the famous French shop, but in Ostend Lafayette is the reference for a good cocktail. It is the perfect mix between a typical Belgian pub and contemporary hipsterness.
In Lafayette you’ll find many locals enjoying a drink, often until late in the evening. Sometimes Lafayette invites a band so you can enjoy live music. The atmosphere is very enjoyable and laid back.
Lafayette: Langestraat 12, Ostend.