Ostend is like an onion. Onions wouldn’t be your pick if you were asked what your favorite food was. And yet Ostend has become my favorite city by the sea. You want to know why? Because it has layers! I know, it’s a bad Shrek reference but trust me Ostend is more than what meets the eye. It has more to offer than a beach filled with white beach cabins and colorful striped beach chairs. It’s a city drenched in history, the home of many great artists and chefs who know that food would taste pretty blend without onions.
Ostend is filled with flavor. All you need to do is stay 3 days and discover it in 3 different ways !
Seaside Sweetness: Feasting on Fish
With fresh fish being daily brought in and marketed on the Fish Mine, Ostend has plenty of fine dining possibilities.
Day 1: Savarin
Keep the best for last? Hell no! I wouldn’t keep you from discovering my favorite foodie place in Ostend: Savarin. The chef here uses authentic Belgian ingredients but combines them in a quirky way. Expect dishes such as fish with celery sorbet or steak tartare with cheese. Tip: take coffee or tea and get served some extra homemade sweets such as brownie and waffle!
Day 2: The Ostend Queen
The Ostend Queen would be your pick if you are looking for the best restaurant with a view. Sitting on the top floor of the Kursaal Casino I was served with a scenic beachside view. The interior and ambience have a bit of a Jazzy, loungy feeling to it. It’s might be the perfect extension to the Marvin Gaye midnight love tour. The food is a bit pricy for the quality given but the view makes up for that.
Day 3: Domino
I strongly believe that dessert is a proper meal. Wich is exactly why I decided to stuff myself with tart at Domino. The coffee house is filled with kitschy stuff that can be bought. But more importantly: The homemade tarts are excellent !
Event Extra : Toog en Tafel Happening
Toog en Tafel Happening is the ideal foodie festival if you’re looking for cheap but delicious food. For under €6 I got a light salted cod with a beer espuma of Kriek Lindemans at one of the many food stands.
Avantgarde Art : Rebels with a cause
There must be something in the salty air of Ostend that attracts great artists to the city.
But they have a special type of artists here: The type who care little about artistic standards and rules. The kind who love a little ass kicking by creating something that will provoke harsh comments and divide lovers from haters. You might call them avantgarde art rebels with a cause.
Day 1: Ensor
The biggest example of such an artist is of course Ensor. Much of his work with grotesque masks, carnivals and skeletons was rejected as scandalous in the late 19th century. Later on he was called one of the great innovators of 19th century art. Many of his work can be seen in Mu.Zee and the Ensor Musuem in Ostend. However, to see his piece de resistance – Entry of Christ in Brussels – you’ll have to go to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Day 2: Marvin Gaye Midnight Love Tour
So we Belgians might have given Ensor to LA, but LA gave us Marvin Gaye! Taking the Marvin Gaye Midnight Love Tour gave me some insight as to where in Ostend Marvin created his monster hit sexual healing and which cafés he frequented. I found the digital iPod discovery tour and video fragments easy to navigate and beautifully created, but the tour gives too little backdrop information on the city and it’s natural and architectural monuments. I would have been great if I could have taken the tour at nightfall which would have contributed to the Motown feeling. It’s a two-hour must for true music – , Motown or Marvin Gaye fans.
The Marvin Gaye Midnight Love Tour will bring you to the fluorescent orange gigantic pillars called Rock Strangers by Arne Quinze. When they were brought to Ostend it got a lot of harsh comments. Hate it or love it. It’s a must see.
Event Extra : TAZ
TAZ – Theater aan Zee – is a yearly returning festival you should visit if you get the chance. The best performances had been sold days before I arrived in Ostend. But I got lucky to score some last minute tickets on their black market. I saw a theater piece named Ensor by Compagnie Cecilia and Circus Ronaldo in one of Belgium’s last authentic circus tents. A fantastic experience which included a masked procession referring to the characters that are used in Ensors paintings.
Beachside battlegrounds: Warfare belowground
Day 1: Fort Napoleon
Between the dunes lies Fort Napoleon, a pentagon fortress built in 1814. The fortress never played a part in any of Napoleons wars and was abonned for many years. During World War II, the Germans dug it up and added decorations. The fortress isn’t enormous but the ipod audiotour in which the ghost of a French soldier guided me around was quite amusing. The german painting of a black knight called Der Barbar above the fireplace is one of the sights to see.
Day 3: The Atlantikwall – Raversyde
In the domain Raversyde is a museum in which well preserved fortifications of the Antlantikwall can be visited. With more than 60 bunkers and 2 kilometers of trenches and underground corridors this is a very impressive sight to see. There are restored shelters filled with war items as well as anti-tank guns for display. The only downside here is the audio guide which is just dreadful to listen to. I prefered just walking around and exploring the terrain.
Extra tip: Still have some hours left? Really? Well in that case: get your credit card out and go shopping! Ostend has a lively shopping street with a lot of great stores.
Do It Yourself
Head over to Tourism Ostend to get an Ostend City Pass and to reserve the Marvin Gaye midnight tour. The pass is an easy and advantageous way to visit all of the above.