Ostend is the largest city on the Belgian Coast and its only truly year-round destination. Along its wide white-sand beach is a spacious promenade surveyed by an interesting mix of midrise architecture atop cosy seafront cafes with glassed-in terraces.
Always an important strategic port, Ostend has a rich history of fame, fortune, famine and hardship. It was ravaged by the Spanish between 1600 and 1604, before regrouping and reinventing itself as one of Europe’s most stylish seaside resorts. Though bombing in WWII caused significant destruction to the city, Ostend has a wealth of beautiful belle époque and art deco architecture scattered around its residential streets.
Emerging from a period of economic decline that began when transcontinental ferry services ceased in the late 1990s, Ostend has again found its feet. It's worth spending a night or two here to explore.