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Municipal flag Ostend
Oostende (Dutch)
The beach at the pier.
Location on map of Belgium
Coat of arms Location of Ostend in West Flanders
Country Belgium
Community Flemish Community of Belgium flag Flemish Community
Region Flemish Region flag Flemish Region
Province West Flanders flag West Flanders
Arrondissement Ostend
Coordinates 51°14′N 02°55′E / 51.233, 2.917Coordinates: 51°14′N 02°55′E / 51.233, 2.917
Area 37.72 km²
Population (Source: NIS)
– Males
– Females
- Density
68,931 (January 1, 2006)
1827 inhab./km²
Age distribution
0–19 years
20–64 years
65+ years
Foreigners 3.95% (01/07/2005)
Unemployment rate 13.23% (January 1, 2006)
Mean annual income 12,863 €/pers. (2003)
Mayor Jean Vandecasteele (SP.A)
Governing parties SP.A, CD&V, VLD
Other information
Postal codes 8400
Area codes 059
Web address www.oostende.be
St Petrus and St Paulus Church
St Petrus and St Paulus Church
Beach, seafront and Europacenter building
Beach, seafront and Europacenter building

Ostend (DutchOostende) is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke, Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest at the Belgian coast.


[edit] History

[edit] Origin to Middle Ages

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 "city" 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.

[edit] 15th to 18th century

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 city was frequently taken, destroyed and rampaged by conquering armies. The most important of these events was the three-year Siege of Ostend between 1601 and 1604, with on both sides combined more than 80,000 dead or wounded. After their independence from the Spanish Empire, the Dutch had occupied the city (Geuzen).

After this era Ostend turned into a harbour of some importance. In 1722 the Dutch closed off the entrance to the harbour of Antwerp. Therefore, Ostend rose in importance because the city provided an alternative entrance to the sea. The Southern Netherlands (now Belgium) had become part of the Austrian Empire. The Austrian Emperor Charles VI granted the city the trade monopoly with Africa and the Far-East. The Oostendse Compagnie (= the Ostend trade society) 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.

[edit] Modern era

In later times the harbour of Ostend continued to expand because the harbor dock, as well as the traffic connections with the hinterland, were improved. In 1838 a railway connection with Brussels was constructed. Ostend became a transit harbour to England in 1846 when the first ferry sailed to Dover. It no longer serves in that role today, except for freight, as an alternative channel crossing point to Calais, France. Very important for the image of the city 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". Nowadays tourists and locals have discovered the joys of windsurfing and kite surfing. With wind never in short supply on the Belgian coast these new to Belgium sports have taken a foothold in Oostende and are practised almost year round (wetsuit mandatory).

[edit] Music Scene

Since the late eighties and up until today Oostende has had an artistic revolution. Oostende was on the forefront in bringing underground electronic music to the masses. A plethora of young enraged artists started organizing raves and introduced freedom of the mind and the body to the creaking establishment. Since Oostende had very little to offer to the disenfranchised youth (with unemployment at an all time high) underground pioneers like A-Bat, Crazy Ray DJ Herbal J decided to take matters in their own hands and started the legendary Raving Zone parties. The impact on the town was overwhelming and gave it a new sense of identity.

Now Oostende is a place for cutting electronic music and arts. Interest in music is pervasive amongst youngsters and liberated adults and is not limited to electronic music. Therefore bands are constantly formed and reformed and this mixed with the cafe and drug culture creates some very interesting genres and bands.

[edit] Sights

  • Interesting locations are the Casino and Fort Napoleon.
  • Ostend is also famous for its sea-side esplanade, pier, and fine-sand beaches.
  • The James Ensor museum can be visited in the house where the artist lived from 1917 until 1949.
  • The Mercator, an educational tall ship of the Belgian merchant fleet, has been converted into a maritime museum.
  • Hippodrome Wellington, horse racing venue
  • St Petrus and St Paulus Church, Ostend (Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk), built in Neo Gothic style.
  • In the PMMK (Provinciaal Museum voor de Moderne Kunst-Aan-Zee, the museum of modern art) you can view works of the Revolutionary post-war Belgian COBRA movement amongst others.
  • Beach(es): Ostend is visited by many 'day' tourists, especially during July and August. Tourists from the Belgian inland and foreigners mostly arrive by train (day trips) and head for the closest beach area from the station (kleinstrand). The locals and other residents in Belgium usually occupy the larger beach (grootstrand). Ostend is widely visited by British, Germans, French and Dutch. Busses from Brussels tend to pass through giving the opportunity to North American and Asian tourists to view Ostend.
  • Views from the pier promenade or beach of departing and arriving passenger ferry ships from Ramsgate (UK).
  • During summer evenings (or just any kind of weather) you can walk through the little streets around Het Vissersplein. At certain times there are local markets in the neighbourhood streets and in the Summer the Vissersplein has music festivals. The Vissersplein (Bonenstraat/Kadzandstraat) is a car free zone with many brasseries where you can sit outside and have a drink. Look towards the port side and find many little fish outlets, and beyond that, again, you can view close the ferries docking.
  • The comic Le Bal du rat mort [3] about a dreadful invasion of rats, is set in Ostend.

Ostend beach and the promenade pier - panoramic view.
Ostend beach and the promenade pier - panoramic view.

[edit] Famous citizens of Ostend

[edit] Sport clubs

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ Daughters of Darkness at IMDB
  2. ^ Armaguedon at IMDB
  3. ^ Le Bal du rat mort
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Belgian Coast Tram route
Knokke-Heist (Knokke - Heist) - Zeebrugge - Blankenberge - Wenduine - De Haan - Bredene - Ostend - Raversijde - Middelkerke - Westende - Lombardsijde - Nieuwpoort - Oostduinkerke - Koksijde - De Panne

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