If you’ve ever wondered if there are any nice beaches in Belgium, you’re in for a treat. The Belgian coast is over 65 km / 40 miles long, stretching from De Panne near the French border all the way up to Knokke-Heist by the Netherlands. This ribbon of white sand is home to some beautiful beaches and Belgian coastal resorts to enjoy.
The entirety of the Belgian shore is found in Flanders and faces onto the North Sea. Because of this, the beaches themselves don’t differ massively. However, they’ve been developed in different ways – some for tourism, some for the fishing industry, some for natural habitats. There is even a nudist beach. The villages, towns, and cities that support them are pretty varied, giving a nice variety of different beach holidays.
The beaches in Belgium are all connected by a coastal tram system called De Kusttram. It’s one of the longest trams in the world with 68 stops in total and takes around two and a half hours to travel from one end to the other. It’s pretty regular, stopping every 10 to 20 minutes.
Traveling from beach to beach you’ll see a wide range of public art. These installations are part of the Beaufort Triennial – an art project that commissions exciting new creations along all the beaches in Belgium.
10 Best Beaches in Belgium
Ostend (also spelled “Ostende” and “Oostende”) is the only proper Belgian coastal city, and it is one of the most popular of all the seaside resorts in Belgium. It’s super easy to get to from Bruges – the train takes only 15 minutes. The journey from Brussels takes just over an hour but trains leave every 30 minutes.
There are 9 km / 5.5 miles of wide sandy beaches here, where all the usual holiday-making takes place. Although it might not be considered the prettiest Belgium beach, it is a great spot if you want to combine seaside activities with a vibrant city atmosphere.
Chic restaurants, bars and shops are aplenty here, and the city is home to a glamorous harbor bursting with life. There is also a large selection of city museums, such as the Museum of the Sea (or Mu.ZEE), the James Ensor Museum, and the Amandine Ship.
Ostend, Belgium is also home to the Sand Sculpture Festival which takes place annually in the months of July and August. International sculptors from all over the world travel to the city’s coast to leave their mark on the beach, resulting in a staggering 150 works of art carved from sand all along the seafront.
Another popular Ostend festival is the Theater on the Sea (TAZ Festival) which combines live music, dance, and literary debate in one almighty celebration of culture each August.
The city has a fascinating history, and particularly during the world wars. In World War I, Ostend was occupied by the Germans and became an important port for the launching of submarines and other naval forces. You can follow a trail of audio guides throughout the streets to learn more about the city’s past.
Fishing has long been the main source of income for Ostend’s residents, and it remains one of the best places in Belgium for seafood – particularly the local mussel and shrimp croquettes. If you want to get even closer to the maritime way of life, there are also fishing boat excursions that you can participate in, and take home everything you catch.
Blankenberge is another favorite seaside in Belgium for not just locals but plenty of other nationalities too – especially popular among the Dutch and Germans. It’s full of life and luxury, as it was once the personal holiday resort of the Belgian royal family.
The art-deco Belgium Pier takes center stage, jutting out 350 meters / 1150 feet into the North Sea. The Sea Life Marine Park is an amazing aquarium to visit (and one of the largest in Belgium) complete with seal sanctuary.
As well as a plethora of water sport activities and beachfront games, the nightlife in Blankenberge is particularly sought after. Bars and restaurants have a lively atmosphere, including bars with huge terraces on the beach. The high-rise seafront is home to a wide selection of hotels and apartments that overlook the North Sea.
The Belle Epoque Centrum here in Blankenberge is a mine of information. It’s an interactive museum on the development of the Belgium coastal towns, and the innovative era of design that was so important in Belgium and France before the First World War.
Nieuwpoort is known for two things – seafood and water sports. It’s an old fishing village and medieval port that has now become a rather swanky tourist destination. Divided into two parts – the old town with cobblestone streets and the modern coastal side with its glamorous fish restaurants and hotels.
The town of Nieuwpoort has been subject to a great number of sieges and has been rebuilt and renewed over and over. This has only seemed to add to its character, and it is an atmospheric town to roam through and explore.
There are a handful of interesting sites worth checking out, including the (recreated) bell tower of Nieuwpoort that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Nieuwpoort lighthouse, and the old fish auction hall.
The auction hall is called “Vismijn” apparently because bidders would shout “mijn” (“mine”) in the days before electronic bidding! Wholesale fish auctions take place early in the mornings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, dispersing the trawlers’ catches to the numerous restaurants and fishmongers along the front.
For drinking in the ambiance of the town, there’s no better place than the stunning market square (Marktplein) where there’s a weekly market every Friday morning.
A striking art installation called “Le vent souffle où il veut” (“The wind blows where it pleases”) created by Daniel Buren for the Beaufort Triennial can be seen near the marina. It’s an artificial forest of one hundred colorful windsocks that cuts an impressive shape on the skyline.
One of the factors that makes De Haan stand out from the rest of this list of Belgium seaside towns is its low skyline. Unlike the other beach resorts that experienced destructive wartime bombing, this charming village in the municipality of the same name has retained much of its beautiful Belle Epoque architecture and has a notable lack of high-rise buildings. Tea rooms, hotels, ice cream parlors, even the tram station itself – all stunning examples of nostalgic architecture.
The beach at De Haan is, like the rest of them, a dreamy expanse of sand. It is the longest beach on the Belgium coast at 12 kilometers / 7.5 miles in length and backs onto gorgeous forested dunes (Duinbossen) with great hiking trails. It stretches along to the picturesque village of Wenduine, a little haven of soft sand, seafood and spas.
In the summer months, the beaches here are dog-free, and there is a multitude of fun activities like paddle-boarding, windsurfing, and water-skiing. If you fancy a little trek, you can check out the nature park nearby.
Interestingly, someone that briefly called De Haan home was Albert Einstein, who lived here for six months in 1933 after fleeing Nazi Germany. You can still see the house where he lived, and there’s a statue of him sitting on a bench outside.
While you’re here, check out the urban park La Potinière, the goat farm Reigershof Klemskerke, and the little red-roofed pavilion on the dunes called Spioenkop. This gives fantastic panoramic views of the coastal plains, beaches, and polders around it.
Calling all seafood lovers! Oostduinkerke, in the municipality of Koksijde, is famous for its ancient fishing practices and abundance of shellfish. At low tide, the beach here stretches out as far as 1 kilometer / 0.6 miles.
Its name literally translates as “East Dunkirk” and it lies just a short way along the coast from the French industrial city of the same name, with De Panne in between. The “East” was added in the 13th century to differentiate between the two towns.
The presiding image of Oostduinkerke is that of the horseback shrimp fishermen. This is a 500-year old tradition of catching gray shrimp by dragging nets behind sturdy Belgian horses as they walk amid the waves. It’s a practice that has now become part of the UNESCO list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”. Between April and September, you can see this local tradition take place, and sometimes sample some of the catch.
As well as witnessing this piece of history play out on the beach, you can visit the National National Fisheries Museum which shines a light on fishing practices throughout the ages in Belgium. Other interesting and unique museums include The Key and Lock Museum, the museum of regional history Krekelhof, and the folklore museum Florishof.
The coastal town of De Panne is right next to the French/Belgian border. A unique part of the country with huge expanses of dunes stretching inland from the sea, the scenery at this coastal area is absolutely stunning. De Panne beach is also known for being the widest on Belgian’s coast making it a sand-yachting hotspot.
Its location and terrain have carved out this area’s enthralling history – the dunes between here and Dunkirk, just over the border, being the site of evacuation for British soldiers in World War II. The beaches of De Panne were also where the first King of the Belgians, King Leopold I, first set foot in the country in 1831.
Although De Panne does tick the box for all the usual attractions (eateries, bars and water sports), really this is one of the best beaches in Belgium for nature lovers and adventurers. The dunes are home to an extensive nature reserve which is populated with migratory birds and some lovely flora and fauna.
Walking and cycling routes are great round here and will give you a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of busier towns and cities of Belgium.
Middelkerke / Westende
The two seaside towns of Middelkerke and Westende can be found somewhere in the middle of the Belgian coast. Westende is a borough that is split in two – Westende-bad (the beach) and Westende-dorp (the town). Westende is connected to Middelkerke by six miles of sandy beach. They are generally considered family-oriented coastal destinations because of all the beach activities, mini-golf, and play areas for children.
Middelkerke is the larger of the two. It’s principally a resort town and as such offers a bit of everything, from sunbathing and watersports, to shopping and fine-dining.
The Casino right in the center of the promenade has been an attraction for the past 70 years. You can also rent beach equipment like sun loungers and umbrellas. If you want to get away from modern life, you can always rent a bike and head off into the beautiful surrounding countryside.
For the most part, the architecture is fairly recent, as sadly much of the Belle Epoque era seafront was destroyed in World Wars I and II. However, there are a few remnant gems, including the decadent Grand Hotel Bellevue (nicknamed “the roundabout”) – the only building that was built before the First World War.
Another is the Villa Les Zéphyrs Museum which stands testament to bygone times. This listed Art Nouveau villa was built in the early 1900s, originally designed by Ghent’s beloved architect Oscar Van de Voorde. It has since been restored and its inviting interior tells the story of a typical Belgian family holiday in the 1930s. Today, the building is also the Westende tourist information center.
Dotted all the way along the promenade from Middelkerke to Westende-bad are statues of Belgian comic book characters. Each year a new bronze statue of a familiar cartoon is added to the collection, from Jommeke, Lucky Luke, Kiekeboe, Lambik and many more. There is even a comic book festival here in the summer.
There are some amazing works of Beaufort public art along the seafront to keep an eye out for. There’s “I Can Hear It”, the twin gramophone-trumpets of Ivars Drulle, where you can listen to the sounds of the sea. A huge paint-splash of a sculpture called “Olnetop” stands in the dunes, created by Nick Ervinck. You can get great views from the striking Warande Tower.
Knokke-Heist is the region at the furthest northern point of the Belgian coast, abutting the border of the Netherlands. It’s developed a reputation as being the St Tropez of Belgium, with a VIP atmosphere for the luxury-seekers. It’s only 30 minutes by car from Bruges, 20 minutes by train.
This upmarket town is the place to go for the most glamorous of hotels and fine-dining experiences. This isn’t to mention high fashion boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Hermès and over 50 states of the art galleries. The restaurants in Knokke-Heist are fantastic – fresh fish is on all the menus here.
The beach is long and stunning – stretching for 11 km / 7 miles, and split into five sections – Heist, Duinbergen, Albertstrand, Knokke, and the Zoute. Pastel-colored beach huts and striped blue and white beach seats paint a very charming scene. Sports and games are big here, from windsurfing, sailing, and yachting to beach volleyball.
This region is also where you’ll find one of Belgium’s best nature parks – Het Zwin Nature Reserve. Zwin is a totally unique salt marsh area near the beach, where a specific combination of natural factors creates the perfect habitat for many rare birds and plants.
There are some great walking trails around the reserve that offer amazing insights into a totally different world. Being by the coast, it's a very different area to go hiking in Belgium than more
Bredene is found almost halfway along the Belgian coast, sandwiched between Ostend and De Haan. It’s a smaller beach area than the others on this list, and the town itself is not the main feature by a long stretch. The beauty of this destination is its simplicity and beauty – it’s all about the sea and sand. This in mind, it’s not one to choose if you’re seeking a lively nightlife atmosphere!
There’s no main boulevard on the seafront here, just the beach and its beautiful dune system. You won’t find teeming crowds or a beach peppered with sun loungers. Because of this, Bredene makes a good spot to find accommodation if you want to explore other Belgian coastal towns. Its situation in the center of the shoreline means it’s an excellent base to pivot from. A short hop on the Belgium coastal tram gets you to cultural and vibrant cities in no time.
One thing that’s good to know – Bredene is home to the only nudist beach on the Belgium coastline.
If you look at a Belgian coast map, you’ll see that there’s one bit that sticks out into the North Sea towards the border of the Netherlands. This is Zeebrugge. Belgium’s most important fishing port, this town is also a major ferry terminal. Its artificial harbor links mainland Europe to England, making a day trip to London really easy from here.
Known locally as the “fish capital”, the wholesale fish market here is one of the largest in Europe. The fishmongers and fishermen here are a historic feature that hasn’t budged over the centuries – amazing to see in action.
The port is linked in many ways to the city of Bruges, for which it acts as a port. 12 km / 7 miles of canal connects the two, transporting imported goods and cargo. Because of this, it’s a great place to head to if you want to combine a bit of North Sea coast with Bruges itself, as they’re both so closely linked.
As well as an exciting harborside to explore, Zeebrugge has a wonderful sandy beach, a myriad of local restaurants (and you can bet the fish is fresh!), and plenty of other cultural things to do. It’s also proud to be the only beach area in Belgium that has plenty of free parking, which is not something to be sniffed at.
So there you have it, the best beaches in Belgium. The fact that beach holidays in Belgium are often overlooked in favor of the famous beaches of France and Spain make it a hidden pearl of the North Sea, and home to a whole load of cultural activities too. Have you been to any of these beaches? Which was your favorite beach?
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