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Ostend (Dutch: Oostende, French: Ostende) is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke, Raversijde, Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest on the Belgian coast.
In earlier times, Ostend was nothing more than a small village built on the east-end of an island (originally called Testerep) between the North Sea and a beach lake. Although small, the village rose to the status of "town" 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.
Ostend is famous for its sea-side esplanade, including the Royal Galleries of Ostend, pier, and fine-sand beaches. Ostend is visited by many day-trippers heading to the beaches, especially during July and August. The locals and other residents in Belgium usually occupy the larger beach (het Groot Strand). Ostend used to be widely visited by the British, Germans, French and Dutch, but is now mainly frequented by Belgians and Dutch.
Near the beach is a well-preserved section of the fortified Atlantic Wall, open to the public as the Atlantic Wall Open Air Museum located in Raversijde. During summer evenings (or just any kind of weather) one 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 patrons can sit outside and have a drink. Towards the port side there are many little fish outlets, and beyond that the ferries can be observed docking.
I spent a whole daytrip with my friend in Oostende during one of the many times in Belgium. The trip to Oostende wasn't planned ahead much, it was just a moment decision. I was like: We sould go to the beach! We took a train from Brussels to Oostende, and we where there in like two hours. It was winter back than, so the city wasn't crowded with tourists at all. We went to the biggest beach and were actually the only two people standing there (af far as we could see). That made it even better. But if you leave out the beach, you got nothing else. Maybe it was because of the winter, but everythig seemed dead. But still, it was a fun, quit and windy beach break from all the city loudness that Belgium has.