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Ostend and the Great War: a city full of memories

Do you associate the popular seaside resort of Ostend with the terrifying sound of guns and canons? No? Neither do we.  And yet... One hundred years ago, when seaside tourism was just taking off and the wealthy upper classes travelled to Ostend to enjoy the restorative properties of sea water (and other stronger waters), the bombers unfortunately also found their way to the Queen of the Belgian sea-side resorts.

Curious to find out more? Then hop on to your bike, or take a stroll through the city and explore Ostend's impressive war heritage.


Ostend during the Great War (digital city walk)

The digital city walk is based on the diary of the tram operator Charles Castelein, who was 52 years old when the war broke out in 1914. Learn more about Ostend's war past, as seen through the eyes of an Ostend local. You will receive an audio guide with a screen.

Experts and historians such as Professor Luc De Vos and Marc Reynebeau also weigh in with their views on Ostend during World War I talking about Ostend as an occupied city, the coastal defences, the role the port played, the destruction in the city and so on.


Digitale stadswandeling: Oostende tijdens de Groote Oorlog

"Ostend 14-18" bike route

Are you interested in seeing all the most prominent historic locations in one go? Then take this 25-kilometre long bike tour which was developed in the margin of the commemoration of the Centenary of the Great War!

We took our bikes and followed the trail of the 20 information panels in WW I sites, focussing on life in the city during the Great War. They discussed the importance of the port of Ostend and the coastal defences, provided more information about the many refugees, the barricade on Zeedijk, the U-boats in the dock, the Tirpitz battery and so on.

The trail will take you on a tour of Zeedijk, Fort Napoleon, Spuikom and the green fringe around the city.

Fort Napoleon

Have you ever visited Fort Napoleon? No, then maybe it’s time to plan a visit. In 1811, Napoleon ordered the construction of this impressive dune fortress as a defence against the British threat. But the British attack never materialised. The fort was used as an arms storage and barracks by the French army instead. After Napoleon's defeat, Dutch, German and Belgian soldiers were also stationed here. Head over to the beautifully restored fort for a historic visit, exhibitions, parties, a drink or a bite to eat.

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Provinciedomein Raversyde

The Germans built batteries along the length of the entire Belgian coastline to prevent the allies from landing on the beach and to protect the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend (where the German U-boats stationed). In Raversijde you can see the only preserved German coastal battery from WWI. There used to be four canons and observation bunkers here. As of 2016, you can visit a new permanent exhibition about World War I and the sea in Raversijde.

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