Oostende (Bruges), Belgium Cruise Port

If the cruise port of Oostende – or more popularly – Osted, Belgium doesn't ring a bell, perhaps the nearby capital city of Bruges does, thanks to the Ralph Fiennes and Colin Farrell film entitled In Bruges. But Oostende (also Ostende) is a gorgeous North Sea city in its own right, located in the Belgian province of West-Flanders. A small village during the Middle Ages, it was made a town around 1265, with fishing an important source of income. However, the North Sea's unstable coast forced residents to move the entire town behind large dikes and away from the sea. Before this new location became stable, there was a steady stream of armies to deal with. The Dutch ultimately came out on top, and the influence of their presence is still felt today (with Dutch tourists among the most frequent). Here are a handful of our favorite experiences when cruising to Oostende, Belgium:
 
  • Military buffs will enjoy the Atlantic Wall Open Air Museum, featuring preserved fortifications of the Atlantic Wall from World Wars I and II. The Count of Flanders determined that these sections should be made into a national monument rather than torn down, and there are more than 60 bunkers and two miles of trenches to explore.
     
  • One of Belgium’s greatest merchant marine training ships is the fantastic Zeilschip Mercator. First used as a training ship and also used for scientific observations, it is now a floating maritime museum.
     
  • The Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk (Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul) is a neo-Gothic Catholic church built in 1907. It's a breathtaking sight from the outside, thanks to art and architecture. The inside is just as glorious, thanks to its stained glass windows destroyed during WWI and WWII and later replaced.
     
  • A stroll through Leopold Park is a must for flower-gazers and sculpture aficionados alike. Between the floral clocks are 20,000 blossoms and plants and a statue called Dikke Mathille (which has a beer named after it). It's a great place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee served with a small advocaat (eggnog) along with some profiteroles (cream puffs).
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