Ostend (Oostende) does not lack tourist attractions. A city at the sea is, by definition, already an attraction in itself. However, on less bright days (to describe the Belgian weather mildly) there are quite some tourist attractions that can make a day in Oostende certainly worth its while.
In the Yacht-Harbor lies the Mercator Ship. This ship is a floating museum that is always ready to sail out on an expedition. The Mercator was the ship that was used by the Belgian Navy for the instruction of the military sailors and navy-men. This three-master was built in 1931, cost 3 million Belgian Francs and weighs 778 tons. It was used by the Belgian Navy until 1960. Since 1961 it serves as a museum. The Mercator took part in several exotic expeditions, most of them from scientific nature (e.g. to the Easter Islands, the Marquise Islands, Iceland and the North Pole area ) In 1936 the ship brought back to Belgium the remains of Father Damian, a Belgian priest who had dedicated his life to the plight of the lepers in Molokai, Hawaii, where he had died. The Mercator can be visited all through the year (Please first check out the opening times, which tend to vary).
The Atlantikwall at the Raversijde DomainOutside of Oostende, alongside the beach between Oostende and Middelkerke is the 'Raversijde Domain'. This is the domain where Prince Karel, brother of King Leopold III and regent of Belgium in the aftermath of W.W.II, spent a large part of his life. It consists of a large group of dunes. Because of the fact that 'Raversijde' remained untouched by the tourist phenomenon it has now become a very valuable natural reserve.
The main attraction, however, is the so-called 'Atlantikwall'. This is an impressive complex of tunnels and bunkers built by the German troops in both the First and the Second World War. In both wars the German forces had occupied the Belgian coast and this construction of bunkers and trenches was meant to defend their position against enemies coming from across the sea.
At Raversijde, one can also visit the archeological site of the medieval fishermen village from the 13th and 15th century.
Another war memorial is the 'Vindictive'. From the bridge at the end of the 'De Smet-De Naeyer' Avenue the front part of a war ship can be seen. This is all that remains from the English war ship 'The Vindictive'. This ship was taken into the Oostende Harbor by the English sailors and then brought to sink to close off the entrance. In this way the Germans occupants could no longer use the harbor.
Detail of the 'Fort Napoleon'The 'Fort Napoleon' in Oostende is the only still completely intact Napoleonic fortress left in Europe. The 'Fort' stands in the dunes north of the city center. In 1810 Napoleon Bonaparte, then Emperor of France, had it constructed during the French occupation of Belgium. Five hundred Spanish prisoners of war had to build it together with bricklayers from the Oostende area. The fort was finished by September the 26th 1812 . A total of 8.800.000 bricks were used for a construction space of 8.772 m³. The Fort Napoleon could house a garrison of 260 soldiers. It was defended by 46 canon-guns. In the Second World War, it was used as barracks for the German officers, later it became a playground for the local schools. It now serves as a training ground for climbers.
The city of Oostende, protected from the North Sea by a network of dikes, is the largest population center on the Belgian coast, with 67,000 residents. Oostende received a city charter in the 13th century, though it is unclear how much earlier the site had originally been settled; at the time it was a small fishing village. Plagued throughout its history by a constant onslaught from seaborne invaders, it was the decision by the first two Belgian Kings, Leopold I and Leopold II, to spend their summers in Oostende that raised the town's fortunes and transformed it into a fashionable 19th century resort. Sadly, in the twentieth century, destruction came again, this time in the form of World War II aerial bombardment. Modern Oostende is a transportation hub and resort town.