One of the most underrated advantages of Brussels, in my view, is that it is not only easy to go to London, Paris, or Amsterdam, but that it is also rather close to the seaside. It is well worth going for a single day, in fact – if you know how to get there quickly and how to make the best of your time.
Here, then, is our guide to the perfect day at the Belgian seaside.
Get there early, by train, and start with a drink
Avoid the traffic jams that are likely to build up on sunny days in both directions between Brussels and the beaches. There are several trains running each hour, taking you to the seaside in roughly 1 1/2 hours. Most people will go to Ostend, but there are also direct connections to other beach towns like Blankenberge or Knokke. On weekends and national holidays, tickets are half-price (simply choose a weekend-ticket).
Get there early and you will have the beach for yourself at least a little bit. After you have taken in the beautiful scenery and enjoyed a morning stroll in the sand, head for breakfast in one of the numerous cafés. Try to find a spot where the locals and the old folks go; in those places you might be lucky and have your coffee served with a biscuit and a small side of whipped cream and Advocaat, the traditional dutch liquor made from eggs, sugar and brandy. (Don’t worry, it won’t make you drunk, just a little more relaxed.)
Take a stroll and earn your lunchtime Croque
Before it is getting too hot, go for a walk – either in the sand or along one of the picturesque promenades. If you feel adventurous, walk through the dunes, which are sometimes between the promenade and the beach and sometimes behind the promenade, closer to the roads. In some, you will walk for miles before meeting anybody else.
Lunchtime at the seaside is usually quite easy: There are countless cafés and restaurants – and most of them will offer the same food at the same prices. Moules Frites are popular here, of course, but for me it has to be another classic dish: Without a Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame, my perfect day at the seaside would be incomplete. There is a local variation, too: Croque Bum Bum, which is a normal Croque served with bolognese sauce on the side.
Relax in the sand or with the cool kids
After lunch, it is time to enjoy the sun and relax at the beach. Access to the beach is free, and you will always find a nice spot. If it is windy, you can easily find shelter between the many little beach huts.
Alternatively, you can rent a deckchair or a sunbed; umbrellas are on offer, too, of course. You can find comfortable lounge areas for free – provided you consume a drink at one of the many beach bars. Sangrias are always popular in sunny weather, but the most fashionable drink on the coast right now seems to be Liefmans on the Rocks: It’s a light, fruity beer, made with juices from different berries as well as cherries, and it is served ice cold.
Take the Tram from France to the Netherlands
It is surprisingly easy to move along the cost – and public transport is usually your best option. The Kusttram runs all along the coastline, from the French border in the south to the Dutch border in the north. It has stops directly at all the train stations and in every beach town, and a day ticket bought in one of their shops is only 5€ (single trip: 3€), which is a good investment for possibly the most scenic tram ride you will ever see.
Talking about things to see: Keep your eyes open all the time, not only to avoid crashing into bikers or runners on the promenades. Even though a lot of the apartment blocks are rather hideous, in between often still nestles a lovely art noveau building.
Turn your head towards the beach as well and check out the decorations on the beach huts: You will see all kinds of things, from oversized pink Hello Kitty stickers to whole Tintin sceneries like the one pictured above.
Have a great day at the beaches!