A magnificent art deco building the Thermae Palace can be found a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Ostend and not too far for from the Kursaal and Casino. Opened on June 28th, 1933, by King Albert 1st and Queen Elisabeth it was initially known as the Palais des Thermes. It was King Leopold II who wanted to open a thermal centre in the city and in the mid-19th century mineral spring water was already being sourced in the area. The hotel was designed by Andrew Louis Daniels and took 18 months to build. In 2002 it was protected as a monument. It has undergone several refurbishments over its history and still remains today one of Ostend’s favourite places not only for locals but for visitors as well.
Dominating the skyline, it still oozes charm and elegance. Quite palatial inside the hotel opens out on the promenade and beach. Many of the rooms have their own verandas with loungers and chairs providing open panoramas of the coastline, more like a painting than a view. The rooms are also very well appointed with impressive bathrooms. The simple designs provide plenty of space and facilities for the visitor and the hotel is ideally placed for a further investigation along the Belgian coastline and beyond.
The breakfast, whilst not cheap provides a wide range of Belgian delights and is taken in grand surroundings. The window seats are particular favoured by the locals so make sure you get there early. The breakfast choice is extensive and will certainly set you up for the day.
The Brasserie Albert which is part of the hotel provides a range of dishes, views of the sea and only uses regional produce. Again, this is a favourite venue for locals who enjoy the ambience, quality food and service.
Ther is a large car park on site as you may prefer during your stay to use the excellent Belgian public transportation system.
I found reception very informative and able to provide up to the minute details on local opening times and facilities. The city of Ostend is just a few minutes’ walk along an impressive promenade where you might like to stop at one of the many bars and cafes to try some of Belgium’s many famous beers, There are plenty of shops to browse in and some great places to eat in the city including a fascinating café just around the corner from the tourist office. Lisette and Lucian, employ a range of staff with learning disabilities. The selection of food is extremely good and again it is very popular with the locals. A very enjoyable experience with lots of choice. If you are intending to travel south to the Paul Delvaux Museum, then I suggest you check before you go on their opening times. There is also a delightful café on site where you can enjoy a drink and a pastry. The museum is hidden away in a residential area but the local tourist office at Koksidje can help with directions and let you know when you might also be able to experience the horse-riding fishermen who operate along the coastline, The only ones in the world who fish in this way it is an experience that you shouldn’t miss. More information can be obtained from the National Fisheries Museum. The tourist office can provide details of another location where at certain times of the day you can spot seals which have returned to the area.
There are a very good coastal tram service offering day tickets. Another excellent excursion from Ostend is by train. The Belgian Railways offer seniors day tickets priced currently at 7.80 euros. These can then be used for any destination in Belgium such as Brussels, Antwerp or Ghent.
If you’re into walking, then take the small free ferry which operates on a regular service and is based next to the closed aquarium near the station. In five minutes, it will take you across harbour. Disembark, turn left and follow the path to the beach. From here you can then walk for miles in a northerly direction. Often forgotten by visitors this is great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
When you get back the area around the harbour is well worth exploring as is the promenade.
DFDS operate an excellent regular two hourly service from Dover to Dunkerque with priority boarding and a Premium Lounge where you can relax with a glass of prosecco, coffee and snacks. Dunkerque has easy access to the motorway system. If you are travelling a long way to Dover, then a very reasonable overnight stop can be made at the Travelodge next door to the docks. Parking is available and they serve an ample unlimited breakfast and a selection of evening meals.
Finally, a great guidebook for this area is the very informative ‘Flanders’ published by Bradt and written by Emma Thomson.