Ostend is a city located in the Flemish province of West Flanders, Belgium. The city is the largest on the Belgian coast and is home to the biggest Belgian harbour. In its infancy Ostend was just a small village, however in 1265 it attained town status and inhabitants were able to hold markets and build a market hall, which proved to be vital to the local economy at that point in history.
Up to that point the North Sea coast had been unstable and it was at the end of the 14th century that the inhabitants decide to rebuild the town further away from the threatening sea. Despite this move the town was known mainly as a fishing town, with that being a major source of income for local residents
Its strategic position on the North Sea has caused it some serious problems throughout history. The town was always being taken and ransacked by conquering armies, such as the Dutch rebels, called the Geuzen. They were eventually overthrown during the Siege of Ostend (1601-1604) when the Spanish were merciless and caused more than 50,000 to die over the three years.
The harbour has also come to the country’s rescue though, especially when the neighbouring Dutch were able to cut off entrance to the harbour at Antwerp, down the Belgian coastline in 1722. Ostend then proved to be an alternative exit to the sea and managed to build trade relations with Africa and the Far-East.
Attractions in Ostend including the James Ensor museum, in which the famous artist lived from 1917 until 1949 and the Mercator, which is an ex-training sailing ship for Belgian merchant navy officers. The city is also home to the Hippodrome Wellington, which was a horse racing track but has now been converted into a fine 18-hole golf course.
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