The West Flanders Guide
Welcome to the rolling dunes and open beaches of Belgium’s coastline. West Flanders is, you guessed it, Belgium’s most western province. It’s most popular in the summer when everyone is looking for a coastal escape. But it’s capital, Bruges, is known for its medieval style, charming canals and romantic atmosphere. In between its bustling tourist cities on the coast, and its charming artsy capital, West Flanders has plenty of smaller cities and cycling routes throughout.
This province is a must for any beach holiday. West Flanders makes up all of Belgium’s coastline. Whether you’re looking for a summer getaway on the beach or want to enjoy a cycling trip through the coast, West Flanders is one destination you need on your list. The province is also known for its stunning capital of Bruges, known for its beauty and romantic vibes.
West Flanders is THE coastal part of Belgium. This is where you’ll find all the beaches, dunes and coastal sights you could ask for. Or you could go to Bruges and go to the beach for a day trip. No matter which coastal city you pick to explore (de Panne, Ostend, Knokke, and more), you’ll get the classic beach experience. Each coastal city has its own pier, market, and beach area. The beaches are super popular in the summer with tourists and locals! Most beaches in West Flanders also offer sports like volleyball and water surfing, plus summer bars for a relaxing drink afterwards.
Bruges is the capital of West Flanders and THE top travel destination for couples on a romantic trip. Bring your partner to Bruges for a romantic stroll across the city. It’s known for its charming bridges and canals. Go for a boat tour for a romantic view of the city. There’s romantic legends and stories all over Bruges, including the well-known “Bridge of Love” at Minnewater park. Cross the bridge, seal it with a kiss, and you’ll stay together forever. Or so the legend goes!
Ready to get active? Walking and cycling are both popular activities in West Flanders. The ground is mostly flat, so many routes are great for beginners. But those looking for a challenge can easily find cobbled hills in quieter areas used by locals and experienced cyclists. You could cycle or hike along the coast. Or head to Heuvelland, West Flanders, a more hilly area. This is where you’ll find Kemmelberg, the highest point of the province and a hill with an average gradient of 10.6% (max 20%). Or head further south of West Flanders, away from the beaches, for a countryside trip. There’s many charming windmills and farm views on flat land for a countryside cycling trip suitable for beginners in the south.
Bruges- the romantic getaway capital of West Flanders. A medieval city full of life, historical sights, and the prettiest canals in Belgium. Very busy in the tourist season!
Ypres - known for its memorial sites to the fallen soldiers of the world wars, such as Menin Gate. A must see for history buffs.
Kortrijk - the biggest city in the south of West Flanders with a long history (back to the Romans!), a textile industry, awesome architecture, and the site of multiple battles all called the Battle of Courtrai.
Ostend - a coastal city with a history twist. Known for its long boardwalk, shopping streets, and war history including Napoleon.
Knokke-Heist - the stylish coastal city of West Flanders. Lots of culture events, watersports, the beautiful nature reserve of Zwin, and a popular beach.
West Flanders has its best weather in May to October like most of Belgium. The busiest time of the province, the tourist season, really varies depending on where you are but the coastal side of West Flanders is busiest in the summer! Avoid the crowds by going to the smaller towns or visiting in the spring/winter.
West Flanders is easily accessible in a car as it’s connected to four motorways, including the E40 from Calais. From Ghent and Antwerp, you’ll take the E17. Depending which way you're coming from, you might also drive on the A19 and E403. From Calais, it’s a 1 hour 30 minute drive to Bruges and about the same from Antwerp. You won’t have any trouble reaching West Flanders in the car.
West Flanders has good public transport connections, especially to Bruges. Bruges has trains coming into its central station from across Belgium, including Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and other cities in West Flanders.
You can reach West Flanders by coach. The easiest stop is Bruges. Bruges has a Eurolines bus stop just outside the city centre. From there, you can get a train or bus to most other cities in West Flanders.
If you happen to already be on or near the Belgian coast, you can easily reach any coastal city in West Flanders by getting on the coastal tram. The tram goes along the whole length of Belgium’s coast.
Getting across West Flanders, at least on the coastal points, is easiest on the coastal tram. The tram stretches from De Panne all the way up to Knokke, with over 60 stops along the way. The tram is easiest to use in the summer, when there’s usually a tram every 10-15 minutes. In other seasons, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
Most cities in West Flanders are connected by train or tram. Buses are handy to get around smaller towns and areas or getting from the train station to the city centre.
Many sights in the cities are within walking distance. If you fancy a longer walk, you can go across the beach to the next coastal town. To see most of the province, though, you’ll need to combine walking with public transport or a car.
Cycling is pretty popular in West Flanders. Bike rentals are common and there are many cycling routes throughout the province. West Flanders is fairly flat and open, making long cycling journeys even beginner friendly.
West Flanders is easy to get around in the car. De Panne, at the far end of the coast, to Knokke at the top is about a 1 hour 20 minute drive. For the bigger and busier cities, we recommend Park & Ride once you arrive, then walk around the city.
Languages: Flemish (Dutch)
Emergency numbers: Police urgent: (101), Fire, ambulance, police: 112
Information office Markt (Historium)
Markt 1 8000 Brugge
Information office 't Zand (Concertgebouw)
't Zand 34 8000 Brugge
Information office Stationsplein (Station)
Stationsplein 8000 Brugge
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +32 (0)50 44 46 46
Various offices, including in London and Brussels.
Brussels Address: VISITFLANDERS Visitor Information Centre, Grasmarkt 61 - 1000 Brussel