Christophe, from Travelchecker, recounts:
Weekend away in Zeebrugge
Christophe got bitten by the travel bug in his childhood years. With a dad working for Sabena, he jetted around the world from the comfort of a jump seat. These days, he goes in search of original travel experiences. As a proud native of the Belgian province of Limburg he loves nothing better than discovering hidden gems in his own region. A relaxing weekend away, topped off with a culinary experience or a wellness moment. A little further afield, he lost his heart to the USA.
Christophe feels a road trip is the ideal way to discover another country. Mostly on his own, sometimes with friends. Whether you’re sleeping in a tent or a luxury resort, travelling has to be an experience. And Travelchecker sets you off on the right track with practical and unique travel tips.
A weekend away in Zeebrugge … in search of offshore windmills and the finest shrimp croquettes
I parked my car (free of charge) in front of the Seafront museum in the marina. The old fish auction hall has been turned into a lively museum/theme park. I got to engross myself in the fishing industry and the residents of the North Sea. Educational for adults, great fun for younger visitors!
Operation North Sea 40-45
In Hall 3 of Seafront, I visited the new exhibition ‘Operation North Sea 40-45’. Here, the liberation of the Belgian Coast and the ‘Battle of the Scheldt’ are brought back to life with unique pieces.
One of the collection’s showpieces is the original Pom-Pom cannon of warship HMS Roberts. It is this piece of artillery that gave George Lucas the inspiration for his Quad Laser guns in the movie Star Wars.
Zeebrugge’s culinary hotspot is located on the seventh (and eighth floor) of the ABC Terminal. I am beside myself with joy, for I managed to get a table for lunch at Rooftop Restaurant Njord.
The panoramic view of the port and the North Sea make for a wow effect. To merely call the decor tasteful would be doing the designer an injustice. The 7-metre-high windows and Scottish silver birches have the most amazing relaxing effect. Mind you, I didn’t come to relax here but to savour and enjoy the delicious fish dishes.
A fish or shellfish allergy in a fish restaurant? Too bad for my fellow diners but the Njord Chef was more than happy to grill a piece of West-Flemish rib steak. It’s not for nothing that they decided to place the charcoal grill at a height of 40 metres.
A stay at the Belgian Coast wouldn’t be complete without tucking into a plate of freshly-made shrimp croquettes. Those served at Njord are the nearest thing to perfection. Cost: 18.50 euro (or order them as part of the chef’s suggestions menu).
View of the port
The port brings life and activity to the town and ensures that there never is any shortage of things to see. From the Fishermen’s Cross you have a bird’s eye view of the container ships, the naval base and the marina.
There is also a lookout near the main lock on Zweedse Kaai (quay). Here, I had a chat with a couple of local fishermen and admired the ships sailing through the lock.
Walk on the beach
The first view of the North Sea is always the most glorious one. To finally hear the sound of the waves and being able to gaze into the horizon as if, at long last, you were able to detect England after a long car drive or train trip makes for a blissful, nostalgic feeling.
If you fall in love with the sea, you have to put up with the salty taste of his kiss.
While watching a wonderful sunset from the St-Georges-Day trail’s viewing platform I wondered how I was going to describe this natural extravaganza in a blog. Without using clichés like saline, salty or clearing the cobwebs away. But those thoughts soon disappeared and I simply enjoyed the healthy air and stunning view. No matter how you describe it, clearing your head and enjoying the surroundings comes automatically here.
De Fonteintjes (nature reserve)
I am an early riser and after an excellent breakfast at the Ibis Styles hotel I went to Zeebrugge Bad for a morning walk. At the end of the Promenade, just beyond Beachclub Icarus, I turned into the dunes and walked in the direction of Blankenberge. The nature reserve came by its name ‘De Fonteintjes (the fountains)’ from the water that gurgles up out of the ground.
The walk gives you a view of the dunes and the North Sea on one side and of the lakes, a meeting place for all kinds of water birds, on the other side. A stunning piece of nature and a great alternative if you don’t have the time to visit the Zwin.
Going to the seaside and depriving yourself of a trip on the water? That isn’t an option, especially if you’re in the port. Unfortunately, from mid-October onwards there are no more harbour cruises. So, make sure to keep that in mind.
I did manage to find an alternative in the port of the nearby Blankenberge though. The Water Taxi still sails through the port of Zeebrugge and even takes you to the wind farm out at sea. We cut through the waves created by the container ships and sailed in the direction of the Thornton sandbank.
Some 25 km out of port, with water all around us, the windmills appeared. A couple of dozen initially, but as we sailed on they kept appearing out of nowhere. 384 windmills is an impressive spectacle. The sunshine that suddenly broke through the clouds created a summery feel, in spite of the cold water splashing in our faces.
Back to shore we warmed ourselves up in ‘Steiger 16’, a pub where the landlady was sitting among her patrons peeling shrimp. A tiny pang of hunger and especially a major craving made me order my weekend’s second portion of croquettes. A Rodenbach for good measure marked the perfect end to a glorious trip out at sea.
Never two without three. As I have been known to do, I rounded off my weekend with a visit to ’t Werftje, an old fishermen’s watering hole which, after a through renovation, has become a favourite haunt for people who love fish and shellfish. You can’t book a table here but, as luck would have it, I found a spot at the bar; the place was heaving!
I found it impossible to choose between the fresh shrimp, cheese or Ganda ham croquettes. To overcome that dilemma I chose one of each and washed them down with a freshly pulled Brugse Zot. Cost: 19.20 euro. The banter at the bar is on the house! Croquettes with a little lemon and parsley to take away will set you back 5.10 euro/piece.
Take it from me, a trip to Zeebrugge wouldn’t be complete without a visit to ’t Werftje. Those of you with addictive tendencies beware! There you go, I could kill for another croquette right now …
- What to do at the Belgian Coast? Check the Westtoer website for countless great tips.
- Savour wonderful fish dishes in Zeebrugge’s oldest pub… ’t Werftje.
- An epicurean experience 40 metres above ground? Rooftop Restaurant Njord!
- Book a harbour cruise or trip out at sea with Water Taxi.
- What to eat and drink in West-Vlaanderen? The Lekkere Westen (Epicurean West) provides you with a mouth-watering overview.
- I had a great night’s sleep in a comfortable room at an excellent location at Ibis Styles in Zeebrugge, a Design budget hotel that gets excellent reviews.
- Also check out my tips for a visit to Blankenberge.
This report came about in collaboration with Zeebrugge Tourism.