Delve into the history of both World Wars that continue to be a significant part of Nieuwpoort’s past. As a medieval town and important harbour, it has its own share of tales to tell. Learn about the sacrifices made by Belgian soldiers during the World Wars. Uncover the treasures of this quiet town and travel back in time. Explore areas where history was made. Apart from the fascinating history of the wars, this town boasts beautiful memorials, beaches and jetties that you must visit during your trip. So, strap on your walking shoes, a history textbook and experience a city intertwined with the sea like no other! Here are the most interesting things to do in Nieuwpoort, Belgium.
1. Dive into Belgium's history at King Albert I Memorial
Regarded as the most important of Belgian memorials, King Albert I Memorial is a must-visit attraction. Erected in 1938, this monument is in honour of King Albert I, the King of Belgium, and the leader of the troops of the First World War. Set above the columns, enjoy a panoramic view of the area. Learn more about Belgium’s history at the Westfront Nieuwpoort, a visitor centre with a projection of a large painting of the 1914 Battle of the Yser. The ground floor of the memorial is free to visit, but you have to pay for the visitor centre and the walk on the top. Travel back in time and immerse yourself in the history Nieuwpoort has to offer.
King Albert I Memorial
Address: Kustweg 2, Nieuwpoort 8620, Belgium
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
2. Spend an afternoon at the Ganzepoot locks
If you are a history buff, or just want to brush up on your history, you will love the Ganzepoot locks. Built in the 19th century, Ganzepoot Locks and spillways played a significant role in the First World War. During the Battle of the Yser in 1914, these locks kept the German Army away from the Belgian lines. Learn all about the impressive sluices and lock system that made it possible to regulate the surplus of water for ships to sail through. A stone’s throw away from the King Albert Memorial, this significant attraction is a fitting legacy. Grab your walking shoes or strap on your bicycle helmets and lock in an incredible trip through Belgian history.
Address: 8620 Nieuwpoort, Belgium
3. Enjoy the breeze of the blue at Estacade de Nieuwpoort
Fancy a walk out into the sea? Get the best of the breeze and blue skies here! Built in 1865, Westerstaketsel (490 meters; 1607.6 feet) and Oosterstaketsel (543 meters; 1781.5 feet) are jetties that project out to the sea. These jetties were badly damaged in the two World Wars but have been rebuilt. A great way to spend a sunny afternoon, take a walk along the jetty and look out for the miniature lighthouses situated at the end of the walkway. Breathe in the fresh air and enjoy an excellent day at the beach next to the jetty. If you prefer having your walks in the evening, this is the place for a peaceful stroll, with the sounds of waves filling the air. Watch out for clouds rolling in that might mean an imminent storm, so remember to check the weather forecast before making your trip!
Estacade de Nieuwpoort
Address: Havengeul, 8620 Nieuwpoort, Belgium
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
4. Pay homage to soldiers at Belgian Military Cemetery Ramskapelle
Take your ultimate Belgian history lesson a step further and visit the Belgische Militaire Begraafplaats Ramskapelle or the Belgian Military Cemetery Ramskapelle. This cemetery is the final resting place for many Belgians who fell during World War 1. Soak in the solemn atmosphere and reflect upon the sacrifices made by Belgian men and women who put their lives on the line in the name of their country. The cemetery contains the graves of 635 Belgian soldiers, most of whom were killed during the Battle of the Yser in October 1914. Spend an afternoon wandering through the headstones and monuments. Put on a pair of walking shoes and start exploring. Don’t forget to check the weather beforehand, lest the day becomes overcast!
Belgische Militaire Begraafplaats Ramskapelle
Address: Ramskapellestraat 43-51, 8620 Nieuwpoort, Belgium
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
5. Indulge in architecture and history at Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady sits in the centre of the Belgian port city. This three-aisle gothic hall church was originally erected in 1163 but was rebuilt after the devastation of World War One and again after World War Two. Stand in awe at the church’s beautiful stained-glass windows, depicting not only biblical themes but also local historic events. Of the many things you can find in the church is a painting of The Battle of Nieuwpoort in the 1600s, a gift from King William I of the Netherlands to the city in 1821. The dated church makes the perfect pitstop if you are looking for a quiet way to spend your afternoon while learning more about Nieuwpoort’s history.
Church of Our Lady
Address: Onze Lieve Vrouwstraat, 8620 Nieuwpoort, Belgium
Opening hours: 8am - 6pm (daily)
6. Be one with nature at De Ijzermonding
Take a break from the incredible history lessons at Nieuwpoort and dive into rich flora and fauna at De Ijzermonding nature reserve. The freshwater of the Yser, the only river in Belgium that directly flows into the North Sea, mixes with the salty seawater to create a sanctuary for both plants and animals such as worms, snails and crustaceans. This combination in the IJzermonding also creates a special biotope, home to salt-loving plants such as samphire, sea plantain and sea lavender. You can get to the nature reserve via Halvemaanstraat or the free ferry service at the jetty on the seafront.
De Ijzermonding Nature Reserve
Address: Halvemaanstraat, 8620 Nieuwpoort, Belgium
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
7. Explore Dutch military architecture at Bommenvrij
Combine the beauty of history and architecture at Bommenvrij. This fascinating building is definitely something to admire in Nieuwpoort. Bommenvrij (also called Bomb Free) is a powder warehouse designed to store all kinds of small and large weaponry during the World Wars. To withstand the impact from the enemy’s artillery fire, the building had thick walls and roofs up to 80 cm (32 in) thick to absorb the impact. Built in 1820, Bommenvrij is one of the only buildings in Nieuwpoort that survived both world wars.
Address: Schoolstraat 48, 8620 Nieuwpoort, Belgium
8. Learn about the history behind Phare de Nieuwpoort
The Lighthouse of Nieuwpoort has a long history that dates back to 1284. It was the first lighthouse in the European continent. The tower was then destroyed in 1914 during the war and rebuilt in 1923 before it was destroyed again by the Germans. The current lighthouse dates back to 1949 and was erected in concrete. The lighthouse stands tall at 29 m (95 ft) and has a range of a whopping 24 km (15 mi). The lighthouse is not open to the public, but definitely makes to the list for things to see at Nieuwpoort!
Phare de Nieuwpoort
Address: Oude Zeedijk 2, Nieuwpoort
Website: Phare de Nieuwpoort
9. Explore the ruins of an ancient fortified St. Lawrence Tower
Popularly known as ‘Duvetorre’, St. Lawrence Tower is a remnant of the former St. Lawrence Church. Just like many of the buildings in Nieuwpoort, the tower holds a rich history, dating back to the 13th century. Built in 1281, the tower was destroyed in 1383 and converted into a fortified moated castle in 1384. In the 16th century, the tower became a military quarter of the Spaniards. During the First World War, the Allies used the tower as a lookout, in 1916 the tower was shot at by the Germans, giving the tower its current shape.
St. Lawrence Tower
Address: Willem De Roolaan, 8620 Nieuwpoort
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
10. Visit the quaint and charming Ramskapelle station
Take your history lesson to the next level with a visit to Ramskapelle railway station. This protected monument is a former railway station and a prominent feature from the First World War era. The station building was destroyed in 1914 and later used as a fortified observation post during the war. Many bunkers can be found along the railway. The ruin is still there. The ruin was protected as a monument in 1992. Get a glimpse of what soldiers used as an observation post in the war and learn more about the role this former railway station played in the war. You can get to Ramskapelle Railway Station by bus or light rail.
Ramskapelle Railway Station
Address: 8620 Nieuwpoort
A deep dive into history and culture
If you are looking to learn about the World Wars, visiting Nieuwpoort is definitely a way to do that. A significant part of Belgium’s past, there is surely something for everyone here. Wander through beautiful streets and memorials that honour significant moments in the history of this northern Belgium town. What are you waiting for? Take the ultimate history lesson now!
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