Knokke-Heist is a beach resort and town of 33,000 inhabitants (2018) on the Belgian sea coast in the northern corner of West Flanders. The mayor, Count Leopold Lippens, said that he wants that worldly people would feel at home here. Different clubs like tennis and golf clubs are available.
Knokke-Heist consists of the proper centres of Knokke and Heist, with Knokke bordering Sluis in the Netherlands.
Knokke used to be known as the more upper class and chique seaside resort town on the Belgian coast (like 'the Saint-Tropez' or 'Monaco' of the Belgian coast). However, a lot of this is past glory. The influx of less wealthy day trippers, who come in by train and overwhelm the city's beaches during summer, make Knokke's seafront look like any other Belgian coastal town with a train station (e.g. Blankenberge, Oostende). Mayor Count Leopold Lippens once even famously complained about the so-called 'frigoboxtoeristen' - day trippers who bring their cooler box full of food and drinks, and do not consume anything in seaside pubs or restaurants - whom he even wanted to prevent from coming to Knokke. The uniform and ugly rows of grey apartment blocks lining the seafront (the 'Atlantikwall') are also no different from any other Belgian coastal town. On the other hand, the remote Zwin Beach at the far eastern end of Knokke, on the Dutch border, is one of the most remarkable beaches on the entire Belgian seaside.
The E34 motorway from Antwerp, which continues as the N49 highway on its last stretch, terminates in Knokke-Heist. The E40 motorway (to Ghent, Brussels, the rest of the Belgian seaside and the Channel ports Dunkirk and Calais) can be reached via Bruges.
By public transport
Knokke is a terminus railway station. One hourly direct train departs Knokke for Bruges, Ghent and Brussels, after which it continues to and terminates in Brussels Airport Zaventem. Connections to other places can be made in Bruges, Ghent or Brussels. There are three train stations on the territory of Knokke-Heist, and the train stops in all of those: 1 Station Heist, 2 Station Duinbergen and the terminal station, closest to the actual centre of Knokke, 3 Station Knokke. Usually trains go for Knokke once an hour, but the schedule should be checked in advance on the website of the Belgian national railway company NMBS.
Another option to reach Knokke, especially from other towns on the Belgian seaside, is by coastal tram (de Kusttram in Dutch). The 60-km-long tram line runs from De Panne near the French border to Knokke as the final stop, almost the whole length of the Belgian coast. The 4 Kusttram Terminal Station is located very close to the main railway station for Knokke.
Bike lanes along the Belgian seaside are in terrible condition. Inside the towns, they often (like in Knokke for example) run on the busy seafront promenade, where one has to be constantly on guard for collisions with pedestrians ignoring the bike lane, children playing and riding go-carts, etc. In between the towns, the bike lanes are usually barely separated, narrow strips running right next to the main coastal highway, with traffic racing by at high speed. This highway runs behind the dunes, so sea-views are non-existent there.
In the direction of the Netherlands coast, the situation is very different. A very safe, comfortable and scenic bike path exits Knokke towards the east, along the suburb 'Het Zoute' and then around the Zwin Nature Reserve, continuing to Cadzand-Bad in the Dutch municipality Sluis. From there on, it continues as an extremely scenic bike path atop the dunes, passing along 15 km of unspoillt beaches before reaching Breskens. This is one of the best coastal bicycle paths in Zeeland, as it gives you unrivalled and uninterrupted views the whole time over both the beach and sea on one side and the polders behind the dunes on the other.
Knokke proper is small enough to get around on foot. To move around the municipality, you can use the coastal tram (only towards the west), car or bicycle.
- 1 Het Zwin Nature Reserve, Graaf Leon Lippensdreef 10, ☏ +32 50 60 70 86. The Zwin is a nature reserve at the North Sea coast, on the Belgian-Dutch border. It consists of the entrance area of a former tidal inlet which during the Middle Ages connected the North Sea with the ports of Sluis and Bruges inland. This nature reserve is partially located in Belgium and partly in the Netherlands. These salt marshes partially flood almost every high tide. This nature reserve is of big importance because of the many bird species that can be found here. A visitor centre will help you to get more background information on the park. It is possible to visit the park on your own or with a guide. There is the possibility to hire an English speaking guide. €12 for normal ticket, €6 for children aged 6-17, children younger than 6 for free.
- Zwin Beach (on the Dutch border, 6 km east of central Knokke) This beach is one of the most remarkable beaches both on the Belgian seaside as well as in neighbouring Zeeland. While the inland part of the Zwin Nature Reserve mainly consists of mudflats and tidal marshes and places where birds breed, the coastal entrance to the park is a vast expanse of sandy beaches surrounded by dunes. At high tide, most of this sandy plain is flooded by the sea, but at low tide only a narrow channel of water remains in the middle, separating Belgium from the Netherlands.. At low tide, it is possible to walk over from the Belgian to the Dutch side or vice versa, but beware you have to wade through 50-80 cm of fast-flowing water. The deeper inland you cross, the shallower the water. Also beware that, when the tide turns and water comes back in, it might be impossible to cross back to Belgium, meaning you have to walk all the way around the entire nature reserve (more than 5 km - this would be less of a problem if you also carried your bicycle across). Tide tables for nearby Zeebrugge can be found on https://www.meteo.be/en/weather/forecasts/tides. On the Dutch side of the Zwin Beach, there is one beach bar/restaurant (De Zeemeeuw - the most southwesterly restaurant in the Netherlands). Cadzand-Bad, the first coastal resort town in the Netherlands, is 1 km away. On the Belgian side, you will find the most empty and unspoilt stretch of beach on the entire Belgian seaside. By contrast to the Zwin Nature Reserve inland, the coastal part of the Zwin (the beaches and dunes) can be entered free of charge).
- 1 Royal Zoute Golf Club, Caddiespad 14, ☏ +32 50 60 12 27. Daily 08:00—20:00.
- 2 Royal Zoute Tennis Club, Astridlaan 7, ☏ +32 50 60 28 60, email@example.com.
The major shopping streets are the Lippenslaan (called after the ruling mayoral dynasty - connecting the seafront with the railway station) and the Kustlaan. Several supermarkets can be found around town, including Delhaize and Albert Heijn. There are also a couple of night shops around the Lippenslaan, popular among youth to buy booze at night.
- 1 Frituur Jurrie, Graaf Jansdijk 19, ☏ +32 494 79 59 32. Closed M Tu. One of the most appreciated places in Knokke for the typical Belgian fries and snacks.
- 2 Côte Belge Bar-Bistro, Sasstraat 53, ☏ +32 50 51 26 91, firstname.lastname@example.org. Closed M Tu, October-March also closed on W. Small restaurant located next to the historic channel. lunch menu €25, dinner menu €37.
- 3 Bartholomeus, Zeedijk-Heist 267, ☏ +32 50 51 75 76. Closed Tu-Th. Prestigious restaurant with excellent food. 3-course lunch menu for €49. 4 course menu €83.
- 1 The Pharmacy, Elizabethlaan 178, ☏ +32 468 20 54 59.