The city of Oostende, protected from the North Sea by a network of dikes, is the largest population center on the Belgian coast, with 67,000 residents. Oostende received a city charter in the 13th century, though it is unclear how much earlier the site had originally been settled; at the time it was a small fishing village. Plagued throughout its history by a constant onslaught from seaborne invaders, it was the decision by the first two Belgian Kings, Leopold I and Leopold II, to spend their summers in Oostende that raised the town's fortunes and transformed it into a fashionable 19th century resort. Sadly, in the twentieth century, destruction came again, this time in the form of World War II aerial bombardment.
Modern Oostende is a transportation hub and resort town. It is famous for its oysters.
Stene and Zandvoorde are boroughs within the municipal district of Oostende.