Nearby - Explore the Zwin region

Welcome to the Zwin region: a unique area by the sea, sandwiched between Flanders and the Netherlands, where the beaches give way to the polders. Where thousands of birds stop each year after a long trek. Where vast nature, delicious tranquillity, lively towns, white sandy beaches and culinary highlights blend in seamlessly. Where the once proud Hanseatic cities are now picturesque historical villages. Knokke-Heist is the perfect base to embark on trips in a region that spans three provinces, two countries, and the municipalities of Knokke-Heist, Sluis, Damme, Oostkerke, Sint-Laureins, Bruges and Maldegem. Come and enjoy this sweet and salty region. 


Choosing a nice route to go through the Zwin region is easy: almost all the roads between the ports of Zeebrugge and Terneuzen will take you through heritage landscapes, past creeks, ponds, canals and forts.

Drive from Ramskapelle or Westkapelle to Oostkerke, one of the most picturesque villages in West Flanders. This rural village, with its whitewashed walls and small centre, is definitely worth visiting. Oostkerke Castle is just a stone’s throw from the church and you can also visit two windmills nearby. Follow the country roads to Siphon, where several canals intersect.It’s only a short distance from here to Damme. Remember: ceci n’est pas un village. This is a proud, albeit pocket-sized medieval city. Visit the 15th-century town hall in the market square. Did you spot the storks in their nest? Walk past terraces and book shops to the Church of the Ascension of Our Lady with its magnificent art treasures. From April until September, you can climb up all 206 steps to enjoy the panoramic view. A walk along the old city walls, a stop near the windmill, and a photo opp along Damse Vaart: all the ingredients for an enjoyable visit. The Lamme Goedzak sails to Bruges and back. Hop on your (rental) bike and enjoy the miles and miles of towpaths along lovely canals, with monumental tree lines.

Follow Damse Vaart southbound towards the Hanseatic city of Bruges. Impenetrable, mysterious and romantic. After all these centuries, the stately townhouses, majestic churches and cathedrals, and world-class museums are still reflected in the water of the Reie. The Venice of the North, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts an impressive history and loads of iconic locations to visit. Our tip for your walk: head from the station along Vesten to Minnewater, the most romantic place in the city. Walk through the gate and into the Beguinage where the tiny white houses are still occupied. Now head to Walplein and Stovestraatje, to reach the Church of Our Lady, where you can see a sculpture by Michelangelo, and St. John’s Hospital with its paintings by Memling. Then continue your walk past the Gruuthuse Palace and across the narrow Bonifaciusbruggetje to get to the Groeningemuseum, with its unrivalled collection of Flemish Primitives. Across the Dijver, with its antiques market, you soon find yourself at Instagram hotspot Rozenhoedkaai. Wind your way past the terraces of Huidevettersplein and Vismarkt, walk up Blinde Ezelstraat to Burg where the City Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood are located. This is where Bruges originated, and it a wonderful array of historic buildings. The beating heart of the city, Marqt (Market Square), is just a short walk from here. You can also visit the Belfry, which rises 83 metres into the sky. From here, you can walk down any of the streets with high street chains and budget shops to the sturdy St. Salvator’s Cathedral, picturesque Jan van Eyckplein or the intimate St. James’ Church. There are lots of chocolate and beer shops en route, as well as many terraces where you can quench your thirst. Bruges is just 15 minutes' drive from Knokke-Heist, making it an interesting alternative for concerts, theatre performances and more. 


If you follow Damse Vaart northwards, you cross the Dutch border to get to Sluis. Although you are in another country, everything looks and feels familiar. This Zwin port, with its centuries-long history, is a lively, relaxed shopping destination where you can experience the typical hospitality of ZeelandFlanders. The shops are open 7 days a week. Typical Dutch features are the many health stores, terraces of cafés that serve poffertjes (mini pancakes) and sex shops. But Sluis also has chic fashion stores, wonderful brasseries and delightful shops full of must-haves. Take a walk along the city walls, climb the Belfry tower or see the superb interior of the City Council Hall. Do visit the unique Bizarium Museum as well. The mill and Damse Vaart are a good place for a picture. Sluis also combines a rich history with lots of events for tourists.

The Zwin Riviera, spanning 40 km, extends from Heist, with lovely white sandy beaches, beach bars and stunning sunsets. You can easily get to the Netherlands by following the cycle path along the Internationale Zwindijk. Along the route, you will be treated to exceptional panoramic views of the Zwin channels and the polder landscape. Do stop on the wooden pier to enjoy the 360-degree panoramic view. Cadzand-Bad is one of a handful of Dutch seaside resorts that have received the ‘Heilzame Badplaats’ quality label, because of its clean sea air and healthy surroundings. 

Are you up for a treat? Sergio Herman’s restaurants have been awarded several Michelin stars. Follow the dune cycle path to reach the fishing village of Breskens with its lighthouse and lively market square and quays that are lined with restaurants. The Fisheries Museum (Vissserijmuseum) is definitely worth a visit. 

But there’s also lots to see and do further inland. Take Cadzand-Dorp. Its Gothic church is surrounded by picturesque old houses. You can also visit the windmill that you spotted when you drove into the village. The village of Groede is just up the road. Want to know more about the history of ZeelandFlanders? At ‘Vlaamsch Erfgoed’, you take a journey back in time. Small shops and workshops give you a better idea of life in this lively rural village before 1950. Start your museum visit at the heritage shop and explore the village, guide in hand, from the Lutheran church, to the home theatre, the inn and the bakery. Or you can sample a locally-brewed beer from Dutch Bargain, which has a taproom in the market square. Play in the old bunkers of Groede Podium, a fun adventure for people of all ages. Waterdunen, a vast tidal area that was restored and rewilded in recent years, is further up the road. Picturesque IJzendijke is home to Het Bolwerk museum, where you can learn about the many Dutch and Spanish forts that dot the landscape. Drive through modern, lively Oostburg, with its large golf club in lush green surroundings, towards Aardenburg. This is another gem, with a Gallo-Roman museum, historic city gates and the typically Dutch laid-back atmosphere. There’s even an ostrich farm that you can visit.

From here, drive to the medieval town of Middelburg, back in Belgium, with its church with distinctive red shutters. If you walk along Meulekreek and Verloren Kreek, you will travel through three provinces of Belgian and Dutch Flanders: East-, West- and Zeeland-Flanders. It’s just a short trip to Maldegem, which has a steam railway museum. Follow the canals to reach the relatively unspoilt polder village of Sint-Laureins. In addition to the imposing church, this village also boasts magnificent natural surroundings. Here the creeks wind their way through the landscape, surrounded by reeds and tall trees. The local eel is on the menu in many restaurants. If you love sports, head to the Boerenkreek provincial open space. From there, you can take a lovely walk to St. John the Baptist, one of the oldest churches in the region. Finally, there’s also Watervliet, once a large city on the furthest point of the Zwin estuary. The church has all the allure of a cathedral and is surrounded by a tiny village with a population of a few hundred people.


The Lost Ports of the Zwin
The lovely landscape of the Zwin as we know it today looked quite different in the Middle Ages. The wide Zwin channel with its flourishing world ports cut through the landscape. Thanks to the connection with the sea, this period was an extremely prosperous one for Bruges, and by extension Flanders. The route takes you on a tour of this beautiful cycling area between Knokke-Heist, Sluis, Damme and Bruges. Use the free cycling map to find traces of this rich past in the landscape. The four outdoor VR viewers along the route will help stimulate your imagination. Two indoor VR viewers in the Observation Centre of the Zwin Nature Park give you a bird’s eye view of the evolution of the Zwin channel. Anyone who peers into a viewer will find themselves virtually transported into the bustling medieval port cities. You will be standing in the middle of it all and you can look around 360°. Also fun! If you scan the QR code on the cycling map, you will receive notifications along the way. The archaeological finds in the landscape around you are visualised on your smartphone. En route, you can also taste the Zwin ports. Try some medieval bread made with beer yeast, jam with spices and ice cream with a hint of citrus. The medieval palate was more varied than we think! Discover the surprising treats that local businesses and restaurants have created for you together with food archaeologist Jeroen van Vaerenbergh.

Groeningemuseum Bruges
Musea Brugge connects art, culture, heritage and people with each other in 13 locations within the city walls. Enjoy contemporary and classic visual art, historic buildings, the best views, and exclusive exhibitions. From clogs to Van Eyck. From stained glass to Magritte. From the past to the present. Whether you are taking a day trip on your own, with your children or in a group. The Groeningemuseum fuels the imagination more than any other museum. Six centuries of Belgian visual art in one location, with work by Flemish Primitives such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling and Gerard David, the neoclassicism of Joseph Odevaere and Joseph Ducq, and Flemish expressionism and 20th century modern art by René Magritte, Roger Raveel and Raoul De Keyser. Admire masterpieces by some of the most important masters of early Netherlandish painting from the 15th and 16th centuries: Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, Gerard David, Hieronymus Bosch and their contemporaries. The museum has one of the most stunning art collections in the world, including several works that are important milestones in European art history.