"Winter on the North Sea"
I just returned from a weeks stay in Knokke and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by my visit. My partner and I had a time share to use and Knokke was one of two places to visit. We didn't want to fly to Belgium and since we were coming from London it made sense to take the Eurostar from London's St. Pancras station to Brussels; travel time was only 1h50m. The Eurostar tickets included train travel within Belgium for free as long as you did it within 24hours of your arrival (or departure on the return). Train travel from Brussels to Knokke is approximately 2 hours. First thing I learned after my arrival is how to pronounce the town name, it's Ka-No-Ka, accent on "NO". Second, Heist is another town just next to Knokke and that train station is just minutes before you arrive in Knokke.
"What to see and do"
Knokke is definitely an upscale city to visit, even though I was there in the winter it still had many visitors, most were 55+ and all were well dressed. The women wore mostly furs, I have never seen this many furs in my life! The men and some women wore nice leather jackets. We stayed at the Residentie VanGogh condominiums located about 5 blocks from the Beach and maybe 8 blocks from the Train station. Knokke is very flat so it was easy to walk even with luggage. You can see this property if you have a timeshare through RCI or just google Residentie VanGogh/Knokke. On one of my previous requests to the VT community I asked what Knokke was like, one of the comments that stuck in my head was "It's a concrete jungle". I wouldn't call it that but I can see why someone would, between the train station and the beach there are about 12 blocks of very nicely built condominiums/apartments and the architecture was pleasant to look at for the most part. I never saw any run down areas or felt in any kind of danger.
There wasn't a lot to do except to relax which is the reason we went to Knokke in the first place. In the summer, I was told Knokke is over run with tourists but in the winter it is still pleasant. The weather was clear blue skies, still cold but tolerable with the proper winter wear, the beaches are very wide and many people walked along them for miles (in furs coats!). If walking on the sand isn't your cup of tea, the promenade runs parallel to the beach.
"Knokke, things to do, part II"
The basic layout of Knokke and this is the area that I discovered was from the Train station to the beach. There are many streets that will take you to the beach but the main one with all the shops/bars is called Lippens lane, the businesses closest to the train station were more for the locals and towards the beach more for the tourists. Along the promenade you will see the back side of many hotels/condo's but in front of these buildings are some very high end stores, again more for the tourists, but made for great window shopping. Since we had a condominium and I like to cook, we went to the grocery stores for all of our shopping needs, this is one of my favorite things to do when in a foreign country, we never went out to eat. There are no shortage of grocery stores but they are all quite small but have a good selection. We discovered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays many stores are closed for just one day which made shopping a little more challenging but these are also the days for the open markets, located near the train station just off of the main street. We were told that the only internet cafe' was near the train station, we did not have an address or location to look for but how hard could it be? We were very lucky to find "Tracks and Travelers" just across from the Knokke train station, the owner "Patrick" welcomed us and was nice enough to bring our pints of beers to the computers while we worked. The place reminded me of a Belgian Cheers, everyone seemed to know one another. Tracks and Travelers offered a fine selection of Belgian Beers as well as an electronic Dart Board which was very popular amongst the locals. A word of caution with Belgian beers, the alcohol content is much higher than American Beers so be careful. For those that don't know, Belgium is divided into French and Flemish speakers, Knokke is in the Flemish part, I heard both French and Flemish spoken but it seemed to be proper to start out with Flemish and then ease into French. English was spoken everywhere, sometimes not fluently but when it wasn't it was still easy to communicate.
During the day it was nice to walk along the beach, towards the Dutch Border there is a nature preserve called "Het Zwin" but since it was winter the preserve was dormant. The walk down the beach was very nice, there are also bike trails if you like to ride your bike. Another day excursion was taking the Belgian Coast Tram from Knokke-Heist to De Paan. It's a two car tram that travels along the coast used by both tourists and locals with some interesting stops along the way.