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Knokke is one of a group of communities that are all grouped in the administrative community called Knokke-Heist, in the province of West Flanders in Flanders, Belgium. Knokke is the most North-Eastern seaside resort of the Belgian coast. It lies close to the Dutch border and is separated from the Dutch territory by the Zwin, a beautiful and extremely interesting natural reserve.
Knokke is famous for its beaches, and for the dike system to which it owes its origins. Knokke came into existence because of the construction of dikes that were meant to protect the area around the 'Zwin' sea-arm. Originally a simple vacation haven for the city folk of Brussels in the early 1800s, artists such as James Ensor, Alfred Verwee and others, started to frequent the small hamlet to paint its beautiful vistas. The artists rented a small miller's cottage and founded the Cercle des Artistes in 1880. It gradually became a resort town with upscale clientele, restaurants and shops.
Knokke also has one of the ten casinos in Belgium with art by Keith Haring, Rene Magritte and Paul Delvaux. The Kroonluchterzaal (Chandelier room) contains a 6 ton chandelier made of Venetian crystal. The chandelier has a diameter of 8.5 meters and is 6.5 meters high. Some 22,000 pieces of glass were used and 2,700 lamps used to light up the main hall. It was created by Architect J. Selis and designer Al. David.
The Zwin is Knokke-Heist’s biggest natural attraction. Long-established, the vast sandy plane which is flooded every day by the sea is both timeless and impressive. Learn more about the unique habitat in a relaxed way, on your own or with an experienced guide. In summer, blooms color the entire reserve a shade of purple, while winter calls for a pair of good boots and a firm stride as a bracing wind blows in from the sea. The Butterfly Garden combines amusement with learning for everyone in the family. Take a wander through the garden as hundreds of exotic colourful butterflies fly by, or stand still and wait for a butterfly to settle on your arm - it is an unforgettable experience.
Heist Bay is a unique beach reserve located along the front of the Belgian coastline. The area comprises embryonic dunes which are characterized by some extremely rare vegetation for the Belgian coastline. On the other hand, the area consists of a tidal creek, with typical salt marsh vegetation, such as the sea aster, common sea-lavender, and annual sea-bite. This silty land abounds with food and so it attracts all types of wading birds and members of the duck family. From an observation hut there is a wonderful view of the marsh area. The lower shell beach serves as a breeding ground for ground-nesting beach birds such as the Kentish plover and the common ringed plover. The reserve can be visited from the beginning of August to the beginning of April. Visitors must follow the marked trails. During the brooding season - beginning in April until the beginning of August, the lower beach is closed in order to protect the nests of these ground-nesting beach birds. Natuurpunt of Knokke-Heist organizes guided nature walks for the general public and for groups in this area.
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