Fort Napoleon is the most important military monument in Flanders from the Napoleonic era. The building is pentagonal in shape and completely surrounded by a dry moat and a supporting wall.
Hidden in the dunes to the north of Ostend stands an impressive pentagonal fort that Napoleon Bonaparte had built in 1811 to defend against attacks from the west. Napoleon's 'Fort Impérial' was built as a ten-meter high central tower with two bombproof floors and a roof platform from which the English enemy could be spotted from the sea. However, it never served as a defensive stronghold.
During the World Wars the fort served as an artillery quarter and as a luxury beer tent for the German occupiers. In the interwar period, the eastern city council set up the looted old fortress as a local museum with remarkable local curiosities. From 1946 the building was once again vacant until it was given a new use as a children's playground in 1949, but from 1956 a long period of decay began. After almost half a century of vacancy, Fort Napoleon in Ostend was intensively restored and redeveloped just before the turn of the century. Since April 2000, Fort Napoleon reopened its doors to the general public.
Fort Napoleon has been recognized as an Open Heritage Site, thanks in part to its inspiring range of experiences. In cooperation with Tourism Ostend, various activities are organized in the fort. Think for example of a DJ set on the roof, an exhibition and concerts. The cross-fertilization between the architectural heritage and various artistic disciplines gives the Fort Napoleon an extra dimension that visitors particularly appreciate.
During the redevelopment of the fort, a light and transparent, floating box-in-box construction was installed between the central tower and the outer wall. This space houses a pop-up bistro and is also suitable for small seminars or meetings.
The extensive range of visitor formulas and events is based on a supported vision of public action, with Herita guarding the curatorship at all times. In her capacity as curator of Fort Napoleon, Herita explicitly chooses to keep the roof platform accessible to the public at all times. Moreover, this roof platform is an added value for the location of the fort in its surroundings. From the roof you have a fantastic view of the bustling city on the one hand and the beautiful nature on the other hand.
The fort undoubtedly forms an attractive junction between the coastline and the hinterland.
At the end of the 1990s several restorations to the fortress took place. Conservation and security works were carried out, the brickwork was tackled and the fort was redesigned as a cultural-educational attraction. As a result of changing insights and technical obstacles, almost two decades after the restoration Herita planned some management and comfort works. Thanks to the restoration and optimization of the heating system, there is now better climate control in the fortress and salt problems are kept under control.
In the coming years, Herita is planning several works within the framework of the multi-year premium agreement with the Flemish government. For instance, in 2020, Herita will carry out research into soft capping on the ring wall. Maintenance works on the roof are also planned in function of structural inspections.