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Flag of Knokke-Heist
Coat of arms of Knokke-Heist
Coat of arms
Knokke-Heist is located in Belgium
Location in Belgium
Country Belgium
Community Flemish Community
Region Flemish Region
Province West Flanders
Arrondissement Bruges
 • Mayor Count Leopold Lippens
 • Governing party/ies Gemeentebelangen
 • Total 56.44 km2 (21.79 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2013)[1]
 • Total 34,004
 • Density 600/km2 (1,600/sq mi)
Postal codes 8300, 8301
Area codes 050

Knokke-Heist (Dutch pronunciation: ) is a municipality located in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The municipality comprises the towns of Heist-aan-Zee, Knokke, Duinbergen, Ramskapelle and Westkapelle. On January 1, 2006 Knokke-Heist had a total population of 34,063. The total area is 56.44 km² which gives a population density of 603 inhabitants per km². Knokke-Heist is located along the North Sea in a polder area on the Belgian border with the Netherlands. It is one of Belgium’s better known and more affluent seaside resorts.


  • History 1
    • Middle Ages 1.1
    • 15th to 17th century 1.2
    • 18th century until today 1.3
  • Sights 2
  • Events, sports and culture 3
  • Inhabitants 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7


Middle Ages

Chapel of the fishermen in Heist

Originally, the marshy Zwin area was mostly settled by shepherds and fishermen. With the encouragement of the Counts of Flanders, several dikes were built between the 11th and the 13th century and the land successfully dewatered, giving rise to agriculture and further sheep breeding. New parishes were founded and the early settlement of Sint-Anna-ter-Muiden, later made part of Westkapelle, obtained city rights in 1242.

The strategic importance of the Zwin harbour came to light in 1301, during the war between Count Guy of Dampierre and the French King Philip the Fair. During the Hundred Years' War that followed shortly after, several battles were fought between France and England for supremacy of the area including the Battle of Sluys in June 1340. The local population tried to remain neutral as it was politically tied to Flanders, then allied to France, but economically dependent on wool from England. Under Philip the Bold’s leadership, it took advantage of the relative peace of the end of the century to fortify the canal linking the Zwin to the port of Bruges.

15th to 17th century

The beginning of the 15th century witnessed several renewed English attacks on neighboring Sluis, with devastating effects on the local economy, until a lasting peace was signed in 1439. The end of the century was marked by internal rebellions against Maximilian of Austria and strategic flooding of the polders. The reign of Charles V in the following century saw peace coming back to the region. This was also the time when the Zwin started silting and when apple orchards were planted to supplement the local economy.

The Wars of Religion of the late 16th century brought renewed floods and devastation, but the economy managed to come back to life after the Peace of Westphalia with the cultivation of rapeseed and potatoes. The strength of this agricultural rebirth and of the cattle trade allowed the local farmers to weather future economic crises relatively well.

18th century until today

Following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the territory of Knokke was annexed to the Netherlands, but the old border was reestablished at the Zwin a few years later. After the Battle of Fleurus (1794), Bruges, Knokke and the neighboring municipalities were included in the department of the Lys. The construction of the Leopold Canal in 1857 made the closing of the Zwin and its transformation in a natural reservation possible. The development of Knokke and Heist as tourist destinations followed soon after. The population of Knokke doubled between 1873 and 1914 to 3,326 inhabitants, then again from 1914 to 1930 and again to reach more than 14,000 in 1965 despite the heavy setbacks brought by World War II.


Beachpromenade in Knokke-Heist
  • The area known as Het Zoute (Le Zoute in French) includes the exclusive Royal Zoute Golf Club, located in the dunes.
  • Knokke is home to the Zwin, a 158 ha coastal nature reserve. This large salt-water marsh area is also a protected bird sanctuary.
  • The Sincfala museum, located in Heist, documents the regional history and way of life.
  • A butterfly garden (Vlindertuin) was established near Moeder Siska, the coffeehouse that makes clover-shaped waffles which dates from 1892.
  • Schaarpoort, a concert hall

Events, sports and culture

  • Knokke-Heist is home to more than 40 art galleries.
  • The Kneistival, a free and week-long music festival, has taken place every July since 1986.
  • Festival international du cinéma expérimental de Knokke-le-Zoute (Experimental Film festival)[2]


See also


  1. ^ Population per municipality on 1 January 2013 (XLS; 607.5 KB)
  2. ^ Festival international du cinéma expérimental de Knokke-le-Zoute

External links

  • Official website - Information available in Dutch, French, English and German
  • Sincfala museum - Information on local history and on the Zwin area, available in Dutch only
  • KH Magazine - Official website of the community magazine KH, including a complete activity calendar Dutch, French
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