The beach town of De Panne might look disappointing when you step off the train. But a short walk brings you to a hidden quarter of 19th-century summer houses built in the dunes to the south of De Panne.
Located on quiet lanes, the houses were built by the Brussels architects Albert Dumont, architect of Saint Gilles town hall. Dumont adopted a distinctive rustic style vaguely inspired by English cottages.
The houses have been virtually untouched for more than a century. They are perfect examples of a romantic Belgian style that combined local yellow brick, turrets and bay windows. The architect Georges Hobé built his own beach house on Hoge Duinenlaan on top of the highest dune.
The original owners also acquired a narrow strip of De Panne beach where they could put up a beach hut and walk down to the sea. Most of the plots have been bought by the local commune, but a few narrow strips of sand are still privately owned.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.