Bellewaerde is a theme park in the West-Flemish countryside at Zonnebeke near Ypres (Belgium). It was established in 1954, on the grounds of the World War I Battle of Bellewaarde. Named after an old castle in its territory that still stands near the main entrance, Bellewaerde is the oldest operating theme park in Belgium. Originally a zoo and safari, the park expanded in the early eighties to become more of a general theme- and thrillpark, catering towards teens and families. The 54-hectare (130-acre) park is famous for its beautiful gardens, marvelous landscaping and its attention to theming. Bellewaerde draws about 850,000 - 900,000 visitors a year and is the main theme park in Flanders.
Major rides include the first Boomerang coaster in Europe (1984), a dark ride with a pirate theme (Los Piratas), a Vekoma Mad House (Houdini's Magical House), several water rides including a log flume, a river rapids ride and a spillwater ride, the Screaming Eagle vertical drop tower, a large number of stock rides such as a pirate ship, a swing carousel, a monorail, an original Zierer beetle coaster, old-timers, carousels, an octopus, tea-cups and a Jungle Cruise-like boat ride, and an entertainment schedule that changes every year. Bellewaerde's latest additions are the world's first Topple Tower from Huss, El Volador (2005), the breakdance-carousel El Toro (2006) and a 4D Cinema.
Originally opened and run by the Florizoone family, which also operated Meli-Park in Adinkerke, Bellewaerde was sold in the early 1990s to the Walibi group which in itself became part of the Six Flags Chain in 1998. Six Flags sold all of its European parks, including Bellewaerde, in 2004 to the British investment company Palamon. Bellewaerde is now part of the Grévin & Cie group, which is fully owned by Compagnie des Alpes.
Bellewaerde is a seasonal theme park that is open for about seven months a year, from April until October. October is traditionally the month in which Bellewaerde's yearly Halloween Event takes place. Since 2005 the park also opens in the winter for few weeks during the Christmas and New Year period, decorated for the holidays with extra Christmas attractions and special entertainment.