Damme is not really the typical destination for foreign tourists but it does attract a lot of Belgian tourists every weekend and during school holidays. This is not without reason, Damme is one of the cutest and smallest historical cities in Belgium, located close to the Netherlands and the Belgian coast.
In Damme, you can explore both the cultural heritage of the city which is only a few streets large, or you can follow one of the many hiking routes starting in and around the city.
You might notice that I call Damme a city, even though it’s pretty small (compare it to Durbuy). The reason for this is because, in the past, Damme used to be a flourishing harbour and that is the time when they received the title of ‘city’, which they still hold.
Nowadays, you can barely call Damme a village, but its history can be seen everywhere you look!
How to reach Damme
The easiest and fastest way to reach Damme is by car because, let’s be honest, Damme is quite a remote location (in Belgian terms at least). There are two free parking lots located just outside the ‘city’ which are Parking Damme Oost and Parking Damme Zuid.
However, during the touristic season, these parking lots fill fast. Therefore, another preferred way to reach Damme is by bike. You can easily bike the ‘Damse Vaart’ from Brugge to Damme and enjoy the beauty of nature since the area around Damme is a protected breeding place for all kinds of birds.
Another fun way to reach the city is by taking the boat, called ‘Lamme Goedzak‘, from Bruges to Damme. This boat leaves 4 times a day from Brugge to Damme (and the other way around) from April 3rd until November 15th and takes about 35 minutes. Plus, there is a bar on board so you can enjoy a drink with a view on your way!
If you’d rather like to use public transport, you can also take a bus from the train station of Brugge to Damme, which takes about 20 minutes.
What you should see on your day trip to Damme
The ‘city’ of Damme is only a few streets large, yet, you can easily spend an afternoon here, especially if you also decide to discover the natural area around Damme by bike or on foot. So take your time, don’t be rushed and make this a day trip to never forget!
Climb the church tower
For me, the church tower was the absolute highlight of Damme. Part of the church is a ruin by now, but another part is still used as a church and the tower is still accessible to visitors. I encourage you to take a look inside the church, as it’s a small museum with explanations about several religious objects, and afterward climb the tower.
However, I don’t recommend going up if you have a severe fear of heights. I found it quite an adventure getting to the top of the tower, first you need to go up a stone spiral staircase that halfway turns into wood holding a simple rope, and after that, you’ll climb up a wooden ladder to push open a hatch to get on top!
But if that doesn’t scare you, you’ll get an amazing view over the city, not to be compared with any other city view!
The old man below will give you binoculars and a map so you know what you’ll see in the landscape around you. Entrance to the tower will cost you €2.5 and is certainly worth the small fee!
Admire the City Hall
The city hall of Damme is probably the most beautiful building you’ll encounter. Although you can only enter when there is an event or exposition, you can still admire the decorations on the outside and the statue of Jacob van Maerlant, a Flemish poet who was born in Damme.
Moreover, if you need some cash to pay for any books you find in one of the lovely bookstores, you can find an ATM in the most right door in the city hall.
If you have been walking for a while this is also the perfect spot to stop and have a drink while admiring the beauty of this lovely place.
Visit Tijl Uilenspiegel Museum
Tijl Uilenspiegel is a folklore character that pranked everyone he met. Stories about him have been told since the 1500s and have been written down by Charles De Coster in 1867. Tijl Uilenspiegel was especially popular in Damme, and now there is a whole museum dedicated to his character.
If you’re visiting Damme with kids this is the perfect activity for you, but be aware that making a reservation beforehand is mandatory! You can find more information here.
Buy something at the candy house
Alongside the canal, there is this tiny house that has a clear sign with ‘snoep’ (‘candy’) on it. Normally, you can buy delicacies here on your way. However, at the time of my visit, it was unfortunately closed. I hope you’ll have more luck!
Stroll around book shops and the book market
In Damme, you’ll find many small and picturesque bookshops, plus, the village is known for its book market every second Sunday of the month from 10h to 17h.
A great activity, therefore, is to stroll around the different book shops, where you’ll find many second-hand books for only a small price. If you’re lucky to visit on the right day, you might also get to visit the book market.
Walk around the old city walls
When you walk into Damme from Parking Damme Oost, you’ll see several walks indicated left and right that will take you around the city where the old city walls used to stand. Right now, you can enjoy a view alongside the city and encounter several types of animals on your way as the village is surrounded by fields and nature.
It doesn’t take you too long to walk these paths, and it’s nice to get away from the crowds as Damme can get quite busy during weekends and school holidays.
Take a look at the Tijl Uilenspiegel sculpture
I’ve introduced the figure of Tijl Uilenspiegel earlier in this post (see ‘Tijl Uilenspiegel Museum’). Because this figure is so important for Damme and its history, small bronze sculptures have been placed alongside the canal depicting a scene of Tijl Uilenspiegel fooling animals.
The sculptures are a true work of art by Jef Claerhout and are definitely worth stopping by to take a look!
Admire the old windmill ‘Schellemolen’
When you cross the canal and walk for several meters to your left, you’ll encounter an ancient windmill firmly standing like it used to stand hundreds of years ago. Its picturesque look makes it one of the most photographed mills in the world!
It is possible to visit the mill on the inside but only on weekends or through special requests (see Tourism Damme).
Enjoy a boat tour Damme-Brugge
As I previously mentioned, a great way to make your way to Damme from Brugge is by boat. The ‘Lamme Goedzak‘, the name referring to a figure from the Tijl Uilenspiegel folklore, takes you four times a day from Bruges to Damme and back.
On board, you can enjoy some drinks and look out over the beautiful fields that you’ll pass along the way to Damme. This is, without doubt, one of the best ways to start and end your day trip to Damme!
Spot the storks and their nests
You’ll see them all over the city, nests placed on huge poles as breeding places for the storks that are so typical for Damme.
Wherever you walk, watch out for them. If you come in spring or summer, you might get to see the storks and their babies! The best way to locate all the nests and see them is by climbing the church tower.
You can come quite close to some of these nests, one is located behind the church, but be careful not to disturb the storks too much so they will want to come back to breed next year as well!
Be inspired by Natuurpunt Damme
Damme is located in between natural areas that are preserved as breeding spaces for birds. Responsible for the preservation in Flanders is Natuurpunt, which organizes several activities in and around Damme as well!
Some activities include summer walks, biking excursions, spotting bats, and much more! These activities are entirely run by volunteers. Check out the website of Natuurpunt for walking routes and upcoming activities!
Ready to go?
Whether you’re exploring Damme by bike, by car, or are taking a day trip from Bruges to Damme, there’s plenty to see and do in Damme and the region guaranteeing you a great time, also with kids!
If you want to explore more of the region, take a look at neighboring villages such as Oostkerke and Moerkerke. There’s plenty to see there as well! Of course, don’t forget to visit Bruges in the meantime!