When a tourist visits Belgium, Bruges is most generally included in the itinerary. Few people know there is another gem that lies super close to this tourist hub. Iím talking about Damme, a charming small city at no more than 6km from Bruges which has been the center stage for many events throughout Belgiumís history. Iíve recently returned to Damme for a second time and realized I really had to tell you about this place. It is not large, but itís a charming and lovely destination for a day trip.
As a surprise for my father, we took him to a fancy restaurant in Maldegem. (Meat lovers, read on. Otherwise skip this paragraph.) The grill and restaurant Elckerlijc is a reference for high quality meat. If youíve always dreamt of eating Ďwagyuí, this is your chance. At 110 euros, itís a real bargain. Sorry if Iím being ironic. Totally not a meat eater myself, I wonder whoís willing to cough up that amount of money for a steak. Anyways - The meat lovers amongst us were really excited about their food (and my grilled scampi were delicious too, to be honest), so Iíd say itís a nice place for special occasions. (They have cheaper menus too.) After dinner, we drove on to Damme to take a stroll.
Slowly making our way through the historic center, we soon reached the Church of our Lady, part of which dates back to the early 13th Century. The church itself is quite particular in that it combines religious items with modern art installations.
For a small fee of 2 euros you can also access the 43m high tower, from where you have a marvelous view over the historical center of Damme. From up there, it is possible to spot the remnants of the old star-shaped fortification, traced by lines of tall poplar trees.
Youíll also be able to see the Schellemolen that towers over the canal. From April 1 to September 20, it is possible to visit the windmill from the inside, but we were too late for that. Nevertheless, Iím still a big fan of this stone construction. The sunset was amazing with its intense pink colors, and this little guy made the photos look even better by just being there.
The area between the windmill and the church contains the city hall and Dammeís historical center. Itís small, but it has a fairly large selection of bars and restaurants. There are also several secondhand bookshops to dig into.
If you have more time, you can go for a walk in nature and wander along the defensive moat surrounding Damme. Pack a picnic if you'd like to have lunch somewhere by the canal and meadows.
Coming from Bruges, there are two fun ways to travel to Damme. One option is to rent a bike to cycle along the Zwin river and check out the windmills. Another option is to take the riverboat tour that runs between Bruges and Damme which will basically offer the same scenery, but as seen from water level.