Updated August 28, 2023

Damme, between escape and artistic journey

By Shana Devleschoudere
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The little town of Damme is a hidden gem on the Belgian coast, with its walks, historic monuments and free contemporary art trail! Whether by car, bike or on foot, you won't be disappointed!

Damme, more than just a stopover

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Damme is a charming little historic town situated along the canals between the Belgian coast and Bruges. In the 12th century, the town played a key role in trade with Bruges as the outport of our little Venice of the North. Goods from the Zwim were loaded onto flat-bottomed boats to be transported to the heart of Bruges. Indeed, the difference in draught prevented large ships from continuing their journey inland. Over the centuries, the town of Damme has evolved into a picturesque little village waiting to be discovered.

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Ideally located between Knokke and Bruges (± 20 km between the two cities), it is pleasant to walk or cycle along the Damse Vaart* (the Damme canal), in the shade of these long avenues of trees, and stop off at Damme. During this walk, you'll be able to contemplate an idyllic countryside, worthy of the paintings that inspired so many Flemish artists. But this summer, Damme isn't just a stopover. I invite you to spend a few hours here to discover the town's many historic monuments and exceptional artistic heritage. Àmare which takes over the town and surrounding area from July1 to October 31.

* Reminder: The Damse Vaart was dug on Napoleon's orders, hence the alternative name "Canal Napoléon". After the failed English invasion of Walcheren in 1809, Napoleon decided to dig a canal between Bruges and the Westerschelde. The canal was intended to supply the garrisons guarding this access to the port of Antwerp. It would also block the route from Ostend to Antwerp, enabling the imperial flotilla to intervene if the English fleet attacked Flushing.

The Àmare art trail

Àmare is a unique, free cultural concept, the fruit of an innovative initiative by local entrepreneur Luc Beke, owner of the Global Estate group as well as De Blauwe Zaal andAnnelies Ysebaert, owner of the eponymous Gallery Ysebaert modern art gallery in Sint-Martens-Latem. The emblematic landscape of Bruges' Ommeland region, with its canal, the country's most majestic rows of trees, picturesque panorama and medieval monuments, makes it an ideal setting for this unique artistic project.

Damme invites you to discover more than 20 renowned Belgian and international artists (including Kris Martin, Wim Delvoye, Arne Quinze, Jan Fabre, Catherine Thiry, Koen Vanmechelen, Marius Ritiu, Willem Boel, Jan De Cock, etc.) on this extraordinary journey through the city.

The best place to start your artistic tour is in the small square in front of Damme town hall, where you will have to pay a parking fee. Alternatively, there's a large free parking lot on the Blauwe Zaal estate in Sint-Kruis (36 minutes' walk from the center of Damme).

To help you get around easily, a digital map and/or a physical map are available at the tourist information point on Damme's market square and in nearby shops and restaurants or at Blauwe Zaal.

For gourmets, Damme is offering a culinary experience on Sunday, September 3. culinary experience in collaboration with Mérula and Blauwe Zaal wines, among others. An opportunity to discover the works of art and the city in a different way, accompanied by a guide. Price: €80 per person.

Architectural gems not to be missed

 Damme is also home to a number of historic monuments:
  • The town has restored its 15th-century town hall, allowing you to explore all the main rooms. You'll be amazed by the superb exposed beams and the quality of the wood carvings on them, which you won't see anywhere else. You'll also have the chance to admire the great clock dating from 1459, still intact. Open until August 20, 2023, from 1:30pm to 4:30pm.
  • The 13th-century belfry of Notre Dame de l'Assomption church, just a 2-minute walk from the town hall. For €3, you can climb the 206 steps to the top of the tower and enjoy an exceptional panoramic view of the Polders and the ancient 7-pointed star-shaped rampart built in the 17th century. In the distance, you can also see the Bruges Belfry. Open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • TheSchellemolen, the old mill along the canals, is a symbol of the town as you pass through Damme. A typical Flemish mill, it's the most photographed mill in the world! Take time to look at the weathervane, a mermaid, in reference to a Damme fishermen's legend.
  • Another fun activity for those wishing to continue to Bruges: the Lamme Goedzak . This river boat connects Bruges with beautiful Damme. The slow, elegant boat is undoubtedly the ideal way to discover the Damse Vaart and enjoy the gliding polder landscape lined with majestic rows of poplars.

Admire the charming Flemish-style period houses and farms found throughout the town and surrounding area, and you'll come across nuggets dating back to the 15th century, testimony to the region's rich architectural heritage.

For your dining pleasure, I suggest a few good addresses:

  • L'Estaminet Soetkin L'Estaminet Soetkin: the terrace overlooks the canals and the Damme mill, and serves typical Belgian dishes and various types of croque and tapas.
  • Pop up Proeflab by Mout: there's currently a pop up bar/bistro where you can sit on tables in a small meadow overlooking the Damme belfry.
  • De Uilenspiegel De Uilenspiegel: bike-friendly, with charging stations for electric bikes.
  • Siphon (20 minutes by foot from the center of Damme): a family-run restaurant offering exceptional cuisine in a warm, rural setting.

Article written by Camille Misson, published on Eventail.be. Find other articles on art and culture, gotha, heritage, fashion, decoration, gastronomy and entrepreneurship at www.eventail.be.