This small town (pop. 11,000), just 7km (4 1/2 miles) from Bruges, was once the city's outer harbor, where seagoing ships loaded and unloaded their cargoes, until the Zwin inlet silted up in 1520. The marriage of Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold and Margaret of York, daughter of England's duke of York, was celebrated here in 1468 -- which indicates the importance of Damme at the time. Today, visitors come to view the picturesque Markt (which holds a statue of 13th-century native Jacob van Maerlant, the "Father of Flemish Poetry"), and the canal-side scenery en route from Bruges. It's easy to make a day trip to Damme.
Getting There -- Getting to Damme is half the delight. One of the nicest ways is to sail there onboard the small sternwheeler Lamme Goedzaak. Departures are from the Noorweegse Kaai in the north of Bruges, five times daily from April to September. The half-hour trip along the poplar-lined canal takes you past a landscape straight out of an old Flemish painting. Round-trip tickets are 7€ ($11) for adults, 6€ ($9.60) for seniors, 5€ ($8) for children ages 3 to 11, and free for children 2 and under. For schedules and other details, contact Rederij Damme-Brugge (tel. 09/233-84-69; www.bootdammebrugge.be).
De Lijn bus no. 43 departs six times daily in July and August, and two or three times daily from September to June Monday to Saturday, from the rail station and the Markt in Bruges to Damme. Other options are to drive, bike, or even walk from Bruges to Damme, along the scenic canal-side road Daamse Vaart Zuid from Dampoort in Bruges.
Visitor Information -- Toerisme Damme, Jacob van Maerlantstraat 3, 8340 Damme (tel. 050/28-86-10; fax 050/37-00-21; www.toerismedamme.be), faces the Stadhuis (Town Hall) on the Markt.
Seeing the Sights
The Gothic (Stadhuis) Town Hall on the Markt dates from 1464 to 1468. On its facade are statues of Charles the Bold and Margaret of York, among other historical notables. In front of it stands a statue of the poet Jacob van Maerlant (1230-96), who wrote his most important works in Damme. Across from the Town Hall, at Jacob van Maerlantstraat 13, is a 15th-century mansion, the Saint-Jean d'Angély House, where in 1468 Charles the Bold married Margaret of York.
Along the street, at Jacob van Maerlantstraat 3, is the 15th-century mansion called De Groote Sterre. This was the Spanish governor's residence in the 17th century and is now occupied by the Damme Tourist Office, and the Uilenspiegelmuseum. Tijl Uilenspiegel is a 14th-century German folk-tale character (Till Ulenspiegel) who came to Damme by a roundabout route and has been adopted by the village. The museum is open mid-April to mid-October Monday to Friday from 9am to noon and 2 to 6pm, and weekends and holidays from 10am to noon and 2 to 6pm; and mid-October to mid-April Monday to Friday from 9am to noon and 2 to 5pm, and weekends and holidays from 2 to 5pm.
In Kerkstraat, which runs south from the Markt, are the Gothic St. John's Hospital (Sint-Janshospitaal) at no. 33, a hospital for the poor, endowed in 1249 by Countess Margaret of Constantinople; and the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), dating from around 1340.
Across the bridge over the Bruges-Sluis Canal, at Dammesteenweg 1, is the 18th-century whitewashed De Christoffelhoeve (St. Christopher's Farm). Note the ornamental gate and the monumental barn with its mansard roof. A little way to the west along the Daamse Vaart is the Schellemolen, a windmill built in 1867.
Beside the jetty where the Lamme Goedzaak ties up is a modern sculpture group featuring the legend of Tijl Uilenspiegel.
Where to Dine
The traditional Flemish restaurant Bij Lamme Goedzaak, Markt 13 (tel. 050/35-20-03; www.lammegoedzak.be), on Damme's main square, next to the Town Hall, serves excellent food from a limited menu. Main courses are from 20€ to 28€ ($32-$45), and fixed-price menus are from 20€ to 55€ ($32-$88).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.