The ghost town of Belgium


The ghost town of Belgium

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Once a thriving village with gourmet restaurants, lively cafes, a beautiful church with hundreds of stories to tell, Doel served as a gateway to nearby Antwerp. Surrounded by seawalls, the city was essentially its own island at one point, with the government purposely flooding the encompassing countryside. Home to Belgium’s oldest and only windmill on a seawall, Doel has become a proverbial ghost town, a haven for street art and those fascinated with abandoned spaces.

History of Doel

Located on the northern edge of Belgium along the Scheldt River, Doel was a bustling village. Fishing and trading made this port city valuable. However, during the mid-20th century, two large nuclear power plants were constructed just across the river. Residents were urged to leave the area, and at one point, were offered a government buyout of their properties. Many residents accepted the offer; however, there were still quite a few who stayed. As the years trudged on, the Port of Antwerp has acquired the land in order to expand its facilities and create more shipping lanes by effectively drowning the village. The small number of holdouts who remain keep fighting to stay.


Ghost Town

With the majority of residents leaving the town, once vibrant businesses have shuttered, and buildings left to the elements. Centuries of history have not only been taken over by nature, but also by artists. As residents began to flock elsewhere, the idea to turn Doel into an art mecca developed. Many renowned artists came and left their marks. The emptied shells of buildings become blank canvases for impressive street art and graffiti. Row upon row of houses creates a living narrative and a slight post-apocalyptic feel of this embattled ghost town. Political statements and support for the town can be seen in the colorful artwork.

Know before you go

While the art scene has picked up in Doel, unfortunately so has vandalism. Broken windows, looting and crumbling buildings have led the scant residents to advertise which houses are still inhabited. The streets leading into town have been blocked off, so no vehicle traffic is allowed in the village center. Because of structural instability, going inside most buildings is off-limits.

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