A few minutes from Antwerp you can find Doel, the ghost town located in Flanders, in the north of Belgium.

Street art in Doel. Photos by Irene Paolinelli
Street art in Doel. Photos by Irene Paolinelli

It once counted over a thousand inhabitants, but now a mere twenty inhabit the ghost town. The town was threatened with demolition for several years, due to the expansion of Antwerp’s port.

Church in Doel. Photo by Irene Paolinelli
Church in Doel. Photo by Irene Paolinelli

How did Doel, a small Belgian village, become abandoned?

While surrounding towns were quickly swallowed by the port of Antwerp, Doel managed to survive. Since 1965, there have been plans to extend the Port of Antwerp into Doel and demolish the village, however, protests have caused a stalemate. Antwerp, as the second largest port in Europe, and one that can accommodate the largest container ships in the world, has a constant need for expansion.

Doel. Photos by Irene Paolinelli
Grafiti. Photos by Irene Paolinelli

Even if that expansion comes at the price of the surrounding villages and the families who have lived there for many generations. This has seen many people having to sell their homes to the development corporation of that enlargement, however, some people resisted the plans.

Belgium’s ghost town taken over by street art

The streets are quiet. Graffiti adorns its walls, and slogans remind visitors of the town’s struggles. The town is a post-apocalyptic artistic paradise thanks to the murals covering every building. All this street art gives Doel something mysterious and magical. The church is one of the few buildings that the government maintains in the village. Doel attracts different artists, urbex photographers, as well as film students.

Street art in Doel. Photo by Irene Paolinelli
Street art. Photo by Irene Paolinelli

Through the broken windows and open doors, Doel is usually a peaceful place where one can enjoy nature around you. There is complete silence except for the wind, gently breezing through the branches of the leafless trees. The sunny weather is continuously in contrast with visitors’ feelings, which are turning more sombre with every step taken, with every house visited, with every slogan read. Today, only about 25 inhabitants live there of the original 1.300.

Doel town. Photo by Irene Paolinelli
Ghost town. Photo by Irene Paolinelli

Give yourself a few hours to visit Doel. It is an open-air street art museum!

Author: Irene Paolinelli

Olà, I am Irene. I am Italian, I was born and raised on the Tuscan hills between Lucca and the Sea. Due to study purposes I lived in Valladolid, Spain and in Lisbon, Portugal. A recent mind-opening journey to Brazil enlightened me about social and environmental sustainability that our society needs. Since I was a child, I have been driven by discovering New Cultures and Mastering a variety of Foreign Languages. I am passionate about Sustainable Tourism, Marketing, and Social Impact Projects. "Who lives must be prepared for changes" (Goethe, Italian Journey). 
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