In the very near future, Doel, Belgium will only exist in pictures and memories. The tiny village is scheduled to be completely destroyed to make room for an expanding harbor, and even protest and the incredible street art in the abandoned town cannot stop the inevitable destruction.
For 700 years, Doel stood near Antwerp along the Scheldt River in Belgium, and includes a home that once belonged to the family of painter Peter Paul Reubens. As Antwerp expanded in the 20th century, its port needed more space, and Doel quickly became a target for demolition. Trying to force residents out, the government scheduled demolitions multiple times, but were beaten by popular protests from the 1970s through the 1990s.
But despite the will of the people, Doel could not be saved and in 1999, the town was officially scheduled for complete demolition. In 2007, a campaign group called Doel 2020 set into motion a plan to ensure Doel’s survival by turning it into a haven for street artists. Since that time, residents have trickled out as artists have made their way in. The increasingly abandoned town became the perfect playground for street artists from across Europe to debut their works around Doel.
Today, there are only about 25 inhabitants left of the original 1,300, all of whom are bravely flaunting mandates that they vacate their homes immediately. Meanwhile the town has been transformed into a post-apocalyptic artistic paradise thanks to the murals covering each and every building. Despite these people’s stubborn refusal to leave, the government plans to continue with demolition, at which point all traces of Doel, from residents’ homes to the the living street art, will be lost forever.
You can see some lovely drone shots of Doel in this video.
Know Before You Go
Going inside of the buildings is prohibited, though it can be managed. There are police patrols from time to time, so watch out for those. The fall was a perfect time to go because of the contrast between the grey weather, abandoned buildings and the colorful plants creeping in through the windows and such.
It is not possible to drive into Doel itself unless you are a resident. A sign at the vehicle barrier on the N451 road reminds potential visitors that Doel is still an inhabited village and asks that the residents be respected.