Doel • Belgium | The Abandoned City

IMG_0079You might already be aware, but I have a massive love affair with street art (Ghent and Bosnia would be just a couple of examples). On our travels I always keep an eye out to see if I can find great street art to photograph.

Cut to a couple of weekends ago. We had plans to head to the Christmas Beer Festival in Essen, but had a few hours to kill before we wanted to arrive. It had been awhile since our last adventure, so Jared did a quick search to see what was nearby and happened to find an entry on Atlas Obscura about the doomed city of Doel. It promised to provide a bit of adventure for Jared and a lot of great street art for me. This city definitely delivered.


Doel is a modern-day city which evokes the emptiness of a city abandoned – like the mining and railroad towns which shuttered up seemingly overnight leaving the bones of the city behind. Doel has existed for almost 750 years – having first been mentioned in 1267 as The Doolen. The town is located near the Antwerp ports, and thus as the city looked to expand the ports Doel became a target and victim of that expansion. During the 1970s-1990s, Doel citizens and fellow protesters were able to successfully stave off demolition. However, in 1999 the city was officially scheduled for demolition.

In 2007, a campaign was started called “Doel 2020” to turn the town into an artists’ haven – numerous street artists from not only Belgium (like ROA) but all over Europe have added their touch to this town. However, in 2008 100 riot police were sent in to help carryout the eviction orders. Once a town of 1,000, most of the residents have now left Doel – there are about 20-30 residents remaining in the town and about 200 homes which remain intact. Its been more than a few years that residents received their orders to vacate their homes in Doel – the destruction of this town is imminent. I’m glad we were able to document what we saw there – who knows how much longer it will be around to see.

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3 thoughts on “Doel • Belgium | The Abandoned City

    1. I think they were hoping that the art would help save the city, but doesn’t look to be the case. We will see though. I think most of the street artists understand that there art is temporary, but a shame none the less.

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