Doel is an abandoned village in Belgium, close to the port of Antwerp. The tiny village was scheduled to be completely destroyed to make room for the expanding harbor. While surrounding towns were demolished, Doel managed to survive. Inhabitants put up an admirable fight, and the government was never able to execute any of the plans.

During my first visit in 2004 Doel was not the ghost town it became a few years later. Not even half the village was abandoned. The government had plans with this small village, in 2020 Doel has to be demolished for a new industrial port. Until that day, the people of Doel will stay and fight against the demolition of the town. The construction of a large dock and container terminal capable of receiving deep-sea ships is already underway on a site immediately next to the village. The government want to build a second one, on the village grounds. These plans were made during a period the economy was rising.


The history of Doel goes back to the early 13th century. After many floods, the village started growing. The Belgian village of Doel was reclaimed from the river Schelde at the beginning of the 17th century. During the year 1876 Doel has its most inhabitants, it housed 2511 people. Only 418 people are left in 2004, but in 2005 approximately 200 squatters moved in. Some punk squatters looking for fun, but also secretaries and shop assistants in search of free accommodation, having been priced out of the housing market of the city.

Four years later, in 2008, the village has really turned into a ghost town. The atmosphere in the village is strange: some asylum seekers wander aimlessly around the seemingly deserted streets. Thieves regularly strip vacated houses of anything of any value. Weekend disaster tourists descend on the village. I talked to the last people living there, the old police officer from Doel takes us to the most beautiful building of the village, het Hooghuis, it used to be the second home of the painter Rubens.

Half demolished, half trashed

In 2010 the school, restaurants and hotels are all closed. The tiny post office and police station are rarely open. Only one shop is left – an electrical appliance store – and the two cafés remain. But a mixed band of residents, both locals and newcomers, are beginning a fight-back. In 2014, not much time after the last few people left the village, the government changed the development plan back to living area. The village is left half demolished, half trashed.

The photos of the abandoned ghost town Doel were taken in 2004, 2008 and 2012. You can freely visit the town if you don’t enter the private houses.

Built in 1607
Abandoned in 2000
Partly demolished in 2004
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