A unique village by the river Scheldt
There is no place where nature and culture are so intertwined than Doel. The first notion of this place dates from 1267, when Doel was still called 'De Doolen' (etym. 'border water'). It was an island until the 18th century amid flooded land. During hundreds of years Doel, situated on the border, was a political and religious curiosity. In some period of history it used to be unclear who Doel really belonged to: the independent State of The Netherlands or the region controlled by the Spanish.
The chessboard pattern of Doel is unique for our country. It dates from the 80-Years' War (1568-1648) and consists of 3 streets parallel to the riverfront, 4 streets perpendicular to those, and all of that criss-crossed with alleys and corridors. This pattern has not grown through the ages, but it was designed and built in a few years' time. Ever since 1614, when this geometric lay-out was mapped, nothing has been changed to it. This fact makes the village a rare example of urbanization in more than one respect.
Even so Doel has more to offer than its street pattern. Close to the village centre, on the outside of its dike, there is a tidal harbour containing an original 19th century drainage sluice. Nowadays the harbour serves as a yacht-basin.
The village boasts many historical buildings such as the oldest (!) stone windmill of the country (1600) and the Baroque "Hooghuys" (1613) that belonged to Pieter Paul Rubens' family.
Some interesting old architecture of middle class and farming class can be found in the village and also many houses dating from the 18th and 19th century. One of those is the 18th century town hall in Camerman Street and the Baroque parsonage dating from the same period in Hooghuis Street.
Visitors exploring outside the village may discover wonderful, often 17th or 18th century farms and barns. Still many of these valuable buildings are endangered in short term.
Doel doesn't have high-rise blocks and the present day church building has been dominating the village skyline since 1852. It was built in Neo-classical style and was reopened in 1998 after 14 years of restoration works, costing more than 1 million euro. On the adjacent graveyard there are some very remarkable tombs and a calvary erected from old gravestones
The Scheldt Consecration Festivities, early August, are an annual highlight in Doel. During that weekend many visitors come to show their solidarity with the village and also to enjoy the cosy atmosphere, the terraces, the boat show and many other activities that are organized every year.
From historical and architectural point of view, the village contains an extremely interesting patrimony. The natural beauty and ecology has more to offer than any average village in Flanders. Such a unique site, next to the Port of Antwerp, provides great opportunities. This is also recognized by some entrepreneurs of the Port.
Yet the Antwerp Port Authorities, supported by the Flemish Government, keep refusing to abandon the annihilation scenario of Doel.