Photo Essay: The Mini Castles of Antwerp

Mini Castles of Antwerp
This is part of a collection of 4 buildings found at the roundabout at Cogels Osylei, Gen Van Merlenstraat, and Gen Capiaumonstraat.

South-east of the city of Antwerp, near the Berchem train station, is an area of townhomes with architecture that’s out of this world. Various architectural styles live side by side including Art Nouveau, Neo-Classicism, Art Deco, Moorish, and Baroque. These homes are large and imposing and have been nicknamed the ‘mini castles of Antwerp’. It’s hard to imagine then that these homes were slated for demolition in the 1960s.

Between 1894 and 1908, Edouard Osy and John Cogels turned this former farmland into a residential street for the affluent and prestigious families. It was the “new rich” area of Antwerp. Unlike the historic centre, different architectural styles were encouraged, homes included front yards, gables, and wrought-iron detailing, and the main street was built fairly wide with the homes set back from the road.

But after WWII, the homes became much more difficult to sustain. They were too big and required too much energy to run. By the 1960s, the lack of maintenance was starting to show and the city started making plans to transform the area into a commercial and business area. This idea didn’t exactly go over very well with some people, so a group of predominantly artists bought them cheaply and saved the neighbourhood from destruction.

Mini Castles of Antwerp
Named Carolus Magnus, it contains 4 houses.

Since 1984, these mini castles have been protected by the Flemish government. There are 88 homes in total and all but 3 of them have been preserved almost entirely to their original state.

The majority of the homes can been found along Cogels-Osy lei (the main street named after the men who founded the area) and have various names like The Sunflower, The Rose, and The Tulip.

The area is a real gem in Antwerp and a definite must-see, especially if you’re into architecture. The streets around Cogels-Osy lei are also worth a visit, including the ‘Golden Triangle of Art Nouveau’ made up of Cogels-Osy lei, Transvaalstraat, and Waterloostraat. The details on the homes are incredible, including the tile work and woodcarvings.

Below are a collection of photos from the area starting off with some of the mini castles of Antwerp.

Cogels-Osylei
The white house in the foreground is named The Sunflower and the one immediately to its left is The Tulip.
Things To Do in Antwerp
A combination of two houses, named Luba and Lelieke.
Cogels-Osylei, Antwerp
The house on the left is named The Rose.

Cogels-Osylei

A photo posted by Arienne (@seeusoontravel) on

 Cogels Osylei

Mini Castles of Antwerp.
The symmetrical, Gothic-style entrances of the Scaldis houses.
architecture in Antwerp, Belgium
A large, 4-story house decorated with the statue of Saint Joseph for which the house is named after.
The Quinten Matsys, with gorgeous wrought-iron detailing.
The Quinten Matsys, with gorgeous wrought-iron detailing.

And now for some of the finer details from homes off the main Cogels-Osylei street.

Architecture in Antwerp

The exterior mosiac tile work on this house recounts the Battle of Waterloo.
The exterior mosaic tile work on this house recounts the Battle of Waterloo.
"The Four Seasons". At the intersection of Gen Van Merlenstraat and Waterloostraat you'll find tile work on each of the four corners representing Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
“The Four Seasons”. At the intersection of Gen Van Merlenstraat and Waterloostraat you’ll find tile work on each of the four corner buildings representing Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
Mini Castles of Antwerp
At that same intersection, the buildings all have these triangular-shaped window jut-outs.

Berchem, Belgium European Architecture

Cogels Osylei, Antwerp
Ornate carvings support the balcony.

Tile Artwork European Architecture

How To Get There:

    • By Bike: grab a Velo and bike the 2km distance (easiest method)
    • By Train: One stop south from Antwerp Centraal Station to Berchem Station, then walk north to Cogels Osylei.

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  • Luc Wyn

    hello Arienne. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful introduction of one of the most beautiful areas of my home town. It is very well founded and very enlightening. It makes being thousands of miles away a little more bearable to read such a story about my birthplace.

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      Hi Luc! Thank you for the awesome comment! I’m so happy I was able to bring you some joy about Antwerp :) It was my favourite area in the city.

  • Roman

    Loved the pictures and the information on the homes…

    • http://www.seeyousoon.ca Arienne

      Thank you so much Roman!

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