Exploring Cogels Osylei in Zurenborg

Antwerp may be the the city of diamonds and the second biggest harbor of Europe, but for me the real standout point is Cogels Osylei in Zurenborg.

Long story short; Cogels Osylei is a street.
But bear with me because long story long; Cogels Osylei is a street in Zurenborg that has the most gorgeously eclectic collection of townhouses running along it. Most of which have massive Art Nouveau, neoclassical and fin-de-siècle style influences, and as a result these houses are some of the most stunning I have ever seen.

The houses along Cogels Osylei were developed between 1894 and 1906 and Zurenborg as a location was unique in Antwerp, because it was one of just a few areas which was developed in the 19th century in line with a plan. Which is more than we had when we came to visit!

You see, you know how sometimes you go on Facebook and before you know it you’re on your sister’s fiance’s brother’s friend’s auntie’s neighbour’s daughter’s dog’s profile? Well… That’s kind of what happened with S. Except it wasn’t Facebook, it was Google. And it wasn’t anybody’s profile, but an abundance of websites.

I have no idea how S stumbled across it but when we left Antwerp Railway Station and he said “get in weirdo, I know where we’re going next.” I knew we were onto something. I didn’t know what, but I knew it would be good – because S doesn’t usually get *that* excited so early in the morning.

We started our walk by parking the car and walking up to Maurice Coffee Bar where S grabbed nothing and I grabbed a hot chocolate. Because it was cold and I like calories.

With a delicious tasting handwarmer in tow, we set of walking around Zurenborg, and when we made it along Cogels Osylei it was pretty hard to walk because I kept tripping over my jaw. Metaphorically of course.

Cogels Osylei is stunning.

Honestly – if fashion bloggers think they’re spoilt in London then they’d have a heart attack here.

The house’s styles are interspersed both in terms of architectural design and the person who designed them, and as a result you quite literally gawk as you walk along the street. Which is weird. Because it’s a street and these are people’s homes.


Zurenborg was being developed as Art Nouveau hit peak popularity and the impact the movement had on the stylistic development of the area shows. But even though Art Nouveau was a heavy influence, other architectural styles such as Gothic Revival, Neoclassical and a hint of British Tudorbethan architecture, are still represented.

I haven’t seen inside the houses so I can’t comment on the interior design but my word, would I love to stay in one. My brain concocts images of sweeping staircases and an air of cool I’ll never be able to recreate. I mean imagine staying in this one – the circular balcony just makes my eyes happy.

The houses are like art, with each property being uniquely its own. Yet together they still work. Like an art gallery or a series of portraits: they’re complimentary towards one another but the diversity of the individuals makes the whole more interesting.

Joseph Bascourt, Jules Hofman, and Frans Smet-Verhas were the wizards who made it happen. I mean some people call them architects, but when you can create something as beautiful as this street it’s hard not to call it magic.

Cogels Osylei almost met a premature demise when the properties were deemed too energy consuming to use. The houses were considered too big and in the 1960s a major plan was made to transform the area and turn it from a residential area, into a business district. But in the end (thankfully) the area was not demolished and instead it grew popular with creatives and became a well-functioning urban neighbourhood with a variety of personalities living there.

And now, people like you and I can walk along it.
With a hot chocolate in hand and our jaws on the floor.
Just wondering what it would be like to live in a place that inspires such joy from one sense.

So if you ask me – the fashion bloggers can keep their London doorsteps because for me – Cogels Osylei is where it is at.

– – – – – – – – – –

What do you think?
Jaw to the floor or are they just houses and I need to calm the eff down?