The Eclectic Splendor of Antwerp's Cogels-Osylei

Cogels-Osylei | © Dave Van Laere / Visit Antwerp
Nana Van De Poel

For a residential street so luscious and historic, Antwerp’s Cogels-Osylei has managed to stay under the international radar surprisingly well. Perhaps it’s the hard-to-describe clashing of styles from Art Nouveau to Tudor, or it may be that its old school feel simply gets drowned out in the hectic hum of the modern city known as Belgium’s ‘capital of cool‘. However, the fact remains: the Cogels-Osylei leaves many visitors with their mouths wide open in amazement.
If there’s a Belgian street that calls for a saunter rather than a jog, it’s this architectural phenomenon on the southeast edge of Antwerp’s city core. With gem after gem of late 19th and early 20th-century mansions, strolling down the most ornate street in the already dandy Zurenborg neighborhood is not unlike walking through an open-air architectural museum.

© Dave Van Laere/Courtesy of Visit Antwerp

With nearly all of the villas having been created between 1894 and 1908, the day’s most prestigious architects conjured up blasts from the past for their well-off clients. The Belle Epoque encouraged its elite to aim for eclectic splendor: Art Nouveau, Neo-Gothic, neoclassical and Tudor are all in heavy supply. This panoply of eclecticism (and its surprisingly homogenous overall look) is only broken up by three modern homes that arrived before the street’s protected status as urban landscape did in the early 80s.

Completely lost amid the whole revival hodgepodge is number 86, a simple building now housing a pharmacy, and, more notoriously, the awkward double act that resides at numbers 29-31. The latter replaces a valuable two-part complex called the ‘Mercurius’ and act as a thorn in the eye of many of the streets’ most avid fans. After World War II, the owner received permission to tear down one of the buildings in favor of a small but inconspicuous design, provided that its left twin would receive a similar makeover. That promise went out the window when a white cube by Conix descended on the street, resulting in a clumsy picture that would fit in seamlessly between the pages of popular coffee table book Ugly Belgian Houses.

Numbers 29 and 31, two of only three houses on the Cogels-Osylei that don’t date back to the turn of the century
Number 29-31’s neighbors: a four-block neoclassical development providing quite the monumental contrast in the middle

Further adding character to the ornate avenue are each villa’s small and well-kept gardens, complete with wrought-iron fences and the occasional cherry tree. Of course, the classic lamp posts, a few slant parking spaces, an abundance of bikes and the poetic names given to most townhouses – think ‘the Sundial’, ‘the Morning Star’ and ‘the Cloverleaf’ – don’t hurt, either. Just when things seem picture perfect, a prolonged presence at the boulevard reveals a slightly less charming side; the bus and tram lines regularly charging down the cobblestone lane make quite the rumble. The loud, passing transit is a nuisance that the local residents are forced to live with, but hardly prevents an enthusiast of architecture – or a lover of eclectic beauty – from staring.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.