According to loverists, Leuven is a city in Flanders, Belgium. Leuven is best known as the beer capital of Belgium. The city owes this to the presence of the Artois brewery. Leuven is above all a lively student city, where the Catholic University of Leuven is located as one of the most important universities in the entire Benelux. Thanks to the atmospheric city center, more and more Dutch tourists are also discovering Leuven as a destination for a city trip. Rightly so. Because despite the fact that Leuven is considerably smaller than cities such as Antwerp and Brussels, this Belgian city has enough to entertain visitors for a day or longer. Leuven has many nice shops, cozy restaurants and a number of beautiful sights that are definitely worth a visit.
The nice thing about Leuven is that this place is not as crowded as the most famous Belgian city trip destinations. This gives you the feeling that you are walking in the city itself, instead of in some kind of open-air museum where you mainly see other tourists walking around.
Leuven ‘s Top 10 Things to Do
#1. town hall
The town hall is without a doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. You will find this huge town hall on the Grote Markt. Leuven ‘s town hall is one of the most famous Gothic buildings in the world. No fewer than 236 statues adorn the facade and niches of the towers. They were installed between 1849 and 1880. They give the originally medieval building its characteristic appearance. Inside, different styles are represented. There are different Louis styles, but also Gothic styles are present. During a tour you will pass many beautiful paintings from the 17th to the 19th century.
The bustling city of Leuven has a spacious historic city center. Such a history naturally includes large squares, where markets were once held or executions took place. The most generously sized square is Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein. Here you will find the large library of the University of Leuven. Markets are regularly organized here and it is the place for the annual fair. You will also find the Christmas market here every year. Another particularly large square is Martelarenplein. This is regularly the stage for large and small events. You will find this square at the end of the busy shopping street ‘Bondgenotenlaan’. Two other famous squares in the city are the Grote Markt and the Oude Markt. You really can’t miss the Grote Markt. It is located at the busy tourist crossroads of the city. This pedestrianized square has regular cultural events. The Oude Markt is also known as the ‘longest bar in the world’. Much of the nightlife starts here.
#3. Leuven University Library
The student city of Leuven does not only have large universities. It also has some very impressive and excellent university libraries. A beautiful monumental university library can be found on Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein. This Neo-Renaissance building was built between 1921-1928 and was designed by Whitney Warren. The 87 meter high tower is inspired by the famous Giralda of Seville.
#4. Large and Small Beguinage
Leuven still has two beguinages. A beguinage is an enclosed court that was established for women who devoted their lives completely to God. Within such a beguinage, these ladies could fully practice their rituals and customs and plunge into the faith. Unlike monasteries, these ladies were allowed to own personal property and generate income to support themselves. A church is often central to a beguinage. Two of these courts can still be found in Leuven. These are the Groot Begijnhof of approximately 3 hectares and the Klein Begijnhof, which consists of a main street with two alleys.
#5. Artois Brewery
Beer has actually been of great importance to the city of Leuven for centuries. Around the 15th century it was even wiser to drink brewed beer than to consume the polluted water that could be found in Leuven. Thanks to the excise duties already levied at the time, the city was able to flourish enormously. In the year 1717 the beer brewery of Leuven was taken over by Sébastian Artois and thus the lager Stella Artois was born. Today the brewery is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, but the Stella Artois logo still adorns the facade. Various tours can be booked.
#6. St. Peter’s Church
The Roman Catholic Saint Peter’s Church was built in the 15th century. In the following years, several additions and renovations took place. There have been multiple collapses and fires that have destroyed parts of the church. Nevertheless, the church still has plenty of beautiful pieces to admire. The construction of the towers has caused quite a few problems. The ground was not suitable as a proper foundation. That is the main reason that St. Peter’s Church still has unfinished towers.
For a special combination between old and new art, you would do well to pay a visit to the M-Museum in Leuven. The Belgian architect Stéphane Beel is responsible for the special design of an old museum with a new sleek look. This can also be described as ‘the new simplicity’. All kinds of art such as photography, sculpture, design, painting and architecture from different times come together in this museum.
#8. The Fonske
In the center of town stands a remarkable statue of a student with water on his head and a book in his hand. This is ‘Fonske’ and you will find him behind the Sint-Pieterskerk on the Fochplein. Its official name ‘Fons Sampientiae’ means ‘Source of Wisdom’. It was therefore donated to the city of Leuven on the 550th anniversary of and by the University of Leuven. As is often the case in large cities, this image is regularly decorated by students.
#9. St. Donatus Park
For the necessary greenery, go to the Sint-Donatus Park in Leuven. This beautiful city park is located in the center between Naamsestraat, Vlamingenstraat and Charles Deberiotstraat. Several remains of the original city wall can still be found in this park. The park is laid out in the English style and was founded in 1866. It is a wonderful place to rest in the busy student city. On pleasant spring days and sunny summer days you will see the students eagerly making use of this nice place.
#10. Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis
One of the largest botanical gardens in Belgium is located in the city of Leuven. This is popularly called ‘de Kruidtuin’. This beautiful scientific garden has a special collection of medicinal plants, which used to be closely associated with medicine. Exhibitions are regularly organized in the orangery. Garden enthusiasts will enjoy a stroll through this 2.2-hectare park.