10 Ideal factors to do in Leuven, Belgium’s most underrated city

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If you are hunting to meander a small off the beaten tourist track, the smallest of the six popular Flanders medieval cities is to be identified in the type of Leuven, a city about twenty minutes on the train from Brussels. Dwelling to delights such as a UNESCO listed beguinage and a handful of churches, this university city is effectively worth exploring more than the course of one particular or two days. Here’s your guide to the greatest factors to do in Leuven.

Situated someplace east of Brussels, Leuven is greatest-identified as becoming a university town of about 100,000 residents and for obtaining lots of breweries (this is the household of Stella Artois!). Recognized in French as Louvain and in German as Löwen, this city is the capital of the Flemish province of Brabant. Other than beer, some of the greatest causes to check out consist of UNESCO heritage web-sites, an escape from the crowds of much more well-known cities, and an superb foodie scene.

Beautiful street in Leuven at sunset

The 1st mention of Leuven dates back to 891 as Loven. At that time, a Viking Army was defeated by the Frankish King Arnulf of Carinthia with each other with his army. Quickly sufficient, thanks to the city’s prominent position alongside the River Dyle.

In the course of the time of the Duchy of Brabant in the Middle Ages (this Grand Duchy was a state inside the Holy Roman Empire and comprised of contemporary day components of the Netherlands, as effectively as the North of what is now Belgium), Leuven was one particular of the most critical cities of the area thanks to its function in the cloth business.

Leuven Beguinage at sunset

Wander about the city currently and you can nonetheless spy the grand cloth hall in amongst a number of university buildings. So prosperous was the city of Leuven, that it was exactly where the 1st University, the Catholic University of Leuven, was founded in the 15th-century.

The city was largely destroyed in the course of the Initially Globe War, when even the University Library was purposely destroyed with incendiary rounds and petrol. As such, substantially of what you see currently was rebuilt in the course of the 1920s, even some of the components that appear especially old. The city was after once again badly broken in the course of the Second Globe War. The University Library was after once again set on fire and practically a million books have been burned.

detailed cobblestone and recycled architectural material in Leuven

#1 Stadhuis (Town Hall)

There is no doubt that the most wonderful creating in Leuven is its amazing Stadhuis. Initially constructed in the Brabantine Late Gothic style from1448 to 1469, the ornate façades are intricately carved in a lacework style. As opposed to substantially of the city, Leuven’s Stadhuis escaped the harm of WWI, even though a bomb strike heavily broken the front façade in the course of WWII.

Elsewhere in Grote Markt square, you will quickly spy the Fons Sapientiae (actually translated as ‘Source of Wisdom’), which much more than encapsulates the spirit of the city. Immediately after all, substantially of the population of Leuven is formed of students and so the cheeky statue of a student pours water more than its head.

Stadhuis (Town Hall) in Leuven

#2 Universiteitsbibliotheek (University Library)

Grand and imposing, the University Library is one particular of the most wonderful areas in Leuven. Regrettably, the original library was purposely destroyed in the course of WWII, such as its 300,000 books. The present creating you see currently was constructed by funding from Americans in a classic Flemish style in the 1920s.

Although the square in front is filled with cafés and eateries, what you might not know is that you can basically enter the library and climb its wonderful bell tower for a charge. Come across much more details about how to do this on the Go to Leuven web-site.

Universiteitsbibliotheek (University Library) front façade

#three Sint Pieterkskerk (St Peter’s Church)

UNESCO listed thanks to the incomplete towers that have created their way onto the belfries of France and Belgium, St Peter’s Church can be identified in the really heart of the city. Although there has been a church onsite considering the fact that the 10th-century, substantially of what you see currently finds its foundations in the 15th-century.

Sint Pieterkskerk (St Peter's Church) interior

#4 Schatkamer (Church Treasury)

A single of the greatest artworks anyplace in Belgium, let alone Leuven, is the 15th-century Final Supper masterpiece by Dirk Bouts. All through 2019, in the course of renovation operates on the church treasury, imply that several of the operates of art (such as Bouts’ painting) are rather on show inside the principal physique of St Peter’s Church.

masterpiece from the Schatkamer (Church Treasury)

#five Love a nearby beer

Birthplace of none other than Stella Artois, Leuven has lots of other beers to give. Immediately after all, the city is filled with and surrounded by an array of breweries, some planet-popular and other people just micro-breweries. Some of the greatest beers to appreciate in Leuven consist of Domus Beer (this restaurant and café is also a brewery) and several of the fruit beers that are derived from generate picked in the nearby Limburg area.

bar counter in Leuven

#six Longest bar in the planet

And when we’re on the topic of sampling beer, be confident to head to the ‘longest bar in the world’, i.e. the Oude Markt. This square can be identified close to the Grote Markt (you must be cautious not to confuse the two piazzas) and is allegedly the longest line of consecutive bars, inns, and pubs in the planet.

No matter whether or not this is the case is unclear. Immediately after all, ‘the longest bar in the world’ is also usually touted to be the nickname of the Altstadt in Düsseldorf, Germany. Nevertheless, irrespective of whether or not this actually is the longest bar, there’s no denying that the Oude Markt is a wonderful location to sit back, loosen up, and appreciate a nearby beer with buddies.

Longest bar in the world with plenty of bicycles

#7 Museum M

The greatest museum in Leuven is the ever-so-contemporary M Van Museum. Situated in the historic city centre and opened to the public in 2009, this cultural hub boasts effectively more than 46,000 masterpieces. Highlights of this effectively-reviewed museum consist of late Gothic paintings, as effectively as operates of art by significant names such as Jan Rombouts I and Jef Lambeaux.

Museum M exterior in Leuven

#eight Soak up the ambience of the historic city centre

Truth be told, one particular of the greatest factors to do in Leuven is to wander about the historic city centre and soak up the atmosphere. Snap photographs of the narrow lanes, appreciate coffees in lesser-identified cafés and browse in independent boutiques. For the greatest choice of brasseries and restaurants in the city, be confident to meander along Muntstraat.

Leuven historic city centre

#9 Groot Begijnhof (Grand Beguinage)

The UNESCO planet heritage listed complicated of the Grand Beguinage is effortlessly one particular of the most wonderful beguinages that Europe has to give. Now element of the University complicated, the beguinage dates all the way back to the 13th-century, effortlessly generating a meander about the Groot Begijnhof one particular of the greatest factors to do in Leuven.

Like several other beguinages all through Belgium and the Netherlands, such as these of Amsterdam, the beguinage was constructed so as to serve as housing for unmarried semi-religious ladies. Right now, the buildings belong to the university and the whole complicated covers a staggering three hectares, generating this one particular of the biggest beguinages in Europe.

Groot Begijnhof (Grand Beguinage)

#10 Find out Leuven’s Hidden Gems

Of course, there’s a side of the city away from the imposing cathedral and amazing Stadhuis. From a 16th-century Belgian château to a mini beguinage that is not on the UNESCO list, there’s no shortage of quirky and historically-inspired factors to do in Leuven.

A beautiful castle on the fringes of Leuven, Belgium

#11 Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis

You might effectively not know this, but the oldest botanical garden in Belgium is to be identified on the fringes of old town Leuven. Covering a huge space and no cost to check out, there are even greenhouses you can wander about, which means that these botanical gardens are even great to check out in the course of a rainy day in Leuven. Highlights of the Kruidtuin consist of a wisteria wall, lots of flower borders, and an impressive succulent collection.

Hortus Botanicus of Leuven

Like substantially of this area of Belgium, the climate at Leuven can modify a number of occasions in the course of just one particular day, hence which means that you must bring an umbrella. I’d also advise packing layers and a capsule wardrobe so that you can strategy for any climate eventuality (in the spring temperatures can fluctuate especially wildly).

Flemish is the official language of the city (Flemish and Dutch are not basically two distinct languages. As an alternative Flemish is a variation of Dutch), even though English, German, and French are extensively spoken. Nevertheless, it is only polite to discover a couple of words of the nearby language and so take into consideration bringing along a very simple phrase book like this one particular.

For much more details about the city and its surrounds (such as the likelihood to choose up a no cost map with all of the top rated tourist Leuven attractions), a check out to the Go to Leuven tourist workplace is an absolute ought to. Situated just off the Grote Markt square (address Naamsestraat three, 3000 Leuven), you will come across a small courtyard in the vicinity exactly where you can sit and strategy out your route.

Ultimately, the town is fairly compact. This is specifically correct of the historic city centre exactly where every thing is inside walking distance. As a outcome, you will not want to drive your vehicle about the centre of Leuven and you can effortlessly see all the main Leuven attractions by exploring the city on your personal two feet. If you want to venture into the outskirts, these are also walkable, even though you could also rent a bike.

historic town gate in Leuven

Belgium is a pretty little nation and practically nothing is much more than a couple of hours away. Leuven’s central place signifies that it is effortless to attain from Liège, Ghent, Bruges, Brussels, and Mechelen. The city is also only about half an hour from Brussels airport through public transportation.

This vibrant and lively university city is characterised by its student nightlife and collection of wonderful buildings. You can effortlessly discover Leuven more than the course of one particular or two days and the city’s close proximity to the Belgian capital (just twenty minutes by train) signifies that the secret Belgian town can even be visited as a day trip from Brussels.

Leuven main square close to the University Library

For the greatest coffee: If you are hunting for hands down the greatest coffee in town, you just have to have to head to Mont Café. Situated close to the Grote Markt and nearby to all of the city’s principal attractions, the caramel latté was just excellent, with the milk frothed to perfection!

For the greatest dinner: Situated on the fringes of the old town, and even open on a Sunday (like several smaller sized cities in Europe, you will come across that several establishments are closed on Sundays, which is traditionally a rest day), The Beach serves amazing vegetarian fare at affordable rates. And with an ever-altering menu, you will generally have a wide assortment of tasty dishes from which to opt for from.

Vegan burger at the Beach café in Leuven

There are lots of accommodation possibilities when it comes to staying in Leuven. We personally stayed in the Pentahotel and identified it completely charming. Believe a hip, trendy, and cool reception region with candlelit tables and quirky decor. The bed was massive and we especially loved the quirky toiletries in the bathroom! Verify rates and availability right here.

Pentahotel, Leuven, Belgium downstairs dining space

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A Quick Guide to the Best Things to do in Leuven, Belgium. Looking for Leuven attractions, what to do, food recommendation, and where to stay? Here's your complete guide to Belgium's hidden gem!

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