Should you get the chance to visit the city of Leuven during your Belgium vacation, you will have the opportunity to gawk at the ornate fifteenth century Town Hall, which is one of the most immaculate medieval buildings that you will find anywhere on the planet. Leuven Belgium is just fifteen miles east of Brussels, and there are plenty of other great Belgian cities within easy reach, including Antwerp and Liege. About 90,000 people call Leuven Belgium home, and in recent years efforts have been made by the city to increase Leuven tourism. InBev, which is the world’s largest brewery, also calls Leuven home, as does the Catholic University of Leuven, which was founded in 1425. Check out this thriving and young-at-heart city when making the rounds in Belgium. You won’t be disappointed.
Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, Leuven Belgium was an important center of trade for the duchy of the Dukes of Brabant. The textile industry played a key role in its rise to prominence, and by the fifteenth century, the university was helping to usher in a new Golden Age. In the eighteenth century, the brewery industry in Leuven really started to flourish, with the roots of InBev sprouting. A visit to the Stella Artois brewery on the city’s north side is a nice diversion when in town. Unlike the immaculately preserved Belgian city of Brugge, Leuven suffered quite a lot of damage as the result of wars. Both of the World Wars in the twentieth century laid much of the city to waste. During WWI, German forces intentionally destroyed the university’s library, causing the loss of priceless medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. This led to outrage to the international community. Thankfully, some of Leuven’s historic city center has managed to survive past bombardments, and you can visit the new University Library today, which was rebuilt after the original one sustained subsequent damage in WWII.
When it comes to the Leuven attractions, the aforementioned Town Hall is definitely one of the best. You’ll find this Gothic masterpiece gracing the city’s main square, or Grote Markt. Built between 1448 and 1469, the Town Hall has seen some renovations, as old age and the two World Wars had taken a bit of a toll on it. In the 1800s, more Gothic touches were added, as were the statues that embellish the facade. There are 236 of these statues adorning the structure, and as beautiful as the outside is, you’ll definitely also want to check out the interior. More statues dating from the nineteenth century can be found inside, and they are the work of Belgian sculptor Constantin Meunier. The paintings of the different Mayors of Leuven are also worth noting, and they trace the lineage back to 1794. The Town Hall is open daily, and guided tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays. While you’re studying the Town Hall, you can do an about face and spot the fifteenth-century St. Peter’s Church, which is much less ornate, though worth a look as well. Part of this structure had to be renovated, but it’s still fantastic, boasting a rich interior decor.
There is a Leuven tourism office at the Grote Markt, and you can arrange tours of the city there to further learn all about it. Walking is a good way to take in the various Leuven attractions, but if you’re feet are tired, you can opt for a bus tour instead. Stop by the Fochplein next to the Town Hall to join one of these fun bus tours. Tours of the city are certainly recommended when it comes to Leuven travel, and visitors will also want to consider a short bus trip to the Leuven Beguinage. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as are other Flemish Beguinages, such as the one in Brugge. Once an all-female community and monastic center, the Leuven Beguinage was bought by the university, and some of the sixteenth and seventeenth century abodes were converted into student and staff housing. It is a joy to walk the cobblestone streets here, as these mostly-brick homes are quite attractive, many featuring small gardens.
While the Leuven attractions are splendid, there’s plenty more to see and do on Leuven vacations. Shopping and dining are two Leuven tourism pursuits that are appealing. The two main shopping avenues in the city stretch from the Grote Markt to the train station, and among the jewelry, clothing, and book stores are a few chocolate shops worth diving into. Should you be in town in early September, you can visit the Jaarmarkt, or Year Market, which is an event which turns nearly all of the city into one big market. In addition to chocolate in Belgium, mussels are something that you should try. August through March is the mussel season, and during these months you’ll find a bunch of Leuven restaurants serving them up fresh. There are scores of good Leuven restaurants to choose from, with the Old Market part of town offering good low-price options. During the academic year, which runs from the end of September to June, the Old Market bars and restaurants see a lot of student patrons.
Leuven travel is made easy by the fact that the city is well linked to other Belgian cities by train. Ghent is just an hour away by rail, for example, and you can be in Liege in the same amount of time. As for getting around during Leuven vacations, your own two feet are often the best way to go. Bikes can be rented and there are established cycling routes in the city, so that’s always an option. The ample variety of Leuven hotels helps to make Leuven vacations even more ideal, and since there are many appreciable Leuven attractions to take in, it’s worth spending at least a day or two here.