Last fall I decided to plan one more citytrip before the winter came. I chose Leuven. Why you say? Isn’t it more fun to go to Brugges or Gent? It might be. But did you know that Leuven was the third best citytrip in Belgium? Time to discover this unknown city.
Leuven is originally an old university town. And that is really something you will notice. You see young people everywhere around you. And I liked that. Young people makes the city come alive. It reminded me of English university cities like Oxford and Cambridge. Old libraries, million of bikes and cozy narrow streets. This is also something you can find in Leuven. This city breathes a lively and relaxed atmosphere. Leuven is also the city of beer. It is home to beer brewery AB InBev, a market leader in brewing beers. Well-known brands like Stella Artois, Hoegaarden en Leffe are brewed here. Anything is possible with beer in Leuven: a beer tasting, beer biking, food prepared with beer… Why didn’t I think of this city when I was a student. Oh well, that has past. But what offers Leuven besides beer and students?
The Grand Square, full of medieval atmosphere
Leuven offers plenty of characteristic squares surrounded with old guild houses. Take for instance the central Grand Square. One of the most beautiful squares in Leuven. Why? Just look at the gothic town hall. It is thé pride of Leuven. It is one of the most beautiful gothic structures in the world. The facade consists of 236 statues, all of prominent historical figures. Scholars, artists and other intellectuals. But don’t forget the other side of this square. Here you can see the Church of St. Peter. The structure itself isn’t that special, but one detail really catched my eye. When the clock strikes a new hour, a golden man comes out of the tower and strikes on a bell. A funny little detail.
The Grand Square is also the place to enjoy some typical Belgium snacks. Eat a waffle with some cream or drink a local beer at one of the restaurants. And if it’s saturday you can also enjoy some local markets, like the flower and food market on the near Brusselsestraat.
Old Market, the barstreet in Leuven
One of the most lively squares in Leuven is the Old Square. This is a rectangular-shaped square surrounded by 40 restaurants and cafes. You can come here for a simple snack or an extensive lunch. This square is also known as ‘the longest bar in the world’. Don’t think this is the Belgian equivalent of Lloret de Mar or Corfu. But this is definitely the place to enjoy a beer or two.
The Grand Béguinage, the city within the city
Leuven is a city with a long history. If you want to discover more of this, you can go to the Grand Béguinage. This is a historical neighbourhood where once lived 360 christian women, closed off from the world. They had their own way of living and also their own shops and church. That’s why the Grand Béguinage is also called ‘the city within the city’. The walls cover a cute little area with small houses and charming doors. A real treat to wander around on a sunny afternoon. Today the houses inside the Béguinage are still in use. And how ironic: this time the students live here!
Leuven is an easy daytrip from Brussels. It’s only a 20 minute train ride away. From the Netherlands it’s a bit more difficult. You’ll have to change trains at least three times, so pay attention. On the plus side, a trip to Leuven is fairly cheap. A one-way train ticket will cost you 25 euros.
Would you consider planning a trip to Leuven?