Leuven (Belgium) is the main city of the Flemish Brabant province. It is located on the banks of the river Dil, its western edge is directed towards the capital of Brussels.
In the Middle Ages, Leuven was a famous shopping center, and now this dynamic and prosperous city is one of the university centers of Belgium, which attracts not only Belgians, but also foreign students. To better understand the importance of Leuven in the field of education, it is enough to compare the following figures: the population of the city is about 95,000 people, while there are almost 55,000 students, and 10% are foreign. This unique city, on the one hand, is a fun youth world, and on the other – the world of a calm and very nice province.
The city of Leuven is an ideal starting point for exploring almost the whole of Belgium: only 30 km to Brussels, the train can be reached in 1.5 hours by the Flemish coast, and other interesting cities are not so far (Liege, Ghent, Hasselt, Antwerp, Bruges , Mechelen).
This provincial town with green squares and ancient buildings has many interesting architectural and historical sights.
On the street Naamsestraat No. 1 is the tourist office of Leuven, which is open every day, except holidays, from 10:00 to 17:00. From April 1 to October 31, office staff organize 2-hour walking excursions to familiarize tourists with the city and its main attractions – on Wednesdays beginning at 19:00, on Sundays at 10:30. Every Saturday and Sunday, at 15:00, an orientation tour with the historic center of Leuven is held. The guide conducts tours in 2 languages: the main one is German, the second one is at your discretion.
So what sights in Leuven (Belgium) most often attract tourists?
The Town Hall, built in the years 1448-1469, is considered Leuven’s calling card. It has three tiers, two of which are decorated with sculptures of people who played an important role in the history of the city. Tourists can visit all tiers, as well as the interior, which contains paintings by famous artists.
The excursion tour is organized according to the following schedule :
- April – September – on weekdays at 11:00 and 15:00, and on holidays and weekends only at 15:00;
- October – March – every day at 15:00.
The group is assembled in the tourist office, which is located on the right side of the building. The tour costs 4 € per person.
Big Beginage – this attraction is a solid historical complex in the southern part of Leuven, consisting of fantastically interwoven streets with hundreds of old houses. In the 13th century, runners lived in these houses – the so-called women who lived under conditions close to monastic life. All these buildings are in perfect condition, in some of them people live. Beginage is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can take a pleasant walk along the big Beginage: walk along authentic stone bridges, admire the vegetation and the ancient canal.
In the western part of the city, very close to the center, is the oldest Botanical Garden in Belgium (founded in 1738). In 1819, it was expanded to include land on which there was once a Capuchin monastery. Now almost 800 species of plants grow in the garden. The garden is especially beautiful in spring, when everything is blooming, and it was at this time and on this territory of the city of Leuven (Belgium) that the most picturesque pictures were obtained.
The garden is located at Kapucijnenvoer 30, and the entrance is free.
Another city attraction is the Old Market Square ensemble, which began to form about 900 years ago, and the custom to organize fairs at this place was born at the same time.
Almost every house on this square has a restaurant or bar that sells local beer. In the daytime, this old market looks very decent and elegant, and at night it turns into a solid bar counter surrounded by pretty old facades.
The university library and the bell tower that adjoins it are accessible for inspection not only from the street. You can enter the building, walk between the shelves with old learned books, and then go up to the bells and admire the bird’s-eye view of Leuven.
You can visit this city attraction on any day except Monday. It works on such a schedule:
- Tuesday and Thursday – from 13:00 to 17:00;
- Wednesday – from 10:00 to 17:00;
- Friday, Saturday and Sunday – from 10:00 to 17:00.
When visiting attractions in Leuven, you should not lose sight of St. Peter’s Basilica, located on Town Hall Square. In 1998, a museum was made from the altar and gallery of the oldest church in the city, the main exhibits of which were numerous statues and other works of art. The greatest value in this museum – a wooden head – is the only thing that survived from the crucifix of the 12th century, which burned down during the First World War.
You don’t need a ticket to inspect the interior, but you have to pay the entrance to the treasury, where the triptych of Dirk Bouts (the Dutch Renaissance master) is located. The cathedral is open to the public until 17:00.
The Fonske Monument is one of the many, and perhaps the most famous avant-garde sculpture of Leuven. There are several theories as to what this fountain monument, discovered in 1975, means. According to the official version, it serves as a symbol of conscientious students, and people say that this is a monument to great lovers of alcohol libations. Both versions are not without meaning, because in Leuven there is not only a university, but also a Stella Artois brewery.
There is another extravagant attraction on the Old Market Square of Leuven – a monument to Kotmadam, erected in 1985. The monument is a long bench, on the right side of it sits a young slender girl, whose whole figure expresses relaxation and carelessness, and the gaze is directed into the distance.
Many tourists sit on the bench with Kotmadam, take a photo, and some even try to kiss her.
This original sculpture is set on the Leuven shopping street – Diestsestraat. This is a monument to the baker, who carries 4 breads on a large square tray.
Many locals smile at the sight of this statue, but the children especially like it – they even try to take bread from the baker, but they fail.
Garden Erasmoon – this part in the center of Leuven is not very popular among tourists. Nevertheless, this small green oasis can be visited at least for the sake of sculptures, among which the “Falling Horse” can be considered the most interesting.
The horse and rider is a fairly common theme in the history of sculpture, and the horse is usually portrayed as a typical heroic creature. The author of this work gives the subject a new direction: he presents the horse as a tragic, even broken creature.
The Cow shooter statue depicts a man who killed a cow with a shot from the canon. The shooter looks very proud. There is an interesting story about the hero to whom this sculpture is dedicated. In 1691, this territory was under French control, which the local population did not like very much. One night, the locals shot, they believed, at their enemies, but in the morning it turned out that the cows had been killed.
Prices for holidays in Leuven
Although there are a lot of students in Leuven, this city is quite expensive.
Lunch for one person in an inexpensive restaurant will cost $ 8-9, and in a middle-class restaurant – $ 28-30. The cheapest restaurants in Leuven are located on Oude Markt, and it is here that many students come to dine. Among the budgetary institutions of the city can be identified:
- Traiteur Kapucijn at the Botanical Garden – they offer fresh baguettes with different fillings for 2-5 €.
- Tiensestraat 123 has a mid-range Etna Trattoria restaurant serving Sicilian cuisine.
- Vegetarians can recommend the Taj Mahal, a good mid-range Asian restaurant, at Muntstraat 10B.
To rent a room in a decent hotel, you will have to pay about $ 100 per day. The cost of renting a 1-room apartment not in the city center is up to $ 500 per month. But if you rent only a separate room, it will be cheaper: not in the center about $ 250, in the center – $ 350.
A public transport ticket costs about $ 30, and a ticket for one trip costs up to $ 2. A taxi in the city will cost at least $ 20.
How to get to Leuven from Brussels
The city of Leuven in Belgium is located just 30 km from the state capital, Brussels. The capital has the airport closest to Leuven, which receives international flights. There are several options for getting from the capital of Belgium to Leuven.
An Intercity train (operated by Belgian Railways) departs every hour from Bruxelles-Nord Station. You need to get out at Leuven Station, located east of the center. In time, the road takes 18 minutes, the fare will cost 5 € – 8 €.
From Schaarbeek Dailly in Brussels, buses number 358 (carrier De Lijn) leave every 30 minutes. Arrival point – Leuven Sint-Pieterskliniek stop, travel time is 48 minutes. The fare is 1 € – 3 €.
A trip from Brussels to Leuven will cost 60 € – 75 €. If you order a transfer, the driver can call at the hotel or meet at the airport with a sign. Taxis can also be taken in the parking lot (airport, Martelarenplein and Fochplein squares). You can recognize licensed taxis by yellow-blue or red-white symbols.
You can go to Leuven (Belgium) from Brussels on the E40 highway (direction to Liège). The trip will take 2 liters of gasoline worth 3 € – 5 €. It must be remembered that in Leuven and its environs there are speed limits: 50 km / h.
All Leuven sights and infrastructure mentioned on the page are marked on the map in Russian.
Video: Leuven city, Belgium.