Located besides the banks of the Dijle, east Brussels, Leuven is most famous for its university. The Catholic university was founded in 1425 and is highly rated as one of Europe’s prominence places of learning. During term time and holidays, the city has an upbeat, creative air. With its illustrious university buildings and fine Gothic buildings in the city center, the city is a wonderful town to get to grips with Belgium's architectural heritage.
TOP 8 PLACES TO SEE
City Hall is the town's most distinguishing landmark. Three rows of sculpture adorn the main facade and both side facades showcasing 236 figures, added in the 19th century, that represent eminent personalities throughout the town's history. Highlights is the richly decorated roof with small turrets, the niche bases with biblical reliefs, the decadent style inside, the Great Gothic Council Chamber with its carved beamed ceiling dating from the 15th century and the Small Gothic Hall with a Gothic vaulted wooden ceiling.
Located in the center of Leuven, not far west of Naamsestreet you will find the bustling old square of the city. During 1924 the historic brick gabled houses nearly all burned down, but they have since been rebuilt and accommodate many cafes and restaurants. A bronze sculpture here commemorates the "Kottmadams" of Leuven, the landladies of the student rooms. On the south side of the square is the Holy Trinity College with a glorious Baroque facade dating to 1657.
The museum is home to the cities municipal art and crafts collection. There are three departments to explore. a) The Painting Department:Pictures from the Leuven School including Quentin Massys: Mourning over Christ, and Pieter Coecke van Aelst's Holy Family along with other paintings from different periods up to the present is on exhibit.b) The Sculpture Department:The excellent 12th century Madonna known as the Sedes Sapientiae, and an outstanding alabaster relief dating from the 16th century, along with a section of a Passion relief from Antwerp is on exhibit.c) The Craftwork Department:On exhibit is a glass painting from the 16th to the 20th centuries, ceramics, faïences from Delft, porcelain from China and Japan, engravings, coins, gold work, and textiles.
The preserved Benedictine Abbey – Vierbeek Abbey built in 1125 is the towns most notable attractions. During 15 72 the abbey was destroyed by the troops of William of Orange, but was rebuilt several decades later. The church was rebuilt between 1776 and 1794 while the adjoining building were rebuilt between 1642 and 1730. A 16th century chateau, Kasteel van Arenberg was built right on the waterfront of the Dilje surrounded by beautifully gardens. The two tower chateau was built in traditional late Gothic style with Renaissance features.
5.CHATEAU DE MERODE
The red brick square chateau with its four corner towers and many windows was built between 1631 and 1632. Highlights is the impressive and highly tasteful furnishings, including Gobelin tapestries, Louis XV pieces, pictures, as well as a collection of weapons, which the French mathematician Monge brought back from Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. The surrounding countryside here is picture-perfect with old-fashioned bucolic landscapes.
Known as the town most enchanting area where hundreds of béguines once lived a simple, nun-like existence. Founded in the 13th century, traversed by a tributary of the Dijle today it comprises of more than 1,000 houses and a church. While 300 beguines were still living in the beguinage in the 18th century, the houses were renovated with stepped gables, mullions, and transoms, but the French Revolution brought a temporary halt to life here, and only a few béguines returned afterwards. It was bought by the university in 1962 and underwent extensive restoration creating students residence and lecture halls. The second cottage on the right past the entrance is still furnished as it was when the last béguine died in 1988.
Many of the university building are found in Naamsestraat or nearby, in particular, the college buildings funded by various patrons from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Look out for King's College founded by Philip II of Spain in 1579, the Premonstratensian College founded in 1571, and Arras College founded in 1508 by the future Bishop of Arras. Built by Willem Hesius during 1650 and 1666, the St. Michael's Church is worth a look at for its splendid Baroque facade, known as one of the finest of its kind in Belgium.
8.ST. PETER’S CHURCH
As one of the best examples of Brabant Gothic architecture in Belgium, the church is located in the middle of the Grote Markt. Highlights is the main nave's features in a straight line of sheaf pillars and high-pointed arch windows, the late Gothic brass font in the chapel, to the left of west gate, and the splendidly carved Baroque pulpit of 1742. Previously the choir and ambulatory, the Museum of Religious Art showcase the outstanding Last Supper by Dirk Bouts, painted in 1464 – 1468. Unlike many representations, the betrayal of Judas is not on the foreground, instead it is a symbolic Eucharist, as also portrayed in the side panels.
OTHER PLACES TO SEE
Leuven is easy to access by bike, public transport, or car. Nevertheless, it is strongly recommended to discover or to cross the city by bike or public transport.
The best month for good weather in Leuven is September. On average, the warmest months are June, July and August. January is the coldest month of the year. The rainiest months are May, June, July, August and December.