Leuven (or Louvain) is the capital of the Flemish region of Belgium. I read about this town right before I booked the Belgium trip and had to make it a stop. Being only about 25 km from Brussels, it was easy to do a day trip.
Leuven is a college town so it is well populated with a younger crowd. There are plenty of restaurants and bars. The Stella Artois brewery is also in Leuven but only gives tours on weekends so unfortunately we were out of luck going on a Tuesday.
There are a few UNESCO sites here as well, including Groot Begijnhof (The Grand Béguinage), a well-preserved and completely restored historical section of Leuven that used to house widows, religious women, and other women who did not want to marry or be part of the social community. Now, it’s primarily used for student and professor housing.
The Leuven Town Hall looks like a drip castle! The very Gothic architecture is a landmark in the Grote Markt (Grand Market, the main town square).
Across from the Town Hall is St. Peter’s Church, another building of amazing Gothic architecture.
Grote Markt is the main town square where most of the action takes place. There is another smaller square next to the college, which is geared mostly toward the college students, called Oude Markt (Old Market). Oude Markt has many restaurants and bars where many of the college students can be seen on warmer days.
There are 2 large shopping streets in Leuven. Anything you want, you can probably get on these two streets. There was even a clothing store called American Style; normally I wouldn’t go in, but what drew me in was the beer pong set for sale (in the clothing store). Red solo cups and beer pong balls; then I noticed that all the models in the posters on the walls had red solo cups in their hands. I realized then that this is America’s reputation.
Interesting Facts About Leuven:
- Leuven is home to the Groot Begijnhof, a World Heritage Site.
- The Gothic style architecture is world-renowned.
- The conductor on the 20 minute train ride never checked our tickets to or from Leuven.
- Our outfits really did change underneath the coats every day. We didn’t wear the same outfit everywhere!
- There is a lot of farmland outside of the major cities in Belgium.
Leuven is a city of architecture and history, but can be done in a day trip. It is beautiful and I do recommend visiting for the amazing buildings, but stay in Brussels and take a 20 minute train to Leuven for the day. You won’t regret it!