LEUVEN, BELGIUM: Leuven is vibrant Flemish city in Belgium. It’s also a diverse university town with world’s oldest Catholic university that is still active. This is a great place to spend a day looking at old architectures, eat in fine restaurants, and enjoy modern street arts and sculptures. Leuven was heavily damaged during both WWI and WWII, but somehow leaving its historic city center and university areas almost intact. The city stood up again and became one of the gems of the Flanders in engineering and technology. For parking, Ladeuzeplein Parking is the closet indoor garage to explore the city center or eat-in any surrounding restaurants.
TIME of TRAVELING: We’ve been to Leuven couple of times, but never with my camera. It was my birthday on 1st week of February and my husband and my daughters treated me in one of the restaurants close to Muntstraat. Leuven is only 15 minutes’ drive from our village, (Vossem) Tervuren. It was freezing cold that evening, very usual for this time of the year in Belgium.
EATING and SHOPPING: As I mentioned, we dined in a Thai restaurant called Thai Food House. This round-shaped building with glass windows on Tiensestraat can’t be missed. Most of the restaurants in Muntstraat (which is the main hub for restaurants) are stylish and perfect place to celebrate any occasions.
Although I haven’t seen any shopping stores near Grote Markt, but Bondgenotenlaan and Deistsestraat close by have many brand name places, local boutique shops, as well as not-too pricey stores. Will update this page as we go there more in the future.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent only two evenings in Leuven so far, mainly for dining and little bit of walking around. We couldn’t visit the Castle Arenberg of K.U.Leuven, which once was a mansion of a rich local and was later donated to the university.
1) GROTE MARKT: This is a small but lively square in the center of the city. Other than few restaurants, it houses Leuven’s Town Hall and historic St. Peter’s Church. Nearby smalls streets and alleys are nice to explore as well. Typical Flemish-style buildings line up in one side of the square, which were once the guild houses for the business traders.
2) TOWN HALL (STADHUIS): This 15th century late Brabant Gothic style building is the first house in Grote Markt. This overly sculptured town hall is decorated with 6 spires crowning the corners and sides, pedestals with biblical scenes, and statues of people who played roles in the city’ history. We couldn’t go inside the building but I am sure visitors can access some part of it in weekdays.
3) ST. PETER’S CHURCH (SINT PIETERSKIRK): Also situated in Grote Markt right opposite of town hall, the belfry of St. Peter’s Church is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The current Brabant-Gothic church replaced an earlier Romanesque church. Inside didn’t look much Gothic to me, but very nicely decorated. There is a little golden man who rings the bell at the top of the church every half an hour…quite nice to look at it.
4) MUNTSTRAAT: Also known as “Leuvense Culinaire Hoofdstraat” or Leuven’s Main Culinary Street. This is a street very close to Grote Markt, full of many restaurants from around the world. You will find Mexican, Italian, Sushi bars, Thai, Belgian, Moroccan, and Japanese kitchens in Muntstraat. It’s recommended to make reservation for these places to avoid any disappointments.
5) LADEUZEPLEIN (LADEUZE SQUARE): This is a big open square housing University Library at one side. Another surprise of this square is a tall needle with a green beetle stuck on its head, known as Totem. This 23 m high needle was erected in 2005 and catches your glance from distance.
6) K.U.LEUVEN: Katholieke Universititet Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven) is the world’s oldest Catholic university still in existence, dating back to the mid-15th century. The town is really lively and eventful during academic months. Castle Arenberg is a historical spot within the university, which we only saw from a distance at night.