Leuven: Medieval City Ruled By Students
Before moving to Belgium we have heard one thing about Leuven – it is the capital of parties. And I guess it is! From the first two steps in this city, it becomes clear that Leuven is ruled by students. Friends, their talks and laughter, bikes and cyclists, scooters, fully occupied coffee shops – the lively, dynamic and creative atmosphere floats in the air of Leuven.
I have to admit that we got a bit used to the peaceful Belgium life. But while walking in the streets of Leuven we had to remember our safety instincts, which we haven’t used since, probably, our weekend trip to Amsterdam. For example, to watch out for high flow of cyclists and passersby, who have an ability to pop-out from everywhere around in a blink of an eye. But actually that was really nice! We were forced to join the life that is constantly flowing in the streets of this city.
Sadly, the part about nightlife and Leuven being the capital of parties in Belgium wasn’t for us to discover that day. We had only a free afternoon there, and I have to say that it was really sad to leave this city fully unexplored. But we definitely will be back there! Until then I want to share our wonderful experience and the things we saw during our afternoon there.
Some of the facts
Leuven is the capital of province of Flemish Brabant, a Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. The thing that makes this city unique is Catholic University of Leuven, the oldest university in coastal part of Western Europe and the oldest catholic university in the world.
Quite nice, isn’t it? The city was first mentioned in the 9th century and university was found in mid-15th century. So I think you can guess that the architecture and other city sights, like parks and squares, are spectacular. And they are a perfect match for a lively atmosphere! We sat for more than half an hour in the main market square by doing nothing, just enjoying the good vibes and the beautiful sights.
Some of our experience
We hadn’t enough time to explore and discover all the places that Leuven has to offer. That’s why we are really going back to that city again! But until then I want to share 3 our discovered places, which should inspire you to visit this beauty of Belgium. Let’s start from the…
Grote Markt square and its surroundings
Grote Markt square is undoubtedly the heart of Leuven. Its location is probably the most historic in the city and with that comes the most spectacular architectural heritage. Firstly, the diamond of the square and of the city in general is gothic Town Hall built in 15th century. Dear Reader, it is astonishing! Full of small details and ornaments which creates one solid masterpiece. I think you can admire such an architectural heritage for ages and then still find something new, that you haven’t noticed in that building before.
Secondly, Grote Markt square holds St. Peter’s Church, another beauty built in 15th century. Personally we enjoyed sitting on the bench just outside the church and watching a river of passersby and cyclists moving along the Town Hall. I am pretty sure that those benches are the best place to admire the city.
Finally, the streets that lead to and leads out of the Grote Market are simply amazing. They are vibrant and cosy at the same time. And what is even more important – they are full of various interesting stuff to watch, to buy and to taste.
Muntstraat, or the street of restaurants
One of such streets, just outside the Grote Markt is Muntstraat, the street of restaurants. The fact that we were full after our lunch didn’t take away the opportunity to enjoy this awesome place.
Muntstraat is all about cafes, taverns, pubs and restaurants. It’s the culinary heart of Leuven. As it is nicely noted in the history of this street, modern Muntstraat has Mediterranean spirit because of the cosy terraces, tasty mix of smells in the air and the hosts of restaurants politely inviting you to enjoy the meal in their place.
Though we just passed that street, it left a really nice impression. It is a place that pops out from the generic picture of the city. It has a Southern spice in it and it makes you turn your relax-mode on.
From medieval to modern university
When in Leuven you just can’t skip the university. Well, I mean, you can’t leave without seeing how beautiful this one of the oldest universities in Europe is. As I had a chance to acknowledge, starting from a majestic library and ending with spectacular Arenberg Castle just outside the city, each and every of university’s buildings are awesome.
We passed university buildings while walking from Sint-Donatuspark towards Grote Markt. The thing that I enjoyed the most was how centuries-old buildings gracefully connects with the modern part of university. Actually, it seemed quite nice visual illustration for the KU Leuven in general – centuries-old traditions in a harmony with a modern beliefs.
Leuven is a wonderful choice for a daytrip in Belgium. Here you will find everything that a wanderer could ask for, except for the palms, beach and sea. Well, there are also no mountains…
But you get the point, don’t you, Dear Reader? City has a wonderful Medieval and Renaissance architecture, it has a lively and energetic atmosphere, it has a lot of various attractions: from parks and castles to a restaurants street. That’s why you can’t leave Belgium without visiting Leuven. You haven’t explored this country, if you haven’t discovered this city! So mark it on your map – you’re going to Leuven!