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If you're planning a citytrip to Leuven, here's the place to start
A stone's throw from Brussels and the national airport and at the intersection of two international motorways there stands the old Burgundian university town of Leuven. Few towns in Flanders appeal to the imagination more than this haven for students, where history, culture, architecture, gastronomy and modern science are intermingled to form a compelling cocktail. In terms of culture, art history and gastronomy Leuven has a wide range of possibilities. From its gastronomic tours de force to the dazzling Gothic Town Hall, from a delicious Leuven pint and the student atmosphere of the Old Market Square to the demure magnificence of the Saint-Peter's church, Leuven has it all - and more. You are guaranteed to come back again.
Tourist favorites in Leuven
Tradition has it that the first Town Hall of Leuven was situated at the 'Oude Markt' or Old Market Square. The second was located on Great Market Square of Leuven. It had its place ina row of houses in front of Saint Peter's Church, but outside the present building line. The construction of the present Town Hall started in 1439. The spacious cellars of the houses were retained when thebuilding of the faĂ§ade began. These cellars have been restored and can now be reached through a small door, at the bottom left part of the building. Sulpicius van Vorst, under whose management the Works had begun, died. Jan Keldermans II undertook the task and in 1448 Matthew de Layens was in charge. He altered some details of the plans. The belfry-tower that had to be built at the corner of Naamsestraat was left out so that the building got its Flamboyant Gothic character with four corner turrets, two ridge turrets and a balustrade all around the building. There are three floors. Between the windows there are oriels, each with two niches; three corner-turrets also have niches. The carved bases of these niches represent biblical subjects. The motif of sin and punishment is often repeated. These scenes had a didactic and admonishing function, not only for the common people but also for the judges who resided in the building. The 236 statues in the niches were only placed after 1850. Thewhole set has become the Leuven pantheon! Unlike the figures in the bases who wear Burgundian clothes, the persons in the niches wear the clothes of the period in which they lived. The two rows on the ground floor represent artists, scholars and eminent citizens of the Leuven past. The first floor displays figures who symbolise the municipal privileges and the patron saints of the parishes. On the second floor the Counts of Leuven and the Dukes of Brabant can be noticed; the turrets represent biblical figures. Since the nineteenth century three restorations have taken place. The latest finished in 1983 and repaired the war damage, suffered when a bomb scraped the faĂ§ade and did not explode...
Central University Library
During the First World War the university library, then housed in the University Hall, was destroyed by fire. In the 1920s, a new library was built in Flemish Renaissance style on the Mgr. Ladeuzeplein mainly thanks to American funding. On the outside and in the gallery the names of over 300 American educational institutes having contributed to its construction are carved. The carillon in the tower - with its 63 bells one of the largest in the country - is a gift of 16 American engineer associations. The library houses more than three million volumes.
The origin of the name 'begijn' is unclear. These women only took temporary vows of chastity and obedience to the 'mistresses' of their choice. As opposed to the conventuals, they did not have to observe the rule of poverty and were therefore able to have private property and an income. For the remainder they provided for themselves via donations made to the 'begijnhof'. They also generated income from teaching, health care, manual labour like embroidery, sewing, washing, spinning,... The more prosperous 'begijnen' had a private residence. The poorer 'begijnen' lived together in 'convents', community houses. An infirmary was available for the sick and poor old 'begijnen'. When the 'begijnhof' was abolished in 1795 some 198 'begijnen' lived there. The Groot Begijnhof has the appearance of a small town in the city. It is a succession of streets, squares, gardens and parks, with tens of houses and convents in traditional brick and sandstone style. This small town was restored between 1964 and 1989 by the University of Leuven, who had purchased the site in 1962 from the Social Welfare Commission. Today it houses students and university staff. The old infirmary and the Chievres Convent house the Faculty Club, the meeting place for science, culture and enterprise. On 31 March 2000, it was officially recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The 'Groot Begijnhof' is open to the public.
The herbal gardens of Leuven are the oldest in Belgium. The Leuven university created a first herbal garden in 1738 for its medical students. It soon needed expanding and in 1819 a second botanic garden was created on the lands of a demolished Capucin monastery, the current location. The neo-classical porch building, the orangerie and the picturesque lay out of the garden go back to this period and still define the precious atmosphere of the Den botanieken hofâ€ť, as it is called by the locals, today. The botanic school, a garden with a grid pattern, presents almost 800 plants of different species according to the plant system of the famous botanist Linnaeus. It is still an important scientific source of information for students and herbalists.In 1835 the garden was donated to the city of Leuven. In 1982 the orangerie was renovated to its original condition and a tropical greenhouse was built here. In the early Nineties the water garden was added, followed by the fruit garden and the sunken garden. The Alpine conservatory and the Victorian conservatory were built to English model. Besides the scientific and educational value of the plant collection, the visitors will enjoy the heavenly beauty of the place.
The Begijnhof Congres Hotel is a 4 star hotel in Leuven, Belgium. Situated in the heart of historic Leuven and surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Begijnhof Congres Hotel welcomes leisure travelers for a relaxing and pleasant stay in an impressive hotel. Begijnhof Congres Hotel is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds and English-inspired gardens. During the warmer months, guests can relax on the patio and in winter enjoy the snow-covered scene. With the Hotelâ€™s stunning exteriror and beautiful interiors, it is an ideal event venue for business or private gatherings. After a day of sightseeing or meetings, guests can relax in the Begijnhof Congres Hotel trendy lounge bar that offers spectacular views of the lovely Hotel grounds. The facilities at Begijnhof Congres Hotel also include a fully-equipped fitness center and sauna. With its stunning location, guests at Begijnhof Congres Hotel will be just steps away from all of the main sites in Leuven as well as shopping, restaurants, and cafes.
Lavan Bed and Breakfast
Located near the Arenbergpark at just 1 km/0.6 miles from Leuven (or Louvain, in French) city center, the Lavan Bed and Breakfast is a modern 3 star accommodation near Bruxelles. This great accommodation is well connected both by highway and by public transport, with several buses leading from the bed & breakfast to the Leuven central train station. Travelers booking a stay at this Leuven Bed and Breakfast accommodation enjoy a privileged location to go on bike rides in the intriguing countryside â€“ the Lavan Bed and breakfast even provides a storage room for bicycles. Guests of the lodging can furthermore visit the main Leuven sights, such as the St. Peterâ€™s Church and the gothic style town hall. And coming back to the accommodation, they can lay back in the stylish lounge room of the Lavan Bed and Breakfast.
Hotel New Damshire
Conveniently located in the business district, Hotel New Damshire is a central hotel in Leuven. There are many great attractions nearby, including Leuven Town Hall, St. Peter's Church, Ladeuzeplein and Arenberg Castle. Additional regional attractions include Planckendael Zoo. This Leuven hotel offers dry cleaning/laundry services, a 24-hour front desk and an elevator (lift). Guests wishing to relax with a drink will surely want to visit the bar/lounge. Wireless Internet access is available for a surcharge. Limited onsite parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis (charges apply).
The Lodge Heverlee
Close to the airport, this property is also near Arenberg Castle. Another nearby point of interest is Louvain Town Hall. The Lodge Heverlee has 1 dining venues. A complimentary hot and cold buffet breakfast is served each morning and a complimentary reception is offered (may not be available daily). The property provides complimentary wireless Internet access and complimentary high-speed (wired) Internet access. Meeting and conference facilities measuring 100 square feet include conference rooms, a ballroom, banquet facilities, and meeting rooms for small groups. The Lodge Heverlee also offers a bar/lounge, a sauna, and a garden. The property has a front desk available during limited hours. The Lodge Heverlee is a smoke-free property (fines may apply for violations). Guests must be at least 18 years old to check in at this property. The resort fee is included in the room rate paid at time of booking. This multi-story property does not have elevators.