In Belgium you never have to look far to see a castle or an abbey. In Leuven, we have both: the Arenberg Castle and Park Abbey or Abdij van Park, as we say which is on the outskirts of the city.
Park Abbey Leuven was founded in the 12th century under the influence of Duke Godfrey II (the Bearded). He owned a large park in Leuven and asked the Norbertines to occupy a small church he had on his grounds, hence the name Park Abbey/ Abdij van Park.
The buildings were enlarged and the Park Abbey became a place of agriculture and academic study.
The history of Park Abbey isn't without trouble, the Abbey suffered during the religious wars between the Netherlands and Spain and was confiscated by the French during their Revolution. Fortunately, it survived and today a small number of Norbertines still live there, the church itself is also still in use.
There's a path leading around the Abbey ponds and from some points, you can see the view of the water and the Park Abbey buildings. It was very nice walking there in the first spring sun. I'm sure you can find plenty of shade here in summer and maybe do some people watching.
Park Abbey has gathered a large collection of art throughout the centuries, as well as over 6,000 old prints. A small part of the art and print collection is already on display at the “locatorium”, now a small museum at Park Abbey (free entrance).
Park Abbey/ Abdij van Park is still being painstakingly restored which means it is not possible to visit all parts of the abbey building at the moment. Completion is set for 2025 (more info here).
Abdij van Park 7, Leuven
Guided tours of Park Abbey are available, they are 45 minutes and cost 5EUR. A visitor info guide in Dutch, English, French, German or Spanish is included in the price.
You will be shown behind the scenes of the various abbey buildings currently under restoration and learn about the history over the years. Check the official website for more details.
Where to stay
Click here for an extensive list of hotel options for all budgets and needs.
Leuven can easily be reached by train from other cities as well as from Brussels Airport, which is the best airport to fly to if you plan on visiting Leuven.
I adore Leuven. It’s easily one of my favorite Belgian cities. Great idea to zoom in on particular sites in and around the city!
Thanks Bram! Planning on doing more of that in the future:)
nancy alexander says
This abbey is so beautiful. We passed it on saterday with a tour on the solar train and inmidiatly fell in love. We knew we had to go back and spend some time here. The next day we walked around, enjoyed the wonderfull weather and visited the museum. Even the second time, the view was very impressive.
I’ve seen so many places but Leuven deserves a place in my top 10 favorite places around the world.
I didn’t know the solar train passed through there! You taught me something new about my own city:)
What a beautiful place. I’m adding Abdij van ‘t Park to our list of places to visit. We’re going to be in Brussels this weekend, but sadly don’t think we’ll have time to get to Leuven. Hopefully, we’ll be back in the area before too long! Thanks for the information :-)
Well, there’s definitely more than enough in Brussels to keep you occupied for a weekend! Abdij van’t Park is also a little harder to reach as it’s outside of the center and you’d have to take the bus from the train station (or walk a bit), but little gems deserve a bit of effort, I think:)