You know those places you walk or drive by a gazillion times but never really pay attention to? Until recently, the Botanical Garden in Leuven, Belgium was one of those places. It's located a bit outside of the commercial center, but an easy 10-minute walk from the Grand Place and so distance wasn't the reason I'd never gone in before. I simply hadn't.
But I was on a garden and parks roll, having visited Floralia, the Hof ter Saksen park and the National Botanical Garden of Brussels, so finally taking my camera to the Botanical Garden in Leuven was a logical move.
Leuven Botanical Garden
The Leuven Botanical Garden – De Kruidtuin in Dutch and officially the Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis – is the oldest botanical garden of Belgium. That's right, my hometown has the oldest botanical garden in Belgium. It was founded in 1738 by the University of Leuven, before the country of Belgium even existed. Ownership was transferred to the city of Leuven in 1835, a few years after our country became independent.
What started as a collection of herbs for students of medicine has now grown into a garden of 2,2 ha with all sorts of trees and bushes. There are still herbs as well, but they don't make up the largest part of the garden anymore, although it is still called the Botanical Garden.
It is still a place linked to science, but it's also an oasis of peace right in the middle of the city, where people come to read a book or students come to prepare for their exams.
When you enter, you have to pay attention as there are tiny arrows that guide you through the garden, making sure you've seen every corner and path. They take you through the main garden and the sunken garden, passed the bees (yes, there are bees!) and the cock (yes, there's a cock as well). Then back toward the main garden where you'll walk around the pond and to the large greenhouse with tropical and subtropical plants before heading back to the exit or taking place on one of the benches.
Practical information Leuven botanical garden
Botanical Garden or Kruidtuin Leuven
- October 1 – April 30: Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- May 1 – September 30: Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
- Closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day
Entrance is free.
Groups of maximum 30 people can get a free guided tour around the garden, but it's necessary to make a reservation two weeks beforehand. Exhibitions often take place in the Orangerie the gatehouse or the open air.
Where to stay in Leuven
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How to get to Leuven
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.