Although it’s often overlooked in favor of the bigger, shinier cities of Brussels and Bruges, Leuven has so much to offer. It’s known as Belgium’s university town, and as such it’s been a center for academia and culture for centuries.
Only 25 km / 15.5 miles from Brussels, Leuven has long been a popular destination for day-trippers from the country’s capital. Once upon a time, its role in the cloth trade made it one of the most important cities of the region. You can still see the grand cloth hall in the center, alongside the stunning university buildings, outlandish town hall, and iconic university library.
Check out this list of things to do in Leuven to plan your own getaway there.
- Fun things to do in Leuven, Belgium
- 1. Admire City Hall
- 2. Relax in the Botanical Gardens Did you know that Leuven is home to the oldest botanical garden in Belgium? This peaceful haven of calm was founded in 1738 for the University of Leuven. Originally intended as a herb garden for the university’s school of medicine, the botanical garden of Leuven is now a much larger affair that makes a gorgeous spot for winding down. There’s an outdoor area where you can find interesting plants and flowers alongside topiary bushes and bees and chickens. The indoor greenhouse accommodates the more exotic flora with subtropical and tropical species alongside cacti and water plants. The best thing is that it’s all available to see for free. 3. Check out Leuven’s Shopping scene
- 4. Walk around Park Abbey
- 5. Visit the beguinages of Leuven
- 6. Grab a drink at the longest bar in Europe
- 7. See iconic art at the M-Museum
- 8. Do a tour of the University Library
- 9. See how Stella Artois is made
- 10. Get a breath of fresh air at Heverlee Woods
- 11. Go inside St. Peter's Church
- 12. Pay your respects to the Shrine of Father Damien
Fun things to do in Leuven, Belgium
1. Admire City Hall
You can’t miss the Stadhuis, even if you tried. It’s Leuven’s City Hall and most impressive building. A fine example of Gothic architecture, construction on this extravagant building began in 1439 and wasn’t completed for 30 years. The Stadhuis has beautiful turrets and a flurry of flags, as well as numerous niches on the façade containing 236 little statues.
Amazingly, the building survived World War II by the skin of its teeth – a bomb did fall on it, but didn’t explode and merely grazed the building’s façade.
A structure to go and marvel at, or even take a guided tour which happens every afternoon for a small fee.