Leuven Things to Do Tips by Norali Top 5 Page for this destination
Leuven Things to Do: 213 reviews and 311 photos
Town Hall, details (Suri)
The Louvain city hall... reportedly to be built as Louvain's answer to Brussels' Gothic city hall, that, in its turn, got into rivalry in elegance, with Brugg City hall. At last, the latter had borrowed from Ypres' city hall (the Cloth hall, in fact) its style... dixit our guide at the City Hall.
Now, between Brussels and Louvain... a rivalry dating back to the 15th century. The construction of Brussels city hall epitomized the ever-increasing power of Brussels as the capital of the Dukedom of Brabant. Thing is, also Louvain aspired to the title of 'capital of Brabant' and had constructed a massive and prestigious city hall.
And yes, beautiful it was. A facade that resembles some lacework. I noticed even more impressive work on it than on Brussels' town hall. Still, Brussels' is my favourite... I'm used to it, to the Grand-Place.
Facade of Louvain city hall: lots of "nests" where are housed historical characters, artists, geniuses (Mercator with his globe), popes, guilds officials. The upper nests' layers are dedicated to both local and foreign dynasties that ruled the country (French, Dutch, Belgian ones)... plus a saint.
Oooh! "The capital of Brabant" thingy... after centuries of existing as a whole province, Brabant province was divided in 3 distinct areas (two Brabants and Brussels region) in 1995.... with Leuven as the capital city of Flemish Brabant. So far, Brussels was the capital city of the Brabant. Please, check below website to know more...
Directions: Check above first tip -- Pic of the facade will come !!!!
St- Pieterskerk (Gini)
St Peter is the patron saint of the city.
In Louvain, you can't miss this church. It's on the main place, the Grote Markt place, neighbouring the city hall and the Tafelrond (cf next tips).
If you come to Louvain by train and step down at Leuven station, just head to the place where stand the buildings that look of another era (rebuilt, not renovated). This place is Martelarenplein. From there, you may see the church from afar. That is, through Bondgenotenlaan, the main street that links Martelarenplein to the Grote Markt.
Of course, as you get close to the Grote Markt, you would see more details of the church till you arrive in front of it. Many streets lead you there so to give angles to shoot. You can shoot from Bondgenotenlaan or, closer, from Maarschalk Fochplein.
The seven chapels on the front (pic) remind me of sharply pleated papers or accordeon. Each time I go to Leuven, they fascinate me. A closer look at the top of the chapels would remind you of some terraces with tiny balusters. :) Drinks anyone?
Like many landmarks of Louvain, the church paid huge tolls of bombings in both WW. In 1914, the roof and nave burnt down. In 1944, the north aisle was damaged too.
The present Brabantine Gothic building is reported to be nearly completed in 1497. In 1425, work began at the choir, under the supervision of Sulpicius Van Vorst. Then, other architects played an important part in this respect. Plans included the rise of three towers, of which one should reach 170 meters. They never succeeded in doing that for the subsoil being not stable enough to support a heavy mass. In 1541, with a height of 50 meters, work was stopped. Check below website for more.
Also, if you look at the church standing in front (but back to) the City Hall (the Gothic building with a spire and an amazing lace-like facade :), you would notice a figurine. If you are lucky enough, you will see the little figurine on top moving, hammering to indicate the hours. A gift from KBC, branded "the bank of the peasants" in Belgium.
Address: Grote Markt- near City hall
Directions: Read above text...
Jef Lambeaux's work
While visiting the city of Leuven, we had two guided tours: one of the City hall and a second, of the central University Library. They were interesting.. at least for me, since I could learn some bits of Belgian history.
We visited the Library first, in the morning. Though we walked in the Grote markt area when we stepped out of the train, this visit was booked for the afternoon.
This is one of the statues in the entrance of the city hall, from Belgian sculptor, Jef Lambeaux, reportedly to have roots in Leuven area. There were woodcarvings from Constantin Meunier too, another Belgian artists, namely interested and specialized in depicting the industrial and rural life.
Oddly enough, those artworks (all reportedly from 19 century) were there without any protection, at disposal of who interested to touch, to get close to them. That was what surprised me in the city hall.
Apart from that, it was a normal city hall, with the flags (of the country, the Flemish community, the Flemish Brabant region whose capital city is Leuven). Also, the flags of towns which make up the Groot Leuven (Greater Leuven).
To know more of the city and city hall, check below website. Some info on (un)guided tours there as well.
Address: city hall
Directions: Grote Markt area
Me with Kotmadam
All over the city, you would likely encounter statues, bronze statues.
Walking in Leuven streets, I saw Fonske- the guy who used to pour wisdom and knowledge on students' head. He is in front of the St-Pieterskerk. Hmmm... in Stella Artois city, would you really expect beer pooring from this little mug he is hanging?
Then Kotmadam :) my Kotmadam. She too uses to look after students. Encouraging them, controlling homeworks and lessons and providing coffee to those who have to moonlight. Coffee? Really, coffee. She is on Oude Markt place, "the biggest pub in the world"...
On my way to the beguinage, I saw Ren?e, a female student who stands in front of a church, holding a book (or her syllabus or personal notes?). Whatever.. she seemed to be a student. With her mini-skirt, I first thought of something else but Ren?e, standing on pedestrian path is a student.
Then, you have "Fier Margrietje" and the "Man of the 60s"... not related to the student theme... and Margrietje's story is as sad as Man of the 60s' is lighthearted.
Some furniture.. somewhere
The last room we visited was this one. Guess what it was... Find his name and mail me...
Find there some old documents.. precious itels, manuscripts, atlases from the Erasmus, Vesalius era.
I was surprised by some Vesalius anatomy drawings... I saw a human body drawing in details: the muscles, the bones, the parts...etc.. then, some thing I've never seen elsewhere: some flora decoration on the drawings.
It was amazing seeing how serious it was to draw anatomy, at that time. They took time to decorate the drawings. In fact, if it were outside the drawings (in the frame area), that would be usual. Here, I remember the flora decoration was at the level of thighs, that makes it unusual (even strange) for me.
Now, I regret I haven't take pics of this particular drawing. Next time if I ever visit the Library again.
Directions: Which room is it?
Would say, you may skip the Great Market Square but don't miss this one: the Beguinage area.
This 'Begijnhof', or 'garden of the Begijns', was founded in the 13th century. At that time, it was an area located outside the town wall.
When we entered there, we could easily soak up the ambience. Serene, silent with the charm of deserted area. Yet, this beguinage serves as residence for KUL's personnel, students, local and foreign alike. It was around 5pm but there, seems like time doesn't matter. Was it 11am? 2pm? 4pm? At a time, only darkness would remind you of time going by.
Well, what are some hours compared to centuries of existence? I can hardly believe but seems some of the buildings date back to the 16th century.
Like many beguinage areas, Leuven's beguinage has its church (!): this one, dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
The date of construction is not kept secret: 1305. An old lady.
Approximately 300 beguines were reported to have lived in the 'Begijnhof' in the 17th century. They were not nuns, did not make perpetual vows. Yet, lived a religious life. Most of times, they were widows who went into commitment in helping others, take care of sick people...
Nowadays, the whole area but the church belongs to KUL since 1962. The beguinage is large enough to house 500 people. Where were they when I visited the area? I saw their bikes but saw anyone, except a girl who was studying on her desk... and yes!! A guy on his bike, trying to park it near where we stood.
On March 31 2000, the Groot Begijnhof (Beguine convent) was inaugurated as an UNESCO world heritage site.
Here I am advising you to visit the beguinage. Not because it is part of UNESCO World Heritage, rather I felt a different ambience strolling in the area. A city in the city.
Address: Groot begijnhof
That was what we saw at the basement. Then we headed to the "Salons". Were they still on the basement or on first floor, already? Couldn't remember.. anyway what imports most is seeing it in real eyes. I'm just here to convey my feelings experiencing the visit.
Indeed, those salons were really worth the visit. Elegant with some history and stories (that I wouldn't tell here for having been told in Dutch).
Go there to see the Bourgemesterzaal, the first "Salon" that serves as a meeting room. Hanging on the walls, the various portraits of Leuven mayors from 1794 to 1995. They have been French, Dutch and Belgian. Not that strange since France and The Netherlands had ruled the area. The mayors were all male. The room was pink. :)
This bronze chandelier was what I loved most in this room. Terrific ! Can't really see it on the picture but the pink walls just gave it a pinch of warmth under the chandelier light. Ooh! I would have been pleased attending a meeting here, with the fire on, the tea and cookies. Well, I'd better skip the cookies maybe. :)
Then, next salons: the wedding room and the court room.
Address: city hall - in one of the three floors
Directions: Likely to be the 1st floor... check with the guide.
Near East-Asian library
and still talking about it.
What the reading room reminded me of was not only the interational friendship that led to build and re-build the Library. Also the friendships bound in libraries.
At primary school, I used to be so talkative that always got tamed for that. So were the things in secondary school. Now, I remember there was, with my friends, this tacit agreement. Since we couldn't talk in classrooms, after some "rounds of observation", we relied on afternoons in our library to loosen up.
The gym class? No way! These two hours were dedicated to swimming, running, judo (don't mess with me, I am a judoka, a white-belted one. hihi). Gym classes were for exercising and above all, keeping disciplined.
The hint was that when in the library, head to the stacks, pretend to choose the books so to be able to stay there the whole hour... and talk. After all, we all had plenty of hours home to read those borrowed books, making summary for the teachers and the classroom.
They were delicious hours to hang around. They were the times of the first agitations in the youngs hearts of teen-agers. And I know what I mean.
Well, there were the ingredients for that to occur: our age (10-12), curiousity, the above "constraints". Also, since we couldn't speak loud, we had to get closer to each others to talk... I had my biggest crush ever on someone at that time. Intense moments in the stacks! More, I am not telling! Well, what a shy girl and a shy boy of 11 would do in such situation? Nothing except feeling their hearts beating hard, at least for the girl. Later, the girl discovered that the feelings the boy had towards her were not that neutral.
That happened when the gang was not around. When we were all there, the "shelving sprees" were of different design. We got excited since we managed to secretly gather and chat. That was our secret.
I guess our teachers and the librarian noticed it. Yet, since we didn't make noise, they let us do. And made us believe they hadn't seen anything. Aah! Innocence.
Directions: You may think it doesn't anything to do with a page on Louvain. I think it does, since my visit of the various places brought back some memories. My pages are made for reflections too sometimes.
Reading room or Oak room ?
For sure, the history of the University Library, with the beguinage, is my fondest memory of the trip. Oh well, one would remind me of my wedding ceremony right away. Yes, there was *this* too.
But, visiting the main reading room of the central Library was another experience.
The room of friendship, as I boldly name it, is beautiful, impressive.. and quiet. Well, bravo Norali, it is a READING room, not a CHATTING room. It didn't bother me to be reminded of that while having some chats with my friends at University, in the stacks. Even in those early years at secondary school, I had difficulties not to make noise in our school lib...
There, visiting the reading room with this sight of focused students, absorbed in deepening their knowledge, writing notes, making up files, researching... I said visiting this, with such a scenery, suddenly reminded me to respect the silence, concentration.
Now, the *friendship* thing: French design (Henry Lacoste redesigned it in 1950-51 after interior got reshuffled following the flames of WWII ), mainly US financing, lots of volumes covering aspects of many areas of the world (nice collection of Sanskrit- English dictionaries, according to Suri)...
Quite particular, even the adornments would (meaningly?) remind you about solidarity: a (Flemish/ Belgian?) lion grasping a serpent in its paws as a staircase figure. The other one, being an (American?) eagle.
As how majestic it is, I can't say more. Go there! Book a visit with Jan and you would know about the oak friendship room.
Address: Central Library
What does this ribbed vaulting remind you of?
These are the arcades in front of the entrance hall. Superb !
Never saw "Sagrada Familia" but saw some pictures on VT. Hence,when I heard Suri uttering "Oh! a bit like Sagrada Familia", I knew he was refering to the arcades, the ribbed vaulting. Hehe.. VT... VT
Here and there, on the pillars and walls, I spotted many engraved names of American educational institutions which contributed in the construction costs of the building.
I am even sure I saw the name of Bill Clinton. Or was I dreaming? I don't hate him so dreaming of his name is not a nightmare. I don't mind.
Address: Central Library
Directions: On Mgr. Ladeuzeplein, a centennial guy would still name it "Volkplein" :)
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