We had three days to take the most of our hen party trip to Belgium and we decided to visit Brussels, Mechelen and Leuven with my friends, the fashion travel bloggers.
We took a train from Brussels to Leuven for our day trip, and it was just 30 minutes to get there and fairly easy to find our way. We went to the main train station and we had already our online tickets, you can buy them and print them in advance, check the Belgian rail for more information on train schedules and tickets.
We are on the cultural side when visiting places so we love to go around buildings, cultural routes and understand how people live in a country so their traditions and food is also part of our ideal experience.
Bike tour through Leuven
Flandes is known to be a bycicle area and Leuven was no different, once we arrived we could just tell, old people, young people couples with kids, lots of them using their bicycle to go around the city. We could not be less and it is the perfect way to discover Leuven so we went to Leuven Leisure to get a 3 hour bike tour. Our guide, Ivo Schenkel had an amazing Spanish and he explained us very interesting anecdotes and the story of the main buildings in town through our three hour bike route.
Leuven is a University town
Leuven is a university town and its university is one of the most famous ones in the area. You can tell it is a university town due to the lively atmosphere that you breath. The population of Leuven duplicates due to the students that come into town.
Leuven is well known for its summer rock festival, called Marktrock and also for its beer, of course. Beer is part of the culture and it is the birthplace of Stella Artois beer, Leuvense Tripel and Keizersberg.
Fons Sapiientiae statue, known by “Fonske”
Fonsk is a little statue that the university gave as gift to the city in the 70's and now has become one of the symbols of Leuven. The status represents a student holding an open book and pouring water with the other hand. Interpretations differ, as beer is a big part of the culture, some think that instead of pouring water is pouring beer. As the Manneken Pis, Fonske is also dressed up in costumes for different occasions. The legend says that the university did not want the statue, they found it in the basement and to get rid of it they gave it as a gift to the city.
Who knows if it is true? What it is certain is that it is difficult to tell if it is a piece of art or a really horrible little boy statue, it all depends on your taste.
Grote Markt: Leuven city Hall and St Peter's church
The Leuven city hall has 236 statues in the façade that represent important patrons and saints of town. The statues were not added into the façade until 1850, it seems that the writer Victor Hugo convinced the authorities in town to add statues so it would gain visibility and improve the majesty of the building.
St Peter's church is UNESCO Heritage but unfortunately when we were there it was closed so we couldn't enter to visit it.
The library in Leuven really made an impression on me, it is a neorenaissence style typical from Flanders that has an incredible collection of more than 1 million books. The library also has in it the biggest carillon in Belgium with 63 bells in it.
Unfortunately, during the WWI the library was burnt down and 900.000 books were lost but in the 1920's the library was reborn with help of the Americans as we see it today.
Oude Markt: the longest bar in Europe
Our next stop was the largest bar counter in Europe, and you can imagine it is called like that because of the big number of bars and restaurants that are there all year around. It is a good place to sit down in a terrace and taste Belgian beer.
Abdij van ‘t Park
Very near the center of town is this construction of XII century surrounded by nature. In the area there is a cemetery, a mill and also a restaurant, perfect to do a bike stop with a drink in hand.
Arenberg castle and Leuven university campus
The campus at Leuven University it is taken from a fairy tale, it surrounds the Arenberg castle, a red brick construction from XV century. The building is from the Leuven University and nowadays is the faculty of Engineering. When I walked through Leuven University spaces I wondered why I did not know about this place when I was studying, it is a privilege to study surrounded by incredible buildings an open spaces of this nature.
Beguinage in Leuven
The Beguinage in Leuven is the best I visited in Belgium, Leuven is a magnificent town and as part of the culture the Beguinages can be seen in different cities. We also visited the one in Mechelen. The beguines were women ahead of their time that decided not to marry and dedicate themselves to spiritual live but without being nuns. They were independent women of and they were not ruled by any religious order. In the greatest times in the beguinague was home to 360 women.
Nowadays the Beguinage is property of the Leuven University and it is the residence where the students of the last courses live. When I was visiting the area, I would have started studying immediately only to have the chance to live in such a historical site.
Not only it is a beautiful place but it is also a quiet part of campus where university senior students can find peace and concentration to finish their studies
At the end of the tour we could taste a typical beer to end up the bike tour with a refreshing Flandes taste, and we had a Timmerman's beer, a white beer in the area that I loved. I am not a beer fan, I don't like the bitter taste and this one I could actually drink and enjoy it so it was a good discovery.
Right in front of the bike company, Leuven Leisure, is the restaurant Domus Leuven, a traditional restaurant that serves typical dishes from the area. We were recommended to go there and the food did not disappoint us, I had meat cooked with beer one of the star dishes of the area. Although the food was very good I have to say that I was very disappointed with the service given, I have probably met there the rudest waitress I have ever seen.
Disclaimer: we were invited to visit Leuven through a bike tour by Flandes Tourism. As always the opinion is my own.