Park Abbey in Heverlee
Park Abbey is one of the best preserved abbeys in the Low Countries. Five different gates, a fishpond, a water mill, a farmstead, a garden, a monastery complex, a church and a cemetery make up this unique abbey. This green location is a great place for walking and you can completely unwind in the great outdoors. You will also find the Parcum Museum, the contemporary museum for religious art and culture in Flanders. Afterwards you can enjoy an ice cream or pancake at Brasserie De Abdijmolen overlooking the pond.
Abbey of Vlierbeek in Kessel-Lo
The former abbey of Vlierbeek is located in the green part of Kessel-Lo and has been the center of the parish of Our Lady of Vlierbeek since the abolition of the monasteries. Like Abbey of Park, this walled abbey offers peace to many a cyclist and hiker. Here you can also settle down in the tavern “In den rozenkrans” for a delicious glass of beer and a hot meal or small snack.
Visit the Central University Library (including ascending the tower )
This is without a doubt the most American building in our city and at the same time a monument to the memory of the First World War. We’ll tell you the remarkable history of this building and visit the beautiful reading room. Then we ascend the five floors of the tower. A photo exhibition along the way shows you the ups and downs of the building, you pass the bells of the carillon, and at the end of a long climb you are rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.
The Dijle river in Leuven: curse or blessing?
Leuven owes its origin and its economic prosperity in the Middle Ages to the Dijle: ships moored in the harbor near the Vismarkt, millers used the river’s water as motive power and brewers made beer with it. But the Dijle also caused inconvenience: cellars that regularly flooded and sometimes severe floods that flooded entire city neighborhoods. Throughout the centuries, the city has always tried to control the fast meandering river. The vision of how best to do this has also evolved: major infrastructure works have made way for an ecological approach that restores the wet valley floors upstream of Leuven as a natural flood zone.
The first medieval city wall
Around the middle of the 12th century, Leuven was surrounded by a wall of almost three kilometers, interrupted by eleven stone gates. A good century later, the area enclosing that wall was completely built up, so a new and larger city wall was erected about 1360. The old ring wall lost its function and gradually fell into disrepair. Yet today, among the buildings in the center, we still find several remnants of that first stone city defense. Leuven is probably even the Flemish city that still retains most of its oldest walls.
On this walk, our guides will tell you all about the military significance, archaeological value and historical importance of the city walls.
Leuven through the eyes of Dieric Bouts
Dieric Bouts was one of the most important Flemish Primitives, alongside Jan Van Eyck and Rogier Van der Weyden. In Leuven, you can still admire ‘The Last Supper’ and ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Erasmus’, on the very spot for which they were painted.
Bouts was the town painter of Leuven at a time when the town was going through a gigantic urban renewal: the university had just been founded, a new town hall was being built and work on St. Peter’s Church was still in full swing. What was it like for a young man from Haarlem to live in this city ? Where did he live and work, who were his clients, where did he find inspiration, what did his studio look like ? Walk with us through streets where Bouts himself walked and see Leuven through the eyes of its most famous painter.
Sustainability as a guideline for a new lifestyle
More and more people are consciously choosing a sustainable lifestyle. During this walk we explore how in a number of specialty stores in Leuven, the principles of sustainability are put into practice We search our way among the many (sustainability) labels. We dwell on a number of ecologically sound products that we use every day such as food, clothing, personal care products, cleaning products, utensils, etc.
Be surprised by this tour of discovery through Leuven’s busy shopping district.
Please note : We do not recommend booking this walk on a Sunday (as many stores are closed then) or a Saturday afternoon (due to the shopping crowds).
“English spoken”: Ties between Leuven and the Anglo-Saxon world
The University of Leuven soon attracted students and scholars from the Anglo-Saxon world: John Dee, philosopher, alchemist and adviser to Elizabeth I studied in Leuven, the humanist Thomas More published his best-known work with the Leuven printer Dirk Martens, Irish friars founded an Irish college, American seminarians were welcomed into the American College. Without US help, a central university library would never have been built, and according to an amateur historian, one of the princes whom Richard III had, according to legend, murdered in the Tower was actually buried in St. Peter’s Church in Leuven. The links between Leuven and the Anglo-Saxon world are numerous and during this walk we will be happy to explain them further.
That “Utopia” by Thoms More was printed in Leuven should really come as no surprise. Leuven was an international pole of attraction for scientists and artists in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 15th and 16th centuries Leuven became an international pole of attraction for scientists and artists
Also following centuries, too, researchers and philosophers brought new insights to Leuven: rationalism, enlightenment, neothomism that led to the foundation of the Higher Institute of Philosophy in Leuven.
During this walk we tell the story of philosophy in Leuven on the during this walk we tell the story of philosophy in Leuven in the places where scholars and not so scholars lived and worked.
“Furore Teutonico deruta”: the fire of Leuven in August 1914
On the night of August 25-26, German troops set fire to the center of Leuven. More than 1,000 houses went up in flames, 200 civilians were killed, and 600 others were rounded up and taken away to Germany. The remaining residents fled the city. The destruction of the old university town and its cultural heritage shocked the entire world, and Leuven, along with Visé, Dinant and other towns, would be labeled “a martyr town,” an innocent victim of the occupier’s terror. But how did the people of Leuven themselves experience the fear and panic of those August days? How did they manage to pick up the thread anyway when on their return to the destroyed city they found only rubble at the site of their home? Who could they turn to for food and for work? Where did they sleep and how did they survive the next 4 years of occupation by the German empire?
During this walk, we will try to bring to life the story of the August 1914 fire and the period that followed, through eyewitness accounts. Using diaries, letters, newspaper reports and other fragments of everyday life, we let you experience what it must have meant to live in a city during wartime.
The Great Beguinage
The Great Beguinage of Leuven dates back to the 13th century. During its heyday in the 17th century, some 360 beguines lived there.
Today around the church you will find a succession of streets, squares, gardens and parks, with dozens of houses and convents in traditional sandstone. Students, foreign visiting professors and staff of Europe’s oldest Catholic university live in what still looks most like a separate old town in downtown Leuven.
If you want to know how the beguines lived there and what happened to the complex after most of the beguines disappeared there you should follow this walk.
A “gourmet” walk
A walk through Leuven full of tasty stories about food and drink. From medieval feasts to low-calorie menus, from shabby meals in colleges to today’s culinary delights, from a university beer and wine cellar to current “fakbars”. All this and more is covered. And of course you’ll sample some of these Leuven delights along the way.
Contemporary architecture: (1) City Center, (2) Railway station and immediate surroundings, (3) the renewed link with the suburb of Kessel-Lo, (4) new developments near the Canal and the Sluice Park.
Visit the renewed city districts in the center, around the station or at the Vaartkom. Today’s top architects take on the challenge of using contemporary interventions to keep a historic city livable in the 21st century. The Province House, De Lijn bus station, Beel’s Balk and M-Museum-Leuven are just a few examples of the award-winning architecture.
The Small Beguinage and the Saint Gertrude Abbey
The tower of St. Gertrude’s Church is one of the 7 wonders of Leuven. Inside, you’ll find handsome Renaissance-style choir stalls. In the shadow of the church lies the Small Beguinage. And across the street are the buildings that once belonged to the richest and most powerful abbey in the city. As if that weren’t enough, you can also go there to see the wondrous “Thiéry wing”, a most remarkable piece of architecture In short, more than enough material for a fascinating and varied walk.
Leuven and Thomas More
According to Erasmus, the University of Leuven was the best university north of the Alps in the early 16th century. That “Utopia” by Thoms More was printed here should therefore come as no surprise. Leuven was at that moment an international pole of attraction for scientists and artists from all over Europe. Humanists such as Erasmus, Vivès and Busleyden discussed the latest books published by the printer Dirk Martens, the first modern college in Europe, the Three Languages College, was located here and later Vesalius and Mercator would lay the foundations for anatomical and geographical research. Get to know the “silicon valley” of the 16th century.
Leuven in a nutshell
For a first introduction to our city, this is the ideal walk. You will discover well-known monuments and attractions: the Grand Place with the Town Hall and the St. Peter’s Church, the University Hall, the university colleges and the pubs of the Old Market. But we also take you to small streets and alleys, parks and courtyard gardens and we tell you stories and anecdotes about the famous and less famous people who have left their mark on our town. Afterwards, you will understand why Leuven can still rightly call itself ‘the best city in Brabant’.
The Town Hall
The Leuven Town Hall is the icon of our town. It is still the place where Leuveners get married and where the town council meets. It is also a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. We’ll first let you discover the sculptures from the outside where historical figures are shown off above biblical scenes. Then we’ll take you inside to visit the richly decorated salons and the great Gothic hall. Every nook and cranny of this building oozes history, and we’d love to let you experience that during this guided tour.
The Town Hall and Saint-Peter’s church
After you have visited the town hall, we will take you to St. Peter’s Church. It’s the main church of the city and a wonderful example of late Gothic architecture. I ts towers should have been the highest in Europe, but they have never been completed. Inside the church you will find relics, monstrances, chalices and devotional paintings. You can descend into the crypt, whisper a prayer near the Sedes Sapientiae (throne of wisdom), the emblem of the university, or admire the beautiful romanesque tombs and the 18th century pulpit. But above all, you will be amazed by the two masterpieces by Dirk Bouts, ‘The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus’ and ‘The Last Supper’, which still hang in the church for which they were painted.
A walk in the Botanical Garden
The Leuven Botanical Garden, an area of more than two hectares, is about three hundred years old. What started out as a collection of plants with medicinal properties, part of a kind of Medicine Campus before its time, is now an inviting garden for strolling, a little-known resting place in the heart of the city. The Leuven Botanical Garden, created from 1738 onwards, is the oldest one in our country. The orangery, a traditional element of this kind of garden, and its glass and iron greenhouses were designed by the same architect who built the Royal Palace of Brussels and the Lion of Waterloo: Charles Vander Straeten.
Since 1835, the garden belongs to the city of Leuven. Little by little, many scientific botanical gardens have developed into sites for rare and ornamental plants, tropical or not. They also turned into experimental gardens with plants that were (or could become) economically profitable.
In the middle of the bustling city of 21st century Leuven, the Botanical Garden is a delightfully green, exceptionally beautiful city square where culture and nature go hand in hand
Leuven, authentic and trendy
Leuven is a modern, vibrant city where authenticity still has a meaning. You can tell by the various fine boutiques, artisan shops, galleries, restaurants and cafés so abundantly present in the city center.
During this walk, you will stroll along the streets and squares, discovering unique places that you, as a visitor, would not have been able to spot on your own.
The guide will tell you about the colorful trade history of these places and neighborhoods, so you can sense the cozy atmosphere that still prevails. Discover lively Leuven in style and enjoy!
Leuven Beer Stories: vanished breweries between the Canal and the Fish Market
Leuven Beer Stories: from the oldest café until the longest counter in Belgium
Join us on a discovery tour along old cafés/old taverns and (no longer existing) breweries. Did we really drink that much beer here? What happened to these 40 breweries? Is it true that the master brewers used fish scales and pigs’ feet and was the beer really brewed with water from the river Dijle? All this and much more will be revealed to you during a fascinating walk that will show you the historical and economic importance of beer and its brewing for the city of Leuven.
If it is the history of breweries that interests you most, let’s go to the roots of InBev and Stella Artois.
If you want to know why Erasmus and other foreign visitors were surprised by our drinking habits, follow us through the streets and squares between Grote Markt and Vismarkt.
Both walks are available in a “dry” and a “wet” version, with tastings.
At first glance, a city seems, above all, to be made of buildings, streets and people. Yet green is important in the city. It creates space (to play), oxygen and tranquility. Green in the neighborhood makes people healthier, is good for the climate and stimulates social contacts. We follow the green trail along the Dyle up to Keizersberg: since its opening in 2010, one of the most surprising places inside the ring with unexpected views, natural wealth and historical remains.
Female students’ walk
For centuries, universities have been open only to men. Women at university dates from the first half of the nineteenth century. It would be 1880 before the first female university students were allowed to start in Brussels. It was to be another 40 years until, in 1920, the university of Leuven first admitted women in her ranks
This walk will give you a good idea of which studies these young pioneering female students traditionally chose. You will explore 100 years of female student life and housing, you will know whether they were granted full access….or not…to all the student clubs.
Stories from the “kotmadam”
Justus Lipsius was married to one, she was sometimes the victim of student jokes, she figures in many a codex song and she was given a fine statue on the Old Market: the “kotmadam”. A “kotmadam” is a landlady taking care of students that rent a room (a “kot”) in her house. You can’t imagine a student town without kotmadams, and yet you won’t run into them every day On this walk, however, you will be in the company of a real ‘kotmadam’, who has a lot to do with her students but who she also couldn’t do without You’ll walk with her along student dorms, pedagogues and residences and in the meantime you’ll learn the difference between a “kotmadam” and a “marraine” and the secret of a “mariage louvaniste” (a Leuven wedding). ;
Follow the professor
During this walk you will walk in the wake of a professor who will teach you about the university from the inside: he will describe his classes to you, gossip about colleagues and complain about students. The professors who accompany you have a reputation to uphold: the well-known humanist Erycius Puteanus, the famous physician Henri Rega and the first female professor Marguerite Lefèvre can all make an appearance They each tell their personal story based on their own lives, but one thing they all guarantee is that they will make the old university buildings buzz with life again.
On the road with a beguine: The Great Beguinage
A Leuven beguine takes you on a walk through the Great Beguinage of Leuven and describes her daily life in the 17th century. Did the beguines still follow the original ideals of austerity, humility and chastity? Or were they not so strict in keeping their vows, by enjoying lavishly set tables, by drinking and dancing to their heart’s content? Was their clothing still inspired by spirituality, did they still adhere to the rules of chastity and obedience to the grand mistresses and the pastor? The beguine will recount a relativizing and at times naughty story of her life in the beguinage based on testimonials from fellow beguines before the visitation committee.
In search of the ideal city: urban renewal through the ages.
What does the ideal city look like? How can one combine living, working, trade, services, leisure and traffic? Winch impressions do you want visitors to take home about your city ? These are not only questions that every city council is confronted with today, but they are questions that are asked repeatedly and to which an answer has been given over the centuries. During this highly interactive walk, we will show you how Leuven’s Grote Markt is the result of medieval urban planning and how in later times other streets and squares were shaped from a specific vision on the “ideal” city. You will learn to see your environment through different eyes, and you will be invited to formulate your own answer to this question: “How would you have tackled it?”.
Strong women in the city
Leuven a male bastion? Don’t be mistaken, women have always played an important role in our city. We start our trip at the town hall where 16 of the 236 statues standing in the niches of the facade are women: saints, noble ladies and one middle-class woman. One of the women depicted on the corbels supporting the statues is Eve, the first woman on earth; one can also detect the chaste Susanna and the women who play a role in the story of Solomon’s wise judgment. At the university hall, we will talk about the gender level of KU Leuven. On the Hogeschoolplein we will focus on the women of loose morals and at the Maria Theresiacollege we will highlight empress Maria Theresia’s feminism avant la lettre. In the Naamsestraat we will dwell on the statue of Renée. In De Bériotstraat we will relate the romance of the violinist De Bériot with “La Malibran”. The Atrecht College is the place where the university welcomed for the first time, the “greatest danger of these times: the woman” quoting Mgr. Van Wayenbergh. The religious congregation of the “Black Sisters” and Jeanne Cardijn are featured in the Schapenstraat. On the Damiaanplein, we reflect on the work of Cicercule Paridaens. Finally, on the Oude Markt we highlight the businesswoman Johanna Maria Artois, and we will remember that married women barred till 1976 from actions such as opening bank accounts without the consent of their husbands.
University walk: from Erasmus to the Big Bang
Every year, more than 50,000 students study at the oldest university in the Netherlands. How do they live and how did they live? Leuven is synonymous with more than 500 years of innovative research. Not only the history of the university is discussed, but also its significance as an international contemporary center of scientific practice.
Surprising encounters with the Arenbergs
The influence of the Arenbergs can hardly be overestimated. Heverlee would have looked very different if they had not stayed here. The highly noble family had an impact in many areas. The green lung in the south of Leuven is of course a heritage of the family, but the Arenbergs have also played important roles in the region in a scientific, diplomatic, cultural, artistic and social field, of which we can still find clear traces. Everyone knows the Arenberg Castle, and perhaps also the Arenberg Institute (now Stuk) or the L.E. van Arenbergplein in Heverlee. And do you also know that the high lords and ladies can be associated with churches, schools and monasteries? But there is so much more … During this walk on the castle grounds, let yourself be surprised by unexpected stories about the Arenbergs and their meaning, in the face of their sometimes unnoticed, hushed presence.