The Brewery City
Here we are returning back to Brussels once more this year merely after 3 months since the last time, but in order to reach the beautiful city of Leuven; and after a very, very last minute booking found yet again under the flight+hotel deals offered by British Airways that you can find and use their great holiday finder tool in their website. Sometimes I am really wondering how this is possible at such incredible good low prices! This same weekend, if booked separately would have set us up in triple the fare we paid. And what is best, flying with British Airways. Getting Avios miles, more tire points, and able to use the Business Lounge for free since we are Silver Members on their frequent flyer program, BA Executive Club.
This time we did also not booked this merely to be again in Brussels that we know as our second home, but to have a rather relaxing weekend and enjoying to the maximum the hotel facilities as their large pool but still sparing some time to visit a city we have never been before in Belgium that lies only 25 kilometers to the east, Leuven.
It is really few places left in Brussels that we’ve not been. It is actually one of the countries we have heavily visited the most and repeated countless times in going to Brussels, Ghent and Brugge. Unfortunately it is up to this date that I have not created the travel guides for both Brugge and Ghent, and only because it is quite a long time since the last time we were in them over 5 years ago. Back then we used to go at least 5 times a year if no more. I will wait with those for when I return and have a fresher memory and more up to date info.
From a small trading post to one of the most important textiles industries back in the 14th century; home to the largest and oldest university in the Low Lands, the oldest Catholic University in the world dating from 1425, and then in the 18th century one of the most important breweries was born, Den Horen, with Sebastien Artois in 1708 becoming the master brewer. To this day, the world known Stella Artois is available across the globe but it’s not the only world famous brand to be produced in the city. Nowadays running under the name of Anheuser Busch InBev, it is the headquarters of the largest beer company in the world.
Definitely a very well worth it city to visit and the best is that you can do so easy from Brussels! Majority of people don’t know of this place, neither did I until I researched where else to visit in Belgium. But given this place is small, a day is more than enough. There is no need to make a long day in waking up too early to get here nor leave too late back to wherever the city you might be coming from, there is really plenty of time to visit and see everything and enjoy your time without any rush.
For more information about Leuven check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Belgium’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Leuven
- Market Square As for any city in Belgium, not matter on size, there is always a grand square filled with glorious merchant buildings and an opulent city hall. Here in Leuven you can expect one of the finest examples of its kind.
-Town Hall Built between 1439 and 1463 in a Brabantian late-Gothic style is the most impressive building in the city and as such, the landmark of Leuven. The latest work done in the 9th century had 236 statues added to the facade, each of the, representing a famous scholar, artist or noble from the city’s history.
-Saint Peter’s Church Right opposite the Town Hall, it complements one with each other in creating such a visual beauty. It’s tower is included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the wider inscription: Belfries of Belgium and France. Built in the 15th century also in Brabantian Gothic style.
- Old Market Square The next square to the main Market Square, entirely surrounded by beautiful buildings and dozens of bars and pubs. This area is thriving during night time.
- Martelarenplein This is the square where the nice building of the train station is. Probably your first point of arrival in the city; but if not, don’t forget to check inside the platform space the modern 21st century roof.
- Linen Hall Built in early Gothic style and completed with baroque addition. Nowadays is the University Hall building.
- The Grand Beguinage It is the largest and one of the finest examples in the world of this architectural type, hence it’s inscription as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. In essence a town within a city, those places were used for unmarried, semi-religious women. Nowadays used as student accommodation of the Leuven University.
- Churches There are many old beautiful churches around the city, to name a few: Saint Anthony’s Chapel, Saint Michael, Saint Quinten.
From Brussels international airport, you can directly get a train or bus to Leuven taking you around 15 minutes by train, little longer by bus. If opting for the train you need to know that there is a supplement of 5 Euros for using the airport station, else if you take the train anywhere else not at the airport, the cost for the ticket is really peanuts. The buses serving this route are 616, 652 and 651, all of them easy to spot at the airport bus station and those do not have any special supplement, meaning this will be the cheapest option.
If already in Brussels or elsewhere in Belgium, a train would be the most direct and fastest way on to Leuven. It might involve a quick change at any of Brussels’ stations but it’s very easy and convenient so nothing to worry. Farther abroad, sometimes is best to take a train and not flying. It can easily be more cost and time efficient that by plane! There are direct trains to London, Paris, Luxembourg City, Amsterdam and many more in between.
Within the city in the other hand there is absolutely no need for taking any public transportation, which is composed only of buses. All the sights and old town centre is small and very compact for what walking is the best choice.
We did not stay overnight in the city, but very near it, at the Holiday Inn Brussels Airport. This is just 20 minutes away from Leuven by train, so really convenient in truth. On purpose, we selected this hotel because of their large pool and facilities since we were not thinking in doing too much this weekend but resting and enjoying the pool, jacuzzi and sauna the most. Furthermore, this hotel was included in one of the great deals British Airways had on their flight+hotel holidays, meaning we saved a lot! If searching for a hotel via other means, then a good and reasonable point to start is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We did a great choice and had a great time. The overall facilities were really good, the staff very friendly with good approach, large and nice room and great breakfast. But the best of all was the pool and jacuzzi which they run for very long hours between 05.30am until 23.30pm. Plus steam room, sauna and large gym facilities. Definitely recommended as you are anyway 15 minutes away from Brussels North station and 20 from Leuven! Plus also being not right by the city centre on any of them means way cheaper fares.