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Thursday 30 May 2024

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Belgium’s oldest university seat, for those who seek to be a little off the tourist track


There’s a smug satisfaction fostered by visiting places reached by roads that are truly less travelled. Off the well beaten Belgian tourist track, lying just a 30 minute train ride from Brussels, is the ancient university town of Leuven.

Ok, strictly speaking it’s a city, but its quiet, lazy, hazy calm bestows upon it, and the unsuspecting traveller, a simple beauty which is Flemish stew for the soul.

The obscenely detailed wedding cake of a Stadshuys, the imposing Sint Pieterskerk, impressive Grote Markt or romantic Begijnhof just a twenty minute stroll from the centre, are all imbued with an unpretentious beauty that simply make you sigh and smile.

Of particular note is the city’s famous statue of Fons Sapientiae, lovingly known as Fonske. He resides in Rector De Somer Square, near the Town Hall and facing in the direction of the train station. Fonske was created by sculptor Jef Claerhout and gifted to Leuven by the university in 1975, to celebrate its 550th anniversary. A working fountain, the little figure hiolds a book in one hand and a glass in the other, poring what some say is wisdom, others beer, into his head.

Leuven may not have the canals of Bruges or trams of Ghent, but arguably, it doesn’t need them, providing something altogether different; a retreat, a break from the world at large, a slice of vigorous peace.

Alive with a student population and all that is thus attendant, Leuven offers affordable food and drink against a backdrop that can be embraced or left alone, depending on your mood, desires and dreams.

It is a city in which one can simply pass a few uncomplicated hours, or hole oneself up in for a few days of rest and relaxation.

Either way, it has a purity and charm that will stay with you, and must not be overlooked as a destination for those seeking solace, and perhaps just a little excitement.

World Travel Blog especially recommends:

Café Belge
A trendily kitsch bar straight out of the old Stella Artois adverts can be found tucked away on Leuven’s Oude Markt…
Find out more

Notre Dame Quasimodo Restaurant
Dine in style while looking out over Leuven’s fabulous Grote Markt in this large but soulful eatery with a great menu…
Find out more

Toeareg Eethuis
Moroccan dining par excellence in this unassuming little North African restaurant will provide a tasty alternative treat…
Find out more

Tired and fractious while exploring in the beautiful Leuven sunshine? Save the tears and indulge in a delicious frozen yoghurt…
Find out more

In Den Engel
Hazy, lazy summer days should be spent like this, sipping a cool beer and watching the world go by on Leuven’s Grote Markt…
Find out more

Café Brouwershuis
Breakfast, brunch or lunch in style without blowing the budget, and you might even pick up a bit of knowledge from Fonske…
Find out more

Living Lounge
Bloody hell, Harry – how did that robot get into your suitcase? Pass me a Messiah mint… Kitsch lovers, meet Paradise…
Find out more


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