A Walk Around Leuven

by : Tatyana Kogut.

The "rainiest" city in Belgium is Krakow. The second is Leuven. At least that is my idea of it. You might feel a bit uncomfortable if you come here during the rainy season. But then, when you remember walks around this city of exceptional beauty, you will want to return back.
The city was founded by the Dukes of Brabant in XI AC. In medieval times it was renowned for its skilled weavers, and local broadcloth was popular all around Europe. In 1425 there was a University founded here and since then Leuven has been known as a university city.
The other image of Leuven is the city of brewers as it is here that you will find the Stella Artois brewery and main offices. The city was greatly damaged during the Second World War. Still, there are some things to see here. Even though many buildings were reconstructed, they don't look like absolutely "new" ones. So let's start our walk.
Leuven meets us with rain. Running from eaves to eaves, we reach Grote Markt, the Great Market Square, all covered with wet chairs and tables. Wet tourists admire wet attractions such as Sint-Pieterskerk (Saint Peter's Church), and the Stadhuis (Town Hall).
Some people call Town Hall in Leuven the most beautiful medieval building in the world. It was designed by three architects: Sulpitius Van der Vorst, Keldermans and Mathijs de Layens - the last one was the author for the building's Gothic-style faÃ?ade, with numerous windows, towers adorned with statues and pointed spires. There are a total of 236 statues here. This is a real gallery portraying artists, scientists and historic personalities who played important roles in the city's and university's life. The building was ruined in 1944 but was restored in 1962-1983 and is now available to the public.
Saint Peter's Church was initially a small Roman church, then rebuilt into a Gothic style one. The church was also ruined during the bombings of 1944 and is still being restored. Look inside, and you will find lots of beautiful pictures here, including Sedes Sapientiae - the Virgin with a gloomy face, the symbol of Leuven's University. The main faÃ?ade is adorned with beautiful clocks which are also worth seeing.
Oude Markt, the Old Market Square, is next to the Great Market Square. This place is really merry, a "cafe square" where students like to gather after their studies. The are some funny sculptures standing on the square: one is a scientist, the other is a man with a watering-can sitting on a bench.
Another prominent landmark is the Saint-Anthony's Chapel hidden among cottages with their accurate flower-beds and front gardens. The church is rather unsophisticated, but pleasant to look at: its walls are decorated with numerous stained-glass windows and tablets dedicated to the saint. Its like finding yourself inside a lollipop.
Well, there it is - the University. Founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V, this is not actually the oldest university in Europe (this honour fells to the Bologna university). However, this is the oldest Catholic university in the world. First the university contained only 4 faculties and there were only 12 tutors working there. Nowadays 30 % of local population are students and tutors.
This architectural ensemble consists of medieval buildings and St. Michael' Church, built in the 17th century. The church's Jesuit-style faÃ?ade is a true baroque masterpiece. Don't miss a visit inside the building to see its wooden statues.
Make two steps from the Town Hall and you will find yourself standing in front of the University Library and its fabulous spire. The former library's building was located at Naamsestraat next to the University, but it was destroyed during the 1914 bombings. The second library has another location.
Those are not only the University and church that will make you remember Leuven. You will also find lots of funny and sometimes a bit sad monuments and sculptures in the city, like the "eternal student" - Fonske, a car stuck upside down inside the wall, or a dog standing in front of the shop, waiting for her owner. This makes the city a true architectural monument, both lively and a bit sad.