Top Historic Sights in Leuven, Belgium

Explore the historic highlights of Leuven

Leuven Town Hall

The Town Hall of Leuven is a landmark building on that city"s Grote Markt (Main Market) square, across from the monumental St. Peter"s Church. Built in a Brabantine Late Gothic style between 1448 and 1469, it is famous for its ornate architecture, crafted in lace-like detail. The building today known as the Town Hall was the Voirste Huys of a larger complex of municipal buildings on which construction started in 1439 at ...
Founded: 1439 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

St. Peter's Church

Saint Peter"s Church is situated on the Leuven Grote Markt (main market square), right across the ornate Town Hall. Built mainly in the 15th century in Brabantine Gothic style, the church has a cruciform floor plan and a low bell tower that has never been completed. It is 93 meters long. The first church on the site, made of wood and presumably founded in 986, burned down in 1176. It was replaced by a Romanesque chu ...
Founded: 1425-1497 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

St. Michael's Church

Saint Michael"s Church was built between 1650 and 1671 for the Jesuit College of Leuven by Jesuit architect Willem Hesius. Initially it was built as a house of prayer for the Jesuit monastery. Following the Franco-Spanish war the Spanish members of the community were ordered to leave France, and in 1542 seven Spanish Jesuits came to Leuven. The facade of the church with its rich decorations is one of the so-called s ...
Founded: 1650-1671 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Saint James' Church

Saint James" Church is considered "unstable" and is not open to the general public. Only the tower remains of the original church, and is in late Romanesque style, dating from 1220-1230, clearly early times in the history of Leuven. It has been a parish church since 1252, and collegiate church since 1454.
Founded: 1220-1230 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Arenberg Castle

The Arenberg site had been the castle of the lords of Heverlee since the 12th century, but this family became impoverished and had to sell the site in 1445 to the Croÿ family from Picardy. Antoon van Croy demolished the medieval castle and started works to build the current château in 1455 on the site, of which he destroyed all but one tower. Willem van Croÿ completed the works on the château in 1515 ...
Founded: 1455 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Saint Quentin's Church

Saint Quentin"s Church lies about in the middle of the Naamse straat. The substructure of its tower is still in 13th century Romanesque style. Construction of the present church started in 1440.
Founded: 1440 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Grand B├ęguinage

The Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a well preserved and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen of streets in the south of downtown Leuven. With some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest still existing beguinages in the Low Countries. It is owned by the University of Leuven and used as a campus, especially for housing students and academic guests. As a community for unmarri ...
Founded: 1234 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Saint Gertrude's Abbey Church

Saint Gertrude"s was an Augustine abbey, limited to 12 canons of noble descent. The church was built from the 14th to the 16th century. The tower has an openwork spire, dating from 1453. Inside is an 18th century carillon. The abbey was closed in 1796 (during French occupation) and the buildings got other uses. In 1919 it became a Benedictine abbey. Reconstructions were carried out after the fire during World War II ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Keizersberg Abbey

Keizersberg Abbey, also known as Mont César Abbey is a Benedictine monastery. The Keizersberg (Caesar"s or Emperor"s hill) was the site of the castle around which the city of Leuven grew up, and which local legend connected with Julius Caesar. The castle was demolished in 1782 by order of Emperor Joseph II. On the east side of the same hill a commandery of the Knights Templars was built in 1187, which whe ...
Founded: 1888 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis

The Hortus Botanicus Lovaniensis is the oldest botanical garden of Belgium, dating from 1738. The botanical garden has always been linked with the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. It first aim was to provide herbs for medical use. Later, the gardens became used for study purposes and they hosted an extensive collection of ornamental plants, cultivated plants that could possibly be used for economic purposes and rare plants ...
Founded: 1738 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Fortrose Cathedral Ruins

Fortrose Cathedral was the episcopal seat of the medieval Scottish diocese of Ross. It is probable that the original site of the diocese was at Rosemarkie (as early as AD 700), but by the 13th century the canons had relocated a short distance to the south-west to the site known as Fortrose or Chanonry. The first recorded bishop, from around 1130, was Macbeth. According to Gervase of Canterbury, in the early 13th century the cathedral of Ross was manned by Céli Dé.

The oldest part of the present ruin is north choir range of the late 1300s. This range is now free-standing but was once attached to the choir. The only other part still standing is south aisle and chapel, built in the late 1300s.

The cathedral ceased to function as such at the Protestant Reformation in 1560. The story goes that most of the stonework went to build Cromwell’s citadel in Inverness in the early 1650s.

Only the ground plan survives of the cathedral itself. All that remains above ground are two separate structures that once projected out from it. The older of the two is the two-storey building that projected from the north side of the choir. This housed the sacristy and chapter house at ground level, and perhaps a treasury and library on the more secure upper floor. Though never a wealthy diocese, the chapter comprised 21 senior clergy, called canons.

After the Reformation, the building was retained and fitted out as the burgh’s tollbooth (town hall and prison). The upper floor was adapted as the council chamber and court house, and the lower floor as a prison.

This elegant structure was added to the south wall of the nave in the late 1300s by Countess Euphemia of Ross (d. 1395). It was doubtless intended as a chantry chapel, where prayers were said for the countess’s soul. Her fine canopied tomb, with little left of its effigy, is built into the east arch of the chapel. Two other monumental tombs are of Bishop Fraser (d. 1507) and Bishop Cairncross (d. 1545).

The quality of the structure’s masonry is outstanding. It is evident in the fine stone vaulting and in what remains of the elaborate window tracery. You can also see this quality in the internal fixtures such as the piscina in the chapel, where the vessels used at Mass were ritually cleansed.

As with the north choir aisle, alterations were made after the Reformation. The most obvious of these was the addition of a clock turret above the stair tower.