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 Béguinage

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

Decin Castle

Perched atop its cliff where the Ploučnice meets the Elbe, Děčín Castle is one of the oldest and largest landmarks in northern Bohemia. In the past several hundred years it has served as a point of control for the Bohemian princes, a military fortress, and noble estate.

The forerunner of the Děčín Castle was a wooden fortress built towards the end of the 10th century by the Bohemian princes. The first written record of the province dates from 993 A.D. and of the fortress itself from 1128. In the thirteenth century it was rebuilt in stone as a royal castle that, under unknown circumstances, fell into the hands of the powerful Wartenberg dynasty around 1305.

Numerous later renovations has erased all but fragments of the original medieval semblance of the castle. A significant change to the castle came in the second half of the 16th century when it was held by the Saxon Knights of Bünau, who gradually rebuilt the lower castle into a Renaissance palace with a grand ceremonial hall. The current semblance of the castle is the work of the Thun-Hohensteins, who held the Děčín lands from 1628 to 1932. The Thuns originally came from southern Tyrol and gradually worked their way to the upper echelons of Hapsburg society where they regularly filled important political and church appointments.

The Thuns reworked the castle twice. The first reconstruction, in the Baroque style, was undertaken by Maximilian von Thun, Imperial envoy and diplomat, and was meant to enhance the ceremonial aspects of the property. A central element of the project was a grand access road, the Long Drive, ending in the upper gate of the completely rebuilt entry wing. Along the drive stretched an ornamental garden (today known as the Rose Garden) and a riding yard. Maximilian’s brother Johann Ernst von Thun was responsible for the erection of the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in the town below.

The second and final reconstruction of the castle was undertaken in 1786–1803. The Gothic and Renaissance palaces were torn down, all structures were leveled to the same height and gave them a unified facade. On the riverfront the castle's new dominant feature arose, a slender clock tower. Thus the castle took on the Baroque-Classical style we see today.

In the course of the 19th century, the castle became an important cultural and political center. In the 20th century the castle was used as a military garrison for German and Soviet troops after being handed to the Czechoslovak state in 1932. In 1991 the castle reverted to the ownership of the city of Děčín and the gradual renovation of the devastated structure began.

The eastern wing serves as a branch of the Děčín Regional Museum. The northern wing is occupied by the State District Archives. The staterooms of the western wing welcome individual and group tours, weddings, concerts, exhibits, and other cultural events. The castle courtyard comes to life throughout the year with events ranging from the Historic May Fair to the Wine Festival in September.