Leuven has many hidden green areas, remnants of the inner city wall here and there, but you have to know where to look for them. And, of course, there is some artwork as well. This article is a suggestion for a walk through Leuven in Belgium to discover some of them.
This itinerary focuses on the southern side of the city. It starts in the center on the steps of the magnificent city hall. 3 churches are visited as all 3 have something noteworthy to mention.
As in Ad's Path some of Ad Wouters' artwork is mentioned. The main theme here is rather the historic city wall, on which restoration works are finally being started. An attempt was also made to lead you through the green areas and parks. The walk ends in Park Abbey, worthy of a visit in its own right.
Leuven, can be easily accessed by train, bus or car. If you're flying, Brussels Airport (BRU IATA) is where you'll want to land: it's just 13 minutes away from Leuven by local train. See Leuven#Get in for more details.
This itinerary begins on the steps of the city hall. From here you get a good look at Sint-Pieterskerk. Start by crossing Grote Markt—avoiding getting hit by bus 1 or 2—towards the big door and enter Sint-Pieterskerk. Don't forget to look back. The city hall is certainly worth a picture.
Inside the church you'll find a small extension to Museum M on your right, The cellars of Saint-Peter. There is also an impressively carved pulpit. Walk through the church toward the left and exit on the other end. Go down the stairs and veer toward the right into Mechelsestraat. You'll find a statue of Erasmus there. Behind it, you'll find the "Center of Leuven". Go to the left into Mechelsestraat. Where it splits, follow to the right onto Vismarkt. If you need organic food, there is a small supermarketlike shop here.
Cross over Vismarkt and on the other end go left into Karel van Lotharingenstraat. In the bend cross over the bridge on your left.
You arrive in a small abbey in the center of the city. There is a Morus alba tree, in the right season it's fruits are a real treat!
Walk through the abbey, the church you see here is one of the wonders of Leuven, as no nails were used during its construction... Since it's not made of wood, the mystery becomes somewhat less.
We're right next to "Klein Begijnhof", so let's go and have a look at it. At the end of the street to the right, then to the left, or walk around the block. Compared to the "Groot Begijnhof" we'll see later on it's less impressive.
Walk back to Mechelsestraat to Cultural Centrum Oratoriënhof. Don't go over the bridge of Dijle river, but instead go right onto Mercatorpad. At the end of it you'll find a statue of Mercator. Yes, Leuven has seen many people important to science.
Here two arms of Dijle river seem to 'cross'.
Cross Brouwersstraat and walk into Handbooghof, following an arm of Dijle river. A little bit further you'll find a nice remnant of the inner city wall and a tower.
More recently an artist created 'Eerste verstoring', first disturbance. This is the spot where the city of Leuven was founded (supposedly). The artist took soil from this spot and created a small tower from it.
Continue on and cross Brusselsestraat. On the site beyond the ugly tall building Hertogensite will be developed. The Dijle will be opened here as well and the towers will be restored. There are more parts of the inner defence wall, which will be restored as well.
We can walk over the concrete on to Minderbroedersstraat. The gate on the side is usually open. If it isn't, it's possible to pass through the buildings on your right to Kapucijnenvoer.
On Minderbroedersstraat go to the right. Almost at the end is "Theater anatomicum", where Vesalius dissected corpses and wrote an extensive reference work on his findings.
Right in front of you is the Botanical Garden. Go straight on. On your right there is a greenhouse with a variety of tropical plants. Up the steps there is an Orangerie. Ad Wouters has a statue there, 1 Arum. It's movable though and not always easy to find.
Continue on, there is a really nice pond with goldfish in it. It's a little bit uphill. Exit the garden onto Heilige-Geeststraat. Then go left. On Bankstraat go right. A little bit further it's possible to go left into a small park.
Walk through until you exit on the ringway, where you go left. Past the fuel station, left again. Then right into Adolphe Bastinstraat. Go down the stairs. At the end you walk under a bridge made of building.
Now you're Kapucijnenvoer. Up until a few years ago the small river 'Voer' was not visible here. Nowadays it became a new green area. Go right and cross the street, then walk into Redingenstraat. Continue on past Volmolenlaan, then go right into Groot Begijnhof. This is like a little city inside the city. It was really well preserved and restored. Through Spaans Kwartier, then to the left under the buildings. Cross Dijle river on Rechtestraat. And a little further cross another arm of the river, then go left on Middenstraat. Continue until Zwartzusterstraat, then to the right.
On Schapenstraat go left. Until you arrive at Wolvenpoort. It looks like a door in a wall. Beyond it are stairs leading you into another hidden green area. At the top go left, then right. Continue on. Now you'll arrive on Naamsestraat passing through a building. Go right, then immediately left where the tree of great sorrow is.
Follow Ruteriuspad, after it passes through university building you see what looks like a globe, it describes the constellations and was a gift from the Chinese.
Continue straight on into Sint-Donatuspark. There is a sort of a podium here. Sometimes some shady people hang out here. It's best to just ignore them.
Go to the right, then follow the path down. At the end left, you'll find 2 The Prophet, an impressive figure fashioned out of a dead tree, of a bearded man with sawed-off branches turned into outstretched arms.
Continue on, on your left you see the long overdue restoration works of one of the towers and on your right another longer stretch of wall that was preserved better than the rest of it.
Continue on and cross De Beriotstraat. On your left you see a modern statue of Pieter De Somer. Both the aula on your right and the place next to Grote Markt were named after him.
Go down the stairs.
A bit further go into the university building and walk through. There is an impressive inner place. Walk across and go through the next building as well.
You end up on Hogeschoolplein. If the buildings are closed, just go around. This may involve continuing to Tiensestraat, then into Muntstraat, then 's Meiersstraat.
On Hogeschoolplein go left. At the end on Naamsestraat, there is a church. Sint-Michielskerk inside is a statue which depicts the church's namesake, 3 Saint Michael the Archangel, having just broken his sword after slaying the dragon in the famous scene from the Book of Revelation. The statue looks as if it's made of plaster, but uniquely, it's actually polyester coated with bronze paint, then varnished which prevented oxidation and kept the bronze colour very light.
Have a walk around the church. There is a lot of older artwork. On Sundays there is a also a mass service for the Spanish speaking community of Leuven.
When you exit the church, go down on Sint-Antoniusberg. When you arrive on Damiaanplein you'll find another church. Inside this church is the tombstone of Pater Damiaan. Cross over Damiaanplein and walk into Boghe. At the end you'll find two towers.
If you're lucky it will be possible to pass through a gate, where you find a part of the wall remnants, which is usually hidden. Otherwise you'll have to come back to Damiaanplein and go right on Janseniusstraat.
Walk to Redingenhof, then cross the bridges. On your left there are more remnants of the city wall. Come back out, cross 1 bridge, then follow a path next to Dijle River. It leads into a park. Keep following on your right and you'll arrive at Dijlemolens. Walk through the building. There is another shop with organic food here.
Cross Zwartzustersstraat again and walk into Groot Begijnhof for the second time.
Follow Benedenstraat onto Rechtestraat. This time go to the right on Rechtestraat, passing by the big church. Go left on Begijnhofkerkstraat. When you exit the beguinage, go straight on Sint-Beggaberg. Then immediately right on Sint-Kwintensberg toward another church.
You can go around the church to Elzasgang. Then left. On Naamsestraat go right.
At Naamsepoort cross Naamsestraat and cross Naamsevest. Between Naamsevest and Ruelensvest you can walk up between the trees. Vest means vestige, reinforcements. This is where the outer city walls were when the city expanded.
Now we'd like to head into Van Ostaijenpark. Unfortunately no way of crossing Ruelensvest was foreseen to do so. After Van Ostaijenpark cross Van Ostaijenlaan and walk down Volhardingslaan. On Broekstraat go left.
At the waterworks a new park was created.
Continue on Broekstraat, then right at Beeklaan and left on Hoveniersdreef.
On Geldenaaksebaan go right, pass under the railroad bridge, then go left into Abdijdreef.
There's a multitude of hotels, hostels and other accommodations in Leuven and other nearby towns.
Liked what you saw on Ad's Path and hungry for more? You'll be happy to know that there are a few more sculptures by Ad Wouters scattered around the area.