Leuven is a perfect day escape from Brussels —at only 25 km away and with a historical and very manageable centre— home to the oldest university in the Low Countries, the Catholic University of Leuven, and to the world’s largest brewing group — with global brands such as Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois.
My favorite place is though a little oasis in the middle of the city, Leuven’s Botanical Garden. It is an especially well looked after garden, with beautiful flowerbeds in every season, a rather geometrical French-style area and another more conceived as a landscape (with lush vegetation around the pond and even an elevation from where to enjoy the view). It is also the scientific garden of the University, with Latin and Dutch names under every specimen and greenhouses that will surprise even experts on tropical flora.
The garden was created in 1738 (the first botanical garden in the Low Countries) but was completely transformed (the only original remaining being the monumental gate) in 1821. Don’t miss the first greenhouse, that although lower and less impressive from outside than the neoclassical orangerie, has huge (more than one metre wide) platyceriums or staghorn ferns (due to the unique shape of their leaves) and other epiphytes (plants that grow on trees).
Enjoy your visit as much as I did last weekend with the seasonal show of its camellias, rhododendrons and cherry tree in blossom.
image credits © Ruskin in Brussels