10 things to do in Leuven, the little big Belgian city.

Leuven offers everything you could wish for from a welcoming, human-sized city that gives you the feeling of being a metropolis. Discover the traces of history, enjoying the creative and cultural atmosphere, the liveliness of the university and its students, the wide range of cafes, restaurants and shops. Leuven breathes tradition and innovation.
The city is easy to discover on foot through the compact urban center. Everything is within walking distance. In 10 essential points, what you can do to discover the little big city located in the heart of Belgium.

  • Climb the university library tower: Climbing the stairs, you will find a photo exhibit showing the turbulent past of this building.
    At the top is the balcony which offers an impressive view over Leuven. Enjoy the view!
    And don’t miss the Great Reading Room.
  • Visit the church of San Pietro to admire its beauty and the masterpieces located inside: The Last Supper is a jewel of Dieric Bouts. It is still in the place where it was originally painted. This masterpiece and other works of art can be admired for free in the church.
Dieric Bouts, the last supper in St. Peter's Church
Dieric Bouts’ Last Supper
Shutterstock photo
  • Discover Groot Begijnhof, the medieval town of the city: Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Groot Begijnhof is a labyrinth of narrow streets, courtyards, monasteries and houses built in traditional sandstone in the 13th century.
  • Have a beer at the Oude Markt, the longest bar in Europe: Oude Mark is probably the most popular meeting place in the city. The square is home to many bars and restaurants offering the best Belgian beers … all to try, of course!
  • Count the statues of the famous people of the Town Hall: The icon of Leuven is the town hall, one of the most famous Gothic town halls in the world “carved” with biblical scenes. A true ‘Hall of Fame’ with 236 images of historical figures adorning the exterior of the building.
Town hall Leuven, Belgium
Leuven Town Hall,
photo by Shutterstock
  • Visit the oldest Catholic university in Europe: You can stroll through the historic colleges of KU Leuven passing by the University Hall, originally the hall of the city. The Anatomical Theater, the Botanical Gardens and Arenberg Castle are also part of Leuven’s rich university history.
  • Discover the birthplace of Stella Artois: Take the interactive tour of the Stella Artois brewery. Find out everything from the beer hall to filling lines in full action. Throw yourself into the world of brewing and enjoy a refreshing drink straight from the source after the tour.
  • Discover Leuven by bike: Leuven is the city of cycling for excellence. In reality it is not necessary to use public transport, because you can get everywhere by bicycle. Cycling is also a pleasant and quick way to explore the city, just like a true citizen of Leuven.
Bikers in Leuven, Belgium
Photo by Tobias Cornille on Unsplash
  • Relax in the park of the Abbey: This beautiful abbey is one of the best preserved monasteries in Belgium. The buildings, the gates, the church, the water mill, the barn and a fenced vegetable garden have remained virtually unchanged since the 17th century. An oasis of peace just outside the city center.
  • Visit M Leuven, the art museum for art lovers: M Leuven houses a collection of antique and contemporary pieces of art. The visual culture of the present and the past placed in an impressive decor. The museum building was designed by the Belgian architect Stéphane Bee.

10+ 3 abandoned European villages that only a truly brave solo traveler should visit

It may happen that, between one trip and another, we feel like trying our luck and organizing something a little more exciting than usual. You know, traveling alone can mean a few more unexpected events but, if for one reason or another we decide to get away from everything and everyone, here are some cities or villages around Europe that only the bravest should visit traveling alone.

These are some villages that for various reasons (geological events, wars or more), have been evacuated and never returned to their original state. The inhabitants have been relocated en masse to new nearby settlements and now only onlookers, photographers and wildlife roam here.

1.Oradour sur Glane: This French village not far from Limoges is remembered for a massacre that took place on June 10, 1944, during the Second World War. Here 642 people lost their lives and, since then, only a museum of memory has been established here. Everything else is in a state of neglect. If you decide to come here, remember what happened and that it still remains a place of memory.

Wrecked car in Oradour Sur Glane (Photo by Guitou60 from Adobe stock Photo)

2.Doel, in Belgium, has a very special history: up to the 1970s it had a thousand inhabitants but with the new project to expand the port of Antwerp it was decided to start demolishing houses here. However, there are still a few hundred “dissidents” who do not want to know about selling their house and, today, Doel has become the village of street art and murals.
So there remain closed windows and doors and walls full of incredible drawings. Maybe a visit here could be worth a few hours of your trip if you are passionate about street art

Doel: facade of an abandoned house (Photo by Ronny from Adobe stock Photos)

3. Pripyat also has a very special history. It was evacuated after the Chernobyl disaster, the well-known accident at the nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986 that initially caused 65 deaths. Pripyat, evacuated after the disaster, can now be visited thanks to some Kiev tour operators who organize excursions here. On the way back, if you just can’t resist the idea of visiting this desolate place, there are still many radiation checks. It even seems that a few hundred inhabitants managed to escape control and now reside permanently here.

Pripyat: Abandoned bumper cars-Photo by Robert Armstrong from Pixabay

4.If it is already hard to think of going to the Svalbard Islands (either alone or with others), trying to get to Pyramiden could prove to be fascinating but somewhat prohibitive.
Founded as a mining town in 1910, Pyramiden bears this name due to the shape of the mountain behind it. In 1998 it was abandoned by the last Russian miners after being used by several mining companies for years. Since 2011 it seems to have been inhabited again for tourist purposes. If you do not like the idea of coming here to meet bears, birds, wild animals and some humans, however, know that on the Svalbard Islands you can visit 3 other ghost towns:
-Advent City
-Grumantbyen ( photo below)
… unless a polar bear eats you first

Grumant settlement at Svalbard, Spitzbergen

5. Belchite, in Spain, was also destroyed by a war. We are in the period of the Spanish Civil War and on 22 August 1937 a siege begins which will only end at the beginning of September. Belchite will be completely destroyed and only a monument of the heroes will remain here. Some films will also be shot after Belchite. But what you see in the photo below is what remains of the historic center of the city.

a view of the remains of the old town of Belchite, Spain, destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and abandoned from then, highlighting the San Martin de Tours church

6.Craco is a small town in the province of Matera in Italy and in the 1950s it began to depopulate due to a landslide that endangered the stability of its houses. At the beginning of the 80s Craco became a ghost town even if today it is a real tourist destination and even a film set on some occasions. Surely a destination within the reach of even the most fearful.

Craco: a donkey grazes the grass at the foot of the abandoned town

7. Dvigrad is a medieval Croatian city also called Due Castelli. Its history has been full of battles and continuous sieges which it has often resisted thanks to its fortifications but, only in 1715, after a strong malaria epidemic, even the last inhabitants were forced to leave

Aerial view of the abandoned village of Dvigrad

8.Not much information about Jantuha, a city in Abkhazia, one of the autonomous republics in which Georgia (formerly the Soviet Union) is divided, but it is certain that looking at the image probably even the most fearless of solitary travelers would find it difficult to enter such a desolate and abandoned place.
Doesn’t it remind you of a scene from the film “Eurotrip”?

Abandoned mining ghost-town Jantuha, Abkhazia. Destroyed empty houses, the remains of the cars, remnant of The Georgian-Abkhazian war

9.This is a real gem and, even if we don’t recommend sleeping at night, it’s sure to be worth a visit. Kayakoy is a completely abandoned Greek-style village that overlooks the Aegean Sea but stands, or rather once stood on the Turkish coasts. The inhabitants now live in the valley and tourism is certainly not lacking here thanks to these splendid ruins surrounded by greenery. For all types of travelers.

Kayakoy, Fethiye, Turkey

Ten. Irbene and Skrunda-1 in Latvia are two Russian military bases with giant radars that are also abandoned. If you want to take a beach holiday, here we are not very far from the fresh seas of Northern Europe and, judging by the photos, already inside the abandoned site, you can see some sand dunes. There are also some hotels in the area. Think about it!

Foto: Edijs Pālens, http://www.edijsfoto.lv