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17 March 2018

Tourism in Leuven - The gothic town hall

Hello folks,

As you may know, I reside in Leuven, a picturesque town in Belgium. Embarking on a deeper journey as a creative content creator, I've sparked an idea: why not showcase the treasures of my city? With Visit Leuven's encouragement, I'm thrilled to launch a series of posts and videos highlighting Leuven's key attractions, starting with the iconic Old Town Hall.

The Gothic Town Hall holds a special place for Christian and me, itwhere we got married on a lovely sunny day in September. Since that day, I've yearned to delve into and share the building's depths. The tourism department organises daily guided tours at 3 pm, primarily in Dutch, French, and English, with options for German or Spanish for larger groups. It's wise to contact them beforehand to confirm the tour language, which varies. Additionally, the ILUVLeuven Ticket, available online for €16, offers access to the Town Hall, University Library & Tower, M-Museum Leuven, and the M-Treasury of Saint Peter.

We visited the Old Town last Sunday, fortunate to have warmer weather with not much rain in the forecast. The tour began at Naamsestraat 3, moving then to the building's magnificent facade. Construction of the City Hall started in 1439 and underwent several modifications. The impressive 236 statues of public figures we see today were added around 1850, and the staircase dates back to 1709. Interestingly, the statues we see are not the original ones preserved in the attic. Imagining the building before these modifications is fascinating. A highlight was observing the intricately carved bases of the statue niches, depicting scenes from the Bible about sin and punishment, like the story of Adam and Eve. These figures, from the original project, served as a warning to maintain order and good behaviour among Leuven's medieval population. I love learning about history and society through architecture. 

After our exterior tour, we entered the foyer, now used as a reception area for events. Here, we saw many flags, notably those of the seven noble families of Leuven, descended from the seven daughters of a 9th-century knight named Batijn. We then visited the three salons, the oldest parts of the building, featuring interior designs from the 14th century and hosting important paintings and panels, like the Resurrection of Christ by Otto Van Veen, Rubens' teacher. It was disheartening to see that Van Veen's panel had suffered from poor restorations over the centuries. Another highlight was the Gothic hall on the second floor, where part of the original beam blocks, carved to depict the life of Maria and Christ, are still in use by our town hall councillors. Adjacent to this hall is another small one, retaining its original star-shaped wooden vault. The final room we visited was the mayor's office, once a meeting room for the Saint Peter's Lords of the Seven Noble Families. My description hardly does justice to all the details and stories; it's a place you must visit and experience for yourself. If you love history as much as I do, you'll surely enjoy the tour.

After our visit, we had coffee on the terrace of the Oude Markt, the self-proclaimed longest open-air bar in Belgium. It's certainly the longest and most beautiful one I've seen. 

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