Length 5.6 km (3.5 miles), terrain: fairly flat, gain 30 meters
Leuven, Belgium, ("Louvain" in French) is one of the most beautiful towns you'll ever visit: the old town is full of architectural treasures, starting with the breathtaking gothic town hall on the Grote Markt ("Great Market"), lined by beautiful guild-houses and Sint-Pieters church. There are many other beautiful squares, a little river and some canals, a few tiny parks to add a splash of green.
|The Leuven town hall on Grote Markt|
|Groot Begijnhof in Leuven|
Speaking of the university, the Catholic University of Leuven is huge, and the town definitely has the feeling of being a college town, with all the lively street-life and drunken revelry that it implies.
Now, turn to the west and run out along Brusselsestraat for two blocks until you come to the little Dijle River. Turn right and run northwards along the S-curve of the river (you can run along either bank).
|Along the Dijle|
|House on Mechelsestraat|
At the end of the first block, turn right and you'll be right in the Klein Begijnhof, facing Sint-Geertrui church.
|Sint-Geertrui churchyard in autumn colors|
Keep heading south along Karel van Lotharingenstraat, and after a block it leads into the Vismarkt ("Fish Market").
|The fish market|
This will bring you back to the front doors of Sint-Pieters church again, where you turn south and exit the Grote Markt along Kortestraat, taking you right into the next square, Oude Markt ("Old Market"). This lively square is lined by beautiful houses that have almost all been turned into student pubs and clubs. The square is known as "the longest bar in Europe", and is full of students every evening. Now, that's a lifestyle that I can get excited about...
|The Oude Markt living up to its reputation|
Run east until you come into a quiet little square called Hogeschoolplein. On the right is a great student pub called Dewerf. But we'll ignore the charms of Chouffe beer and cross the square, then turn left, passing the courtyard of Paus College. There are a lot of university colleges like this spread out over the old town.
|Hogeschoolplein with Dewar patrons enjoying the good life|
Continue eastwards until you come to a big, park-like square that opens to your left side, Herbert Hooverplein. Off to the left, you'll see the university library, with its huge tower. The library, with its priceless medieval manuscripts, was bombed out in World War I. Then people donated replacements for many of the lost books, but then the library was destroyed by fire again in World War II. The library collection was restored again, but then, when the university split into two parts, the collection was split up again.
|Herbert Hooverplein and the library|
A long walkway takes you to a wider part of the park with a little pond and an old stone tower from the old city walls. Run past the tower, keeping to the right, then run towards the old wooden bandstand. Exit the park through the gate to the right of the bandstand.
|Sint-Donatus park, keep to the right, past the stone tower|
Now either run through the beautiful college courtyard, exiting in the back, or first run to the left side of the college, along Naamsestraat, then take the path beside the college buildings, running through a small parking lot.
You'll now be in a little green park, heading straight downhill to the street below, Schapenstraat.
On Schapenstraat, turn right then left again after a few steps onto Regingenstraat.
The brick houses and the cobblestone lanes exude a peacefulness that immediately make you want to stay a while. If you haven't gotten the feeling already, by now you'll be wondering where you can sign up to become a student asap!
|Begijnhof across the river|
|Begijnhof at the bridge|
|Double pumps at a Begijnhof well|
|Statue in a niche|
|Parijsstraat in early morning|