Leuven is the small yet fun little cousin to Brussels, known mainly for its devotion to books (universities) and beers (breweries). Leuven is only a 30 minute train ride from Brussels and it’s great for a short day trip. I took a short day trip to Leuven from Brussels and found a quaint university town full of charm, beauty and yes beer.
If you ask any beer snob what they think of Stella Artois, they probably won’t have anything great to say. They probably won’t say anything terrible about it either. Stella is one of those beers that as a friend once told me, “you drink it when you want something easy, it goes down watery and smooth.” Even though I’m not a beer aficionado and I never had Stella before Belgium, I thought it might be fun to take a tour of the Stella brewery headquartered in Leuven.
The Stella Brewery holds tours every Saturday and Sunday. They hold tours in English at 11AM and 3PM. You can get tickets online or you can buy them directly from the Leuven Tourism office which is located in the city center (just a short walk away from the main train station). You can’t buy tickets directly from the Stella Brewery site…or so they say. Being a spontaneous traveler with a knack for not planning, I didn’t know you had to have tickets in advance. Still I joined the tour anyway. At the beginning of the tour, the guide asked if anyone needed a ticket. I raised my hand hesitantly, and put on my most adorable, “I don’t plan well but can I still join the tour?” smile. The guide gave me a ticket and I paid at the end of the tour. Still I suggest planning in advance and buying a ticket online. Also plan on getting there early as it can be a little tricky to find the entrance and they won’t allow entrance (even if you have a ticket) if you’re late.
The 90-minute tour itself is informative and fun, even if you’re not into beer. The tour goes into the history of the Stella brand, which has a history dating back six centuries! The guide on our tour was fun and offered many interesting facts about the ingredients used in the brewing process. Did you know Stella is made with Belgian water, French barley, and German and Czech hops? The tour also offers cool views of the bottling and canning areas. Finally the tour ends with a tasting session, where you can grab a pint and relax. All in all, if you’re passing through I highly recommend you check out the Stella brewery tour. Just plan in advance and have your ticket ready.
Belgium definitely knows how to do town squares right and Leuven’s is no exception. Leuven’s Town Square dates back from the 14th century and offers an impressive array of Gothic style buildings. Leuven’s Town Hall is one of the most impressive town halls I have ever seen with its gorgeous and intricate Gothic architecture. The square is pedestrianized with lots of options for grabbing a bite to eat or a beer to drink while people watching and enjoying the atmosphere of this fine university town.