Top 5 things to do in Louvain-La-Neuve (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
ONE (or TWO) DAY(S) IN OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE 

Louvain-le-Neuve is an easy day-trip and a weekend getaway from Brussels by train. Located just a short ride to the south of Brussels, Louvain-la-Neuve is a university town!

Musee Herge - Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve things to do


Musee Herge Museum - Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve things to do

HISTORY OF LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE
Like everything in Belgium, which is split by or has versions of, Flemish (Dutch) and French, the Catholic University of Leuven also has 2 campuses - Flemish one, KU Leuven, at Leuven in Flemish Brabant and the French one, UC Louvain, at Louvain-la-Neuve in Walloon Brabant. The French term, Louvian-la-Neuve literally means New Leuven! In fact, the entire town was built by UCLovain in the 1970s following the language unrest, and then the rest of the town slowly grew around the university. 

UNIVERSITY TOWN OF LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE
As I walked from the railway station through the town, I realized that UCLouvain (the University of Leuven at Louvain-la-Neuve) is one of those amazing places to be a student. I studied in a university where everything is in one building with 2-3 wings. The idea of the university spread across a town and having to cycle from one building to another to get from one class to another or to the lab or to the library is really fascinating for me! Compared to Leuven itself, this is more relaxed and has more of the student-vibe than Leuven, which felt more like a city. 

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE TOURISM
As I mentioned above, the raison d'etre of this town is the university which came up in 1970s! So there are not much historic places to visit in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. Since Belgium itself is one of the countries with high density of castles, there's ofcourse the Ottignies Castle (Château d'Ottignies), but it is a private property and cannot be properly seen from outside also. Louvain-la-Neuve tourisme primarily is around the museums, art & nature of this region. 

TOP THINGS TO DO IN LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE

Musee Herge Museum - Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve things to do
Pic Courtesy: Romaine - Own work, CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Tintin Museum - Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve places to visit

Tintin Museum - Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve places to visit

Tintin Museum - Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve places to visit

Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve day trip from Brussels

Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve day trip from Brussels

MUSEE HERGÉ (HERGÉ MUSEUM)

WHO IS HERGÉ? 
Fondly called Hergé, his original name Georges Remi. He's the founder of Tintin, the beloved comic character from Belgium. Musee Hergé is dedicated to the life and works of Georges Remi aka Hergé. 

HERGÉ SCULPTURE
Even before you enter, in the grounds is the sculpture of Hergé. This was designed by Tom Frantzen. Hergé is depicted sitting on a tall pile of books and sketching a cartoon on his note pad while his cat, Tintin & Snowy are looking over. Tom Frantzen is the same guy who designed Zinneke Pis and Pieter Bruegel (near Chapel) in Brussels. 

ARCHITECTURE OF MUSEE HERGÉ (HERGÉ MUSEUM)
The first thing you'd notice about the Hergé museum is its unique architecture. This was designed by architect Christian de Portzamparc. A bit away from the town centre, almost at the edge of Bois de Lauzelle, Hergé Museum is surrounded by greenery. The quirky architecture in the midst of greenery is just so stunning! To begin with, the building's walls aren't perpendicular to the ground, every wall is slanted! The plan isn't rectangular but an elongated hexagon! Solid walls have been juxtaposed with glass walls in unusual angles while providing plenty of sunlight. Each angle, each wall has a different colour & pattern but they blend so well with each other. There are passages in the building with a view of the Bois du Lauzelle through the glass portions of the wall! 

VIRTUAL TOUR OF MUSEE HERGÉ (HERGÉ MUSEUM)
There are 8 rooms across 2 floors. The tour begins in the 2nd floor. The first two rooms are dedicated to his early life and various skills incl. photography. There are quite a few originals of his sketches displayed on easels. The 3rd room is about the various characters of the comic Tintin. There are dedicated display areas for important characters like Tintin, Snowy. Capt.Haddock, the detectives Thompson & Thompson, Dr.Calculus etc. All the minor characters have been shown together in what looks like a very unique, very contemporary, very modern chandelier! The next room was about Cinema which also talks about the effect of World War II on Cinema. Right here, is also a small photo-op area with green-screen! There is also a small movie theatre.
Walking down to the first floor, the first 2 rooms are about the subjects & ideas behind the comic strips from his scientific concepts and travels. There's even a sculpture of Lord Nataraja here which Georges Remi has depicted in the story Cigars of the Pharaoh! There are many other pieces of art & items from across the world that inspired Hergé and have been depicted in his comics. The next 2 rooms are about how Hergé's comics live on thanks to the work of Studios Hergé. 

Where is Hergé museum (on Google Maps)Hergé museum
How to reach Hergé museum? 450m (5 mins walk) from Louvain-la-Neuve railway station
Hergé museum tickets: €12; Included in Museumpassmusees. Reservation of time slot has to be done through the official website of Hergé museum
Hergé museum opening hours: Tue to Fri - 10:30AM to 5:20PM; Weekends - 10:30AM to 6:00PM

Musee L Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve

Musee L Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve

Musee L Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve

Musee L Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve

Musee L Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve

MUSÉE L

In simple words, Musee L is a tiny version of the Brussels Art & History Museum (Cinquantenaire Museum). The museum has 6 floors, but it is smaller in size. You'd need a couple of hours to see the entirety of this museum. 

VIRTUAL TOUR OF MUSÉE L
The museum begins with the absolute beginning of mankind with the Palaeontology and Archaeology section on the 2nd floor. The floor also has various inventions of instruments from the microscope to the radio! The 3rd & 4th floors are dedicated to art - both contemporary and historic incl. Greek vases, Roman marbles, Christian art of Europe. 
The 4th floor also has a section for civilization with a copy of the Rosetta Stone (the original of which I saw in the British Museum, London). The 5th floor is dedicated to folk art - both African and European. 
The 5th floor also has a few more world art history where I even spotted a sculpture of Varahi, one of the Saptha Madha (7 women) of Hinduism in India. There's also a small hands-on area to understand colour-mixing, colour theories etc. The 1st floor is majorly dedicated to temporary exhibitions, but there's a small cabinet dedicated to Natural History which was actually the most fun spot for Atyudarini. 
The ground floor has a small picnic area which is where we had our lunch. They also have lockers to leave the bags.

Where is Musée L (on Google Maps)? Musée L
How to reach Musée L? 500m (6 mins walk) from Louvain-la-Neuve railway station; 850m (10 mins walk) from Herge Museum.
Musée L tickets: €8; Included in Museumpassmusees. Reservation of time slot has to be done through the official website of Musée L
Musée L opening hours: Tue to Fri - 9:30AM to 5:00PM; Weekend - 11:00AM to 5:00PM

STREET ART & GRAFFITI AT LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE

MURALS IN LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE
Being a university town, it is only normal that the entire town is filled with splendid street art and murals. I did not go out of my way in search of art in Louvain-la-Neuve but as I walked from the railway station to the museums, I did spot quite a few. Most of these were painted in 2012 and 2015 during the Kosmolite Art Tours and many later on too. The first 2 pics below are from Kosmolite Art Tour. The 3rd pic is of Tendre Violette, a Belgian comic strip created by Jean-Claude Servais.

Where are the street-art in Louvain-la-Neuve: Map of Kosmolite Art Tour via Wallonia Tourism

PUBLIC SCULPTURES IN LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE
Apart from street-art & graffiti, there are quite a few public sculptures also all over Louvain-la-Neuve. In the Parc de la Source (behind Musee Herge) are 4 sculptures of women, in different emotion, depicting the 4 seasons. Every year in October, a bicycle relay race happens here, called 24h vélo de Louvain-la-Neuve, which is the most important and the biggest festival of the town. A sculpture just outside the Louvain-la-Neuve railway station depicts just a wheel and 2 legs, depicting the festival, designed by Vincent Rousseau. At the Place de l'Université is a fountain depicting Léon et Valérie by Gigi Warny.

Where are the public sculptures in Louvain-la-Neuve: List of sculptures via Wikipedia. The map can be bought at the Tourism office located just beside the railway station

Street art in Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve Kosmolite Art Tour

Street art in Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve Kosmolite Art Tour

Street art in Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve Kosmolite Art Tour

FORESTS IN OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE

Bois de Rêves & Bois de Lauzelle are the 2 large wooded areas in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve. While Bois de Lauzelle is very close to city centre, Bois de Rêves is a bit away, closer to Ottignies railway station.

BOIS DES RÊVES & MUSÉE DE L'EAU ET DE LA FONTAINE
I still haven't visit Bois de Rêves! I wanted to stop by here on my way back from Villers Abbey, but Atyudarini was pretty tired after visiting Villers Abbey, so we skipped it. The most interesting place to visit inside Bois des Rêves is the Museum of Water & Fountains (Musée de l'Eau et de la Fontaine). Apart from this museum, this extensive 66 ha domaine has a waterbody for fishing, a swimming pool, waymarked trails and more.

Where is Bois des Rêves (on Google Maps)? Bois des Rêves
How to reach Bois des Rêves3 km from Louvain-la-Neuve railway station without effective public transport. 1 km from the Céroux-Mousty, the nearest railway station, which is the station next to Ottignies on the way to Villers-la-ville. 
Musee de l'eau de la fontaine tickets: €3
Musee de l'eau de la fontaine opening hours: Open only on certain days. Refer to the official website.

BOIS DE LAUZELLE
Bois de Lauzelle is located very close to the centre of Louvain-la-Neuve and begins almost just behind Musee Hergé. This is a small 20 ha forest and there are 3 waymarked trails here - 1km (blue trail), 3km (red trail) and 3.3km (green trail). There are 2 small waterbodies here - Fond de Warlongroux and Mares du bois de Lauzelle. My idea was to go on both the red and blue trails. However, when we visited, it was the time for Frog Migration - for the frogs to come out of hibernation & mate and lay eggs! So the route to reach the water-bodies was blocked to protect the ecology and facilitate frog reproduction. We then walked about aimlessly in the forest before heading back to the railway station to get the train!

Where is Bois de Lauzelle (on Google Maps)? Bois de Lauzelle, Parking of Bois de Lauzelle
How to reach Bois de Lauzelle? The parking is 1.3km (15 mins walk) from Louvain-la-Neuve railway station. Walking trails begin just behind the parking lot.
Map of Bois de Lauzelle walking routes: via OLLN tourism - trilingual map/brochure

VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS)

The most important, the most historic and the most striking of the places to visit near Ottignies Louvain-la-Neuve is, of course, the Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers), though technically it is just outside of the Ottignies limits, in the Villers-la-Ville municipality! This is one of the 3 most beautiful, picturesque, instagrammable Abbey ruins in Belgium along with Abbaye de Orval and Abbaye d'Aulne

Villers Abbey Location, Tickets, Timings etc: Read my article on Villers Abbey

Bois de Lauzelle Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve things to do

Bois de Lauzelle Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve things to do

Bois de Lauzelle Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve things to do

Villers Abbey from Ottignies-Louvain-la-neuve

ONE DAY ITINERARY IN OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LE-NEUVE BY TRAIN (RELAXED)
Herge Museum, Musee L, Street Art, Bois de Lauzelle

ONE DAY ITINERARY IN OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LE-NEUVE BY TRAIN (PACKED)
  • Morning - Villers Abbey
  • Afternoon - Herge Museum, Musee L, Street art

ONE DAY ITINERARY IN OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LE-NEUVE BY CAR 
  • Early morning - Bois des Reves 
  • Late morning - Villers Abbey 
  • Afternoon - Herge Museum, Musee L
  • Evening - Street art

TWO DAYS (WEEKEND) ITINERARY IN OTTIGNIES-LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE
  • Day 1: Villers Abbey, Bois des Reves
  • Day 2: Herge Museum, Musee L, Street Art, Bois de Lauzelle

HOW TO REACH LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE
Louvain-la-Neuve is served by an SNCB railway station and is connected by trains from Brussels. The direct train from Brussels to Louvain-la-Neuve runs only on weekdays and once every hour. But it is very easy to head to Ottignies and take another train or bus to Louvain-la-Neuve, a route that has frequent service. 

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE HOTELS
In the heart of the town are Martin's Louvain-la-Neuve and Martin's All Suites. Very close to Bois de Lauzelle is Ibis Styles. Being a university town, there are actually not too many hotels in Louvain-la-Neuve but there are quite a few Airbnb accommodations & hostels. 

Things to do in Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve Pinterest herge tintin museum belgium Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

12 comments:

  1. I love exploring the street art and graffiti in different places because it lets me get outside, explore the city and see some incredible art. The nature trail looks like a great option too. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I do love to find spots like Louvain-le-Neuve that are a nice day trip option if we use Brussels as a base to explore. Good to know that we could not tour the private Chateau d’Ottignies. But the Herge Museum might keep us entertained for hours. We would definitely check out the street art murals as we strolled through town. I like that you included one and two day itineraries and options if you visit by train or car.

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  3. Belgium has the best train system and I love that Louvain-la-Neuve is an easy Brussels day trip. The street art and public sculptures would be a big draw for me. I would also love wandering the Hergé Museum. Bookmarking for my next trip to Brussels!

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  4. Museums, art, architecture, Tintin, and some nature thrown in on top for good measure? Count me in.

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  5. Looks like a perfect day trip! The museums seems so interesting and I love architecture part of Musee Herge. We haven't been to Belgium yet but looks like Louvain-la-Neuve is definitely worth a visit. I also travel with kids so I'm always on a look of places like this.

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  6. Wow! This is fun. I am a fan of Tintin and I had no idea that Herge has a museum. I would love to visit soon. It would be a treat to see all those display areas of the comics. Thank you for sharing this. I am so excited reading this now.

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  7. Thank you so much for this post! I'll move to Louvain-la-Neuve in September, and it's great to see some content about this amazing city

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  8. Definitely they have interesting museums here! And of course they have to have Herge Museum. I would like to visit Tintin and friends and this post reminded me that I want to introduce Tintin to my son. It will be wonderful to walk to the the Abbey ruins as well. Looks like a beautiful walk.

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  9. Slanted walls and each differently colored. Now that is really unusual architecture. The Herge museum seems like fun and I am sure keen on the street art and graffiti. The nature trail is quite refreshing and I think with that and the museum, I might just need more than a day~!

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  10. Slanted walls and each differently colored. Now that is really unusual architecture. The Herge museum seems like fun and I am sure keen on the street art and graffiti. The nature trail is quite refreshing and I think with that and the museum, I might just need more than a day~!

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  11. This was so refreshing going back to Musee Herge. Our trip too was so memorable and I had too written about it. We missed the walk around the woods behind the museum as we had to rush back. However we loved the University town of Louvain la Neuve and our walk around.

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  12. I'm such a sucker for a good museum, and this looks like the perfect town to roam through them. I also really like looking at street art and finding meaning behind the pieces. This looks like a lovely town to visit!

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