The Grand Beguinage is a historical complex of buildings and courtyards in Leuven, Belgium. It was founded in the 13th century as a home for unmarried women who devoted themselves to a religious life without taking formal vows. The beguines lived in small houses arranged around communal gardens and chapels. They were mostly self-sufficient, working as nurses, teachers, or artisans. The Grand Beguinage is one of the largest and best-preserved examples of this type of medieval urban settlement in Europe. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
The ticket price for visiting the Grand Beguinage is 10 euros per person. You can buy tickets online or at the entrance. The ticket includes access to the museum, which displays the history and culture of the beguines, as well as some of their artworks and artifacts. You can also rent an audio guide for an additional fee.
The Grand Beguinage is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except on Mondays and public holidays. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. The last admission is at 4:30 p.m. You can spend as much time as you like inside the complex, but you must respect the silence and privacy of the residents who still live there.
The easiest way to get to the Grand Beguinage is by public transport. You can take bus number 2 or 616 from the Leuven train station and get off at the stop «Groot Begijnhof». The journey takes about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can walk from the station to the Grand Beguinage in about 25 minutes, following the signs along the way.
Some tips for visiting the Grand Beguinage are:
- Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. The complex is mostly outdoors and has cobblestone streets.
- Bring a bottle of water and a snack. There are no cafes or shops inside the complex.
- Take photos only in designated areas. Do not disturb or photograph the residents or their houses.
- Be respectful of the religious atmosphere and avoid loud noises or inappropriate behavior.
You can also join a guided tour of the Grand Beguinage, which lasts about an hour and costs 5 euros per person. The tours are available in English, French, Dutch, and German. You can book a tour online or at the entrance. The tours start at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m., except on Mondays and public holidays.
Some of the highlights of the Grand Beguinage are:
- The Church of Saint John the Baptist, which dates back to the 13th century and has a Gothic interior with stained glass windows and paintings.
- The Infirmary, which was built in the 17th century and served as a hospital for the beguines and the poor. It now houses a museum with exhibits on medicine and pharmacy.
- The Convent of Chièvres, which was founded in the 16th century by Margaret of Austria and has a Renaissance facade and a cloister garden.
- The Dijle Bridge, which crosses the river Dijle and offers a panoramic view of the complex.
The Grand Beguinage has some prohibitions that visitors must follow:
- Do not enter any private houses or gardens without permission.
- Do not touch or move any objects or furniture inside the museum or the church.
- Do not smoke or litter inside the complex.
- Do not bring pets or bicycles inside the complex.