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Leuven
Leuven Town Hall.
Municipal flag
Flag
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
Location of Leuven in Flemish Brabant
Location of Leuven in Flemish Brabant
Leuven is located in Belgium
Leuven
Location in Belgium
Sovereign state Belgium Belgium
Region  Flemish Region
Community Flanders Flemish Community
Province  Flemish Brabant
Arrondissement Leuven
Coordinates 50°53′0″N 04°42′0″E / 50.883333°N 4.7°E / 50.883333; 4.7Coordinates: 50°53′0″N 04°42′0″E / 50.883333°N 4.7°E / 50.883333; 4.7
Area 56.63 km²
Population
– Males
– Females
Density
90,706 (2006-01-01)
49.32%
50.68%
1602 inhab./km²
Age distribution
0–19 years
20–64 years
65+ years
(01/01/2006)
19.59%
63.45%
16.95%
Foreigners 9.43% (01/07/2005)
Unemployment rate 8.67% (1 January 2006)
Mean annual income €15,183/pers. (2003)
Mayor Louis Tobback (SP.A)
Governing parties SP.A-Vl.Pro, CD&V-N-VA
Postal codes 3000, 3001, 3010, 3012, 3018
Area codes 016
Website www.leuven.be

Leuven (Dutch, pronounced Nl-Leuven.ogg [ˈløːvə(n)] ; French: Louvain, often used in English, German: Löwen) is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region, Belgium. It is located 26 kilometers (16 miles) east of Brussels, with as other neighbouring cities Mechelen, Aarschot, Tienen, and Wavre.

The township comprises the historical city of Leuven and the former municipalities of Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, a part of Korbeek-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal.

It is home to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewing group and one of the top five largest consumer goods companies in the world; and to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the largest and oldest university of the Low Countries and the oldest Catholic university still in existence.

Contents

History

Leuven on the Ferraris map (around 1775)

The earliest mention of Leuven ("Loven") is from 891 when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia (see: Battle of Leuven). According to the city legend, its red-white-red colours depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dijle after this battle.

Situated at this river and nearby the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became the most important centre of trade in the duchy between the 11th and the 14th century. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture, is nicely reflected in the typical Leuven linen cloth, known in late 14th-15th century texts as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain)[1].

In the 15th century a new golden era began with the founding of the Catholic University of Leuven, in 1425: it is now the largest and oldest university in the Low Countries.

In the 18th century Leuven became even more important as a result of the flourishing of the brewery now named InBev. In the 19th century the city became an industrial but also an intellectual centre. Around 1885-1890 the economical crisis forced hundreds of citizans to emigrate to Latin America (Argentina), the USA and Canada.

On November 13, 1895 films were projected by Charles Moisson, an engineer working for the french Lumière brothers. He used their latest invention the cinematograph. The projection was held at the Catholic University of Leuven for an association of industrialists, scientists and photographs, it was the second one ever projected outside France at that time. In the same periode the Kinetoscope and the Kinetophone from Thomas Alva Edison came also to this city. In the coming years films were brought by travelling showmen at the fairs and the annual city feasts, in the local music hall and in halls. Between 1908 and 1914 there were about ten cinemahalls active in the city which counted about 40.000 inhabitants. Among these halls was also from 1912 on a special one dedicated to the Kinemacolor films.[2].

Destruction of the university library, 1914

In the 20th century, both World Wars inflicted major damage to the city. Upon German entry in World War I, the town was heavily damaged due to the German Schrecklichkeit policy. The Germans shot the mayor, university rector and all the city's police officers.[3][4] The university library was deliberately destroyed by the German army on August 25, 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles. Hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable volumes and Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts were lost.[5] The world was outraged over this and the library was completely rebuilt after World War I with American charity funds and German war indemnities. Thousands of its citizens fled to the countryside, to other cities but also to the Netherlands, England and France. A number of them were also deported by the Germans to Germany. The sack of Leuven became a element in the propaganda war. One of the films, The German Occupation of Historic Louvain was produced September 20, 1914. The film was shown world wide i.e. in the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Canada and France.[6]

After World War II, the burnt down University library had to be restored again.[7] It still stands as a symbol of the wars and of Allied solidarity.

Economy

Given the presence of the KULeuven, an important European institution for academic research and education, much of the local economy is concentrated on spin-offs from academic research (primarily at Arenberg Research-Park and Haasrode Research-Park). There are several biotech, ICT and hightech companies located in the proximity of the university, such as the micro- and nanoelectronics research center IMEC, the biopharmaceutical company Thrombogenics, and wireless technology company Option N.V.. Additionally, Gasthuisberg is a renowned academic hospital and research center. There is a large number of private service providers in the medical and legal field as well.

Being the capital of the region of Flemish-Brabant means that there are many governmental institutions located in Leuven as well as the regional headquarters of corporations for public transport such as De Lijn. As the largest and one of the oldest cities in the immediate Flemish vicinity Leuven, with a large palate of cafés, restaurants, cultural institutions and shopping neighbourhoods, the city also attracts people from nearby cities and villages.

Leuven is also the worldwide headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest beer company in the world. In fact, InBev's Stella Artois brewery and main offices dominate the entire north-eastern part of the town, between the railway station and the canal to Mechelen.

Knowledge and Innovation Community EIT

Leuven is one of co-location centres of Knowledge and Innovation Community (Sustainable Energy) of The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) [8]

Co-location centres - KIC Inno Energy:

CC Germany: Karlsruhe, CC Alps Valleys: Grenoble, CC Benelux: Eindhoven / Leuven, CC Iberia: Barcelona, CC PolandPlus: Krakow, CC Sweden: Stockholm

InnoEnergy is a strongly integrated alliance of reputable players from the education, research and industry sectors. It was created based on long standing links of cooperation as well as the principles of excellence and transformation. The partners have jointly developed a strategy to tackle the weaknesses of the European innovation landscape and aim to be the leading motor for innovation in the field of sustainable energy.The KIC will create economical and societal value by developing ideas from mind to market.[9]

Population

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Student population

Nowadays Leuven is a real "student city", as during the academic year many residents in its centre are students.

Leuven sports one of the liveliest bar scenes in Belgium. Besides boasting the "longest bar" in Belgium, the Old Market, dozens of bars and cafés crammed into a central square in Leuven ("Oude Markt"), it's also the proud home city of Belgium's smallest bar, Onder den Toog which can be found in Noormannenstraat[citation needed].

The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven; Catholic University of Leuven) is the oldest Catholic university still in existence in the world and the biggest university in Belgium.

There are also a number of hogescholen (Vocational university, literally translated: "high schools") such as the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven (KHLeuven; the Catholic High School Leuven), as well as a university college: Groep T (Group T).

Politics

Mayor

The mayor of Leuven is currently Louis Tobback, a socialist politician prominent on the national level, formerly minister of internal affairs and leader of the socialist faction in the lower chamber of the Belgian parliament, among other positions held.

Culture

In September 2009, the refurbished art museum re-opened under the new name: M Museum.[10] The opening exhibition was devoted to Rogier van der Weyden and his circle.[11]

One of Belgium's finest conservatories is based in Leuven: the Lemmens Institute, which is described as "Faculty of Music, Performing Arts and Education". It is known for its Music Therapy Education and its Wordart-Drama Education.

In Leuven is the glass factory of Belgian glass manufacturer Theys & Miseur. The studio is well known all over the world for making high-quality glass art.

Leuven is well known for its summer rock festival Marktrock. The main football club of the municipality is Oud-Heverlee Leuven, the successor of K. Stade Leuven.

In 1996 the Afrika Filmfestival in Leuven was launched by a group of volunteers, specialists in African cinema, who are represented by the association Film & Cultuurpromotie vzw. This festival works with the university, local, national and international organisations and associations and wants to assure cultural diversity in the city and to foster sustainable development towards the African artists, actors and filmmakers. It runs traditionally in the last two weeks of April. The festival is known for its special contacts with the cinema world of DRCongo, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa and Mozambique. The Afrika filmfestival has also a decentralized programmation in a number of cities and villages in Brussels, Flemish Brabant, Limburg, Antwerp and East Flanders. Every year, the festival supports or puts into the normal film distribution for the Benelux African films, which is an essential policy to guarantee cultural diversity and sustainable developmenent. www.afrikafilmfestival.be

Sights

The Town Hall.
The Last Supper by Dirk Bouts is in Leuven's St. Peter's Church.
Fonske.
de Oude Markt
  • The Town Hall, built by Sulpitius van Vorst, Jan II Keldermans, and, after both of them died, Matheus de Layens between 1439 and 1463 in a Brabantian late-Gothic style. The reception hall dates from 1750.
  • The St. Peter's Church (1425–1500) was finished by Jan Keldermans and Matheus de Layens. During the Second World War the church was damaged; during the restoration a Romanesque crypt from the 11th century was found. In the church itself there are several paintings from the 15th century including Dirk Bouts's famous painting of The Last Supper, and the grave of Duke Henry I of Brabant. The 50 meter high tower—which was meant to be 169 meters but was never completed—is home to a carillon. The tower was included in UNESCO's list of "Belfries of Belgium and France" in 1999.
  • Saint-Anthony's Chapel, Pater Damiaanplein, from the 17th to the 20th centuries; contains the tomb of Father Damien, the "leper priest" of Molokai, beatified by Pope John Paul II and canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 12, 2009. The Catholic priest's remains were returned in Belgium with great fanfare in 1936 after having been originally buried on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai where he had served the outcast lepers and died.
  • The Great Beguinage is a well-preserved and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen streets, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is one of the best remaining examples of a Netherlandish Béguinage. It was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.
  • The Linen-hall in an early-Gothic style, with baroque addition, is today the University Hall.
  • The Church of Saint Michael which was built in the typical Jesuit Baroque Style. It was built in 1650-1671 and it is seen as one of the 7 wonders of Leuven. During the war the church was destroyed except for the front wall which is often called "the altar outside the church".
  • The Church of Saint Quinten incorporates remains of a Romanesque church built in the 13th century.
  • The University Library on the Ladeuzeplein was built by the American architect Whitney Warren. It was a gift from the American people to Leuven after World War I during which the Germans burned down the original library, causing much uproar in the USA. The tower houses one of the largest carillons in the world.
  • "Totem" is a statue at the centre of the Ladeuzeplein, it's a work of the Belgian artist Jan Fabre.On a 23 meters high needle a giant jewel beetle shines, against the clouds pricked compared with the university library. "Totem" was a gift from the university to the city.
  • There is a ducal castle dating from the 12th century on the Keizersberg ("Emperor's Mountain") which was demolished in the 17th Century. Today there is a neo-romanesque Abbey where the castle once stood.
  • "Fonske" is a statue near the centre of town . Its full name is Fons Sapientiae, Latin for "fountain of wisdom." The statue represents a university student who, while reading a book, lets wisdom flow into his head as liquid from a glass. Just like Manneken Pis in Brussels, Fonske is from time to time dressed in costumes appropriate for the occasion.
  • Lerkeveld: An abbey

Famous inhabitants

Born in Leuven

Lived in Leuven

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Leuven is twinned with:

Partnerships

Besides these, Leuven has partnerships with:

In pop culture

Leuven is mentioned in the song "Dirty Blue" by Woven Hand, a lyric that mentions "the bells of Leuven".

References

Notes
  1. ^ Blaeu Atlas (UCLA Library - YRL Reference and Instructional Services)
  2. ^ Guido Convents, "De komst en de vestiging van de kinematografie te Leuven, 1895-1918", in N. Van Zutphen en G. Convents. De Fiets en de film rond 1900: Moderne uitvindingen in de Leuvense samenleving (The bycle and the film around 1900: modern inventions in the city of Leuven). Arca Lovaniensis. Annuaire 1979 - Vrienden stedelijk Musea/ Ed. L. Vanbuyten - Leuven, 1981, pp.257-422. Guido Convents, Van Kinetoscoop tot Cafe-Cine de Eerste Jaren van de Film in Belgie, 1894-1908. Universitaire Pers Leuven. Leuven: 2000. Guido Convents. "De Belle Epoque in Kleur. Kinemacolor : op- en ondergang van de eerste kleurenfilms in België 1911-1913". in Tijdschrift voor Industriële Cultuur. Vol. 20 (79). Ed. Vereniging voor Industriële Archeologie en Textiel. Gent, 2002
  3. ^ Neiberg, Michael S. (2005) Fighting the Great War; p. 15 Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press
  4. ^ Dosch, Arno (October 1914). "Louvain the Lost: an American Eye Witness's Story of the Burning of the Beautiful and Historic City". The World's Work: a History of Our Time XLIV: A-H. http://books.google.com/books?id=zegeQtMn9JsC&pg=RA1-PT3. Retrieved 2009-08-04. 
  5. ^ Kramer, Alan (2008). Dynamic of Destruction: culture and mass killing in the first World War. London: Penguin. ISBN 9781846140136. Gibson, Craig (2008). "The culture of destruction in the First World War". Times Literary Supplement (January 30, 2008). http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article3277792.ece. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  6. ^ Guido Convents, "Filmbeelden van het Vernietigde Leuven (augustus-september 1914)", in : Ceunen, M. & Veldeman, P. (eds.) (2004) Aan onze helden en Martelaren... Beelden van de brand van Leuven. Leuven; pp.95-110.
  7. ^ The publication of M. Ceunen en P. Veldeman (editors) Aan onze helden en Martelaren... Beelden van de brand van Leuven publised in 2004 contains an important number of photos of the sack and the destroyed city, and also contemporary photos of what happened with the ruines after the rebuilding.
  8. ^ http://eit.europa.eu/home.html
  9. ^ http://eit.europa.eu/fileadmin/Content/Downloads/PDF/news_items/Summary_InnoEnergy.pdf
  10. ^ Charles T. Downey (2009-09-21). "M is for Museum, Leuven". Ionarts Newsletter. http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2009/09/m-is-for-museum-leuven.html. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  11. ^ "Rogier van der Weyden: Master of Passions". rogiervanderweyden.com. 2009-09-20. http://www.rogiervanderweyden.be/en/4. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  12. ^ "Kraków otwarty na świat". www.krakow.pl. http://www.krakow.pl/otwarty_na_swiat/?LANG=UK&MENU=l&TYPE=ART&ART_ID=16. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Grand Place in Leuven with City Hall.
Grand Place in Leuven with City Hall.


Leuven [1] is a dynamic and thriving city of about 92,000 inhabitants in Flemish Brabant, Belgium. It's a true university town in which the town is more alive during the academic year (end of September till June), although there are a lot of events in Summer. The university, with about 30,000 students every year, is the oldest Catholic University in the world, founded in 1425. The historic centre is one of the most beautiful in Belgium.

It is also the ideal starting point to discover the rest of the country: Brussels is just around the corner, the Coast is only a 1,5 hour train ride away and Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Liege, Mechelen and Hasselt are nearby.

Lately, more and more tourists visit Leuven as the city has stepped up its efforts to make tourists feel at home.

You may find that the average age of the population drastically changes during the Academic Year, when it often seems only students stroll around the city. In general however, Leuven has everything to appeal to both young and old: A lively nightlife, interesting and sometimes stunning historic sites, the important and world renowned University and two seemingly endless shopping streets.

Grand Béguinage, UNESCO.
Grand Béguinage, UNESCO.

The city has a long and interesting history, being founded probably in the 9th century. It was particularly interesting because of the location, at the river Dijle and close to Brussels. Most of the city was thrashed and burned to the ground by the German invasion in World War I, and was again damaged during World War II. The historic centre itself however has been preserved and historic buildings like the University Library have been restored, partly with foreign relief funds.

Leuven is located just east of Brussels (20km). It is the capital of the Province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium. This means it houses a lot of administrative services and the Province Building, where the province council is located. Its main industries are technology (due to the University) and beer. Important companies have their home base in Leuven, such as InBev and Imec

Leuven contains two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Groot Begijnhof is part of the Flemish Béguinages. The Belfry on St Peter's Church is a part of the Belfries of Belgium and France. The University buildings and the Historic Centre are also on Belgium's tentative list to become a World Heritage site in its own right.

Get in

By plane

Land at Brussels International Airport, which services Europe, America, Africa and Asia. The airport is quite busy and also has a lot of low-cost carriers.

There is a train and bus station on the Airport itself - follow the signs! The Airport Express Train to Brussels leaves every 30 minutes, but there are direct trains to Leuven as well, every half hour on weekdays and every hour in the weekend. Taxis wait at the arrivals area.

Travel time to Leuven is about 20' by car (with little traffic) and 13' by train.

More low-cost carriers arrive at Brussels South Charleroi Airport but travel time to Leuven is considerably longer (1,5h). You can purchase a special train ticket for € 20 that will enable you to take the bus from Charleroi airport to Charleroi railway station, and from there on to every Belgian train station. There is no direct train link between Leuven and Charleroi; you have to change trains in Brussels. More information on the airport's website.

By car

Parking Guidance System in Leuven
Parking Guidance System in Leuven

Leuven can be conveniently reached by car. The E40 highway runs from Brussels via Leuven to Liège, whereas the E314 highway links Leuven with the province of Limburg and with Maastricht and Aachen, at about 1 hour distance. The city has recently installed a Parking Guidance System that guides you to the larger parkings in the city centre. Look for the electronic signs on the city ring road.

It is advised not to start looking for a free parking spot on the street, since it's expensive and the many one-way streets can be a real maze when you're driving.

Note that the speed limit in and around the city is 50 km/h, or 30 km/h in certain areas. Your chances of getting a ticket when crossing the speed limit even slightly, are close to 100%, especially on the ring road.

By train

Train Station in Leuven.
Train Station in Leuven.

Leuven's railway station is one of the busiest of Belgium. There are frequent direct trains to and from:

Almost all cities can be reached by train through the Brussels North or Brussels Zuid/Midi hub. Thalys and Eurostar trains depart from Brussels Zuid/Midi.

By bus

There are bus lines from the cities around Leuven (Brussels, Tienen, Aarschot, Mechelen, Diest and Wavre), but connections by train are usually faster and cost about the same. Buses are sometimes faster if you want to go to Herentals, Turnhout, Geel or other towns in the Campine region.

By taxi

Licensed taxi's have yellow-and-blue (or the older red-and-white) colors on top. They can be found mostly at the airport. One-way to Leuven usually takes 20' (if traffic isn't dense) and costs about €55.

Martelarenplein in front of the Station.
Martelarenplein in front of the Station.
Fochplein, next to the St. Peter's Church.
Fochplein, next to the St. Peter's Church.

The city has recently installed several new touristic road signs and city maps at several locations, which make getting around in the city a lot easier. Don't be afraid to ask people on the street for information, as they are usually very open and helpful towards tourists - some will even walk you to your destination.

Public transportation

The public transport company De Lijn has a number of bus lines through Leuven. Centre of their network is the Train Station and the stop at the Fochplein. Since distances are not that big, you won't really need public transport unless you're going to Meerdaalwoud, Heverleebos, Campus Arenberg' or the hospital Gasthuisberg. There is no subway or tram line.

On foot

When arriving in Leuven by train, walk to the Martelarenplein in front of the Station and walk down the Bondgenotenlaan in order to get to the city centre: the Grote Markt (Grand Place) where the tourist information desk is situated. Discover the rest of the historic city centre from there. Note that you can also take the Diestsestraat, which is a pedestrian-only street.

By bike

The city has many special areas for cyclers and most - but not all (beware of police controls) - 1-way roads can be accessed in both ways for cycles. It's very easy and comfortable. Make sure to lock your bike to a fixed object or the bike will be stolen, it's sort of a sport among students.You can also rent bicycles. More information at the Tourist Information Desk (near City Hall).

By thumb

In the city centre, it will prove quite difficult to get around by thumb, since most streets and squares are car-free. If you want to thumb out of the city, pick a spot on the city ring road and hope for a quick pick-up. Be advised most traffic is local or headed for Brussels. The Koning Boudewijnlaan is a good spot as well, since it leads to the offramp to the E40 (Brussels-Liège) and the E314 (Limburg).

Remember to hold up a sign with your final destination, as most people will not 'just' pick up hitchhikers.

By taxi

Licensed taxi's can be identified by the blue-and-yellow/red-and-white symbol and can be found near the Fochplein and the Martelarenplein. Although you probably won't need one, given the perfect railway connection, they're probably the easiest way to get to the Airport, for example at night.

University Library on the Ladeuzeplein.
University Library on the Ladeuzeplein.
Castle Arenberg.
Castle Arenberg.

You can get more information about these sites and more at the Tourist Information Desk, situated on the Grand Place, near City Hall.

  • Gothic City Hall (Stadhuis) on the Grote Markt
  • The small port of Leuven (Jachthaven)
  • University Library (Universiteitsbibliotheek) on the Ladeuzeplein
  • Fonske, the "fountain of wisdom", on the Fochplein.
  • Lakenhal, administrative centre of the K.U.Leuven.
  • Beguinage, UNESCO world heritage. (Begijnhof)
  • Park abbey [2] (Parkabdij); 3km east of the city by the Geldenaaksebaan
  • Collegium Trilingue, near the Vismarkt
  • The Law Court, in the Rijschoolstraat. (Gerechtshof)
  • St.Peter's Church, UNESCO world heritage on the Grote Markt (Sint-Pieterskerk)
  • Castle of Arenberg, in the suburb of Heverlee (Kasteel van Arenberg)
  • British Military Cemetery De Jacht (Engels Militair Kerkhof); 5km east of the city
  • Old Market, filled with bars and restaurants (Oude Markt)
  • Botanical Garden (Kruidtuin)
  • War Monument for those who have fallen in WWI and WWII, on the Martelarenplein.
  • M, the new city museum, opened on 20 September 2009. It is located in the Vanderkelenstraat, close to the Ladeuzeplein and the Bondgenotenlaan. The first exhibition will be about the painter Rogier Van der Weyden.
St. Peter's Church on the Grand Place.
St. Peter's Church on the Grand Place.

Culture and Landmarks

  • Visit the historic centre, the University buildings and the St. Peters Church on the Grand Place. Information and guided tours can be found at the Tourist Information Desk.
  • Visit the Grand Béguinage, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Easily reachable by bus.
  • You can go to the new city Museum with a combination of modern art and work from the past centuries. Close to the Ladeuzeplein, in the Vanderkelenstraat. Artworks can also be seen in the St. Peter's Church and City Hall.
  • Leuven has a cultural organization called 30CC that organizes all kinds of cultural activities around the year, for example in the City Theater on the Bondgenotenlaan. Less frequent during Summer.
  • A City Tour Bus leaves for sightseeing around the city from the Fochplein, situated right next to the Grand Place and City Hall.
Beleuvenissen on the Old Market.
Beleuvenissen on the Old Market.

Summer Events

  • Visit the summer events Beleuvenissen (Every Friday in July), Hapje Tapje (First Sunday of August) and Leuven Kermis (Leuven Carnival) (September).
    • Beleuvenissen is a musical and cultural festival on the squares in the city centre.
    • Hapje Tapje is the one day in the year all bars and restaurants put stalls outside to promote their goods.
    • Leuven Kermis is a carnival situated on the Ladeuzeplein and the Hooverplein (just next to it).
  • Visit the Jaarmarkt (Year Market) the first Monday of September: The entire city centre is transformed into one big market. Cattle is also sold in the streets surrounding the Sint-Jacobsplein, 500m from the Grand Place, which is quite the spectacle. Schools in Leuven are closed for this occasion, so expect a lot of visitors.
Meerdaalwoud in Oud-Heverlee.
Meerdaalwoud in Oud-Heverlee.

Green

  • Have a pick-nick in the Sint-Donatuspark in the city centre, 50m from the Ladeuzeplein.
  • Visit the Kruidtuin [3] or botanical garden on the Kapucijnenvoer, a side-street of the Brusselsestraat. The garden was founded in 1738 and is the oldest in Belgium.
  • Make a walk or have a bike ride in Meerdaalwoud or Heverleebos, the green lungs of the city in the suburbs Heverlee and Oud-Heverlee easily reachable by bike or bus (15 minutes). Many good walking paths. Some parts of the forest are still untouched. A good starting point are the "Zoete Waters" - a series of small lakes in Oud-Heverlee. Take bus line 337 at the Train Station and ask the driver to tell you when you've reached your destination.
  • Take a boat trip down the Vaart, the Leuven-Mechelen channel. Step aboard in the small port in Northern Leuven, 500m from the railway station.
Christmas Market on the Ladeuzeplein.
Christmas Market on the Ladeuzeplein.

Markets

  • Visit the market every Friday on the Ladeuze- and Hooverplein, flea market every Saturday in the vicinity of the Grand Place (Mechelsestraat), and flower market in the pedestrian-only part of the Brusselsestraat (the street leading away from the Grand Place), every Saturday as well.
  • Visit the Christmas market [4] and shop for Christmas gifts, taste local specialties and drink a glass of Glühwein or brandy. Annually in December (2009: 11-20 December) on the Ladeuze- and Hooverplein.

Other

Stella Artois brewery.
Stella Artois brewery.
  • Visit Inbev's main Belgian beer factory (Vaartstraat 94, ph 0032 (0)16 247 111, fax 0032 (0)16 247 497), which produces such famous names as Stella Artois, Vieux Temps and Leffe Radieuse.
  • Sports can be practiced in the city Sports Centre [5], with a swimming pool (including small subtropic part with slides, sauna, steambaths and jacuzzi), fitness centre, squash courts and more.
  • Cheer on the Leuven teams:
    • Oud-Heverlee Leuven Football Club [6]
    • Spotter Leuven Basketball Club [7]
    • Leuven Chiefs Icehockey Team [8]
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven [9], the oldest Catholic University still in existence in the world (founded in 1425).
  • Group T [10]
  • Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven [11]
The end of the Diestsestraat, near St. Peter's Church.
The end of the Diestsestraat, near St. Peter's Church.

Shopping in Leuven is easy: you can pick one of the two main roads both starting at the Train Station and ending at the Grand Place, near City Hall and St. Peter's Church. Stores usually close around 6pm, and at 8pm on Thursday. Supermarkets are usually open until 8pm, 9pm on Friday.

  • The Diestsestraat is the most important shopping street in Leuven. It has been recently changed to be for pedestrians only for the total length of the street (about 1km!). This street also has two small shopping malls, one of them housing the Kinepolis movie theatres.
  • Look for smaller shops around the Brusselsestraat, Mechelsestraat and the Parijsstraat.
  • The Bondgenotenlaan also features a lot of shops, but is also the main road between the railwaystation area and the centre.
  • Leuven has a lot of clothing stores, jewellers, some fine bookshops and of course a few chocolatiers where you can buy genuine Belgian Chocolate.
  • Seasonal sales provide discounts up to 70% in January and July. Expect the city to be extremely busy, especially on week-ends.

Eat

In general, you'd have to really make an effort to find a horrible meal in Leuven. Almost all restaurants are tasty and relatively cheap, given the student population.

The Muntstraat, with a lot of cosy restaurants.
The Muntstraat, with a lot of cosy restaurants.
  • There are many good eateries and a great atmosphere (eating outside during the Summer is a can't-miss!) in the Muntstraat, very different styles from classical French Belgian cuisine to Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese. Consult the brand new website for more information.
  • More common, bigger restaurants can be found right next to City Hall on the Grand Place.
  • The area around the Oude Markt (Old Market) and Parijsstraat has many smaller restaurants and bars, the Old Market is sometimes jokingly called the longest bar in Europe.
  • The Martelarenplein houses a lot of restaurants and bars just a stone's throw away from the railway station.
  • Look for cheaper restaurants on the Old Market, as that's where the student population mostly enjoys their meal.
  • Try fresh North Sea Mussels, during their season (roughly August-March). Every year, you'll see the big signs announcing their arrival in front of many restaurants.
  • Many Belgians enjoy french fries and snacks in a Frietkot if they're looking for a quick and cheap bite. Don't leave Belgium until you've tried it!

Smoking is not allowed in restaurants.

Rock Werchter.
Rock Werchter.

In Belgium, the legal drinking age in bars and cafe's is 16 for beers and 18 for spirits.

Festivals

Attend the nearby and world renowned Rock Werchter [12] music festival in late June/early July, or Marktrock [13] in the city centre, around August 15th.

Bars and Clubs

Oude Markt, with over 45 bars and restaurants.
Oude Markt, with over 45 bars and restaurants.

Leuven is truly a beer city, with the world's largest brewery Inbev being founded here. Try the many tasty beers, but beware, some have much higher alcohol levels than in the rest of the world! Bars are mostly entrance-free and prices are relatively low.

  • You can visit the many bars around the Old Market every night, but expect a lot more ambiance on Wednesday and Thursday during the Academic Year, when the student population is in the city (late September - early December and early February - end of May).
  • The area around the Tiensestraat, where there are bars owned by student organisations:
  • Huis der Rechten [14] for law students
  • Politika [15] for political scientists
  • Pavlov [16] for psychology students
  • Dulci for economics students,
  • Fak Letteren for arts students
  • Délibéré for the industrial engineers

Other bars filled with young people LaPaz, The Seven Oaks[17], Ron Blacks [18]. You can find drinks at very low rates here.

  • Domus small homebrewery and tavern, the beer they brew is only sold there for consumption.

Most parties take place in clubs in the city centre (and require a small entrance fee, €2-€4):

  • Der Machine (Naamsestraat, 100m from City Hall)
  • Lido (Bogaardenstraat, right next to the Ladeuzeplein)
  • Musicafé (Muntstraat)
  • Albatros (Brusselsestraat, 100m from City Hall)

Larger venues are situated outside the city centre, and have a slightly higher entrance fee (€5-€9) and drinks cost a bit more.

  • Club Silo, near the small port of Leuven, about 1,5km from the Station. Lively all year long on Friday and Saturday.
  • Club Room, about 8km from the city centre in the suburb Herent. Open on Friday and Saturday, offering theme evenings such as a gay-friendly evening every first Friday of the month. Take a taxi or a nightbus.

Sleep

Hotels

  • Hotel La Royale, Martelarenplein 6, [19]. Cosy hotel with relatively cheap rooms, located on the Martelarenplein in front of the Station. From €50 per night.  edit
  • Begijnhof Congres Hotel, Tervuursevest 70, [20]. Luxurious business hotel situated near the Grand Béguinage. More suitable for businessmen. From €115 per night.  edit
  • Holiday Inn Leuven, Alfons Smetsplein 7, [21]. Situated 50m from the Grand Place, it is ideally located to discover the city at a relatively cheap cost. From €65 per night..  edit
  • Klooster Hotel, Predikherenstraat 22, [22]. Luxurious hotel just outside the city centre, nearby the old market. Situated within an old cloister.  edit
  • Novotel Leuven, Vuurkruisenlaan 4, [23]. Modern hotel about 250m from the Station. Easily accessible by car. From €115 per night..  edit
  • IBIS Leuven, Brusselsestraat 52, [24]. Cheaper hotel located about 100m from the Grand Place. From €65 per night..  edit
  • Hotel New Damshire, Schapenstraat 1, [25]. Cosy, somewhat business-like hotel about 100m from the Oude Markt in a quiet street. From €108 per night.  edit
  • Theater Hotel, Bondgenotenlaan 20, [26]. Small and somewhat luxurious hotel ideally situated on the Bondgenotenlaan, 100m from City Hall and the Stadsschouwburg (Theatre Hall). From €99 per night..  edit
  • Hotel Binnenhof, Maria-Theresiastraat 65, +32 (0)16 20 55 92, [27]. Comfortable hotel situated at 300 meters from the railway station and in the neighborhood of the Ladeuzeplein and the arts faculty. From €90 per night..  edit

Budget

  • Youth Hostel Blauwput, the only youth hostel in Leuven. It's very modern and new, with a bar, a lounge, a terrace during Summer, ... From €17,50 per night.
  • Vrienden op de Fiets, 2 adresses for members making a cycling or walking tour through Belgium, [28].
  • Many Bed&Breakfasts can be found here, to stay over one or more nights at a relatively low price (starting from €30).

Stay safe

Leuven is a very safe and clean city, with very low crime records.

In general, there are no unsafe spots in the city best avoided. The streets are safe, even at night. Of course, it is advised to take the precautions tourists are urged to take everywhere (eg. to avoid pickpocketing).

The city centre police station is located next to City Hall on the Grand Place. Don't hesitate to walk in if you have questions. Police usually patrol by car and on foot, and most of the times anonymously instead of walking around in uniform (especially at night).

Beware that police are especially harsh on traffic violations (also the ones made on a bike!), violent behavior and public disturbance.

Note that Belgium and the Netherlands have different drug regulations! Smoking pot (marihuana) is officially not allowed, although it is tolerated when done indoors. An adult can never have more than needed for 'personal use'. Expect any more to be confiscated if they are found by police and you risk being penalized.

Useful phone numbers:

  • Police: 101
  • Emergencies: 112 (can be used from mobile phones).
  • Local police: 016210611 (+3216210611 from abroad).
UZ Leuven, late 2008.
UZ Leuven, late 2008.

Leuven has two larger hospitals. The Academic Hospital UZ Leuven Gasthuisberg is the largest hospital in Belgium and is located just along the ring road. The Regional Hospital Heilig Hart is located in the city centre. As always, dial 112 when you are in distress. You will be taken to either of both hospitals.

For smaller health problems, Belgians usually go to their family doctor, who are often in a group practice in city areas. Ask your hotel, hostel or guide for information on the nearest doctor. Going to the Emergency Room for small health problems will not only cost you, it will also take longer to get help (~45 minutes).

Leuven literally has a pharmacy at every corner. You can not buy medication in a supermarket.

  • Belgians don't like to talk about their income or politics, but they love to talk about beer and chocolates.
  • Hot topics best avoided are the Flanders-Wallonia question and the high number of extreme-right votes in Flanders, although it can spur interesting discussions.
  • Most people enjoy helping tourists, and a lot of people speak Dutch, English and French (especially the students). Don't hesitate to ask locals if you have a question.
  • Throwing garbage or gum on the street is frowned upon - don't be surprised if someone talks to you if you do. You'll soon notice Leuven is a very clean city and locals respect this and try to keep it this way. Use the many bins.
  • Giving tips shows that you were content with the service given, but you are certainly not obliged to do so. It is sometimes done in bars and restaurants. Depending on the total, a tip of €0,50 to €2,50 is considered generous.
  • Leuven is a student city, and therefore has had a history of minor vandalism (garbage being thrown around, throwing beer cans) and public drunkenness. Lately, this situation has improved when talks between locals, student organizations and police were installed. Stewards now keep things organized and make sure the party is kept inside instead of in the streets. It is therefore advisable to keep a low profile in the streets at night, as police and stewards will act.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Dutch

Etymology

Germanic - 'lo' (woods) and 'ven' (march, wetland) put together

Proper noun

Leuven n

  1. Louvain (capital city of the province Flemish Brabant, Belgium)

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