Leuven is 25 km east of Brussels and is the capital of the Flemish province, Brabant. It is also considered to be the Beer Capital of the World. The world's largest beer brewing company, AB InBev, has its headquarters in Leuven. Among its 500 beer brands are Beck's, Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois. The city also has the longest bar in the world, in Oude Markt. There is a strong student culture, with more than 55000 students enrolled at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the oldest Catholic university in the world. Despite a turbulent history of war damage and occupation, the city is thriving.
1.The Small and Grand Beguinages
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Beguinages were set up, beginning in the 13th century, to house lay religious women in the Catholic faith. They are collectively considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are two in Leuven. The large beguinage was developed on 3 ha of land. A hundred houses accommodated up to 300 beguines, the last of whom died in 1988. It now belongs to the Catholique University of Leuven and the apartments are used for housing employees, students and visiting academics. It also has meeting rooms and a conference center. The smaller beguinage has been divided into apartments, many of which are now private property.
Groot Begijnhof, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
In 1823, the entire collection of the museum's art could fit in a cabinet in the town hall. The collections have grown through acquisitions and significant donations. Today the museum curates 52000 works, from the Middle Ages to the modern era. Emphasis is placed on art from Leeuven and Brabant but one exhibition showcases post-war work from across the country. In 1917, it became a municipal museum and moved to the neoclassic home of former Mayor Leopold van der Kelen. In the 21st century, a modern complex, with a large interior courtyard and rooftop terrace, was designed around the house.
Leopold Vanderkelenstraat 28, 3000 Leuven, Phone: +32-0-16-27-29-29
© Renáta Sedmáková/stock.adobe.com
Fons Sapientiae, otherwise known as Fonske and 'the source of wisdom', is a statue of a quirky character that was designed to represent student life in Leuven. He is set in a fountain, with one hand holding a book and the other perpetually pouring water into his empty head. The mathematical formula inscribed on the book, when resolved, spells 'happiness'. He was created by Jef Claerhout in 1976 to commemorate the 550th anniversary of the Catholic University of Leuven. Fonske is seen as the rival of Mannekin Pis in Brussels and is also dressed up by students on occasion.
Rector de Somerplein 3, 3000 Leuven
4.The University Library and Tower
© Heather Shimmin/stock.adobe.com
The library was built in 1425 and amassed a collection of rare books and manuscripts. Many were confiscated during the French revolution because of the prevailing anti-Catholic sentiment. The library suffered a greater loss in 1914 when neutral Belgium was invaded by Germany. Much of Leuven, including the library went up in flame. After the war, universities in the USA helped to rebuild and restock it. This tragedy and reconstruction were repeated due to the Second World War. The five stories of the 74m tower house permanent exhibitions of the library's history. The views from the balcony at the top make the climb up the 200 stairs worthwhile.
Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein 21, 3000 Leuven, Phone: 0-16-20-30-20
5.The Oude Markt
The Oude Markt is known as 'the longest bar in the world'. There are more than 40 bars and restaurants lining the old market square. It has a year-round program of events, beginning with the annual Leuven New Year countdown. The longest day is celebrated there, late in June. In summertime, there are music festivals, beer gardens and the three-week long Leuven Fair. The architecture of the buildings surrounding the square are worth exploring and shops provide retail therapy. Holy Trinity College is at the southern end and two antiquated water pumps still function in the square.
St Anthony's chapel was originally purchased and transformed as a pilgrimage site to honor St Joseph. However it became famous world-wide for housing the crypt of Father Damien, a Belgian priest who went as a missionary to Hawaii. There he lived and worked on Molokai Island for almost two decades among lepers, before succumbing to the disease himself in 1884. His story is told throughout the church by means of artwork, stained glass and photos. His remains were move to St Anthony's in 1936. His crypt is at the bottom of the stairs. In 2005 he was voted the 'Greatest Belgian of all time' and in 2009, he was canonized.
Pater Damiaanplein z/n, 3000 Leuven
7.Zythos Beer Festival
Zythos means beer in Greek. This annual trade fair for brewers and beer firms has been held in the huge Brabanthal hall, since 2005. The two-day event in April, is the largest beer tasting festival in Europe. A hundred vendors showcase more than 500 different Belgian beers. It is an opportunity for companies to do market research and launch new brands, and for beer enthusiasts to meet the brew masters. There are awards for the best stall and the people's favorite beer. A corner of the hall is set aside for a food court. A free shuttle service is provided to and from the center of Leuven.
Brabanthal, Brabantlaan 1, 3001 Leuven
8.Innovation Beer Festival
© Innovation Beer Festival
Leeuven is the Beer Capital of Belgium. The Innovation Beer Festival is the first of three held in the city, on consecutive weekends in April each year. The second is the Food and Hops Festival and the last is the Zythos Beer Festival. Sixteen innovative brew masters from around the world come together in the historic De Hoorn Brewery, the birthplace of Stella Artois. Guests can meet the brewers and taste new and unique beers. Several restaurants and food trucks participate, including the brewery's own Grand Café. Beer walks and workshops are arranged at various venues in the city.
Sluisstraat 79 - 3000 Leuven
Three architects and took thirty years to build the lacy Brabantine Gothic town hall. It was completed in the middle of the 15th century. It has three stories of pointed Gothic windows and four tiers of dormer windows in the roof. There is a turret at each corner of the long, slender building. In 1850, 236 statues were added to the outside of the building, featuring patron saints, local nobility and other dignitaries. It is used for ceremonial purposes only and the tourism information center occupies one corner. There are daily guided tours, with monthly excursions into the cellars.
Grote Markt 9, 3000 Leuven
, Michigan beaches
10.Arenberg Castle and Park
Antoine de Croy of Picardy started building the chateau in 1455. It was completed in 1515 by his grandson who founded a Benedictine monastery on the site. The last duke of Croy died in 1612 and the property passed to his son-in-law, of the Arenberg family. During World War I, it was occupied by Germans. As the Arenbergs were themselves German, the property was seized by the Belgian government after the war and ceded to the Catholic University of Leuven. The University was split according to language in 1968. The property now houses the Engineering faculty of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. It is not open to the public.
Kasteelpark Arenberg 1, 3000, Leuven
When Domus opened in 1985, it was the first home brewery in the Benelux region. The small brewery is connected to a brasserie. Two different types of beers are produced all year round and a third is brewed seasonally. The beer is piped directly to the tap in the restaurant and often used to cook with. Hot or cold snacks and three-course meals are combined with beer tasting and a guided tour. There are three unique dining spaces which can be hired for private functions. Domus is open 7 days a week.
Tiensestraat 8, 3000 Leuven, Phone: +32-0-16-20-14-49
© De Werf
De Werf is popular with students. The extensive menu includes drinks, snacks and meals such as wraps, salads, pastas and chowders. Its prices are affordable on a student budget. Coffee is served with perfectly round Prince cookies, the Belgians' childhood favorite. The shady terrace is the best place to sit in summer. In winter, fleece blankets and heaters keep students warm outside. The interior is warm and cozy and vibrant. The restaurant is open from 9 am to midnight on weekdays although it tends to close earlier during exam time.
Hogeschoolplein 5, Leuven, Phone: +32-16-23-73-14
Kalypta is a tapas bar and restaurant, serving international cuisine. Its slogan is “the world's kitchen”. Dishes from Greece, Spain, Portugal and Mexico can be found on the comprehensive and diverse menu. The emphasis is on spicy food in this brightly colored restaurant. It has a sunny terrace and is situated in the center of Leuven, close to many of the city's tourist attractions. Kalypta is open from 11:00 to 22:00.
Parijsstraat 21, 3000 Leuven, Phone: +32-16-23-24-06
© Etna Trattoria
This Sicilian Italian restaurant has chosen the iconic volcano as its name and emblem. The décor is simple and reminiscent of the Italian countryside, designed to make guests feel as if they are on holiday. The Mediterranean cuisine includes meat, fish and a variety of vegetarian dishes. There are three chefs and the menu follows the Italian structure with antipasti, primo, secondo and desserts. The restaurant offers sit down meals, take-outs, delivery and catering services. On the first Sunday of each month, Sicilian cooking workshops take place. Otherwise the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Tiensestraat 123, 3000 Leuven, Phone: 0-16-65-18-73
Wurst has raised the humble hot dog to new heights. After extensive research and development, in a quest for a more refined dining experience, the restaurant has formulated a range of gourmet haute dogs that straddle the globe. There are Mexican, Roman, French and Texan varieties. The humble, classic hot dog is also available. Side dishes include salads, hummus and guacamole. The Wurst wagon can be hired for outdoor gatherings of up to 150 people. The food bar is used indoors and feeds 100. During Happy Hour, every weekday from 3-5, bona fide students get two wurst dogs for the price of one.
Margarethaplein 1, 3000 Leuven, Phone: +32-16-89-44-62
Burrito means 'little donkey' in Spanish. It is the main item on the menu at Donki, a restaurant in Leuven which offers fresh, fast, Mexican food. Started by a brother and sister of Nicaraguan descent, this was the first restaurant of its kind in the city. Burritos are made to measure, with or without the tortilla wrap. Customers can choose to sit down to eat, order takeouts or have Uber deliver it to their work. As a community outreach, Donki sponsors piñata parties for underprivileged children in the city. Donki has two outlets in Brussels.
Oude Markt 48, 3000 Leuven, Belgium, Phone: +32-16-88-85-90
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Nosh means to eat enthusiastically and that is what this mother and daughter team invite guests to do. The eatery serves breakfasts and lunches. Their signature snacks are bagels and pancakes. If patrons cannot find anything to satisfy them among the 20 varieties of bagel filling, they can build their own. The pancakes are stacked, American-style, with bacon and maple syrup as topping. Diners can choose to sit down indoors or outside, or order takeout. The bagel bar and mobile Nosh trailer are for hire for parties and outdoor events. Nosh is closed on Tuesdays.
Naamsestraat 14, 3000 Leuven, Phone: 0-16-20-31-03
© Bar Stan
'Stan' means 'place of', for example, Uzbekistan. Bar Stan means 'place of the bar'. It is a contemporary neighborhood bar, an urban refuge and a place where comfort food is served. All items are home-made, from scratch, using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. The menu is written on large notice boards and includes daily specials and chef's suggestions. Diners can choose a meal to share or individual dishes. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee and dinner is served. The Sunday brunch buffet lasts from 10 am to 2 pm. Bar Stan is closed on Saturdays.
Constantin Meunierstraat 2, 3000 Leuven, Phone: +32-16-88-90-83
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18 Best Things to Do in Leuven, Belgium
- The Small and Grand Beguinages, Photo: Ian Dyball/stock.adobe.com
- M-Museum, Photo: M-Museum
- Fonske, Photo: Renáta Sedmáková/stock.adobe.com
- The University Library and Tower, Photo: Heather Shimmin/stock.adobe.com
- The Oude Markt, Photo: roberaten/stock.adobe.com
- St. Antonius, Photo: borisb17/stock.adobe.com
- Zythos Beer Festival, Photo: master1305/stock.adobe.com
- Innovation Beer Festival, Photo: Innovation Beer Festival
- Town Hall, Photo: Mistervlad/stock.adobe.com
- Arenberg Castle and Park, Photo: ivp/stock.adobe.com
- Domus, Photo: Domus
- De Werf, Photo: De Werf
- Kalypta, Photo: Kalypta
- Etna Trattoria, Photo: Etna Trattoria
- Wurst, Photo: Würst
- Donki, Photo: okrasyuk/stock.adobe.com
- Nosh, Photo: A.KaZaK/stock.adobe.com
- Bar Stan, Photo: Bar Stan
- Cover Photo: Tupungato/stock.adobe.com