In this travel guide, I’ll be taking you to the popular and less popular hotspots in Leuven. Leuven is a busy college town, but it has so many underrated places that you should really visit. Leuven is a city in the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium. It’s located 25 kilometers east of Brussels and is the 8th largest city in Belgium. The two things I think you can recognize Leuven from are the KU Leuven (the largest university of Belgium) and the world’s largest beer brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev. Let’s keep on with our Leuven Travel Guide!
Leuven Travel Guide Contents
- Who Am I?
- Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
- How To Get To The City From Airport?
- Where To Accommodate?
- In City Transportation
- Suggested Budget
- Things To See and Do
- What To Eat/Drink At Where?
- Warnings, Tips, and Tricks
1. Who Am I?
Hi there! I’m Sophie and I’m 20 years old. I live and study in Leuven, a beautiful city in Belgium. I’m quite a positive and sociable person and I do everything with lots of enthusiasm.
I was born in Germany and we lived there for four years. Then my family and I moved to England for my father’s job. About five years later, we moved to Belgium and now we’ve been living here for 11 years. Because of my international childhood, I speak English fluently and I also speak Dutch. My very first trip was to Sweden and this was when I was just a couple of weeks old! I’m really passionate about traveling and I love traveling to destinations far away.
When I travel, I always have my camera (Canon EOS 1300D) with me to take lots of pictures. I love architecture and nature. While traveling with my parents, we don’t have a strict budget, so we sometimes stay in hotels with a bit more luxury. While traveling alone or with friends, I make sure I have a strict budget and stay in cheap, but comfortable hotels.
I have an Instagram account with pictures of my recent travels and also from Leuven. Go ahead and check it out for more of my travels!
Also, you can find my blog here!
2. Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
I would definitely recommend visiting Leuven in the summer (from June to September) because it’s really nice to walk around the city when the weather is nice. To avoid the huge amount of students that study in Leuven, July is the best month because they go home in summer. If you want to go out, come during the academic year (Late September until late June).
As it’s not a very big city, you probably only need a day to see all the hotspots, but I’d recommend 2 days for sure. Then you can take your time and you don’t have to hurry.
3. How To Get To The City From Airport?
The nearest airport is Brussels Airport. The best way to get from Brussels Airport to Leuven is by train. This only takes 15 minutes and costs around €19 for a return ticket. At weekends (from Friday 19:00 to Sunday) it’s only €16. You can also take the bus (line 651 or 652), which takes about an hour. If you buy an m-ticket, this costs less than €4. You could also take a taxi, but personally, I’d recommend the train as it’s really the easiest option.
4. Where To Accommodate?
Since I live in Leuven, I’ve never stayed in a hotel here, so I can’t recommend one from experience. Close to the train station is Hotel Industrie. It’s only €57 for one room, one night and it has good ratings.
Hotel Industrie: Martelarenplein 7, Leuven, 3000, België
5. In City Transportation
You can walk everywhere in Leuven. It only takes half an hour to walk from the train station to the other side of the city. It’s also possible to rent a bike or take a bus. I’d recommend just walking everywhere because then you see the most, also it’s easy and it doesn’t take long.
6. Suggested Budget
As you probably know, Belgium’s currency is the Euro. I’d say you spend around €30 on food per day if you get some breakfast, lunch, and have dinner in an average restaurant. Of course, you can spend more if you go to a fancy restaurant, but it’s definitely possible to find cheap but good restaurants of all origins.
Let’s say you walk everywhere, you buy some souvenirs and we exclude the price for the hotel. I think you’d probably only need a maximum of 50 euros for a nice day in Leuven. Also, check out the ILUVLeuven Ticket that I’ll be talking about later, it’ll save you some money.
7. Things To See and Do
Let’s go into the most important part of my Leuven Travel Guide. Here is a top 10 list of things to see and do in Leuven. And you can find the locations for each of them in Google Maps by clicking here.
*tour: Friday, Saturday & Sunday: 4:00pm
The Town Hall was built in a Brabantine Late Gothic style between 1448 and 1469. It’s a beautiful building that you have to see in Leuven. For 4 euros you can go on a guided tour (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there’s a tour in English). There’s a special pass (ILUVLeuven Ticket) for a couple of monuments that I’ll talk about later. It includes this tour.
*Every day: 11am to 6pm, Thursday: 11am to 10pm, closed on Wednesday
Museum M shows old and new art inspired by the diversity of Leuven. In addition to the permanent collection, M presents temporary exhibitions by both old masters and contemporary artists. A normal ticket is €12, but if you’re 19-25 years old it’s only €5. This can also be included in the ILUVLeuven Ticket.
Saint Peter’s Church
*Every day: 10am – 4.30pm, Sunday: 11am – 4.30pm, closed on Wednesday
St. Peter’s Church dates from the 15th century and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The entry is free, but you can buy a visitor guide for €5.
Brewery Stella Artois
*tour: Saturday: 3:00pm
Stella Artois is part of the world’s largest brewery concern, AB InBev, and is still firmly rooted in its home base of Leuven. The entrance to the brewery is located at Aarschotsesteenweg 20, a 15-minute walk from the center. You can visit the brewery every Saturday.
*tour: Saturday, Sunday: 2pm
For only €5 euros you can take a tour of the abbey. During the tour, you get a unique look behind the scenes of different parts of the building. Park Abbey is about one kilometer outside of Leuven, but it really deserves a spot in the top 10 places to visit.
Groot Begijnhof / Great Beguinage
In 1998 the Groot Begijnhof, together with 12 other Flemish beguinages, was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can visit it for free. I love walking around here and the little houses are beautiful. Leuven also has a Klein Begijnhof or Small Beguinage. It’s really small but also nice to walk through.
*Every day: 8am to 8pm, Sunday: 9am to 8pm
The Botanical Garden of Leuven is the oldest botanical garden in Belgium. The University of Leuven created it in 1738 for its medical students. You can walk through it and also visit the greenhouses.
Mgr. Ladeuzeplein and University Library & Tower
*Monday to Friday: 10am to 7pm, Saturday & Sunday: 10 am to 5pm
The Ladeuzeplein is the largest square in Leuven. In the middle, there’s a beetle on a needle, a sculpture by Jan Fabre. On Friday, the weekly Farmers’ Market is on this square. Just next to the square is the beautiful University Library. In the summer, you can only visit the large reading room on weekends. It’s very impressive, so I do recommend making sure you’re in Leuven on a Saturday or Sunday. This can also be included in the ILUVLeuven Ticket.
This old industrial zone around the Vaart is constantly evolving. The factory buildings are being renovated and occupied by contemporary lofts, shops, and offices. There’s a small port with boats from all around the world. It’s not far from brewery Stella Artois and Keizersberg Abbey.
Keizersberg Abbey should also have a place in the top 10, but then it wouldn’t be a top 10 anymore. For a nice walk and a beautiful view over the city, make sure Keizersberg Abbey is on your planning too.
Last but not least, Leuven has the longest bar in Europe, the Oude Markt. If you’re in Leuven during the academic year (Late September until late June), you will find lots of students here in the evening and night. Now, the square is completely empty because the bars are closed due to the pandemic. Believe me when I say it’s a very rare view.
Apart from this list of the top 10 must-visit locations, I’d also recommend these (hidden) gems:
- Keizersberg Abbey (nice view over the city and very calm)
- Arenberg Castle (beautiful castle and perfect location for a picnic)
- Sint-Donatus Park (small park in the center of Leuven, but can get busy in summer)
- Klein Begijnhof / Small Beguinage (just a couple of streets, so you can skip it if you go to the Great Beguinage, but still beautiful)
- Park Philipssite (location of the Sportoase where you can swim, train, eat, climb…)
For nightlife, just go to the Oude Markt. There are always lots of people and the nickname “longest bar in Europe” says everything.
The Diestsestraat and the Bondgenotenlaan are two long streets with lots of shops.
Tours/Sightsee/Hop on Hop off Tours/Walk Tours
Leuven Leisure is a company that organizes guided walks and bike rides, such as the Pub Tasting Tour on Fridays and the Brewery Bike Ride on Saturdays. If you’re not really interested in beer, they also have other walks, such as the Sunset Walk.
I listed a couple of events that I can recommend, but also check Visit Leuven for other events.
Friday market (7 am – 1 pm)
On Friday, you can find stalls with food, textiles, flowers & plants on the Ladeuzeplein.
Christmas market (December)
*The Christmas market is cancelled for December 2020!
For a month, more than 170 stands to display their delicious and beautiful merchandise every day. Each year a host country is central with typical, traditional products.
Free concerts on the Oude Markt and other swinging squares.
Summer Movies (July & August)
Free outdoor screenings that start as soon as it gets dark.
8. What To Eat/Drink At Where?
The food that you can’t miss to taste in Leuven for the most delicious part of my travel guide;
(Naamsestraat 14, Leuven) €
Breakfast & lunch, all day long.
(Tiensestraat 7, Leuven) €€
While eating breakfast, you can even do some laundry.
(Rector De Somerplein 15A, Leuven) €
Run by real Italians, everything you eat here tastes like a piece of Naples or Siena. What can you have for lunch there? (Fresh) pizza al taglio, paninis, focaccias, salads, pasta cups, and Italian dolce.
(Margarethaplein 1, Leuven ) €€
Haute Dog: A crispy organic roll fresh from the oven, an artisanal patented wurst and surprising toppings make the classic hot dog a refined and original dish.
Notre Dame – Quasimodo
(Grote Markt 11, Leuven) €€
You will find a quick bite or an extensive meal in a relaxed atmosphere here, right in the center of Leuven.
Ellis Gourmet Burger
(Naamsestraat 5, Leuven) €€
Burgers, salads, side dishes, finger food, homemade cocktails, mocktails and ice teas.
9. Warnings, Tips and Tricks
As I already mentioned, you can buy an “ILUVLeuven Ticket” or an “ILUVLeuven Ticket XL”. The first one includes entry to the Town Hall and the library on the Ladeuzeplein for €8. The second one also includes entry to Museum M for €16 in total.
Leuven is a safe city, but as in all cities just be careful for pickpockets.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide for Leuven. Don’t forget to leave your comments and thoughts about my Leuven travel guide!