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Leuven is a dynamic and thriving city of about 95,000 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 35,000 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, Liège, 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. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest
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- Civic property
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Points of Interest in Leuven
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. Also has an interesting, huge sculpture of a dead beetle on a needle in front of it.
- Fonske, the "fountain of wisdom", on the Fochplein.
- Lakenhal, administrative centre of the K.U.Leuven.
- Groot Begijnhof (great or large beguinage), UNESCO world heritage. South of the Grote Markt.
- Klein Begijnhof A small beguinage along a short street north of the Grote Markt.
- If you follow the river Dijle northwards from Brusselstraat (near the Grote Markt) towards the area of the Klein Begijnhof, you will see a few Bruges-like scenes as the river passes by buildings.
- Park abbey (Parkabdij). 3 km east of the city by the Geldenaaksebaan
- Collegium Trilingue, near the Vismarkt
- The Law Court (Gerechtshof), in the Rijschoolstraat.
- St.Peter's Church (Sint-Pieterskerk), UNESCO world heritage on the Grote Markt
- Castle of Arenberg (Kasteel van Arenberg), in the suburb of Heverlee
- British Military Cemetery De Jacht (Engels Militair Kerkhof); 5 km east of the city
- Old Market (Oude Markt), filled with bars and restaurants
- Botanical Garden (Kruidtuin) There are picknick tables in the South East cornerm left from the entrance gate.
- 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.
- Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein and Herbert Hooverplein are two adjacent squares with a mixture of modern and older buildings. In a corner of Herbert Hooverplein is a monument depicting people traveling by hot air balloon.
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 (20 km). 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 (Grand Beguinage) is part of the Flemish Beguinages. 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.
Culture and Landmarks
- Visit the historic centre, the University buildings and the St. Peter's Church on the Grand Place. Information and guided tours can be found at the Tourist Information Desk.
- Visit the Groot Begijnhof (Grand Beguinage), a UNESCO World Heritage site. Easily reachable by bus or on foot.
- Visit the historical Kruidtuin (Botanical Garden), at Kapucijnenvoer.
- You can go to the new city Museum M 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.
- Visit the summer events Beleuvenissen (Every Friday in July), Hapje Tapje (First Sunday of August), Marktrock (weekend of August 15) and Leuven Kermis (Leuven Carnival) )(September). The last weekend of July or the first weekend of August, M museum hosts a festival in cooperation with the cultural centre and Het Depot.
- 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 Grote Markt, which is quite the spectacle. Schools in Leuven are closed for this occasion, so expect a lot of visitors.
- Have a picnic in the Sint-Donatuspark in the city centre, 50m from the Ladeuzeplein.
- Visit the Kruidtuin 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.
- Visit the market every Friday on the Ladeuze- and Hooverplein, flea market every Saturday in the vicinity of the Grote Markt (Mechelsestraat), and flower market in the pedestrian-only part of the Brusselsestraat (the street leading away from the Grote Markt), every Saturday as well.
- Visit the Christmas market and shop for Christmas gifts, taste local specialties and drink a glass of Glühwein or brandy. Annually in December (2010: 10–19 December) on the Ladeuze- and Hooverplein.
- 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, 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 
- Bears Leuven Basketball Club 
- Leuven Chiefs Icehockey Team 
- Leuven Lions American football team 
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.
- 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 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.
In Belgium, the legal drinking age in bars and cafés is 16 for beers and 18 for spirits.
Attend the nearby and world renowned Rock Werchter  music festival in late June/early July, or Marktrock  in the city centre, around August 15.
Bars and Clubs
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:
Other bars filled with young people are
- 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):
- Club Montréal (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 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.
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 1 km!). 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.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Leuven on Wikivoyage.