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Leuven: hidden gems, best-kept secrets and as ever a place to relax

Leuven: hidden gems, best-kept secrets and as ever a place to relax
© Karl Bruninx

Small town, big city feel

Leuven has everything you could want, a cosy town on a human scale with the cosmopolitan feel of a bigger city. Discover the traces of its rich history, enjoy the creative atmosphere of culture and the impressive dynamic presence of the internationally renowned university and its students, not to mention the highly varied selection of restaurants, bars and shops.

Leuven radiates old-world grandeur with its cobbled streets, churches, monuments and two beguinages, but has a soul that never ages! With a trendy and urban vibe, the city is always on the move. Immerse yourself in timeless and happening Leuven, the perfect place for a weekend stay.

Discover Leuven like a local, or…

You probably know Leuven’s pride and joy, the Gothic town hall. But the city has so much more to offer. So how do you put together the perfect city trip? Simple: ask the locals. No one knows the city better than the people of Leuven themselves, its hidden squares, specialised shops, best terraces or trendiest eateries. Get inspired by locals who share your taste.

Let a like-minded Leuven resident be your guide, discover his or her favourite places at Some 157 nationalities from all walks of life call Leuven home and are the beating heart of the city. Everybody in town knows someone ‘via-via’ and once you’re in Leuven, they will be more than happy to point you to the best addresses around.

© Liefst Leuven

… out and about with a guide

Exploring Leuven is a breeze. Feeling daring? Leave your map at home! Wander through the streets as you wish and get caught pleasantly off guard by the city’s many gems. If you’d prefer to go on a tour with a professional guide, join a weekly guided walk or bicycle tour.

Get to know Leuven’s famous beer culture, learn everything about its iconic monuments, find out fun facts and anecdotes or discover the hidden city. Surprises hide behind passages and doors that seem closed… Leuven never ceases to amaze! Guided tours are organised throughout the year.

A few things not to miss during your trip to Leuven:

Cycling among abbeys & greenery

Leuven is the quintessential cycling city. Pedalling around is an ideal way to soak up the ambience. All the places of interest are within a short distance from one another, so why not rent a bike?

© Karl Bruninx

As soon as you cycle out of the centre, you’ll find yourself in the middle of fields and forest, on your way to the stunning 42-hectare setting of Park Abbey for example. Its monastery, gates, church, water mill, barn, walled vegetable garden and ponds have remained unchanged since the 17th century. A cycle route connects it to the three other abbeys of Leuven.

© Marco Mertens

Vaartkom urban hot spot

Once a dilapidated industrial and brewing site near the canal, this area is being transformed into one of the city’s trendiest spots. Drop by and discover the perfect synthesis of old and new, with a park and new restaurants and shops popping up around the harbour.

Go to the birthplace of Stella Artois, De Hoorn, where the ale was first brewed in 1926. Now a hotspot with a bar, restaurant, co-working space and a number of lofts you can rent for a weekend stay, or longer. The neighbourhood is also a good place to start out on an urban graffiti art trail using the street art cities app.

A medieval village within the city

If there’s one place to escape to during your visit to in Leuven, it’s the Great Beguinage. Dating back to the 13th century, this walled village consists of cobbled stone alleys, peaceful courtyards and gardens, with dozens of houses and convents built in traditional red bricks. Travel back in time in this UNESCO-listed world heritage site.

Leuven’s masterpiece

The Last Supper is Leuven’s most famous painting by Flemish Primitive Dieric Bouts. You can admire the triptych in the very chapel for which it was created almost 600 years ago. A mixed-reality tool brings the painting and other striking art treasures in the Saint Peter’s Church to life. It’s a must-see for lovers of art and heritage, as is a visit to museum M Leuven, which presents regularly changing exhibitions.

Mini-break: staying over

For a host of (practical) information about exploring Leuven, check out the website of Visit Leuven. There’s too much to do and see in one day, so why not stay overnight? Keep an eye on the website for current promotions at hotels or B&Bs.

And finally, what about corona? Well, if it’s the beer we’re talking about, here in Leuven we prefer Stella ?. Seriously though, Leuven has long been known as a city where people quickly feel at ease. The hotels, restaurants, guides and shops will do everything they can to receive you in the best possible conditions, so that you can enjoy a carefree getaway. Welcome to Leuven!

© Karl Bruninx

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