Leuven is a City

In Belgium, a patchwork of cities, Leuven is a household name. Founded as a Roman settlementthe place was first known as Lovonnium in the early Middle Ages. This mud house village eventually grew into a large and powerful city. She even became the most important city in the Duchy of Brabant, which extended from the south of the current Netherlands to southern Belgium. If things had gone differently towards the end of the Middle Ages, Leuven quite probable would have become the capital of Belgium - and Brussels would have been her little sister. But history decided otherwise.

History has been turbulent and even dramatic here, but, above all, has shown that this city will not be brought to her knees. Leuven is a proud lady, firmly on her feet, chest out. Take a look at the world's most beautiful town hall and you will understand that the people of Leuven were already a proud folk in the 15th century. Does this structure have a match in Gothic Beauty anywhere?

Leuven did become a capital: of the Belgian province of Flemish-Brabant. She could rightly be described as a city of contradictions: Leuven literally lives of her contrasts. Old but vivid, her youthful residents move between centuries-old buildings. Frivolous but serious, the world's oldest catholic university lies right in the heart of the beer capital of the world. Conservative but unbridledly creative, the university aims for scientific breakthroughs, while the people of Leuven carry on with their beloved traditions; even though the city reinvents itself through vast city renewal projects, long established bars continue to thrive.

During your visit you must not miss the many architectural delights and the Unesco World Heritage. The Grand Beguinage (there is also a Small) is Flanders' largest, there are the renowned university colleges of Naamsestraat, the Botanical Gardens, the many churches and monastic complexes, the Old Market Square, Arenberg Castle, the final resting place of the Greatest Flemish Belgian... Who still doubts it: Leuven is more than just its gorgeous town hall.

Leuven is a University

In 1425, Pope Martin V put his signature on the foundational deed of a university in Leuven. Ever since, the most renowned and largest university of the Low Countries has been active here. She is also the oldest - still existing - catholic university in the world.

After six centuries of coexistence, the university of Leuven and the city have become so intertwined that it sometimes seems you find yourself in one big student campus. Leuven is a true student city, as much a city as a university. Boundaries are hard to draw: city and university literally run into each other. KU Leuven is active in many of the most impressive buildings, but also countless houses serve as student residences; churches and parks have to do with the university. The city's Botanical Gardens were the first in Belgium. Founded in 1738, they served for the study of medicinal plants by doctors in training.

The university and the city have maintained a unique system of interaction and cooperation for centuries. You can easily say the university is the city's engine. Many inhabitants of Leuven are employed at the university or derive their income from the presence of students and professors. With nearly 20,000 employees, KU Leuven is one of the largest employers in Belgium. Meanwhile, with more than 40,000 students enrolled and only 30,000 locals living downtown, you can understand why Leuven is a youthful city.

KU Leuven makes small and inconspicuous Leuven the centre of the world: the big bang theory and the modern world map have their origins here. All joking aside: this city has been called intellectual and elitist, her inhabitants subtly arrogant. What is certain: the university has always gathered great minds here. Often still the names of the old scholars are well known, but today this place is also full of top scientists. Their groundbreaking research shows itself, for example, in the many spin-offs, highly innovative companies that are born from the university womb.

With such a university, you are sure to learn something here. Did you know that KU Leuven disposes of the world's largest collection of banana varieties, with 1,400 species? Or that she produces more beers than any Belgian brewer?

Leuven is a Feeling

'Centuries-old, alive and kicking', reads the city's marketing slogan. Great found, and on a sunny spring day you will totally get it. Here, a seriously young atmosphere hangs between seriously old buildings. 50,000 college and university students walk the streets, that is one student for every two local residents. It keeps the city forever youngToday she lives even more than ever. Go watch a game of OHLthe Leuven football team, and you will understand what we mean.

The Flemish art of sociability is nowhere as strong as here. Leuven has more cafes and restaurants per capita and visitor than anywhere else in Flanders or Belgium. No place in the world is so steeped in a rich tradition of beer and pub culture. Not only is Leuven the beer capital of Belgium, with her Longest Beer Counter and Stella Artois de facto of the world. To study in this city is quite a challenge. But is Leuven actually a city? There is debate about it. Many eighteen year olds who flock in from Flemish villages every September feel catapulted to the big city, but locals feel at home in their 'village Leuven'. Leuven is a Belgian village and a cosmopolitan city. All nationalities of the world live, work and study here. You can taste the world cuisine, but likewise the most famous local product shows this city's worldliness. The lager of Leuven is drunk all over the world.

Leuvens' atmosphere is captivating. Locals sometimes move to Antwerp, New York or Shanghai, but ultimately miss their lovely city, wherever they are. Many students stay to live and work, visitors stay longer than intended. This is a good city to live in, and makes a blissful place to visit.

Welcome to Leuven: one big cosy bar, a restaurant with an infinite menu, a huge student campus, a brewery, a city, a university: all this and more.