Travel Guide Europe Belgium Leuven



ladeuze square beach volley

ladeuze square beach volley

© gringos4

Leuven is a city of about 100,000 inhabitants, located just 30 kilometres east of Brussels, Belgium. Its centre is one of the most beautiful in the country and if you have the time, a daytrip from Brussels or, even better, staying in the city itself, is really recommended! It has a lively atmosphere, thanks to the fact that it is a major student city as well.



Sights and Activities

  • The Linen-hall in an early-Gothic style
  • The Town Hall
  • The Church of Saint Michael
  • The St. Peter's Church
  • Saint-Anthony's Chapel
  • The Great Beguinage is a the historical quarter containing a streets, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is one of the best remaining examples of a Netherlandish Béguinage and, together with many other beguinages was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.
  • The Church of Saint Quinten
  • Breweries - the well known Stella Artois brewery is located in Leuven, as well as the small lesser known Domus brewery. The latter is located near the Great Market and offers some nice food and beers to taste.



Getting There

By Plane

Leuven doesn't have an airport, but Brussels Airport is just a 15-minute ride by train or car away. It has many direct international connections to North America, Asia and especially Africa. Brussels has connections to all European capitals and most other major cities.

To get to Leuven from Zaventem, you may take a suburban train to Leuven (13 minutes) for €9.10. It runs every half hour on weekdays and every hour on weekends. You may also take buses 616, 651 or 652 from the airport bus station to and from Leuven railway station (1,25 hour, €3). Taxis wait at the arrivals area (about 20 minutes, depending on traffic, €70).

More low-cost carriers arrive at Brussels South Charleroi Airport but travel time to Leuven is considerably longer (1,5h). You can purchase a special bus+train ticket for €15,80 that will enable you to take the bus from Charleroi airport to Charleroi railway station, and from there on to Leuven train station. There is no direct train link between Leuven and Charleroi; you have to change trains in Brussels.

By Train

Leuven railway station runs frequent trains to Brussels (20 minutes), the international airport (15 minutes), Ghent (1 hour), Antwerp (50 minutes), Mechelen (20 minutes), Liege (1 hour) and Bruges (1.5 hour).

By Car

Leuven can be conveniently reached by car. The E40 highway runs from Brussels via Leuven to Liège, whereas the E314 highway links Leuven with the province of Limburg and with Maastricht and Aachen, at about 1 hour distance. The city has recently installed a Parking Guidance System that guides you to the larger parkings in the city centre. Look for the electronic signs on the city ring road.

By Bus

There are bus lines from and to the cities around Leuven (Brussels, Tienen, Aarschot, Mechelen, Diest and Wavre). Buses are sometimes faster if you want to go to Herentals, Turnhout, Geel or other towns in the Campine region.



Getting Around

By Car

It is advised not to start looking for a free parking spot on the street, since it's expensive and the many one-way streets can be a real maze when you're driving. Note that the speed limit around the city is 50 km/h, or 30 km/h inside the ring road and in certain other areas. Your chances of getting a ticket when crossing the speed limit, even slightly, are close to 100%, especially on the ring road.

Licensed taxis can be identified by the blue-and-yellow/red-and-white symbol and can be found near the Fochplein and the Martelarenplein. Although you probably won't need one, given the perfect railway connection, they're probably the easiest way to get to the Airport, for example at night.

By Public Transport

The public transport company De Lijn has a number of bus lines through Leuven. Centre of their network is the Train Station and the stop at the Fochplein. Since distances are not that big, you won't really need public transport unless you're going to Meerdaalwoud, Heverleebos, Campus Arenberg' or the hospital Gasthuisberg. There is no subway or tram line.

By Foot

When arriving in Leuven by train, walk to the Martelarenplein in front of the Station and walk down the Bondgenotenlaan in order to get to the city centre: the Grote Markt (Grand Place) where the tourist information desk is situated. Discover the rest of the historic city centre from there. Note that you can also take the Diestsestraat, which is a pedestrian-only street.

By Bike

The city has many special areas for cyclers and most - but not all (beware of police controls) - 1-way roads can be accessed in both ways for cycles. It's very easy and comfortable. Make sure to lock your bike to a fixed object or the bike will be stolen. You can also rent bicycles. More information at the Tourist Information Desk (near City Hall).




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 (for Belgium), given the student population. Many Belgians enjoy French fries and snacks in a Frietkot if they're looking for a quick and cheap bite. 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. Smoking is not allowed in restaurants.

The more common, bigger restaurants can be found right next to City Hall on the Grote Markt.

Look for cheaper restaurants on the Oude Markt (Old Market) as that's where the student population mostly enjoys their meal. It has many smaller restaurants and bars (the Old Market is sometimes called the longest bar in Europe), but all of them stop serving food after 22:00.

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. But these restaurants of this street are quite overpriced.

Parijsstraat has some restaurants with a nice atmosphere.

The Martelarenplein houses a lot of restaurants and bars just a stone's throw away from the railway station.

The cheapest choice are student cantines called Alma, which serve quite decent food for the whole meal less than €7-10 (two in the centre, one in the campus and many small ones). Students of KU Leuven get a discount, which makes each meal €5 cheaper.




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).





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Keep Connected


Internet is widely available in Belgium, but internet cafés are not common, because most people have internet access at home or through wifi. There are multiple internet access points in all cities and it is free in most libraries. Also in multiple gas stations, train stations and diners on the highways there is Wi-Fi available. Many cafés offer free Wi-Fi nowadays and if you can't find any you can always fall back on Quick or McDonalds which both offer free Wi-Fi.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Belgium is: + 32. To make an international call from Belgium, the code is 00.

Belgium has a modern telephone system with nationwide cellular telephone coverage. Belgium uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are three main companies (Proximus, Mobistar and Base, and a large number of MVNOs) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free. You can get sim cards for the three main companies in dedicated phone shops. Sim cards from the MVNOs are readily available at supermarkets (Carrefour, Aldi, Colruyt to name a few all have their own brand). All networks provide UMTS and HSDPA (3G) mobile internet coverage, and are rolling out a 4G network, mainly in the big cities and eventually in the whole country.


De Post is the national postal service of Belgium, with Dutch, French and German versions. They offer generally fast, reliable services. It's a relatively expensive service though, with normal domestic post (cards, letters etc) up to 50 grams costing €0.61. To other European countries it costs €1.03 and outside Europe it's €1.34. At the post offices, you can buy stamps and they have other services as well, including international money transfers. The opening times of post offices are 9:00am or 10:00am until 4:00pm or 5:00pm, depending on whether it's the main central one or a smaller branch or in towns. Some of them might be open on Saturday mornings, and remember that quite a few still close for lunch break! De Post also offers the sending of parcels, but you could also use private international companies like UPS, TNT or DHL, as they offer roughly the same services and prices, but are generally faster.


Accommodation in Leuven

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