Top Things To Do In Leuven, Belgium: 10 Places You’ll Love

Things to do in Leuven
Contributing Writer
| 4 min read

Leuven is one of the hidden gems of Europe that more tourists have begun to uncover. Its historic centre has proven to be one of the most beautiful in Belgium and its Catholic university is the oldest in the world, having been founded in 1425.

The city has a rare blend of energetic youth – due to its 35,000 students enrolled in the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven – mixed with its rich history. There is much that appeals to both old and young, from lively nightlife to stunning historic sites like St Peter’s Church and Castle Arenberg. Learn more about the best things to do in Leuven…

1. See the iconic Stadhuis

Stadhuis van Leuven
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rutger96 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

No list of places to check out in Leuven is complete without including the iconic Stadhuis – or city hall – at Grote Markt square. Built between 1448 and 1469, it is a fine example of Gothic architecture. In the 19th century, 235 statues were added to its façade, each of which is dedicated to past residents of the city. The Stadhuis was hit by a bomb during World War II but fortunately, it was not destroyed.


Address: Grote Markt 9, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: Stadhuis

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2. Visit Leuven’s UNESCO World Heritage Site

St. Peter's Church, Leuven
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Trougnouf used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Right across the Stadhuis is St. Peter’s Church, a beautiful 15th century church that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite never having its bell tower completed, it was included among the Belfries of Belgium and France, a group of 56 buildings designated by UNESCO. It has a Brabantine Gothic style and holds two paintings by the famed Flemish artist Dirk Bouts, the 1465 Martyrdom of St. Eramus and 1460s Last Supper.

St. Peter’s Church

Address: Grote Markt 1, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: St. Peter’s Church

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3. Go back to school

Universiteitsbibliotheek Leuven
Source: Photo by user Hühnerauge used under CC BY 2.0

The Universiteitsbibliotheek is quite a mouthful, but its architecture is truly one to marvel at. It has been a library for students for three different universities throughout its history, beginning at the Old University of Leuven from 1425 to 1636. The current library was rebuilt after German soldiers burnt it down during the First World War, in which many valuable works were destroyed by the fire. Its current collection is split between the French-speaking Catholic University of Louvain and Dutch-speaking Catholic University of Leuven.


Address: Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein 21, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: Universiteitsbibliotheek

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4. Explore Leuven University’s quarters

Groot Begijnhof Leuven
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wentao Jiang used under CC BY-SA 4.0

University students in Leuven are certainly lucky. As if a gorgeous library isn’t enough, their residential dorms also happen to be the Groot Begijnhof, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. How many students can say that of their dorms? At 3 hectares (7.4 acres) in size, it was founded in the 13th century by the Beguines. It has some 300 apartments and gives visitors a chance to see what living was like 300 years ago.

Groot Begijnhof

Address: Groot Begijnhof, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: Groot Begijnhof (in Dutch)

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Leuven Tour Guide

Miriam  Meda

Miriam Meda

I inspire and help you on your trips to Belgium with my project, Curiositas Mundus. My goal is to avoid you any surprises once you land in this beautiful and small country. Traveling with kids? No problem. Are you a high school teacher preparing for your next study trip? No worries. Families? Friends? Solo travel? VIP? Companies? Universities? Lost souls? Restless minds? Physical challenges or ... Read more

5. Get a taste of Belgian beer

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Leuven’s Beer Festival is among the largest in Belgium. Each year, it attracts more than 16,000 attendees. Due to its sheer size, there is a party atmosphere to it, as attendees get to try over 500 beers from across 100 breweries. It isn’t just booths showcasing beers though. There are organised beer tastings, including beer tours on bikes and brewery visits lined up. Check their official website for the full schedule.

Leuven Innovation Beer Festival

Address: Brabanthal, Leuven, Belgium

Website: Leuven Innovation Beer Festival

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6. Discover how Stella Artois is made

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

If you haven’t heard of the Stella Artois brewery, do yourself a favour and have one this weekend. Belgian beer is among some of the best in the world. The brewery first released this Christmas beer in 1926 – named Stella, the Latin word for star – and it became such a huge success they decided to put it on the market permanently. During this 90-min guided tour, you will become familiar with the entire brewing process. The tour will end on the brewery’s rooftop, where you can sip Stella Artois and enjoy the surrounding views.

Stella Artois brewery

Address: Aarschotsesteenweg 20, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: Stella Artois brewery

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7. Walk along abbeys built by monks

Abdij van Keizersberg oprit
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Guateke used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Joining the list of the country’s beautiful architecture are abbeys built by monks. While Leuven has plenty of great abbeys, perhaps the most stunning of them all is the Keizersberg Abbey (also known as Mont César Abbey), built by Mardsous monks in 1899. In 1969, part of the abbey was commissioned for student accommodation. Lucky students, like we’ve mentioned. Trappist beer has famously been known to be made by Belgian monks and although there is a commercial beer on the market in the abbey’s name, the monastery has never been involved in brewing.

Keizersberg Abbey

Address: Mechelsestraat 202, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: Keizersberg Abbey

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8. View over 46,000 masterpieces

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Filipva used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Opened in 2009, the M – Museum Leuven is notable for its mix of classical and contemporary art, featuring over 52,000 paintings and sculptures from late 16th century to 19th century including those by Flemish artists like Constantin Meunier and Jef Lambeaux. Modern visual art, such as photography, dancing and performing arts, also form part of the museum’s exhibitions.

M – Museum Leuven

Address: Leopold Vanderkelenstraat 28, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: M – Museum Leuven

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9. Experience Leuven’s nightlife

Oude Markt (Leuven)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wentao Jiang used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Built in 1150, the Oude Markt – or Old Market – looks like it has the longest bar in the world, but is actually different ones all joined together. Oude Markt has it all, whether you’re looking for a nice café like Vesper or bars like Villa Artois or Bar Nine. There are also several restaurant establishments offering a wide variety of food, from Japanese to local cuisine. In mid-August every year, the annual music festival, Marktrock, is held.

Oude Markt

Address: Oude Markt, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Website: Oude Markt

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10. Escape the city

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

If you’d prefer to make a quick escape from the city, head for Heverlee Woods, a 2,000-hectare (4,942-acre) forest located on the outskirts of Leuven. Go on a nice relaxing hike or bring a picnic basket with a cool Belgian beer. The park used to be a hunting ground for the noble De Croy family. Visitors have also stumbled upon a small abandoned castle. We won’t spoil the surprise, but it won’t be difficult to find.

Heverlee Woods

Address: 3050 Oud-Heverlee, Belgium

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Go quick

Leuven, Belgium
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Foto Fitti used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Leuven isn’t one of those “mainsteam” European cities advertised on travel brochures, but given how popular it’s becoming, we won’t be surprised if we soon see them joining the list. If you’ve always loved European history and culture, this is not a place you’ll want to miss out on.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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