The Catholic Universtiy of Leuven is the oldest in Belgium. Some decades ago it was the object of a bitter discusion between the Flemish and the French speaking communities in Belgium.
Although Leuven is in Flanders, the language most broadly used in the University used to be French. When the Flemish nationalist movement begun to get stronger, they requested that the language of the University should be Dutch. Unable to find a compromise, the French speaking community decided to create a new town and a new University in the Walloon Brabant: Louvain la neuve.
It seems as though every day a new concert or festival comes to town. There's always a fair or parade or something going on.
Some of the best concerts ever come through here. The most unbelievable line-up was at the four-day rock festival just outside Leuven, called Rock Werchter.
Here are just a few of the Bands that played:
The Plolyphonic Spree
Queens of the Stone Age
De La Soul
Keep in mind that this was over the course of a SINGLE WEEKEND!! Concerts like these and all sorts of public art festivals and such kept things really interesting. It's worth checking out before you visit Leuven to see what'll be on. Sometimes these things consume the whole city!
Favorite thing: The castle of Arenberg wich is now property of the univercity, was before the world war the home of the family Von Arenberg. They were one of the richest families in this part of Europe, but with the war the Belgians thought they helped the germans and so the family had to move out... Know you can walk around in the park or follow classes in the castle.
Favorite thing: It must have been a mistake, however the big marketplace is much smaller than the old market and the old market seems newer than the big one. The "grote markt" is the place where you'll find our beatifull townhall and the St Pieterschurch. Since it started to be a car-free place the place reborn into what it is now. Only some busses pass true. When tropical weather arives chairs are putted outside as well as the beers....
Favorite thing: This is Louvain, the town where I live. The town hall is one of the most famous buildings here in this student city. Tradition has it that the first Town Hall of Leuven was situated in Old Market Square. The second was located on the Great Market Square of Leuven. It had its place in a row of houses in front of St. Peter's Church, but outside the present building line. The construction of the present Town Hall started in 1439. Even the people of Antwerp or Brugge will admit that this one is more beautifull than theirs and even maybe the nicest one of Western Europe, exept of Melkouwen than.
Well indeed if you walk around in Leuven you might cross the path of a giraffe or other strange animal. If you taste to many belgium beers you will see for example pink elephants. But this picture was the pet-giraffe of a marvelous olive shop in the "Pensstraat". If you need a ollive just go there...
So to go on a downtown safari in my town, you certainly don't need a safari-jeep or binoculars. Just a copple of to many beers or a olive shop.
When the spring arrives in Leuven, the chairs are moved outside and the whole town turns into one big terrace. Thanks to the micro-tropic-climate even palmtrees arise like you see on this picture. If you have no classes, or even when you have, or you just want to enjoy a cool beer move down to the terrases.
Some tips maybe, if you want to go to the most known bar/pub place in town, you have to search for the "oude markt", old market, where there is just nothing more than tens of pubs and ok one drugstore (see picture). If you like more a quite green place in the middle of town, you can visit the "hogeschoolplein". Also the square in front of the station is a nice place to be. A bit out of the center you can find some nice places in front of the "Arenberg castle".
Another newly constructed 'old' building is the City Library at the Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein. The impressive building in Flemish Renaissance style was constructed between 1921 and 1928. It was designed by the American architects Warren and Wetmore and built thanks to donations of American Colleges and Universities. It replaces the former university library which used to be in the university halls in the Naamsestraat. The library had been destroyed in 1914. The present building also suffered damage during a fire in 1940. Numerous important tomes were lost forever (also the Papal document for the creation of the Leuven University in 1425). In the high-rising tower is a 'beiaard' (set of bells) that was donated by the Americans.
Very recently the building was restaurated and so it is now certainly one of the cities highlights. On the ground floor there are most of the time temporarly exebitions. Many times with old books from the library itself. On the 1st floor you find the main library room. Normaly this part of the building is only possible to visit as student or in groups, but a friendly word to the person at the entrance can help to make an exeption.
Favorite thing: Leuven is infested with the presence of InBev (formerly Interbrew), the notorious firm that has been buying breweries in all of Europe, often just to close them and replacing their beers by inferior ones, for a few decades now. The picture only shows a small part of their complex in Leuven, and although it looks impressive be warned that this firm is not a friendly one, and is extremely low on ethics. Thousands of people lost their jobs due to them. Old traditional beers are disappearing, thanks to InBev and predecessors. Many breweries were closed by Interbrew, some of which had been in business for centuries and were doing perfectly fine. If you don't want to support this, brands to stay away from are Hoegaarden, Leffe, Jupiler and Bellevue, to name just the most important. For all of these beers alternatives can be found which are often far superior. Even in Leuven there are alternatives. Read on.
My last visit of Leuven was some days ago. VT member Suri was touring Belgium, for the second time, first time being in december 2003. I joined the tour to visit Leuven.
Leuven (Louvain both in French and English- sometimes, I would use English name "Louvain") is a small city in Vlaams Brabant for whom it is the capital city since 1995. It is located close Brussels, East of the Belgian capital city. In fact, both Brussels region, province of Vlaams Brabant (Flemish Brabant) and province of Brabant Wallon (Walloon Brabant) used to belong to the Brabant province prior 1995.
So, during this day, we were walking in this town of 90.000 inhabitants (dixit the voluble guide at City Hall). Brave people we were. It was really cold and sometimes windy.
It was about soaking the ambience, not really rushing to see all the monuments, rather browsing around, visiting some interesting spots and pub... A fine day with the nice Vters I use to talk to online and sometimes offline.
Fondest memory: It was not my first visit of Leuven, my very first was within the week I arrived in Belgium,; years and years ago. :) First city (other than Brussels) I visited in Belgium was Leuven. I was stuck in a comfy car, just saw the buildings, not walking at all.
My second last was in April while attending a film festival. One of films I saw there was about the children enrolled in war conflicts in Ivory Coast. Watching such film in a university town, a city of knowledge, where brought-up-children have the chance to fulfill their education was surreal. That time again, no real visit. My friends whom I attended the festival with didn't intend to browse around. For some reason, I depended on them. So, we took the train together, walked to the pub where we waited for some officials of the festival, headed to the festival area, entered the projection room, sat, watched, went out, headed to the train station.. and that was it.
This time, a nice visit, not rushed out.. just browsing around, listening to know a bit about the town history. Yes, history...