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48 hours in Leuven



Staycations have become my new favorite thing. I’ve always had this strong longing to see every far away country as long as it wasn’t my own. But I’ve come to realize there are so many Belgian cities I’ve yet to discover. The most well-known city trip destinations in Belgium - Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels and by now you know of my undying love for Bruges - are without a doubt all visit-worthy, but often cramped with tourists. The smaller ‘unexplored’ towns are logically left more authentic and are also more interesting budget-wise, which after our trip to not-so-cheap Copenhagen is something I’m definitely looking for right now. 

In August we decided to take it to Leuven for a short weekend. As the capital of Flemish Brabant, it’s a city full of history but it has a youthful aspect to it as well, seeing as many students from Leuven’s University live there during school months. Therefore hip cafes and innovative concepts have increasingly become a part of the city’s culture. For us it was the perfect choice for a two-day getaway. Read on for more details on how we spent 48 hours sightseeing, sipping coffee and shopping our way through Leuven.

See & do


The Great Beguinage + Saint John the Baptist Church 

We started our first day in Leuven with a visit to The Great Beguinage, which immediately stole my heart with its medieval charm. Its authentic sandstone houses and alleys date back to the 13th century. The Saint John the Baptist Church situated in the middle of the beguinage is also free for visitors.

Saint Peter's Church

Another notable church is Saint Peter’s. Located in the very heart of Leuven and originally built in 986, it’s the city’s oldest church and a beautiful example of late gothic architecture. Inside you can discover the most famous work of Flemish painter Dieric Bouts: The Last Supper.


The Town Hall

Leuven’s most remarkable building is without a doubt the Town Hall. It was built by three different architects and has 236 statues gracing its facade. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the building, there are daily guided tours in Dutch, French and English where you can visit the council hall, the wedding hall and the reception rooms.
Tip: We booked our tickets beforehand via Visit Leuven. With the ILUVLeuven XL formula we got to visit the Town Hall, University Library and the M-Museum for only €16.

The University Library + Tower

If you’d like to visit Leuven’s University Library, do it on the weekend. Only then you’re free to walk around the reading room without having to bother any students - which I may have done to get this photo. Also make you sure your ticket includes the library tower: five floors take you up to the balcony where you can enjoy a wonderful view over Leuven. 


Stella Artois Brewery

There aren’t many cafes in Leuven that don’t serve Stella Artois beer, so visiting the brewery is kind of a given. I found it really interesting to see and hear all about how the beer is made and having visited a few breweries, I can say this was one of the better tours. There’s a tour every Saturday and Sunday and you can easily buy your tickets online here.

The M-Museum

Honestly we only visited the M-Museum because it was included in our ILUVLeuven Tickets. I’ve never really been a museum person, but it did add a nice bit of culture to our trip. The M always has new expositions going on so check their website to see the current program.

Food & shopping

Harvest Club

For a bit of eco-friendly shopping, check out Harvest Club on the charming Mathieu de Layens square. They sell everything from women’s, men’s and kids' clothing to beauty products and small deco items: all ethical and sustainable. And they have plants and cacti too!
MATHIEU DE LAYENSPLEIN 7 | harvestclub.be

Koffie en Staal

Koffie en Staal - literally ‘Coffee and Steel’ - specializes in coffee and lunch as well as handmade jewelry and furniture. So after you’ve enjoyed a delicious toast with hummus or a cappuccino on ice, be sure to take a peek at the lovely earrings, bracelets and necklaces in their little shop.
MECHELSESTRAAT 140 | koffieenstaal.be

Bar Stan

Cozy vibes, great coffee and more cozy vibes: Bar Stan is my favorite breakfast spot in Leuven and definitely worth a little walk from the center. Imagine large sansevierias, vintage school chairs and the smell of fresh homemade granola. Sold? I know I am.
CONSTANTIN MEUNIERSTRAAT 2 | barstan.be
 

Nosh

Just across from the Town Hall, you’ll find Nosh. This brunch spot is mostly known for its scrumptious bagels and American pancakes. We went for the latter in the maple syrup, yoghurt and blueberries version. Their menu also offers a couple of brunch formulas, from which I picked the ‘Veggie Breakfast’ with avocado toast, cheese and fried eggs - huge but delicious!
NAAMSESTRAAT 14 | nosh.be

Thelma Coffee & Design

Thelma is a concept store combining designer clothing and interior bits with coffee and homemade (vegan) cake - which sadly we didn’t try. The shop is wonderfully bright and spacious, and a must-visit whilst shopping in Leuven as it’s located in a side street of one of the city’s most prominent shopping streets: the Diestsestraat.
VAARTSTRAAT 12 | thelmacoffeedesign.com
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Maxime Loncke
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