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Leuven City Guide

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Laudeuzeplein by Night, Leuven's University Library
Leuven City Guide

Modern yet conventional, scholarly yet playful… Leuven (Lovain in French, Löwen in German) is a unique city that embodies an interesting mix of contrasting features and personalities. Known as the home of the oldest catholic university in the world, one might think that the people and the environment are stiff and rigid. Its other reputation as the home of the most famous Belgian beer brand the Stella Artois provides an interesting twist to one’s perception. Leuven is the capital of the Flemish region of Brabant and unlike other Flemish cities (Antwerp, Ghent) having a plain landscape, it has a hilly terrain. Its boundaries encompass the valley of the Dijle river. Overall, this city has an area of about 56.63 km2. Located about 25 to 30 kilometers from Brussels, the city can be reached by taking one of the connecting trains from Brussels or by riding one of the local buses.

The earliest documentation of the city occurred during the year 884. Wandering Vikings found a fort along the Dijle river named Luvanium (Latin) or Lovon (vernacular) and decided to settle around it. However in 891, Arnulf of Carinthia took over this territory. He built a castle on an island within the river, which eventually became a home for the succeeding counts of Leuven. The city developed into a center for commerce and administration. And, from the 11th to the 14th century, cloth manufacturing became its primary industry. Like any other cities, Leuven also had its share of the “dark ages”. The world wars brought immense destruction of its infrastructure and important documents. As the war ceased, rehabilitating efforts focused on rebuilding the city. At present, these ancient buildings stand tall along with modern infrastructure and serve as icons of the city’s rebirth.

Leuven is known as the student city as reputable universities, including world-famous Catholic University, are spread throughout the town. On regular school days, about 24,000 students flock to this town to expand their knowledge. There are also several churches that stand as icons of architectural progress from the 15th century onwards. Museums containing interesting artifacts abound as well. Indeed architecture enthusiasts, historians, and individuals who simply enjoy sightseeing will certainly find Leuven a haven for history and design aesthetics. Music enthusiasts can also look forward to the infamous summer rock festival called Marktrock. Performances of orchestras particularly the Arenberg Orchestra are also well-known in this city and are definitely worth seeing.

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