What to do in Leuven Belgium

What to do in Leuven Belgium: weekend itinerary

Leuven is a beautiful city, but since you’re looking for it now, you probably already know that!

When planning a trip, you have to take a lot of things into account: hotels, activities, restaurants, transportation… It can be a daunting work to plan a trip sometimes!

Therefore, this is where this post comes in. You don’t have to do all this work, because I’ve already done it for you!

In this article you’ll find a detailed itinerary for your weekend in Leuven. No hassle, just a complete guide for the best way to spend your weekend in Leuven and what to do in Leuven Belgium. The only thing you have to do is book!

What do you think?

Let’s dive into it!

Ps: visiting Leuven on a budget? Take a look at 14 free things to do in Leuven!

Top tip! I’ve included a handy Google Maps at the end of this article with every attraction, location and/or restaurant I’ll mention in this post! Check it out if you don’t want to get lost!

Corona update! It is advisable to book tickets to any attractions online in advance. Most places require you to reserve a timeslot on their website!

Arriving in Leuven

13 FREE things to do in Leuven Belgium

Leuven is located in the centre of Belgium and very easy to reach with any means of transport!

If you’re flying to Belgium (and I assume you’ll be flying to Brussels Airport then), it only takes a train ride of fewer than 15 minutes to arrive at the city centre of Leuven! Moreover, if you’re arriving through Charleroi Airport you’ll have a direct bus going to Leuven.

If you arrive by car, you’ll be able to park in one of Leuven’s many underground parkings. Find your nearest parking here!

If you’re coming by train, there is a very good connection to Leuven and you can easily find your way to the city by using the NMBS app or website (NMBS is the Belgian railway company).

The best place to stay

First things first, before we dive into what to do in Leuven, you need to know where to stay!

For a more expensive stay, I would recommend Hotel Martin’s Klooster. This 4-star hotel is one of the most centrally located hotels in Leuven and has amazing reviews! The hotel combines modern and older styles with elegance. Moreover, (paid) parking is available, as well as a breakfast buffet!

For a more budget-friendly stay, I would recommend one of the Airbnb’s I researched in Leuven based on quality recommendations and excellent hosts!

Day 1 – arrival day

After you’ve arrived, you probably want to do 2 things: start exploring the city and find a good place to eat for that evening! Luckily, I can help you with both.

Start by walking into the city. The first place you should be is definitely the city centre! Find your way to the Great Market and the Old Market square, this is the heart of Leuven and an absolute hotspot if you want to find something to eat!

Great Market square Leuven - what to do in Leuven Belgium
Great Market square

Depending on the time you arrive, you can start exploring the Saint Peter’s Church which you’ll find on the Great Market square (you can by no means miss it!) The inside is recently renovated and there is an exposition running with paintings of Dieric Boute, called Between Heaven And Earth!

Entrance churchFREE
Exposition€5

Dinner

After you’ve taken a quick look at the city, you’re probably dying from hunger!

Lucky for you, there is nothing better than starting your weekend by dining @ Domus!

Domus is a restaurant/brasserie in the city centre where they serve traditional Belgian food. Moreover, they also brew their own beer! In other words, you have to try this place!

I recommend that you take the plate for 2 with 4 different Belgian specialties so you can taste a bit of everything! Of course, I highly advise you to drink a Belgian beer with it! You’ll have lots of options on that and don’t be ashamed to ask the waiter what fits best with your food!

Day 2 – explore the city

The next day, it’s time to start exploring the city! I’ll provide you with my top recommendations although there is a lot more to visit! If you’re on a budget and would like to know the best FREE things to do in Leuven, take a look at my post about 14 FREE things to do in Leuven!

The best way to go around the city is on foot or by bike! Leuven is pretty small, so you’re certainly able to walk your way to all the places. However, sometimes it’s just better to take a bike. You can rent bikes at the railway station through Blue-Bike.

Let’s discover what to do in Leuven on day 2!

Breakfast @ Sara’s

This cozy coffee place in Leuven also offers a good breakfast and lunch! It’s located in the Bogaardenstraat 24. They don’t have a website, but you can check them out on Facebook!

City hall tour

City Hall Leuven - how to spend a weekend in Leuven

Start your day with a tour of the medieval city hall. The guide will explain a lot about the history of the city, so this way you immediately know all the interesting historical facts behind it!

Such a tour takes approximately 1 hour and you have to reserve a timeslot in advance! So I highly recommend taking a look at their website and booking your ticket online. A ticket only costs €4, so you shouldn’t even think twice about it!

City Hall tour€4

Saint-Peter’s church

Saint Peter's church in Leuven

If you haven’t already, go inside the Saint Peter’s Church and enjoy its beauty! Tip: every hour there will be a golden man ringing a golden bell. Stand with your back to the City Hall and look up to the church, there you can see him!

Also notice that the tower in front of the main entrance has never been finished! As with most churches that time, they simply didn’t have any money left!

Lunch

There are many places in Leuven where you can grab lunch. For the best chance of encountering something to eat, walk through the Tiensestraat or the Parijsstraat. Moreover, on the Great Market and Old Market square, you’ll have lots of places to eat as well.

My personal favourite on the Great Market Square is restaurant Notre Dame Quasimodo, where they have good food for a very decent price! Or you could lunch at Sara’s (see breakfast).

If you’re in for ice cream as well, head over to the best gelateria of Leuven, ‘t Galetje, which you’ll find in the Tiensestraat and Kortestraat.

Kruidtuin

Kruidtuin botanical garden in Leuven

This hidden gem of Leuven is the place where you want to seek a bit of rest after encountering so many people. This place is Leuven’s botanical garden which is unexpectedly located in the city centre on just a 10-minute walk from the Great Market square.

Take your time to explore this wonder of nature, examine all the different species and enjoy the view! Most of it is outside, but you also have a tropical part which is located inside and another hall where they keep special plants.

KruidtuinFREE

Great Beguinage – Groot Begijnhof

Great Beguinage Leuven

On a 15-minute walk from the Kruidtuin, you’ll then find the Great Beguinage. From the 13th centure there used to live beguines in this streets with at its best moment in time 360 beguines!

Now, international university staff and students are housed there, so don’t expect to walk into some houses.

Take a walk through it, have a pitstop (or a little picnic) and visit the Sint-Jan-de-Doper church. Right now, this place is UNESCO World Heritage and certainly worth a stop during your weekend!

Groot BegijnhofFREE

M-museum

M Museum Leuven

If you have time left during your day or if you just like to go to a museum instead of these other activities, then you should take a look at M-museum.

Take a look at the current expositions on their website.

M Museum standard admission€12
M Museum youth rate (19-25 years old)€5

Dinner

For day 2 I’ll provide you with multiple dinner options.

  1. Ristorante Rossi – an AMAZING Italian restaurant in Leuven, probably the best you’ll ever dine. They offer multiple courses (up to 8!) and only have 2 menus of the day available. I promise you, it’s beyond delicious and they are accredited by Gault&Millau!
  2. De Werf – a popular place for lunch and dinner at cheap prices. Therefore, they attract a lot of students. This restaurant is an original concept and if you’re on a budget this is the ideal spot!
  3. Walk through the Muntstraat, a very cozy street with lots of restaurants. This is the spot if you want to find different international cuisines!

Drinks/dessert

If you still fancy a drink, they have lovely cocktails at Bar Nine on the Old Market square. For a chocolate dessert or just chocolate milk (you’re in Belgium for something!), you should take a look at Quetzal!

Day 3 – last day

Breakfast @ Le Pain Quotidien

If you want a traditional bread-based breakfast, go to Le Pain Quotidien. This place offers delicious breakfast in a very cozy setting.

Artes University Library

Artes University Library

If you love some history and an amazing view over the city, then this is the perfect visit for you!

This library has been bombarded by the Germans in the two World Wars but has been restaured thanks to donations of many generous American universities and schools. If you look at the walls, you can see that the names of the donating schools are engraved everywhere.

The Artes Library really is a symbol for victory over the German troops during both the World Wars and during a self-guided tour with audioguide, you’ll get to know everything about it!

The highlight is climbing the tower and having an amazing view of the city and its surroundings. Definitely recommended!

The tour takes as long as you want to make it, I would say a bit more than an hour to get through everything!

Library + tower visit€7

Also take your time to have a look at the fountains next to the library, this is actually a huge map of Leuven, with the main streets and Saint Peter’s church indicated on it!

Lunch

For the best takeaway pasta in Leuven, you should be at L’inizio! This pasta place is literally just a window popping out of a building where the Italian chef cook serves his delicious takeaway pasta!

The bar on the opposite side of the street will let you eat your pasta there if you also order a drink with it, talking about a perfect combination, right?

This cute little place is located in the Parijsstraat and serves by far the most delicious premium takeaway pasta you’ll ever eat! However, with this deliciousness comes a price, his pastas are significantly more expensive than the normal takeaways, but definitely worth it! (You can see him making your pasta right in front of you!)

For a sneak peek, visit L’inizio’s website which is unfortunately only available in Dutch.

If you’re looking for an alternative I would advise you to go to Würst. This is a premium hotdog restaurant, where they sell “Haute Dogs”. This restaurant was founded by a famous Belgian television cook but is now run by different owners.

Again, expect to pay more than you’re average “normal” hotdog, but they are definitely worth a try!

Brewery Stella Artois

The largest beer company in the world, AB InBev, has its basis in Leuven, namely the Stella Artois brewery! It all started in Leuven and right now you can also visit the largest beer company in the world!

On the website of Stella Artois, you can book a visit to the brewery. The visit will take approximately 1.5 hours and afterwards, you’ll know everything about the brewery’s history and how they brew beer! The visit will be concluded on the Stella Artois bar where you can taste a good Stella!

Brewery tour€8.5

Your customized Google Maps!

That’s a wrap! These were all the best things to do in Leuven if you only have a few days to visit the city!

The customized Google Maps below will summarize for you what to do in Leuven Belgium, so you won’t get lost!

Can I see more/other things in Leuven?

Of course, you can! There are still a lot of other things to do in Leuven! If you’d like more info on free things to do in Leuven, check out this blog post about it!

Other recommendations: Abdij van Park, Klein Begijnhof, Abdij Keizersberg, Arenberg Castle, University Halls and many more!

Interested in more about what to do in Leuven or Belgium? Keep watching the Belgium section on my blog for more recent articles!

How to spend a weekend in Leuven: a detailed itinerary

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