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Leuven is known for its numerous breweries and a medieval town centre, combining 15th-century architecture with a bustling student vibe. With more than 200 pubs, including the longest bar in Europe, it might be tricky to tear yourself away from your pint of Kwak (which comes in its own distinctive glass). But if you do, you’ll discover the city’s other charms, from Gothic buildings to priceless works of art.
Hostels in Leuven include a converted townhouse dating from 1845, with a cosy fire-heated lounge room ideal for warming up with your free hot drink. You can also find free buffet-style breakfasts and hostels with small private and dorm rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. On-site bars are the perfect place to try one of Belgium's famous beers, or play a game of table football. You can expect free Wi-Fi in a Leuven hostel and self-catering kitchens to cook up a big meal before your night out.
The city’s Old Square, Oude Markt, is the social hub of Leuven. By day, people sit on outdoor terraces catching rays of sunshine, and at night it transforms into a student hangout. Neighbouring Grote Markt has live music and food events during the warmer months and is home to the Christmas market in December. UNESCO World Heritage Site Groot Begijnhof dates back to the 13th century and is a picturesque student neighbourhood with a maze of alleyways, gardens and parks.
Brewery tours are available in the city centre and surrounding countryside, including ones at global brand Stella Artois and family-run Brewery de Kroon and Brewery Hof Ten Dormaal. Grote Markt’s Town Hall (Stadhuis) is covered with 236 statues, and is one of the best-known Gothic town halls in the world. M-Museum showcases the best in Belgian art dating back to the Middle Ages, and also has an enclosed garden and roof terrace. Out of the city, you can explore the 2,000-hectare Heverlee Woods, which are a 40-minute bus ride away.
Cycling and walking are the best ways to get around the city. Trains from Brussels Airport leave twice an hour and take about 15 minutes. Leuven train station is a 15-minute walk from the centre, and also connects with Brussels South Station and Antwerp. Change in Brussels for international destinations like Paris, London, Amsterdam and Cologne. The international bus stop in front of the train station has services to destinations in France, United Kingdom and Germany.