Experience the university in Leuven

Leuven is captivated by its university and students, and it shows. Throughout the city there are traces of its rich history and the current student life. As a visitor, you discover that the university is not just in one place. In this blog, you discover where you as a visitor can experience university life.

Kato Geraerts
2 February 2023

University Library

An indispensable symbol in the streetscape and the history of the city. It is not for nothing that the university library is one of the top 10 in Leuven. With the help of an audio tour, you can discover for yourself the turbulent stories behind this historic building. During your visit, you can catch a glimpse of the Great Reading Room, where students sit with their noses in the books. The library manages a precious heritage collection of encyclopaedias, manuscripts and such like. Don't be put off by the five-storey climb. You will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the student city from the tower.

Universiteitsbibliotheek / University Library ©Karl Bruninx

The colleges

In the 600 years that the university has existed, it has successfully won over Leuven with its heritage. Examples of this are the historical colleges that are scattered across the city. Originally built to provide housing and livelihood for needy students, they have since been given a new interpretation. Some fine examples are located close together in the Naamsestraat. Take a walk along the ‘Leuven High Street’ and view the Arras College, Holy Spirit College, and Van Dale College among others. Be sure not to miss the romantic courtyards! The heritage walk in the KU Leuven Walking Tours app will help you to navigate your way along the Leuven colleges.

Another interesting college can be found on the Hogeschoolplein. Pope’s College was recently completely renovated in honour of its 500th anniversary. Combine a visit to this building with lunch at the nearby Dewerf restaurant and experience for yourself why this is the number 1 dining spot for students.

Van Dalecollege ©Karl Bruninx

University Hall

Before the university existed, this imposing building served as a cloth hall, but in 1425 it was rechristened University Hall. Today, students can go here for their registration, among other things. The Museum Room is particularly interesting for visitors. Buy souvenirs for friends and family in the KU Leuven shop or warm up in the KUp bar with a coffee from Leuven’s pride Onan.

Extra tip: On the Zeelstraat side, a new glass stairwell and lift building were constructed in 2007. VBM Architects designed this unique extension and with it they won the Leuven Architecture Prize. Take the glass lift to the top and admire the view of the Oude Markt among other sights.

Koffie drinken in de Universiteitshal
Universiteitshal / University hall

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Botanical Garden

Given the omnipresence of the university in Leuven, it can be no surprise that the Botanical Garden is also an achievement of the KUL. The botanical garden was created in 1738 for the medical students. Centuries later, the scientific university garden is mostly known as a green pearl in the city. Learn about this wonderful place with the help of the audio guide and unwind amongst the extraordinary plant collection. Young children can also go on expeditions here.

Kruidtuin / Botanical Garden ©Karl Bruninx

Museum of Zoology

Ever seen a whale in the city? Leuven students certainly have. When they attend classes at the King’s College, they pass by the small Museum of Zoology. Tourists can also admire the zoological collection of KU Leuven. This ‘hidden’ gem is ironically enough located right in the centre of the city, next to the city park.

Museum voor Dierkunde ©Rob Stevens

Oude Markt and the faculty bars

‘The city that never sleeps’, or in the case of Leuven, ‘the students that never sleep’. The nightlife in the city is carried by the students. You can of course find the party animals at the Oude Markt, enjoying a freshly tapped pint. But this ‘longest bar in Europe’ extends even further for the students to the ‘faculty bars’. These are pubs run by one or more student associations. Here there are drinks at student prices, and above all tons of ambiance. The faculty bars are only accessible to students, but you can also experience this unique atmosphere as a tourist. Take a stroll down the Tiensestraat or Naamsestraat at about ten o’clock in the evening. You will soon notice ‘where that party is’.

Terrassen op de Oude Markt
Oude Markt

Arenberg Castle and park

Another top university location is just outside the centre and it lends itself perfectly to a pleasant bike ride. The neo-Gothic Arenberg Castle, donated to the university by the Duke in 1917, is now home to the Science and Technology students. This is why you will also find the Agricultural Institute and the Thermotechnical Institute there. Spend an afternoon around the castle walls and picnic among the students on the green grounds.

Zicht op het Arenbergkasteel in de zomer
Arenbergkasteel / Arenberg castle

University Sports Centre

The University Sports Centre, called ’t Sportkot by the locals, is the ideal base for sports enthusiasts in Leuven. Tennis courts, swimming pools, an athletics track and more recently also padel... Students come here to show off their sporting prowess, but also to chill out on the lawns. Looking for the full student experience? Then treat yourself to a pizza in De Spuye, a favourite among sportsmen and women.


With so many student particularities on your to-do list, why not stay for a night or two?

Book your accommodation in the student city here