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Louvain  (French)
Löwen  (German)
Leuven Town Hall
Flag of Leuven.svg
Wapen van Leuven.svg
Coat of arms
Belgium location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Belgium
Location of Leuven in Flemish Brabant
Coordinates: 50°53′N04°42′E / 50.883°N 4.700°E / 50.883; 4.700 Coordinates: 50°53′N04°42′E / 50.883°N 4.700°E / 50.883; 4.700
Country Belgium
Community Flemish Community
Region Flemish Region
Province Flemish Brabant
Arrondissement Leuven
  Mayor Mohamed Ridouani  [ nl ] (sp.a)
  Governing party/ies SP.A, Groen, CD&V
  Total56.63 km2 (21.86 sq mi)
 (2018-01-01) [1]
  Density1,800/km2 (4,600/sq mi)
Postal codes
3000, 3001, 3010, 3012, 3018
Area codes 016
Website www.leuven.be

Leuven ( /ˈlɜːvən/ , Dutch:  [ˈløːvə(n)] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) or Louvain ( /lˈvæ̃/ , also US: /lˈvn/ , French:  [luvɛ̃] ; German: Löwen [ˈløːvn̩] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is the capital and largest city of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located about 25 kilometres (16 miles) east of Brussels. The municipality itself comprises the historic city and the former neighbouring municipalities of Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, a part of Korbeek-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal. It is the eighth largest city in Belgium with more than 100,244 inhabitants. [2]


KU Leuven, Belgium's largest university, has its flagship campus in Leuven, which has been a university city since 1425. [3] This makes it the oldest university city in the Low Countries. The city is home of the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest beer brewer [4] and sixth-largest fast-moving consumer goods company. [5]


Leuven on the Ferraris map (around 1775) Leuven, Belgium ; Ferraris Map.jpg
Leuven on the Ferraris map (around 1775)

Middle ages

The earliest mention of Leuven (Loven) dates from 891, when a Viking army was defeated by the Frankish king Arnulf of Carinthia (see: Battle of Leuven). According to a legend, the city's red and white arms depict the blood-stained shores of the river Dyle after this battle, similarly to the flag of Austria.

Situated beside this river, and near to the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became the most important centre of trade in the duchy between the 11th and 14th centuries. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture is shown in that ordinary linen cloth was known, in late-14th-century and 15th-century texts, as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain). [6]

Early modern period

In the 15th century, a new golden era began with the founding of the predecessor of what is now the largest and oldest university in the Low Countries, the University of Leuven, in 1425. [7] Prestigious buildings like the Town Hall and the Saint Peter's Church were constructed. The art of painting flourished with painters such as Dirk Bouts, Albrecht Bouts and Jan Rombouts the Elder. The painter Quinten Metsys was born and trained in Leuven.

By the turn of the 16th century Leuven had become a major European center for art and knowledge with humanists like Erasmus and Hieronymus van Busleyden working there. In 1517 the latter founded the Collegium Trilingue in which the three ancient languages: Latin, Greek and Hebrew were taught. It promoted the critical study of classical literature and the Bible. Thomas More published his Utopia at Dirk Martens printing house in Leuven in 1516. Gemma Frisius laid the foundation for modern triangulation methods and cartography. He further made important contributions to mathematics, geography and astronomy. Gerardus Mercator and John Dee were among his students. Leuven became a leading centre for the fabrication of precision astronomical instruments, such as the planetaria and the terrestrial and celestial globes built by Gaspard van der Heyden and Gualterus Arsenius. Andreas Vesalius completed his medicine studies in Leuven, before moving to Padova and Basel. Religious persecutions of protestants, followed by greater religious en political turmoil starting in the late 1560's, greatly affected intellectual life in Leuven. Many professors and alumni from Leuven moved abroad. The newly founded University of Leiden in Holland, amongst others, would profit greatly from this brain drain. Despite this the University continued to excel in disciplines like theology with Johannes Molanus and classical studies with Justus Lipsius.

18th and 19th centuries

In the 18th century, the brewery Den Horn (meaning "the horn") flourished. In 1708, Sebastien Artois became the master brewer at Den Horn, and gave his name to the brewery in 1717, now part of AB InBev, whose flagship beer, Stella Artois, is brewed in Leuven and sold in many countries.

View over Leuven, late 19th century Leuven, Belgium (ca. 1890-1900).jpg
View over Leuven, late 19th century

20th century

Leuven has several times been besieged or occupied by foreign armies; these include the Battle of Leuven (891), Siege of Leuven (1635) and Battle of Leuven (1831). In the 20th century, both world wars inflicted major damage upon the city. Upon Germany's entry into World War I, the town was heavily damaged by rampaging soldiers. [8] In all, about 300 civilians lost their lives. [9] The university library was destroyed on 25 August 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles. [10] [11] 230,000 volumes were lost in the destruction, including Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts, a collection of 750 medieval manuscripts, and more than 1,000 incunabula (books printed before 1501). [11] [12] The destruction of the library shocked the world, with the Daily Chronicle describing it as war not only against civilians but also against "posterity to the utmost generation." [13] It was rebuilt after the war, and much of the collection was replaced. Great Britain (on the initiative of the John Rylands Library in Manchester) and the United States were major providers of material for the replenishment of the collection. [9] The new library building was financed by the National Committee of the United States for the Restoration of the University of Louvain and built to the design of architect Whitney Warren; it was officially opened on 4 July 1928. [14] Richard Harding Davis, a war correspondent for the New York Tribune , was in Leuven and wrote a column titled "The Germans Were Like Men After an Orgy" in which he described the organized civilian murders and vandalism committed by the occupying troops. [15]

Destruction of the university library, 1914 Louvain Library WWI.jpg
Destruction of the university library, 1914

In World War II, after the start of the German offensive, Leuven formed part of the British Expeditionary Force's front line and was defended by units of the 3rd Division and Belgian troops. From 14 to 16 May 1940, the German Army Group B assaulted the city with heavy air and artillery support. The British withdrew their forces to the River Senne on the night of 16 May and the town was occupied the next day. [16] The new university library building was set on fire by shelling, on 16 May, and nearly a million books were lost. [17]


Climate data for Leuven (1981–2010)
Average high °C (°F)5.9
Daily mean °C (°F)3.2
Average low °C (°F)0.5
Average precipitation mm (inches)70.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm)12.610.912.99.911.310.710.410.210.611.111.912.7135.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 567411917020219721020014311863461,597
Source: KMI/IRM [18]


Given the presence of the KU Leuven, Europe's most innovative university according to Reuters, [19] much of the local economy is concentrated on spin-offs from academic research. In addition, the Leuven-based research centre, IMEC, is a world class research centre in the field of nano-electronics and digital technologies. [20] [ circular reference ] As a result, dozens of companies in high technological fields such as biotech, robotics, additive manufacturing and IT, are located near these research institutes on the Arenberg Science Park and Haasrode Research-Park. Quite a few international companies such as Siemens, [21] Huawei, [22] Nitto Denko, JSR Corporation or Commscope have important, often research oriented branches, in Leuven. The academic hospital UZ Leuven, first in Europe regarding the number of clinical tests per capita and approval rates for clinical trials , UZ Leuven is another advanced research institute. It is one of Europe's largest and most advanced academic hospitals. As a result, large numbers of private service providers are active in the medical, financial and legal fields.

Because it is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant, many governmental institutions are located in Leuven, as well as the regional headquarters of transport corporations such as De Lijn. As one of Flanders Art-Cities, [23] with a large range of cafés, restaurants, cultural institutions and shopping neighbourhoods, Leuven also attracts a growing number of tourists.

Leuven is the worldwide headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest beer company in the world and is considered one of the largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies in the world. InBev's Stella Artois brewery and main offices dominate the entire north-eastern part of the town, between the railway station and the canal to Mechelen. Finally, Leuven is the ancestral home of the KBC bank. KBC is one of the leading financial groups in Europe. It is a multi-channel bank-insurance group, with a geographic focus on Belgium, Ireland & Central Europe, catering mainly to retail clients, SMEs and local midcaps. As one of the largest companies in Belgium and it has its insurance and autolease HQ in Leuven.


As of 1 November 2016, the population of Leuven was 100,244. The arrondissement of Leuven counted 494,189 in 2014.

The city itself is made up out of the centre of Leuven (30,313), Kessel-Lo (29,147), Heverlee (22,521), Wilsele (9,786) and Wijgmaal (3,592).

Student population

Leuven has a large Dutch-speaking student population, mainly concentrated around the city centre. The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven; University of Leuven) has two campuses in the city, with a total of more than 45,000 students as of January 2020. [24] It is the oldest Catholic university still in existence in the world, and the largest university in Belgium. There are also a number of hogescholen (universities of applied sciences), such as the UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL).


Within the city and its immediate surroundings, most distances can be covered on foot or with a bicycle. Several streets are off-limits to vehicle traffic and, within the city centre, road speed regulations prescribe 30 km/h (19 mph) as the maximum speed limit, making it a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city. There are also a few car parking lots.

There are numerous buses, primarily from the public transport company De Lijn, that connect the city with the region while providing travel options within the city centre. The so-called Ringbus follows the ring road of the city. Except for long distance routes (such as to other cities) and other irregular bus services, most buses come by every 10 minutes. Buses 616, 652 and 651 connect Leuven with Brussels Airport.

Leuven railway station is located on the NMBS railway lines 35 (Leuven–AarschotHasselt), 36 (BrusselsLiège), 36N (Schaarbeek–Leuven), 53 (Schellebelle–Leuven), and 139 (Leuven–Ottignies). In Bierbeek, south-east of Leuven, lies the beginning of HSL 2, the high-speed railway towards Liège.

The European route E40 passes Leuven in the south, the European route E314 connects Leuven with the city of Aachen.



The governing coalition of Leuven consists of SP.A (14 out of 47 seats), Groen (10 seats) and CD&V (8 seats), with SP.A providing the mayor with Mohamed Ridouani. The opposition is composed of N-VA (11 seats), open VLD (2 seats), PVDA (1 seat) and Vlaams Belang (1 seat). [25]


One of Belgium's conservatories is based in Leuven: the Lemmens Institute, which is described as "Faculty of Music, Performing Arts and Education". It is known for its music therapy education and its wordart-drama education. Kunstencentrum STUK is a cultural centre and venue in the city center for music, theatre, sound art, and dance. Leuven holds a summer rock festival, Marktrock. Leuven has some university orchestras, such as the University Symphony Orchestra  [ nl ] (USO), [26] the University Symphonic Band  [ nl ] (UGO). [27] and the Arenberg Orchestra  [ nl ] [28] [29]

In September 2009, the M – Museum Leuven opened in Leuven. It is a museum for both contemporary and historical art, located near het Ladeuzeplein. It has hosted exhibitions by international artists such as Angus Fairhurst, Sol LeWitt, Roe Ethridge and Charles Burns as well as Belgian artists such as Ilse D'Hollander, Jan Vercruysse, Antoon Van Dyck and Freek Wambacq.

Leuven has a rich beer culture, being the birthplace of several beers such as Stella Artois, [7] Leuvense Tripel, Domus [7] and Keizersberg. It has several bars priding themselves in offering a wide variety of local and international beers, including a bar that claims to offer more than 3000 different beers.

The Higher Institute of Philosophy holds the archives of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl.


The main football club of the municipality is Oud-Heverlee Leuven, successor of Stade Leuven. The city's prime basketball team are the Leuven Bears. They play their home games in the SportOase. The Cyclocross Leuven is a cyclo-cross race held in January.

Buildings and landmarks


Fonske was designed by Jef Claerhout. Ayuntamiento de Leuven (3431743649).jpg
Fonske was designed by Jef Claerhout.



The Old University of Leuven used to have 40 constituent colleges and 4 pedagogies, some of which are still being used by KU Leuven. The most notable ones are:

Notable people from Leuven

Born in Leuven

Lived in Leuven

International relations

Twin towns/sister cities

Leuven is twinned with:

Friendly relations

Aside from the aforementioned cities, Leuven has friendly relations with:

Leuven has an 'adoptive village'

Related Research Articles

Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968) University in Belgium, 1835–1968

The Catholic University of Leuven or Louvain was founded in 1834 in Mechelen as the Catholic University of Belgium, and moved its seat to the town of Leuven in 1835, changing its name to Catholic University of Leuven. In 1968 it was split into two universities, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the Université catholique de Louvain, following tensions between the Dutch and French-speaking student bodies.

Wavre Municipality in French Community, Belgium

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Louvain-la-Neuve Planned city in Walloon Brabant, Belgium

Louvain-la-Neuve is a planned city in the municipality of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, situated 30 km southeast of Brussels, in the French-speaking part of the country. The city was built to house the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) which owns its entire territory; following the linguistic quarrels that took place in Belgium during the 1960s, and Flemish claims of discrimination at the Catholic University of Leuven, the institution was split into the Dutch language Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven which remained in Leuven, and the Université catholique de Louvain.

Université catholique de Louvain Belgian university

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Kasteel van Arenberg

Arenberg Castle is a château in Heverlee close to Leuven in Belgium. It is surrounded by a park.

Duchy of Brabant State of the Holy Roman Empire

The Duchy of Brabant was a State of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1183. It developed from the Landgraviate of Brabant and formed the heart of the historic Low Countries, part of the Burgundian Netherlands from 1430 and of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1482, until it was partitioned after the Dutch revolt.

The Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF) is an educational charity. It supports the exchange of university students, scientists and scholars between the United States and Belgium. The foundation fosters the higher education of deserving Belgians and Americans through its exchange-fellowship program. Since 1977, Dr. Emile Boulpaep is the president of the BAEF.

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Park Abbey

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Old University of Leuven

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Academic libraries in Leuven

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