About Leuven

Summer Symposium 2012
International Society for the Philosophy of Chemistry

Leuven, City of Students

Leuven is an old Burgundian university town located at a stone's throw from Brussels and the national airport. Few towns in Flanders appeal to the imagination more than this haven for students, where history, art, culture, architecture, gastronomy and modern science are intermingled to form a compelling cocktail.

Great Market Square and Town Hall

From its gastronomic tours de force to the dazzling Gothic Town Hall, from a delicious Leuven pint and the student atmosphere of the Old Market Square to the demure magnificence of the Saint-Peter's church, Leuven has it all — and more.

Leuven's Cultural Heritage

The first references to the town may go back to the 9th century, but it was not until the 12th century that Leuven started to flourish as an important trading center for cloth. Later, during the 15th century (i.e. in 1425) the University of Leuven was founded (see About KU Leuven).

Saint Peter's Church

Leuven has a rich heritage and various historical buildings from different centuries can be admired. Its finely sculpted Town Hall and Saint Peter's church with the famous "Last Supper" by Dirk Bouts are fine examples of flamboyant Gothic architecture at its best. The Baroque style can be found in St Michael's church, in the interior of the St John the Baptist's church, and in the unrivaled stucco of the Norbertine Park Abbey. Other styles can be found in The Romanesque Gate, the Saint James's church and the remains of the first town walls. Various other historical buildings belong to the patronage of the university (see About KU Leuven).

The Largest Pub of Europe

Next to its cultural heritage, Leuven provides an excellent environment for relaxation in its numerous bars and restaurants. The Old Market Square, locally known as "the largest pub of Europe", is known for its lively nightlife, and a large collection of the famous Belgian beers are served.

Old Market Square

Beer has played an important role in Leuven's history. At present, the headquarters of the worlds largest brewery group AB Inbev are located in Leuven. First records go back to the 15th century to the "Den Hoorn" brewery. Starting from 1717 "Den Horen" was under control of master-brewer Sebastien Artois, and around 1926, the Artois brewery started a new barley beer, naming it "Stella", which is presently well known throughout the world as Stella Artois. This and many other Belgian beers can be enjoyed in the Leuven pubs.

The Great Beguinage

The Great Beguinage (Dutch: "Groot Begijnhof"), was founded in the 13th century outside the town wall of the time. The oldest houses date from the 16th century when the original houses were replaced by brick structures. Approximately 300 beguines (Dutch: "Begijnen") lived in the "Begijnhof" in the 17th century. The "Begijnen" were women who lived a religious life but kept their own property and supported themselves. They did not make perpetual vows. The movement was very strong throughout the Low Countries.


The "Groot Begijnhof" is now a university residential quarter for students, professors and employees of the university. Foreign guests are also housed here; there is room for 500 people. On the 31st of March 2000, the Great Beguinage was officially recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

NOTE: The city of Leuven has an excellent tourist information website.