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Summer city trips in Belgium #8: Louvain-la-Neuve
Built from scratch in the 1970s following the linguistic quarrels that split the Catholic University of Leuven into two, Louvain-la-Neuve is unlike any other city in Belgium. And that’s perhaps enough of a reason to pay it a visit.
When to go
In July and August, the Grand Place is transformed into a seaside resort for Louvain-la-Plage. Expect hammocks, beach chairs, cocktails, palm trees and, of course, lots and lots of sand. On the last weekend of August, Ferme du Biéreau hosts KidZik, a smaller version of the children’s music festival from Brussels.
Eat & drink
Students make up almost half of the city’s population, so it’s no surprise there are bars on nearly every corner. The Knokke Out University, at Place de l’Université, is a popular spot – especially on game nights. The nearby Rue Paulin Ladeuze is home to Le Moustachu, Louvain’s first gay-friendly bar. Its themed nights have turned the place into an institution, even among the straight community. Fans of microbreweries will be happy to know that Brasse-Temps, on Place des Brabançons, is the birthplace of Cuvée des Trolls, the unfiltered – and refreshing – blonde. In between tastings, hop into the not-too-far Zanzibar, for the biggest burgers in town.
See & do
The city centre, most of which is part of the Université catholique de Louvain, is interlaced by narrow, car-free corridors featuring an array of street art, including wall-size murals and modernist sculptures. The absolute architectural highlights here are the Hergé Museum, dedicated to the creator of Tintin, and the university museum, Musée L. The latter is scheduled to open in autumn, but in the meantime the deck in front makes for a perfect lounging spot, especially in sunny weather. Close by is the Atelier Théâtre Jean Vilar – though unimposing from outside, the venue frequently attracts some of the biggest names in francophone theatre. Where Louvain now sits, local farmers used to grow beetroots. You can still see signs of bygone days at Ferme du Biéreau, the last farm to leave the city, in 1979. The charming building retains a country feel, but it’s been converted into a concert and cultural venue.
Insider tip - Sarah Lejeune, a social studies student at UCL
“The Beer Bar, on Grand Rue, is the perfect place for beer lovers. It offers a huge selection of beers and the super-friendly staff will always help you discover something new. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with Branche de Figuier. It’s a Palestinian restaurant with a Lebanese twist –superb veggie options and plenty of dishes for meat lovers.”