Have you ever had a Stella Artois? It originates from a little town in Belgium, called Leuven. Besides brewing good beer it is also an amazing place for students. But what should you know about Leuven?
You can find Leuven in the - kind of - center of Belgium, fairly close to Brussels. The city might be a hidden gem itself: it's an old place with a lot of history.
Leuven has been called the beer capital of the world. Because of the students and of the brewery, beer is all around (not only in Leuven for that matter but in the whole of Belgium). But the presence of the students makes the city young and vibrant. Cool and hip places to eat and shops pop up everywhere.
- De Werf: for students in Leuven, this isn't a hidden gem. But for tourists, this is the holy grail of cheap food. Translated it's called 'the shipyard'. It even looks like a shipyard!
- The fakbars: you probably won't get in here, because you'll need a student pass from the University of Leuven. But if you want to see the species 'student' in its natural habitat, you should visit the Tiensestraat on Thursdays 11 p.m. The bars - if you can call it that - in this street are bars for students where the alcohol is not just cheap, but amazingly cheap. Some sell beer for 1 euro (~ dollar).
- If you can't get in but are in need of cheap beer, go to the Oude Markt (Old Market). Its nickname is the 'the longest bar in the world'. The place is filled with tiny cafés, where you can - like everywhere in Belgium - drink cheap beer. Most bars also don't close. They might turn into a dance club but they'll close when the last person leaves. (Tip: if you want to drink cocktails, try De Professor).
- Of course Leuven has other things to offer than just beer. If you travel with kids, make sure you check out The Grasshopper. It's a children's toy store in the Mechelsestraat with lots of amazing stuffed animals and alternative toys.
- If you want to eat the real Belgian fries (no it's not French, learn your facts people) go to Villa de Frit. You might have to stand in line for a while because it's very popular but yeah, that tells something no?
- Lovers of books, assemble! One of the most amazing bookstores is De Boekarest. This is an independent bookstore.
- For those who look for peace and quiet, Leuven has an amazing Botanical Garden. It's perfect for a date, to read a book or to just walk around.
My best advice would be to just walk around. The town is really small and almost every brick has history. Enjoy!
Kato Vander Sande is our Belgian correspondent. Her speciality is women's issues, climate change and entertainment. She studies journalism at Thomas More University College.
The opinions expressed here by Shout! columnists are their own, not those of Shout!