10 hidden secrets in Leuven

Get to know the colorful side of Leuven! In order to give you some tips, we have partnered with Derek Blyth, author of best-selling book ‘500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels‘. Exclusively for Park Inn by Radisson, Blyth shows us some of Leuven`s best hidden spots. The city has some beautiful spots for you to discover! Stay turned for more tips provided by Derek Blyth for Park Inn by Radisson. Get to know more of Belgium with these 8 hidden secrets in Hasselt and our list of the 5 most colorful spots in Brussels.

Leuven is a historic university town where bright Belgian and international students study subjects like law and science. But it is also a dynamic provincial capital with one of the country’s best art museums, stylish independent stores and more cafés than you can count.


Head to the edge of town to wander through the quiet streets of the Begijnhof. Originally a medieval community where single women lived, this fascinating ‘town within a town’ has been sensitively restored by the university. It is a wonderful quiet spot with old brick houses, cobblestone streets and little bridges across the River Dijle.

Groot Begijnhof in Leuven© Toerisme Vlaams Brabant

Groot Begijnhof Dijle in Leuven

Art Deco Architecture

Most of the old town of Leuven was destroyed in one night in August 1914 when the invading German army torched the town. Some of the houses were rebuilt in the old style but others were constructed in the 1920s in an early modern style. You find some impressive examples of the new Art Deco style on Bondgenotenlaan.

Oude markt in Leuven© Kristel Van Loock

Leuven Leisure

A cool spot in the centre of Leuven where you can drop in to book a walking tour, rent a bike for the day or buy a local beer. Leuven Leisure is run by a friendly young team who organise beer tasting tours of Leuven, pub game evenings and even canoe trips on the Dijle dressed in Viking clothes.

Leuven Leisure exterior

Leuven Leisure beer selection

Leuven Leisure beer tasting

M – Museum

Architect Stéphane Beel has brilliantly transformed a creaky old town museum into the dazzling contemporary museum M. The museum organises interesting temporary exhibitions as well as displaying old Flemish paintings and religious sculptures in a series of intriguing rooms. In the latest transformation, one room has been turned into a cabinet of curiosities, modelled on the original 19th century museum.

M museum in Leuven© Rudi Van Beek

M museum in Leuven© Andrew Snowball


Launched in the 1970s as an experimental arts centre, STUK is now one of the country’s most vibrant art venues. Located in a renovated neogothic building on the steep hill that runs down from Naamsestraat, it’s a bustling place to catch contemporary theatre, dance and jazz. Or you can just drop in for a coffee in the huge STUKcafé on the first floor.

Coupe Matadi

You can sit eating ice cream on the deck of an old river barge moored on Leuven’s Vaartkom. The barge looks out on an interesting urban mix of modern apartments and old industrial buildings in Leuven’s trendy harbour quarter. They offer a limited range of eight flavours, including unusual tastes like yoghurt with English lemon curd.

Matadi Boot Coupe Matadi in Leuven© Coupe Matadi 

Coupe Matadi in Leuven© Coupe Matadi


This is a relaxed little restaurant with a retro interior squeezed between the noisy student bars on the Oude Markt. L-Cafe was opened in 2012 by sisters Liesbet and Lori Schoonvliet who wanted to create a place serving food like their mother and grandmother put on the table. You can eat sausages with a huge mound of stoemp, or Flemish stew, or meatballs served with warm cherries. Local students love the generous portions and the interesting beers on the menu.


This is a rambling Leuven bar located on a quiet lane behind the town hall. It’s an attractive place with a warren of little rooms and a courtyard at the back. They brew Domus beer in a town house across the alley, which is brought to the bar through overhead copper pipes.

Huisbrouwerij Domus Leuven© Domus Lueven

Domus Leuven tree beers© Jokko


Not many people know about this beautiful bookshop hidden down a quiet cobbled lane in the centre of Leuven. Located in a former printing works, Barbóék displays books in a series of intimate rooms furnished with tables, armchairs and sofas. You can sit among the books with a coffee or even out in the little courtyard when the weather is fine.

Bar Stan

Bar Stan is a neighbourhood coffee bar run by architects in the sleepy Nieuw Kwartier neighbourhood. The creative owners designed the plywood counter and furnished the interior with old school classroom chairs, formica tables and bare light bulbs. The result is a relaxed Nordic-influenced spot for a lazy Sunday brunch.

Bar Stan window by Bardt Fotografie© Bardt Fotografie

Bar Stan by Birgit Sterckx© Birgit Sterckx 

Stay at Park Inn by Radisson Leuven Hotel while exploring these hidden secrets!

Top image © Kristel Van Loock