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Why I fell in love with Leuven, Belgium

From February to July of 2022, I studied abroad in the quaint city of Leuven, Belgium. Nestled about 20 minutes from Belgium’s capital city, Brussels, the city of Leuven quickly started to feel like home to me. Despite being thousands of miles away from my actual home, this wonderful, yet underrated city instantly stole my heart. With its cobblestoned streets, and abundance of small cafes and coffee shops, I found myself walking through the streets of Leuven feeling like the protagonist in a rom-com. I mean, who doesn’t want that? 

Leuven, Belgium is home to Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, a prestigious research university in Europe. With a population of approximately 100,000 people, a majority of the cities inhabitants are students at the university. This means that the city is full of energy from students. On a sunny day, the parks in the city are often filled with students having picnics and reading. On Thursday nights, students come out to enjoy the city’s nightlife in the Oude Markt. Known as the “longest stretch of bars in Europe,” the area of Oude Markt is often filled with students dancing and drinking the traditional Dutch beer, Stella Artois (which is brewed in the city of Leuven!) 

Leuven is located in the heart of Europe, so it was super easy to travel to neighboring countries. Whilst studying abroad, I had the privilege of visiting 15 countries across Europe! Because Belgium is so centrally located within Europe, it was very easy finding affordable, yet easy ways to travel. The city of Leuven itself is an hour and a half train ride from Amsterdam, and a 3 hour bus ride from Paris. To visit countries that are further away, my friends and I took affordable flights, most of which were either through Ryanair or EasyJet. By using these affordable airlines, I was able to fly to Poland for under $30 round trip!  

As a coffee lover, I quickly found Leuven to have some of the most delicious coffee. I quickly fell in love with local coffee shops in the city, where I would often go to do work for my classes and hangout with friends. I often studied for exams in the café, Swartehond, which was down the street from my residence. They have the most delicious caprese sandwich. I also fell in love with Mont Café, a small coffee shop that serves the most delicious vanilla lattes. Plus, they have the sweetest cat named Monty who loves to be pet.  

One thing I love the most about Leuven is that while being a city, Leuven still has the charm of a small European town. My friends and I rented bicycles during out time abroad and often went on bike rides to areas outside the city center. We often visited the local castle, where we would paint in the surrounding park, and even found a trail near a farm with the cutest cows. On these bike rides, I saw some of the most beautiful sunsets. It was easy to forget that I was a 20-minute ride from the city center, which was full cafes and often had a band playing music.  

Living in Leuven was truly an experience that I will never forget. When it was time to return to the United States, while I was excited to see my family and friends back home, I was sad to leave the wonderful city of Leuven behind. The city will always have a special place in my heart and I know that one day, I will be back in the city of Leuven

Hi I'm Becca! I am a junior attending Loyola University Maryland and I am writing for HerCampus this semester! I am passionate about social justice and advocacy, as well as fashion and lifestyle content (: