Leuven is a city in the Flemish part of Belgium, only 20 minutes away by train from Brussels. Leuven is a vibrant city that has many claims to fame. It hosts Belgium’s biggest university, it is the home of Stella Artois, and the city is scattered with architectural masterpieces dating back centuries. Like many cities in Belgium the local government has been trying hard to encourage its citizens and visitors to leave cars at home and opt for greener alternatives. This leaves the city very accessible with public transport and very pedestrian friendly once you get there. Three things that are close to every Belgian’s heart are, beer, waffles, and chocolate. Let me tell you where to find the best of these in Leuven.
As mentioned before Leuven is the birthplace of the famous Stella Artois beer. The beer traces its roots back to the 14th century and is still brewed in Leuven. The brewery is walking distance from the station and they are more than happy to show thirsty travellers around. The brewing process will be explained in detail and any questions that you might have will be answered. At the end of the tour, there is obviously the option to sample some of the beers at the onsite bar.
Leuven is rich in beer culture, and the mainstream beers such as Stella might not appeal to those with a more particular palette. For those, a tour at Domus Brauhaus in the centre of town is probably the better option. Domus Brauhaus will cater to those with a desire for something smaller and artisanal that is not mass produced. Beer here is brewed the traditional way, the main aim being to create a quality product without rushing any processes, and of course there is also the option to sample the carefully crafted brews.
If you are a fan of desserts, then a stop at Quetzal is definitely warranted. Quetzal is mainly known for its chocolate drinks and desserts, but they do pretty good waffles too, accompanied with berries, ice cream, and drizzled in your choice of white, brown, or dark chocolate. If you have a sweet tooth you really cannot go wrong here. Take a look at the menu, order what your heart desires and enjoy the delicacies you get served. If you want a more traditional waffle, then Pinocchio’s is by far the best choice. This little waffle stand is right by the main bus stop in the center of town, whenever I am early for my bus back home I always make sure to grab one of their waffles, in my opinion by far the best in Leuven.
Like most cities in Belgium you will find a plethora of chocolate stores, loved by locals and tourists alike. The main high-street vestures such as Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas (Neuhaus definitely being the better-quality premium brand) can be found in Leuven, and offer good quality pralines. However, there are also smaller independent chocolate stores offering artisanal on location made pralines, that cater to more adventurous clientele looking to get their chocolate fix away from the main brands. One such chocolatier in Leuven is Bittersweet. Bittersweet is constantly coming up with innovative new creations and uses less popular ingredients such as coffee and vinegar, and gin and cardamom in its pralines to create unique flavour profiles that provide a different and unusual praline that is nonetheless still delicious. To set their pralines even further apart from their competition they come shaped in all types of unexpected forms such as skulls or Lego blocks.
Because Leuven is such a small city where you can walk from one end of town to the other in half an hour, this means that all the described activities are within walking distance of each other and can easily be fit into a day visit to Leuven. So you will have more than enough time to enjoy all the beer, waffles and chocolate Leuven has to offer!
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