Search This Blog

8 April 2016

Living In Leuven | A Month of Visitors From Home

During the month of February, I had two visits from friends in Edinburgh. At Edinburgh University, we have an 'innovative learning week', or reading week for the honours students, so no classes run for that period of time. My best friend from school, Chloe, decided to visit for a long weekend whilst classes stopped running. We travelled to London together to see Taylor Swift in 2012 and we actually planned to go on holiday together after we finished school - things didn't work out - so I was excited to finally spend time with her outside of Scotland again.

Centrale Bibliotheek, Leuven

She arrived on Saturday the 13th of February and I decided to show her around Leuven. In all honesty, it doesn't take long to show my friends and family around Leuven. Typically, I like to show them the Grote Markt, Oude Markt, the central library at the ladeuzeplein and the Groot Begijnhof. In amongst lunch and coffee breaks, it took us the most part of an afternoon to explore Leuven.

Ladeuzeplein, Leuven

Unfortunately, the weather was really terrible this weekend and we frequently had to pop by my residence to change our clothes or add on a few layers. We decided to go to Heverlee that evening, so we quickly detoured through the Groot Begijnhof on our way there.

Den Dreef, Heverlee

As Chloe is a football fan, I decided to take her to an OH Leuven football match in Heverlee. Before the game started, I quickly showed her Kasteel Van Arenberg (Arenberg Castle) and we went to a local pub for some food.

We stupidly agreed to pay 30 euros each for a ticket to see OH Leuven play Loekeren. Normally, the tickets are 20 euros, or even 15 euros if you wanted to be in the standing area. Thankfully, we saw 6 goals and the game finished as a draw, so the tickets were well worth the extra money. I honestly have never been so cold in Leuven until this day - we were both wearing tights underneath our jeans and had multiple layers on! The cold got so unbearable towards the middle of the second half of the game, we decided to sit in the club members bar to watch the rest of the game.

I decided to show Chloe Bruges on the Sunday - forgetting it was Valentines day - the city was full of couples! We looked around the Grote Markt and decided to have soup for lunch to warm ourselves up a bit (it was another freezing cold day - taking photos without our jackets on was really a struggle!).

After lunch, we decided to go on a boat trip around the canals of Bruges (again, flooded with couples on a romantic day out!). I had gone on a boat trip with the same company previously with ESN and the tour guide was very informative, however this time, the tour guide didn't know any specific dates and referred to almost everything as being constructed 'maybe in the 17th century'! The beautiful views, however, really compensated for the lack of knowledge from our tour guide.

The weather wasn't in our favour towards the afternoon, so we decided to stop for a tea break and visit the torture museum. I wouldn't say the museum is anything special, but it kept us dry and kept us occupied for an hour or so.

We finished off the day by going for a quick drink in a bar called 'In Den Engel' in Leuven. It's my favourite bar to take my friends to if we're not looking for a party vibe. The pub has a few boardgames, so it's perfect for a quiet drink and a game of scrabble!

On Chloe's final day, I decided to show her around Brussels. We visited Mont Des Arts (one of my favourite locations in Brussels) and found a graffiti wall we stopped by to photograph. Similarly to Leuven, I never let my friends/family leave Brussels without showing them the main attractions. In Brussels, I typically show them St Michael and St Gudula Cathdral, the Court of Justice, the Royal Palace, Galeries Royales Saint Hubert and the Grote Markt.

The Grote Markt in Brussels is definitely one of my favourite places in the world. I'm always really excited to visit it although I have seen it many times. My dream is to spend the night in a hotel on the Grote Markt - I'd love to see it at night. I've heard they lay a carpet of flowers across the Grote Markt at some point over the Summer, so I'll definitely be visiting then!

On the way back to Brussels central station, we walked by a vehicle used by the Belgian soldiers. Ever since the Paris attacks, there has been a heavier presence of soldiers around Brussels. Although they are there to keep us safe, I still feel slightly intimidated by their presence. Nonetheless, I'll still continue to visit as it's definitely my favourite capital city!

Chloe left that evening and two weeks later I was surprised by another of my friends from Edinburgh who came to visit Leuven for the Model UN Conference. On Monday the 29th of February, I received a skype call from Daryl telling me he was in Leuven. It was an unexpected surprise and although he was busy with the Model UN conference, we still managed to go to a party together in Rumba and visit Brussels.

We visited Brussels on Tuesday the 8th of March and actually stumbled upon the German President arriving at the Royal Palace. We continued our day trip and whilst at the Grote Markt we heard the King and Queen of Belgium were arriving, alongside the German President. I took a video of the occasion and it was definitely an awesome experience!

On Friday the 11th of March, my Mum and sister decided to visit. We all visited Leuven in the summer of last year before I moved out, and as they have both seen everything before, we agreed to have a chilled weekend and enjoy catching up as I hadn't seen either of them since I left Edinburgh at the start of January. I don't understand how people got through an Erasmus year abroad without the internet - I regularly skype with my family and when they came over, it felt like we had never been apart!

On Saturday, we went to Ghent for the day. The weather was beautiful and we walked around the city and stopped to have a look in the Cathedral and Saint Nicholas' Church, then had a drink on the Vrijdagmarkt.

On the Sunday, we went to Antwerp and I made a rookie mistake of expecting all of the shops to be open, but of course it's Belgium! Everything was closed apart from a few Carrefour supermarkets. We decided to visit the town hall and walk around the harbour. We actually ran out of things to do, so headed back to Leuven mid-afternoon. I stayed with them in the hotel over the weekend and we spent the final evening together ordering a Dominos pizza takeaway and catching up with British TV.

That's the end of visits for the time being. My Dad and his wife are visiting at the start of May, as well as a friend from University the weekend after. I'm very excited for May!


  1. Hi! I'm José from Spain, and nex september i wil be studying in Leuven for a year. I've just read your whole blog in a row, and wanted to tell you i really liked it, i think it will be very useful to know some of the things you've talked about. :) Right now i'm looking for accommodation and as you mentioned you are staying at water view residence, i'd like to know if after a year you are happy with your choice and your thoughts about the residence :) If you could tell e a little about that it would be great :) thanks in advance :)

    1. Hey José. Sorry for the late response. If you would like to ask any questions, please email me at I also wrote a whole blog post on waterview residence recently:

      If you are already in Leuven, I hope you are having a great time!



Thanks for your comment and for sharing your thoughts - I read and appreciate every single one of them x

Copyright @ Alix Staines.