Leuven is a historic university city located in the Flemish region of Belgium. With its Gothic architecture, vibrant student population, and lively culinary scene, Leuven offers visitors a delightful blend of history, culture, dining, and shopping. The pedestrian-friendly streets in the historic city center contain numerous boutiques, markets, restaurants, cafés, and pubs waiting to be discovered.
Visitors should read the following street-by-street guide to seven key shopping and dining areas in Leuven's compact urban core. It begins with Diestsestraat, one of the main shopping drags, lined with major international brands and local shops selling clothing, shoes, jewelry, books, and more. Next is Bondgenotenlaan, another popular shopping street, and parallel Diestsestraat, together offering abundant dining and retail options. Moving on, Brusselsestraat hosts markets amidst its diverse shops, while Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, and Naamsestraat cater to the university crowd. At the social heart is Oude Markt, Leuven's bustling square ringed by over 35 lively watering holes. Nearby, intimate Parijsstraat and Pensstraat harbor small independent boutiques, cafés, and nightlife spots. And finally, Mechelsestraat and perpendicular Vismarkt form a pedestrian zone brimming with specialty stores and fresh food shops.
With opening hours, store mixes, and highlights provided for each area, this guide equips visitors to Leuven with an introduction to the main shopping and dining streets in the historic city center.
Find below the best shopping streets in Leuven.
- Diestsestraat. Diestsestraat is a main shopping street in Leuven's historic center, lined with shops, cafes, and St. Peter's Church.
- Bondgenotenlaan and Diestsestraat. Bondgenotenlaan and parallel Diestsestraat are two main shopping streets in Leuven's center, offering shops, cafes and restaurants.
- Brusselsestraat. Brusselsestraat is a lively, pedestrian shopping street in Leuven's historic center with diverse shops and markets.
- Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, Naamsestraat. Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, Naamsestraat are shopping streets in Leuven's historic center catering to students and lined with shops and eateries.
- Oude Markt (Old Market Square). Oude Markt is Leuven's social heart, a historic square ringed by lively cafes, bars and restaurants.
- Parijsstraat and Pensstraat. Parijsstraat and Pensstraat are small streets off Oude Markt packed with eclectic shops, cafes and nightlife.
- Mechelsestraat and Vismarkt. Mechelsestraat and perpendicular Vismarkt are pedestrian streets filled with boutiques, markets, and food shops.
- 1. Diestsestraat
- 2. Bondgenotenlaan and Diestsestraat
- 3. Brusselsestraat
- 4. Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, Naamsestraat
- 5. Oude Markt (Old Market Square)
- 6. Parijsstraat and Pensstraat
- 7. Mechelsestraat and Vismarkt
- What are the weekly markets in Leuven?
- What are the best things to do in Leuven other than shopping?
Diestsestraat is one of the main shopping streets located in the historic center of Leuven, Belgium. Diestsestraat is located parallel to Bondgenotenlaan, which is another popular shopping street in Leuven. Diestsestraat street offers a variety of shops and boutiques. Shoppers can find both local independent stores as well as popular international retail chains along Diestsestraat. Clothing stores with major brands like H&M, Zara, Esprit, and Mango can be found on this street. Other items that are available in the shops include shoes, bags, jewelry, beauty products, books, electronics, toys, and more. Most shops on Diestsestraat are open from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday. However, hours may vary by store so it's best to check individual store hours. On Sundays, most shops are closed except on the occasional Sunday shopping days that the city has.
Diestsestraat also offers many cafés, bars, and restaurants for shoppers to stop for a break. Popular options include cozy brown cafés like Café Belge and modern eateries like Jamie’s Italian. Whether you feel like enjoying a coffee, local Belgian beer, or a full meal, you'll find many choices to refuel along Diestsestraat. The street is also home to the centuries old Gothic style St. Peter's Church which is worth peeking into.
2. Bondgenotenlaan and Diestsestraat
Bondgenotenlaan and Diestsestraat are two of the main shopping streets located in the historic center of Leuven, Belgium. Situated parallel to each other, these two streets offer visitors a wide variety of shops, boutiques, cafés, restaurants and bars.
Bondgenotenlaan is 1 km long and runs from Leuven train station to the Grote Markt, which is the main square. Bondgenotenlaan contains major international retail chains like Svarovski, Leonidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Mexx as well as local independent stores. Shoppers can find clothing, shoes, electronics, books, toys and more along Bondgenotenlaan.
Most stores on Bondgenotenlaan and Diestsestraat are open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm, however hours can vary. On Sundays, shops are usually closed except for occasional Sunday shopping days in Leuven.
After shopping, visitors can stop at one of the many cafés, bars and restaurants located right on Bondgenotenlaan and Diestsestraat. For instance, cozy brown cafés like In Den Ouden Vogelstruys on Bondgenotenlaan or modern eateries like Jamie’s Italian on Diestsestraat offer places to refuel and relax.
Brusselsestraat is a pedestrian-only, lively shopping street located in the historic center of Leuven, Belgium. Brusselsestraat runs from the Grote Markt to the river Dijle, Brusselsestraat offers a mix of retail chain stores and more exclusive boutiques. Shoppers can find clothing, shoes, accessories, sporting goods, electronics, books, music, toys, and more along this pedestrian-friendly street. Popular international brands with stores on Brusselsestraat include WE, Torfs, and Action. There are also several smaller independent shops selling jewelry, home goods, stationery, and specialty items. Most stores on Brusselsestraat are open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm, though some may stay open later. On Sundays, the majority of shops are closed except for occasional Sunday shopping days.
Brusselsestraat provides visitors with plenty of dining choices as well. There are plenty cafés, sandwich shops, ice cream parlors, and international restaurants lining the street. Popular options for taking a shopping break include cozy brown cafés like In den Ouden Vogelzang and Asian eateries like Wok Dynasty. Brusselsestraat hosts the weekly Saturday market, with vendors selling fresh local produce, breads, cheeses, meats, and flowers. The market adds to the vibrancy and charm of the street. The pedestrian-only setup makes browsing the various stores pleasant and relaxing. Brusselsestraat provides something for all shoppers and is a must-visit destination when exploring the shopping streets of Leuven.
4. Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, Naamsestraat
Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, and Naamsestraat are three shopping streets located in the historic center of Leuven, Belgium. Tiensestraat is known as a lively student-oriented street. It contains a mix of student housing, restaurants, cafés, and shops catering to the young crowd. Retail offerings include clothing, music, books, sporting goods, electronics, and more. Popular international and Belgian brands on Tiensestraat include JBC and Torfs.
Muntstraat connects the Oude Markt and Tiensestraat. It is considered Leuven's second largest restaurant and bar area after the Oude Markt. The street contains over numerous eateries and pubs, of which many offer outdoor seating. Food options range from Belgian fare to world cuisines like Italian, Indian, and Thai.
Naamsestraat runs past the historic university buildings. It contains a mix of shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars. Stores selling musical instruments, records, books, stationery, and university merchandise line the street. The academic influence is felt in the prevalence of bookstores, including dozens selling secondhand books.
Usual opening hours for shops on Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, and Naamsestraat run from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. Many stores stay open later on Fridays, often until 9pm. Most shops are closed Sundays except for occasional Sunday shopping days. Cafés, restaurants and bars on the streets generally open from morning through late evening.
Tiensestraat, Muntstraat, and Naamsestraat are popular spots both day and night in the historic heart of Leuven.
5. Oude Markt (Old Market Square)
Oude Markt is a historic public square located in the center of Leuven, Belgium. With over 35 cafés, bars and restaurants packed into the relatively small square, Oude Markt is considered the lively social heart of Leuven. While there are no shops directly on Oude Markt itself, the square is surrounded by shopping streets. Diestestraat, Mechelsestraat, and Muntstraat which all lead to Oude Markt contain a variety of retail stores selling items like clothing, shoes, books, music, jewelry, sporting goods and more.
Oude Markt offers visitors more dining and drinking options rather than shopping. Café terraces packed with students and visitors fill the square from late morning until closing time late at night. Belgian beers and classic pub food like fries, sandwiches and burgers are staples at most of the establishments. Options range from traditional brown cafés to modern bars to specialty spots for waffles, pizza, kebabs, and other international foods.
The eateries and pubs on Oude Markt generally open from mid-morning and stay open until 1am or 2am in the late evenings, especially on weekends. This provides visitors with plenty of opportunities for extended stays in the square. As most shops in the surrounding streets close by early evening, Oude Markt transition into a vibrant nightlife spot in the late hours.
Throughout the year, Oude Markt hosts concerts, events, festivals, markets, and fairs. During the holiday season, Leuven Christmas market takes over the square. In summertime, Oude Markt provides outdoor seating and becomes an energetic gathering place. The architecture around the square provides an attractive historical backdrop.
6. Parijsstraat and Pensstraat
Parijsstraat and Pensstraat are two small interconnecting streets located right off the Oude Markt square in the historic heart of Leuven, Belgium. Packed with shops, cafés, and restaurants, these charming streets provide visitors with dining, nightlife, and diverse shopping options.
Parijsstraat contains an eclectic mix of stores selling clothing, jewelry, books, music, specialty foods, and more. Shops include both independent shops and a few chain stores like Kruidvat. Many stores on Parijsstraat specialize in niche offerings not found elsewhere, like comic books, stationery, artisanal chocolates, and handmade Belgian crafts.
Meanwhile, Pensstraat is home to over 25 lively pubs, bars, and international eateries tucked into a compact pedestrian zone. The variety of dining options range from Belgian favorites to world cuisines including Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, and Mexican. Pensstraat street comes alive at night as a popular nightlife spot.
Usual opening hours for most shops run from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. However, hours vary by store so it's best to check individual listings. Cafés, pubs, and restaurants on the streets are generally open from morning through late evening. Like most of Leuven, the majority of stores close on Sundays except occasional shopping days.
7. Mechelsestraat and Vismarkt
Mechelsestraat and Vismarkt are two interconnected pedestrian shopping streets located in the center of Leuven, Belgium. Running perpendicular to each other, these streets are filled with independent boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and food shops.
Mechelsestraat contains a diverse mix of stores selling clothing, shoes, jewelry, home furnishings, stationery, toys, and more. Many retailers are specialty shops featuring fair trade goods, musical instruments, comics, gluten-free items, and other niche products. Popular international or Belgian brands are scarce on Mechelsestraat, which has an authentic local ambience.
Meanwhile, Vismarkt is home to numerous fresh food options. Open air fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese, and flower markets line the street. Cafés and eateries provide spaces to enjoy a coffee or meal. Several restaurants on Vismarkt specialize in seafood, given the street's history as the fish market.
Usual opening hours for most shops run from 10am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. However, some stores may stay open later, especially on Fridays. Cafés, markets, and restaurants on the streets are generally open from morning through evening. Like most of Leuven, the majority of stores close on Sundays except occasional shopping days.
What are the weekly markets in Leuven?
Find below the main weekly markets in Leuven.
- Thursday Market (Donderdagmarkt). Thursday Market is a small market runs from 1pm to 6pm on Thursdays on the Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein. Vendors sell food items like fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, olives, and nuts.
- Friday Market (Vrijdagmarkt). Friday Market is operating on Fridays from 7am to 1pm. Friday Market is Leuven's largest weekly market. It sprawls across the Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein, Herbert Hooverplein, and Bondgenotenlaan areas. Over 100 vendors sell a wide variety of goods including foods, textiles, flowers, and plants.
- Saturday Market (Zaterdagmarkt). On Saturdays from 9am to 6pm, an artisanal producer's market sets up in Leuven's city center streets. Local farmers and artisans sell items like vegetables, meats, cheeses, baked goods, flowers, arts, crafts, and antiques.
- Sunday Market (Zondagmarkt). On selected Sundays, a smaller Sunday market runs from 10am to 2pm in the Brusselsestraat street. Vendors sell food items and handmade products.
Leuven hosts special monthly markets on the first Sunday of each month coinciding with Sunday shopping days. These markets offer activities, music, shopping deals, and extend store hours.
What are the best clothes stores in Leuven shopping streets?
Find below the best clothes stores in Leuven shopping streets.
- H&M (Bondgenotenlaan). This massive two-story Swedish fast fashion retailer offers the latest affordable clothing and accessory trends for the entire family. Shoppers can browse H&M's wide selection of clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, beauty items, and home goods, with new stock arriving frequently.
- Zara (Bondgenotenlaan). Zara is a popular Spanish fast fashion chain that sells elegant, youthful apparel and accessories for women, men, and kids. Zara's chic downtown Leuven location allows shoppers to pick up trendy items like coats, dresses, shoes, handbags, and more at budget-friendly prices. Zara is owned by Inditex.
- C&A (Bondgenotenlaan). C&A is popular for affordable, on-trend casualwear and business attire, this Dutch clothing chain has basics and statement pieces for the entire family. C&A's Leuven outpost features the brand's latest apparel and accessories collections across all departments, from womenswear to menswear to kids.
- JBC (Brusselsestraat). JBC is a lively Belgian children's clothing brand that operates over 400 stores across Europe including a brightly colored location in Leuven. JBC's kids and baby collection emphasizes fun prints and patterns, outfit sets, and matching looks for siblings.
- Cyaankali (Diestsestraat). Cyaankali is located in a historic row house, this popular vintage shop is packed with an ever-changing selection of secondhand designer clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories. Cyaankali allows budget-conscious fashionistas to score pre-owned pieces from luxury labels like Chanel, Prada, and Dior.
- LIV (Mechelsestraat). LIV is situated in a light-filled corner building, LIV boutique sells upscale European women's ready-to-wear brands in an inviting atmosphere. The elegant multibrand store stocks a range of established and emerging Scandinavian, French, and Belgian designers like By Malene Birger, IRO, and Rhúne.
- Etam (Diestsestraat). Etam is a French lingerie retailer's Diestsestraat shop provides Leuven shoppers with a wide selection of beautiful but comfortable underwear, sleepwear, swimwear, hosiery, and loungewear. Etam's collection includes classic staples, seductive styles, sporty options, and eco-friendly fabrics.
- Profiel (Mechelsestraat). Profiel is an upscale clothing boutique Profiel offers discerning Leuven shoppers coveted Belgian and international designer apparel. Its edit focuses on elegant special occasion wear ranging from Joseph and Dorothee Schumacher to Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester.
What are the best food shops in Leuven shopping streets?
Find below the best food shops in Leuven shopping streets.
- Elsen Kaasambacht. Elsen Kaasambacht is a cheese shop on the Mechelsestraat offers an incredible selection of artisanal Belgian and European cheeses. The knowledgeable staff provide excellent service.
- Think Chocolate. Think Chocolate is a premium handmade pralines, truffles, and chocolate bars visit this chocolate shop on the Leopold Vanderkelenstraat run by an acclaimed local chocolatier.
- Le Pain Quotidien. Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgian bakery chain has a location on the Parijsstraat offering fresh baked breads, pastries, sandwiches, and organic fare.
- AD Delhaize Leuven. Barbabiet is a grocery store on the Brusselsestraat has a large bulk foods selection and focus on organic local products.
- Angels' Share. Angels' Share is a liquor store located in Mechelsestraat. It is a go-to for many Leuven residents and visitors.
What are the best electronic stores in Leuven?
Find below the best electronic stores in Leuven.
- Digame. Digame (Selexion) is an electronics retailer selling major brands of audio/video equipment, computers, small appliances, smart home devices, and gaming gear. It is located in Lei 8A, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.
- Lab9 Leuven. Lab9 Leuven is an authorized reseller for Apple products including Macs, iPads, iPhones and accessories. Also carries other computer brands. It is also located at Engels Plein 16, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.
- FNAC. FNAC is a large entertainment megastore with electronics, books, music, DVDs, gaming, and more. It is located in Vital Decosterstraat.
Are there any shopping malls in Leuven?
No, there are no large big shopping malls in Leuven's city center. However, there are a few smaller shopping galleries and blocks around the town of Leuven.
What are the best hotels to stay in Leuven?
Listed below are the best hotels in Leuven:
- Park Inn by Radisson Leuven. Park Inn by Radisson Leuven is a 3-star hotel located at Martelarenlaan 36, 3010 Leuven, Belgium. It offers 133 modern rooms including standard rooms, superior rooms, and rooms on high floors. The superior rooms would be ideal for a romantic couple's getaway as they are more spacious with extra amenities. Park Inn by Radisson Leuven is only 1.2 kilometers from the city center and 150 meters from Leuven Railway Station, making it easily accessible by public transport. Major attractions like the Old Market Square, Town Hall, and St. Peter's Church are within 2 kilometers. Park Inn by Radisson Leuven is suitable for both leisure and business travelers. It differentiates itself by being eco-certified and providing a fitness center, business center, meeting rooms, and free WiFi. The contemporary design features pops of color, and the onsite RBG Bar & Grill serves classic dishes and local cuisine. Guests can enjoy an extensive daily breakfast buffet. Room rates start at 82€ ($88, £71) per night. The hotel has a central location and modern amenities while promoting sustainability.
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- Hotel De Pastorij. Hotel De Pastorij is a 3-star hotel located in the heart of Leuven at Sint-Michielsstraat 5, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. It offers 6 unique rooms, including a suite with a four-poster bed and separate TV room that would be ideal for a romantic getaway. The hotel is only a 5-minute walk from major attractions like the Grote Markt square, Old Market, and Town Hall. It is right across the street from a bus stop, making it easily accessible by public transport. Hotel De Pastorij is perfect for sightseeing, with its central location. Signature features include the rustic architecture and décor that retains the original 1830s building style, and the peaceful garden and courtyard for relaxing. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, private parking, and a daily breakfast buffet with local produce. The building has historical significance as the former rectory of St. Michael's Church. The interior design features unique decorations in each room, inspired by prophets and angels. Hotel De Pastorij makes an effort to use local short-chain products for sustainability. On-site dining options include the breakfast buffet; the hotel is surrounded by restaurants and cafés. Rates start at 75€ (£65, $78) per night for two people .
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- Begijnhof Hotel. Begijnhof Hotel is a 4-star hotel located at Tervuursevest 70, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. For a romantic getaway, I would recommend booking the Suite which features a private bathroom with a spa bath, a seating area, and views of the garden and river. The hotel is only a 10-15 minute walk from major landmarks like the Grote Markt square, Town Hall, and St. Peter's Church. It is easily accessible by public transport, with the nearest bus stop just 5 minutes away. Begijnhof Hotel is ideal for leisure travelers who want to relax in a historic setting. Its signature feature is the location, situated next to the 13th century Grand Beguinage heritage site. Guest amenities include a sauna, fitness center, lounge bar, and restaurant serving a daily breakfast buffet. The interior design incorporates a mix of modern and traditional elements, with bright open spaces contrasting historic architecture. A unique aspect is the honesty bar where you can serve yourself drinks and relax in the hotel's secluded garden. Begijnhof Hotel stands out for its environmentally friendly practices and preservation of local culture. The on-site restaurant offers Belgian cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Rates start at €107 ($119, £93) per night.
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- Hotel Bibois. Hotel Bibois is a charming hotel located in the picturesque village of Vaalbeek, between Meerdael Forest and Heverlee Woods in Oud-Heverlee, Belgium. The full address is Gemeentestraat 12, 3054 Oud-Heverlee. The hotel offers 4 Deluxe rooms and 2 Comfort rooms, with the Deluxe being ideal for a romantic getaway thanks to the beautiful forest views. Hotel Bibois is only 10 minutes drive from the city of Leuven, home to historical attractions like the Gothic Leuven Town Hall. The hotel is easily accessible by car and public transport, with a bus stop just 200 meters away. Hotel Bibois has a restaurant, a bar, and breakfast room. It is ideal for foodies, couples, and nature lovers. The hotel's signature feature is its charming wooden interior decor, reflecting its surroundings between two forests. Guests of Hotel Bibois can enjoy amenities like free Wi-Fi, free parking, a terrace, and bike rental. The nature-inspired decor gives Hotel Bibois a cozy, peaceful aesthetic. It stands out for its eco-friendly ethos and focus on locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. The on-site Bibois Restaurant serves Belgian and French cuisine. Rates start at €110 (£96, $115) per night.
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What are the best things to do in Leuven other than shopping?
Find below the best things to do in Leuven.
- Leuven City Hall. Leuven City Hall is a historic Gothic town hall located in the heart of Leuven, Belgium. It was constructed between 1448-1469 and features ornate decorative stone carvings on its facade. The Town Hall stands on the Grote Markt opposite St. Peter's Church. Its clock tower has chimed out the hours since the 18th century.
- Botanical Garden Kruidtuin. Botanical Garden Kruidtuin Leuven is a botanical garden founded in 1738. It has over 8,000 plant species from around the world, including medicinal herbs, tropical plants, and rock garden specimens. Visitors enjoy the butterfly house, pond, and peaceful atmosphere right in Leuven's city center.
- Park Abbey. Park Abbey Leuven is a 12th century Norbertine abbey with well-preserved historic buildings set amidst scenic ponds and parkland. It houses the Parcum Museum dedicated to Catholic history in Flanders. Guided tours provide insight into the abbey's heritage.
- Grand Beguinage of Leuven. The Grand Beguinage is a historic beguinage established around 1232 in Leuven. Designated a UNESCO site, it contains around 100 historic houses and feels like a small town within the city. The scenic, car-free streets provide a peaceful atmosphere.
- Old Market Square (Oude Markt). The Old Market Square is a large public square located in the heart of Leuven's historic center. Lined with cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating, it is renowned as a lively hub for nightlife. The square's vibrant atmosphere makes it popular with tourists and locals.
- M-Museum. M-Museum combines historical and contemporary art collections, including late-Gothic, Flemish masters, and modern works. Its exhibits aim to foster dialogue between the past and present. The museum is housed in an architecturally impressive complex in central Leuven and is considered one of the best things to do in Leuven.
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