"Louvain-la-Neuve, Brabant" Louvain-la-Neuve by DrewV
Louvain-la-Neuve Travel Guide: 23 reviews and 20 photos
For four incredible months, I lived in the happy little college town of Louvain-la-Neuve, in central Belgium. Studying at the Universite Catholique de Louvain, I thoroughly misspent my time there traveling, drinking, eating, drinking more, and living a fun-filled, if debaucherous, life.
Which is VERY easy to do in LLN. Belgian college kids love to party. And there's nothing else in the town except college kids and the adults who feed them with moules, frites, et beaucoup de biere.
Many many moons ago, in what would later become Belgium, the Catholic Church founded the Catholic University of Louvain. The university and its scenic Flemish hometown flourished and fell according to the whims of the large nations and peoples around them. And for 450 years, all was good.
Then in the sixties, trouble brewed. The people of Flanders, suddenly wealthy from the rise of tourism in their villages and the grwoth of the service sector, began to crave their own university, a school for Flemings taught in Flemish. At the time, the UCL still taught in French. Faced with rioting and other uprisings, the Belgian government did the unthinkable: they separated the university into two halves. The Flemish half would stay in Flanders, in Leuven (the ancient city), and the French helf would be transported thirty kilometeres south to the village of Ottignies, where a "New Louvain" would be constructed.
And so it was. All the French-speaking profs, books, students, workers, and paraphenlia were uprooted and moved to Louvain-la-Neuve. The new city was purpose-built to be a college town, the only "new town" in Belgium since 1620. It looks as though some bonehead from the 60's tried to make a "modern classic," but ugly or not, it will always be someplace I'll call home.
But this website isn't about history or the amount of beer I consumed in a four-month period. It's about travel. Would you, dear reader, deign to go to Louvain-la-Neuve? Maybe. But here's the deal:
1 -- It's a college town. Belgium is a small country. So all the students go home on the weekend, so that they can study without distraction, eat mom-cooked meals, and do their laundry. Therefore, if you visit LLN on the weekend or in the summer, you will be <b>the only person there</b>. I'm not kidding. I got there on a Saturday before school started, and the only thing missing was tumbleweeds. Desolate.
2 -- If you go during the week, during the autumn or spring, the place is hopping, but it's definitely college-type fun. Every group in town runs a bar, with cheap beer and dancing. Usually these are tied to majors: Pyscho, Maison des Sciences, the ever-nasty Agro. If you go to one of these glorified frat parties, wear your grungiest clothing, because the kids love to throw beer across the room. You're guaranteed to step in something nasty, so don't wear decent shoes. And watch where you walk, because bathrooms aren't real popular -- balconies are much more convenient. A Spanish friend of mine there couldn't take the filth: "How do people live like this?" she'd ask before counting the days before she would return to Barcelona. If you're not prepared, you might do the same.
3 -- There are no sights here. All the history is on the Flemish side. It's very difficult to get to. The train station is on a spur off the Brussels-Luxembourg line. The food is all right, but nothing special. The brew pubs are all right, but Brussels has better. As a tourist, there is no reason whatsoever to take the side trip to LLN.
But as for me, I would never change a thing. Part of me is still there, sitting in Jazz Matazz, guzzling a Chimay Bleu, or hanging with <i>mes amis</i> playing obscure Belgian drinking games or going to the massive cinema on the Grand'Place and watching Jean Reno films without subtitles. That's Louvain-la-Neuve. Mine.
Even though very few people actually "live" in Louvain-la-Neuve, the Christmas Market is large and extensive. Why?... more travel advice
How's this for a party: 20 groups of students create crazy-looking floats mounted on bicycles, then ride them around... more travel advice
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