Neoclassic building 'Tafelrond', Leuven  (c)Frédéric Van Hoof

The city of Leuven appears in historical documents for the first time in the year 884, when Vikings settled around an old fortification on the Dijle river, called 'Luvanium' in Latin or 'Lovon' in the local vernacular.

History of Leuven

Later, the settlement became home to the Counts of Leuven who were given the right to rule over the middle part of what is now Belgium in 1190. From then on, Leuven became an important administrative and commercial center, with the cloth trade as the cornerstone of the city's wealth and prosperity.

The 14th century saw Leuven's fortunes change. The cloth trade lost its importance and Brussels took over Leuven's title as 'capital of the Duchy of Brabant'. However, an important event in the following century was the foundation of the University of Leuven in 1425, which remains the most important center of higher education in Belgium and one of the leading catholic universities in the world. Luminaries, such as the 16th-century humanist and theologian Erasmus, have studied or taught at the university.

In the 18th century, a brewery that is now owned by Inbev, maker of Stella Artois, was established on the outskirts of the city, and Leuven's fortunes changed again. However, it is still the university that gives the city much of its character today, not just through the many impressive buildings but also through the influx of thousands of young people each year.

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