KU Leuven, Belgium's largest university, has its flagship campus in Leuven, which has been a university city since 1425. This makes it the oldest university city in the Low Countries. The city is also known for being the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest beer brewer and sixth-largest fast-moving consumer goods company.
Situated beside this river, and near to the stronghold of the Dukes of Brabant, Leuven became the most important centre of trade in the duchy between the 11th and 14th centuries. A token of its former importance as a centre of cloth manufacture is shown in that ordinary linen cloth was known, in late-14th-century and 15th-century texts, as lewyn (other spellings: Leuwyn, Levyne, Lewan(e), Lovanium, Louvain).
In the 18th century, the brewery Den Horen (meaning "the horn") flourished. In 1708, Sebastien Artois became the master brewer at Den Horen, and gave his name to the brewery in 1717, now part of AB InBev, whose flagship beer, Stella Artois, is brewed in Leuven and sold in many countries.
In the 20th century, both world wars inflicted major damage upon the city. Upon Germany's entry into World War I, the town was heavily damaged by rampaging soldiers. In all, about 300 civilians lost their lives. The university library was also destroyed on 25 August 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles. 230,000 volumes were lost in the destruction, including Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts, a collection of 750 medieval manuscripts, and more than 1,000 incunabula (books printed before 1501). The destruction of the library shocked the world, with the Daily Chronicle describing it as war not only against civilians but also against "posterity to the utmost generation." It was rebuilt after the war, and much of the collection was replaced. Great Britain (on the initiative of the John Rylands Library in Manchester) and the United States were major providers of material for the replenishment of the collection. The new library building was financed by the National Committee of the United States for the Restoration of the University of Louvain and built to the design of architect Whitney Warren; it was officially opened on 4 July 1928. Richard Harding Davis, a war correspondent for the New York Tribune, was in Leuven (or Louvain, in Davis' account) and wrote a column titled "The Germans Were Like Men After an Orgy" in which he described the organized civilian murders and vandalism committed by the occupying troops.
Destruction of the university library, 1914
In World War II, after the start of the German offensive, Leuven formed part of the British Expeditionary Force's front line and was defended by units of the 3rd Division and Belgian troops. From 14 to 16 May 1940, the German Army Group B assaulted the city with heavy air and artillery support. The British withdrew their forces to the River Senne on the night of 16 May and the town was occupied the next day. The new university library building was set on fire by shelling, on 16 May, and nearly a million books were lost.
Given the presence of the KU Leuven, Europe's most innovative university according to Reuters, much of the local economy is concentrated on spin-offs from academic research. In addition, the Leuven-based research centre, IMEC, is a world class research centre in the field of nano-electronics and digital technologies.[circular reference] As a result, dozens of companies in high technological fields such as biotech, robotics, additive manufacturing and IT, are located near these research institutes on the Arenberg Science Park and Haasrode Research-Park. Quite a few international companies such as Siemens, Huawei,Nitto Denko, JSR Corporation or Commscope have important, often research oriented branches, in Leuven. The academic hospital UZ Leuven, UZ Leuven is another advanced research institute. It is one of Europe's largest and most advanced academic hospitals. As a result, large numbers of private service providers are active in the medical, financial and legal fields.
Because it is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant, many governmental institutions are located in Leuven, as well as the regional headquarters of transport corporations such as De Lijn.
As one of Flanders Art-Cities, with a large range of cafés, restaurants, cultural institutions and shopping neighbourhoods, Leuven also attracts a fair share of tourists.
As of 1 November 2016[update], the population of Leuven was 100,244. The arrondissement of Leuven counted 494,189 in 2014.
The city itself is made up out of the centre of Leuven (30,313), Kessel-Lo (29,147), Heverlee (22,521), Wilsele (9,786) and Wijgmaal (3,592).
Nowadays, Leuven has a large Dutch-speaking student population, mainly concentrated around the city centre. The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven; University of Leuven) has two campuses in the city, with a total of more than 45,000 students as of January 2020. It is the oldest Catholic university still in existence in the world, and the largest university in Belgium. There are also a number of hogescholen (universities of applied sciences, literally translated: "high schools"), such as the UCLL (the UC Leuven-Limburg).
Within the city and its immediate surroundings, most distances can be covered on foot or with a bicycle. Several streets are off-limits to vehicle traffic and, within the city centre, road speed regulations prescribe 30 km/h (19 mph) as the maximum speed limit, making it a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city. There are also a few car parking lots.
There are numerous buses, primarily from the public transport companyDe Lijn, that connect the city with the region while providing travel options within the city centre. The so-called Ringbus follows the ring road of the city. Except for long distance routes (such as to other cities) and other irregular bus services, most buses come by every 10 minutes. Buses 616, 652 and 651 connect Leuven with Brussels Airport.
In September 2009, the 'M - Museum Leuven' opened in Leuven. It is a museum for both contemporary and historical art, located near het Ladeuzeplein. It has hosted exhibitions by international artists such as Angus Fairhurst, Sol LeWitt, Roe Ethridge and Charles Burns as well as Belgian artists such as Ilse D'Hollander, Jan Vercruysse, Antoon Van Dyck and Freek Wambacq.
Leuven also has a rich beer culture, being the birthplace of several beers such as Stella Artois, Leuvense Tripel, Domus and Keizersberg. It also has several bars priding themselves in offering a wide variety of local and international beers, including a bar that claims to offer more than 3000 different beers.
The Linen-hall, in an early-Gothic style, with baroque addition, is today the University Hall.
The University Library on the Ladeuzeplein was built by the AmericanarchitectWhitney Warren. It was a gift from the American people to Leuven after World War I, during which the Germans burned down the original library. The tower houses one of the largest carillons in the world.
The Oude Markt or Old Market square located in the centre of Leuven features a vibrant social scene, the centre of which displays a life-size statue of 'De Kotmadam', or "The Landlady" resting on a bench.
Totem is a statue at the centre of the Ladeuzeplein; it is a work of the Belgian artist Jan Fabre. Featuring a 23-metre-high needle impaling a giant jewelled beetle, the statue towers over the square in front of the university library.
Fonske is a statue near the centre of town. Its full name is Fons Sapientiae, Latin for "fountain of wisdom". The statue represents a university student who, while reading a book, lets wisdom flow into his head as liquid from a glass. Just like Manneken Pis in Brussels, Fonske is, from time to time, dressed in costumes appropriate for specific occasions.
Saint-Anthony's Chapel, Pater Damiaanplein, from the 17th to the 20th centuries, contains the tomb of Father Damien, the "leper priest" of Molokai, who was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday 11 October 2009. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "the Apostle of the Lepers", and elsewhere, he is known as the "leper priest". The Catholicpriest's remains were returned in Belgium with great fanfare in 1936, after having been originally buried on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai where he had served the outcast lepers until his death.
The Church of Saint Michael was built in the typical JesuitBaroque Style.
Keizersberg Abbey, an active Neo-Romanesque Benedictine Abbey founded in 1888. It is situated on the Keizersberg ("Emperor's Mountain") which used to be the location of a 12th-century ducal castle until it was demolished in 1782.