Louvain-la-Neuve is a newly born town, situated in the French-speaking part of Belgium, in the province of Walloon Brabant.
It was created in 1969 in order to host the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve, who had just separated with the Catholic University of Leuven, and had to move from Flanders to Wallonia. It counts 20,000 inhabitants, with approximately the same number of students attending University and colleges in town. Be careful not to confuse between Leuven which is a town in Flanders, and is also spelled Louvain in French, and Louvain-la-Neuve. You can also find the abreviation LLN instead of Louvain-la-Neuve.
Louvain-la-Neuve is situated at the crosspoint of many important roads:
- Brussels-Luxembourg E411 motorway: exit number 8a from Brussels, 9 from Namur-Luxembourg.
- The N4 Arlon-Brussels drives its way round Louvain-la-Neuve, follow the signs.
- Other important roads from Charleroi, Nivelles, Wavre...
Louvain-la-Neuve is connected to the important Brussels-Luxembourg line. There are direct connections to Brussels, but it is generally quicker if you change in Ottignies. Connections to Namur, Liège, Charleroi in Ottignies station (10 min from Louvain-la-Neuve station). There is not a direct train linking Louvain-La-Neuve and Leuven, but one in Ottignies. All the trains are operated by the Belgian railways company (NMBS-SNCB).
Local buses (TEC company) link Louvain-la-Neuve to the main neighbouring towns. A special bus connects LLN to the other university Campus in the Brussels' district of Woluwe. It is the quickest and most comfortable way to reach Brussels from LLN, but it arrives quite far from the center of Brussels.
Louvain-la-Neuve was designed as a pedestrian city, and so it is. You won't have to walk more than 20 min in order to get to any place in the city. Moreover, there are lots of covered paths in the center in case of rain.
Motorized traffic in the center is entirely underground, so it's pretty enjoyable for the pedestrian. The city is also very accessible for wheelchair, bikes, rollerblades...
Be careful, nearly everybody gets lost the first time they get around the town, as everything looks pretty much the same from an outsider point of view, and Louvain-la-Neuve's layout is not very logical to new visitors.
You can find a map of Louvain-la-Neuve here (click on télécharger le plan to download).
Since it's a fairly new town (created in 1969), Louvain-la-Neuve does not have any historical buildings or similar monuments. Nevertheless, it was designed in a radically different way from older towns. The urbanistic development of the town brings some tourists, interested in the way the town evolved from scratch to what it is nowadays. You can find particularly interesting the following buildings/places:
- The Bibliothèque des sciences (Sciences library) is situated at place des sciences, upper town, and presents an interesting concrete architecural style.
- The Aula Magna, on the main square is the main auditorium in the city, good panorama on the lake.
- Some gigantic frescos are disseminated around the city center.
- If you have an interest in urban architecture, you may check how the city was partly build over a car park. At the time of writing (2014), layers of the car park with building on top are still visible from the park near place the l'université.
- If you have a car, you can see the heart of the first cyclotron of the university at the crossroad near the new building housing the functional cyclotron.
- The "Quartier de la baraque" is a complete sub-village just behind the shopping mall. You can view ecologist houses build from recycled materials or wood.
Small pedestrian pathway in Louvain-la-Neuve
Since Louvain-la-Neuve was made with the sole purpose of hosting the university, it is full of students all year round, but when they leave for holidays, the town can look quite empty. There are still plenty of things to do:
- The biggest event in town is the student-organised 24-hours bike event, which is the biggest student party in Belgium, with more than 50,000 students. There are three different categories in the race - humanitarian, competition and folkloric bikes. This event takes place the third Wednesday of October. Expect a lot of beer, overcrowded streets, a lot of drunk people and remarkably well designed folkloric bikes with few means. If you want to see the bikes, go on the afternoon of the first day, as some bikes stops pretty soon due to bike breaking down or its runners get too much drunk.
- The University has created a special type of accommodation, called a Kot-à-Projet, which houses between 8 and 12 students around a specific project, such as organising a job fair, or circus activities. A lot of different kind of events are organised by those Kots, from wine degustation, to sport events not forgetting geeky parties, student assistance, conferences, film projections or initiation to some form of game or art.
- A well-known theater is present in Louvain-la-Neuve since the very beginning of the city. The [www.atjv.be/ Atelier Théâtre Jean Vilar] will provide you with a wide variety of plays, but only in French. It's situated near the Grand-rue. At the end of the year, you can watch the student's representation of the nearby school IAD for free. Humoristic and musical spectacles usually take place in the Aula Magna, near the grand place.
- The Ferme du Blocry and Ferme du Biéreau situated in respective districts offer a wide variety of concerts.
- The newly built Musée Hergé offers an innovative architecture to host the official Belgian comics writer's legacy. It is not far from the Grand Place. Not far from the Place des sciences is the university museum, containing various artistic objects.
- Have a walk around the lake and many pedestrian pathways that crisscrosses the city and its suroundings. I contains suprisingly a diverse fauna, including gulls and bats.
As the host to the Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve provides anybody eager to learn with anything they may wish to be taught. Besides the University, which provides academic courses in Sciences, Applied Sciences, Law, Sports, Economics, Theology, Philology, Psychology and Agronomy, you can find a wide range of colleges. Moreover, a lot of languages are taught by the Language Center.
- A mall, l'Esplanade, opened in October 2005 and can provide you with anything you need. You can find it right beside the station.
- Most shops are concentrated around the city center, in the Grand-rue and Charlemagne streets. There is also a gallery in front of the station.
Most of the restaurants are situated on or in between the main square and the university square next to the train station. However, some more specific places can be found elsewhere in town:
- Very good belgian fries and a true fritkot up in Lauzelle district, near the sport hall, Chez Jean-Lou. If you do not intend to walk (and possibly get lost) to or from lauzelle, you can eat the shop named fresh & fries at the Place des Wallons. Avoid the fries shop in "rue du centre", near the place of the university---their fries are cheaper but definitively not tastier.
- As a student town, there is a lot of cheap and quick food services, like the sandwish maker in rue des wallons. Just walk around the center of the town, you will find plenty of them.
- University restaurant are quite cheap if you are somehow involved with the university. Make sure you have a card that can be used to discound the plates. The main restaurant, Le Sablon is in the center, between the the Main Street and the theater. A smaller one called Le Galilée is situated at Place des sciences.
- A more stylish place (with the prices that goes with it), the Loungeatude(in French) is to be found in the Biereau district, next to the Ferme du Biéreau.
- Together with the shopping mall, Louvain-la-Neuve was provided with a new fast food, which allows you to find american food, if you're afraid of tasting the Belgian cooking. Its name is Quick, on the Charlemagne street. Regular frikot usually provides food similar to fast-foods.
Louvain-la-Neuve's beverage is beer, either light or strong ale, either Belgian or foreign, it can be found in a wide variety of colours, flavours and price ranges.
- Students are organising a lot of parties, which take place in Student Union pubs, every faculty has one, and even some regions. Beer is usually served in 25cl plastic glasses for 0.9€. The custom is to drink it in one shot with some friends.
- Erasmus students usally hang out at the Beckett's Irish pub next to the multiplex, and the Guinch Bar(French) on the Traverse d'Esope. Prices are more expensive than in Student Unions.
- Snooker and karaoke are available in the center underground club, next to the station.
Louvain-la-Neuve's accommodation problem is nearly as old as the town itself. You can find only one hotel:
- Quite expensive, situated in the scientific park of Louvain-la-Neuve, boulevard de Lauzelle: Relais Mercure(50€-120€).
- You can find more hotels in nearby Wavre. More info (in french) here.
If you do not mind sleeping in bad conditions and have a student friend, you may ask to sleep on a sofa at their room; this is not an uncommon practise among students.
If you are going to stay in town for several months, start looking for a place early. Students usually look for flats (kots in belgian french/dutch) during the months of April and May. Leases usually go from September to September, but shorter deals are possible, especially with Erasmus students. You should normally get help from the university in order to get a room. The center is quite noisy, but close to everything. For students in Sciences and Engineering, Bièreau is the closest district, Bruyères is nice too. For other students, Bruyères, Lauzelle and Hocaille are nice, with lots of students. Some streets are very noisy due to student activity but calm down during exams and holidays. Most noisy months in LLN are September-October and February-March.
Here is a short summary of every district:
- Baraque: At the eastern outskirts of the city, this district is mostly residential. Close to the science faculty.
- Biéreau: Oldest district of the city, close to the faculty of Sciences and Applied Sciences, lots of students, some residents.
- Bruyères: A district built in two parts. The older one is mostly inhabited with students, the newer one is mainly residential. Close to every faculty. Very close from Economics and Political sciences faculties.
- Centre: City center, a lot of university and administration buildings, but some student flats, and since 2005, a new range of flats forbidden to students. Close to every faculty, can be very noisy in some part of the year.
- Hocaille: On the northwestern slopes leading to the Blocry, this district is a mix between students and inhabitants. Closer to Psychology, Human Sciences and Thelogy faculties. Very close to the sport hall.
- Lauzelle: This modern district bordering the Bois de Lauzelle is mostly residential. Close to the shopping mall and not too far from the applied science faculties.
- The rollercoaster park of Walibi, the biggest in Belgium, is situated 10 minutes away from Louvain-la-Neuve by car, a little bit more by train.
- The former battleground of Waterloo is less than one half hour away from town.
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