Getting to Leuven
Important remarks: Leuven is 25 km east of Brussels. As the English and French translation of the city name is Louvain, you should be careful not not confuse Leuven with Louvain-La-Neuve (translation: New Leuven) where the francophone university UCL is situated. Louvain-la-Neuve is 30 km away from Leuven!
By regular train
Leuven is well connected by rail. There are at least two trains per hour that travel from the three main stations in Brussels: Brussels South (= Brussel Zuid = Bruxelles Midi) via Brussels Central (= Brussel Centraal = Bruxelles Central) and Brussels North (= Brussel Noord = Bruxelles Nord) to Leuven; there are also direct trains from Liege, Antwerp and Brussels International Airport. Here you can consult the train timetables.
Announcements in stations and on trains will be in Dutch and/or French only (that is why we give the name of all stations in Dutch and sometimes in French). We recommend to buy train tickets online (links are provided below). In Belgium you can buy tickets at the counter in the stations (with credit, debit or cash). The ticket machines only accept Belgian debit cards, and do not accept credit cards or international debit cards (such as Maestro). Tickets can also be bought on the train (for cash), but in that case you should warn the conductor before you board and you should be prepared to pay substantially more (so we don't recommend this option).
Brussels International Airport (Zaventem)
You can fly to Brussels Airport (code 'BRU', and also called 'Zaventem') from all over the world. This airport is 20 km from Leuven. You can go to Leuven:
- By train: there is a train station immediately below Brussels airport (its offical name in Dutch is 'Zaventem Luchthaven'). There are two direct trains per hour (1 per hour in weekends) between Brussels airport and Leuven; the trip takes less than 15 minutes. There are also indirect trains: you change in Brussels North (= Brussel Noord = Bruxelles Nord) and in that case the trip takes 35 minutes. Here you can check the train timetables (fill in: From 'Brussels Airport', To 'Leuven', on your date and hour of arrival). You can buy and print tickets online. A one-way ticket costs €5.40.
- By taxi: this will take about 20 minutes (much more in early evening rush hours, 17:00-20:00) and costs around €60. Take the official taxi queue; do not accept other offers.
- By bus: the De Lijn number 616 will take you from the lower level in Brussels Airport to Leuven (via Heverlee). This will take 1 hour and costs €3.00 (you pay cash on the bus). You can find the schedule using the route planner. The airport is the stop marked as 'Zaventem Luchthaven' and you want to stop at 'Leuven Station'.
Charleroi Airport (Brussels South)
You can fly to Charleroi Airport (code 'CRL' and also known as 'Brussels South'). This is a low-cost airport where Ryanair, Wizzair, Jet4you and Onair fly. There are two options to get to Leuven from Charleroi:
- By train: you take a bus from the airport to the Charleroi South train station, and then a train to Brussels and a second train to Leuven. The estimated duration of the trip is 3 hours depending on the schedule of the connections. See here for more information.
- By shuttle-bus: there is a shuttle from the airport to the Brussels South (= Brussel Zuid = Bruxelles Midi) train station, where you can take a train to Leuven. The estimated time is 2 hours depending on the schedule of the connections. For more information, see here for more information.
By high speed train
From Paris (Charles de Gaulle)
You can fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, and take the Thalys directly at the airport station (some companies, such as Air France, may even make the connection for you) to the Brussels South (= Brussel Zuid = Bruxelles Midi) train station. You can find one-way tickets starting at around €50, and the journey takes about 1:30 hours. Here you canbuy and print Thalys tickets online. From Brussels South, you can take a direct train to Leuven.
If you fly to London, it is possible to reach Leuven using the Eurostar train. This train departs from the London St Pancras train station and arrives in Brussels South (= Brussel Zuid = Bruxelles Midi) train station. You can find one-way tickets starting at around £44, and the journey takes about 2 hours. Here you can buy and print Eurostar tickets online. From Brussels South, you can take a direct train to Leuven.
- Take the highway E40 (Brussel-Luik).
- From E40 take the exit E314/A2 Leuven-Hasselt-Genk between exit 22 (Bertem) and exit 23 (Haasrode).
- From E314 take the exit 15 and follow directions to Leuven.
Note that the city tries to discourage the usage of cars inside the Leuven ring road. There is a network of one-way loops that start and end on the ring road; use a travel planner to find the route to your final destination; note that it is not possible to leave the loop system. Parking on the streets is restricted to 2 hours (except for Sundays). You will need to use the public parkings; an automated system guides you to free spaces. Expect to pay €15-25 per day. There are also a few parkings outside the ring road, where you can leave your car for 24 hours (for free). A car is not helpful to get around in Leuven: you should plan on walking, biking or using the bus. Taxi tends to be expensive, even for short rides (but if you have luggage this still the recommended option).