Leuven is a relatively small town near Brussels, Belgium. It is a classic university town with bustling city life, cheap beer, and lots of photocopy centres. The university library looks a little like this….
It very grand and somewhat mystical in a way. It also comes with its very own (what I like to call) Literary Ivory Tower. Entry is free to go into the library and the main reading hall. You can check out some old books and drawings and marvel at the wood carvings and book collections. You do have to pay to go up the tower, and I did ask… there is no elevator, so if you have an aversion to stairs… maybe this isn’t the tower for you. The library is also a functioning university library, which means whilst you’re ooo-ing and aaahhh-ing over the books and the griffin carved out of wood (yes there is one!) you can also see students cramming for exams and writing essays. All the while, they are probably cursing all the tourists coming in, talking to loud, and wearing squeaky shoes (sorry guys, I might have been one of the shoe squeakers…).
The other really amazing thing about university towns is that they often have good bookshops. And these books shops often come with bargains… And this leads me to my second favourite place in Leuven: Peeters Publishers bookshop. This place scored some serious book-cred with me when I went to check it out. They have a range of books from the latest in literary fiction to ancient texts. They also have an amazing selection of theory books for most of the humanities and social sciences. The other amazing thing? They have a range of books in a range of languages… I counted at least ten different languages for books offered in the store and I didn’t even get to check out the whole place! The staff are really helpful and they speak English, which is a nice little extra cherry on the literary cake. I managed to score some great books from their bargain bin and came home with four new books for my collection:
The bookshop has a really great post-colonial literature section and they have a variety of interesting editions. Some of the books I got here were second-hand and were around 2 Euro each. It was a crime not to buy them!
If you ever find yourself in Leuven, make sure that you do yourself a literary favour and visit Peeters and their iconic library!
Have you ever been to Leuven? Do you have any exciting literary adventures to share? Remember to share the reading the love.