What better way to start the night than with a rousing round of shots, and if there was ever an ideal place for that, it’s De Giraf. Muscle your way through the dense throng of students lining the bar to pick your poison from the robust miles-long shot list, neatly outlined in chalk lettering, that covers all bases from vodka to tequila and everything in-between. Those up for adventure might try the ‘vulcano,’ a hearty concoction that goes well with the resident DJs’ lively mix of jungle and reggae beats.
A fixture on the Oude Markt with its stripped-back industrial decor, Café Allee is known for large pints at low prices and its all-ages appeal. Students and seniors alike mix easily and it’s not uncommon to find yourself rubbing elbows in riveting conversation with a local thirty years your senior.
Located in a side alley just off the Oude Markt square and conveniently across the street from a strategically-placed vending machine catering to Leuven’s late-night hunger pangs, you’ll find ‘t Archief, a dance bar dedicated to those looking to add a bit of thematic revelry to their night out. Regular events like American Wednesdays and Secret Sundays attract a fun-loving crowd ready for adventure.
The Seven Oaks
Pleasantly buzzed but not ready to turn in just yet? Head to The Seven Oaks and trot downstairs, where you’ll find an authentic cellar filled with late-night revelers in denial that dawn is near. The lack of cell reception and late closing hours make this a favorite hangout for lovers of last-call rounds and dancefloor shenanigans.
The Seven Oaks, Hanengang 3, Leuven, Belgium +32 016 20 83 33
On the fancier side of Leuven life there’s Mattiz, a trendy tapas and cocktail bar perfect for starting the evening on a civilized note. Summer nights on their cozy terrace on the Naamsestraat are ideal for an intimate catch-up with friends before joining the mayhem on Oude Markt square.
It’s a tradition in Leuven for each of the university’s faculties to have their very own bar where the pints are cheap and the student organizations manage the books. Amongst the most infamous are Recup (previously known as Pavlov for the psychology students) and HDR (House of Law). Don’t be fooled by the grubby exterior; by night these places are buzzing with partygoers and themed student nights.
Sports bars that also host a compelling nightlife scene are few and far between in Leuven, making Plaza the rare location where decent cocktails converge with football match screenings for a broad appeal. The showy zebra-striped facade matches the festive atmosphere inside, where you can expect to meet a lot of OHL (Leuven team) fans when the Belgian Red Devils are playing.
Barvista is host to the biggest parties in Leuven, spread across three floors referred to separately as ‘t Gewelf, Social Club and Bar Deux. Whether you prefer daytime drinks with friends or a thumping dance party at night, Barvista has long been one of Oude Markt’s premier hotspots.
Named after the bravest of all the Gauls, Ambiorix is another one of those Leuven bars where partying means partying hard. Cheap prices on beer and long drinks fuel dancefloor marathons with an enthusiastic crowd eager to shake it ’til the wee hours of the morning. There’s a cantus room upstairs so don’t be surprised if you hear a group of students singing off-key.