In a recent listing by Monocle, Leuven is ranked second among the best small city to live in. In their second annual Small Cities Index which points people to the compact civic spots that offer rich culture, varied careers, and progressive planning alongside plenty of room to breathe, Leuven (a new entry to the list) is ranked second behind Porto, Portugal.
Further details below is as written by Nolan Giles for Monocle
Although Leuven is only a 20-minute train ride from Brussels and the capital’s international airport, this picturesque Belgian stad of 100,000 inhabitants feels nothing like a sleepy suburb of the capital. Perhaps it’s the young, globally-minded population that makes Leuven – home to one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe – wonderfully vibrant year-round. The world-class beers (Stella Artois among them) that pour out of the 30 or so breweries in the vicinity also contribute to Leuven’s outgoing nature.
Nightlife and education aside, the innovation and technology sectors are thriving, attracting professional talent well beyond university age for work opportunities and industry events, such as the And& innovation festival. The town’s residents cover 171 nationalities, leading city hall to launch the International House Leuven centre, which aims to provide expats and their families with support on housing, social integration, and job opportunities. Regular information evenings and guided city walk help newcomers find their bearings, while English is widely spoken throughout the town – it’s taught to children from a young age.
Many of the people-focused initiatives such as these are the fruit of Leuven’s progressive mayor, Mohamed Ridouani, whose ambitious urbanism policies and strong ideas on sustainability helped the city to win the European capital of innovation award in 2020. During his time as mayor and previously deputy mayor, Ridouani has initiated a positive mobility plan to clear the city centre of cars by creating pedestrian zones and new cycle lanes and investing in a better bus network. The number of journeys made by bicycle rose by 32 percent in just a year, making for cleaner air and a safer environment for children and the elderly to roam around.
The city-government-endorsed Leuven 2030 initiative brings together more than 600 organizations, businesses, and citizens to help provide a plan for the city to cope with the effects of climate change.