The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Ilse Vanbets

Ilse Vanbets

Owner, HIPPO! Royale (1965)

Can you describe what you do?

I love fashion, styling, and playing around with colours, busy prints, textures and accessories. All things you can find in my shop HIPPO! Royale, on Parijsstraat: a groovy multi-brand store, with a wide range of shapes and sizes, dedicated to making women feel pretty and confident for a decade now. Located on a quaint little street, where you’ll find the perfect mix of restaurants and shops, bang in the heart of the alternative side of the City. From time to time, I team up with performers, musicians, jewellery designers, cartoonists and other local businesses in general to organise special events. A recent example being the famous cartoonist Kim Duchateau’s book signing for his latest publication that was held here in the shop. I live in Kessel-Lo, on a little street with the nicest neighbours you could ever imagine – we get together on a regular basis to have summer street-barbeques, a New Years’ drink or brainstorm on how we could improve life here even more. I love being able to live in Kessel-Lo, and cycle to the centre everyday – no traffic jams for me!

It would be nice to see some more extravaganza thrown into the city, or even a proper art school.

How do you perceive Leuven? What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city?

Leuven is truly unique: there’s so many new places where you can hang out popping up everywhere. I like the surroundings around Parijsstraat – like Joris Helleputteplein square, or the Botanical Gardens – as well as the Vaartkom neighbourhood with all its new accommodations. It’s a very vibrant city, mainly thanks to the students of course. Its small-scale size is incredibly handy too, as you’re able to walk from one side of the city to the other in no time. Having said all this, it would be nice to see some more extravaganza thrown into the city, or even a proper art school.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?

I like to relax in different spots in the city: at the Metropole on Oude Markt, drinks and books galore at Barboek or the brand-new, funky Optimist, just to name a few. My go-to places for food are Greenway, Loving Hut or Wereldcafé, or anywhere on Munstraat – though I’m also partial to a picnic in the urban Sint-Donatus Park. For daytime summer fun, I’d pick Piknik Musik or Midzomer. Nights out in Café Central, STUK and Het Depot. There’s just quite simply too much to choose from.