|— Region of Belgium —|
Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (French)
Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (Dutch)
Clockwise from top: The Northern Quarter business district; the Berlaymont of the European Commission; the Royal Palace of Brussels; the Espace Léopold of the European Parliament; the Grand Place
|Nickname(s): Capital of Europe, Comic city|
|Region||18 June 1989|
|- Minister-President||Charles Picqué (2004-)|
|- Governor||Hugo Nys (acting) (2009-)|
|- Parl. President||Eric Tomas|
|- Region||161.4 km2 (62.2 sq mi)|
|Elevation||13 m (43 ft)|
|Population (1 November 2008)|
|- Density||6,697/km2 (16,857/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|- Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
Brussels (French: Bruxelles, pronounced [bʁysɛl] ( listen); Dutch: Brussel, pronounced [ˈbrʏsəl] (help·info)), officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region (French: Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, Dutch: Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (help·info)), is the de facto capital city of the European Union (EU) and the largest urban area in Belgium. It comprises 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels proper, which is the constitutional capital of Belgium, Flanders, the Flemish Community, and the French Community of Belgium.
Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, making it the largest in Belgium.
Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main centre for international politics. Its hosting of principal EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has made the city a polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became increasingly French-speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries. Today a majority of inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. Linguistic tensions remain, and the language laws of the municipalities surrounding Brussels are an issue of much controversy in Belgium.
The most common theory for the etymology of Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Broeksel or other spelling variants, which means marsh (broek) and home (sel) or "home in the marsh". The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580. The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island.
The Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven gained the County of Brussels around 1000 by marrying Charles' daughter. Because of its location on the shores of the Senne on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels grew quite quickly; it became a commercial centre that rapidly extended towards the upper town (St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral, Coudenberg, Sablon/Zavel area...), where there was a smaller risk of floods. As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. The Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant at about this time (1183/1184). In the 13th century, the city got its first walls.
After the construction of the first walls of Brussels, in the early 13th century, Brussels grew significantly. In order to let the city expand, a second set of walls was erected between 1356 and 1383. Today, traces of it can still be seen, mostly because the "small ring", a series of roadways in downtown Brussels bounding the historic city centre, follows its former course.
In the 15th century, by means of the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant emerged from the House of Valois (namely Antoine, their son), with another line of descent from the Habsburgs (Maximilian of Austria, later Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, married Mary of Burgundy, who was born in Brussels). Brabant had lost its independence, but Brussels became the Princely Capital of the prosperous Low Countries, and flourished.
Charles V, heir of the Low Countries since 1506, though (as he was only 6 years old) governed by his aunt Margaret of Austria until 1515, was declared King of Spain, in 1516, in the Cathedral of Saint Gudule in Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new archduke of the Habsburg Empire and thus the Holy Roman Emperor of the Empire "on which the sun does not set". It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V abdicated in 1555. This impressive palace, famous all over Europe, had greatly expanded since it had first become the seat of the Dukes of Brabant, but it was destroyed by fire in 1731.
In 1695, French troops sent by King Louis XIV bombarded Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels. The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4000 buildings, a third of those in the city. The reconstruction of the city centre, effected during subsequent years, profoundly changed the appearance of the city and left numerous traces still visible today. The city was captured by France in 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession but was handed back to Austria three years later.
In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at the La Monnaie theatre. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings. Following independence, the city underwent many more changes. The Senne had become a serious health hazard, and from 1867 to 1871 its entire urban area was completely covered over. This allowed urban renewal and the construction of modern buildings and boulevards which are characteristic of downtown Brussels today.
During the 20th century the city has hosted various fairs and conferences, including the fifth Solvay Conference in 1927 and two world fairs: the Brussels International Exposition of 1935 and the Expo '58. Brussels suffered damage from World War II, though it was minor compared to cities in Germany and the United Kingdom.
After the war, Brussels was modernized for better and for worse. The construction of the North-South Junction linking the main railway stations in the city was completed in 1952, while the first Brussels premetro was finished in 1969, and the first line of the Brussels Metro was opened in 1976. Starting from the early 1960s, Brussels became the de facto capital of what would become the European Union, and many modern buildings were built. Unfortunately, development was allowed to proceed with little regard to the aesthetics of newer buildings, and many architectural gems were demolished to make way for newer buildings which often clashed with their surroundings, a process known as Brusselization.
The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989 after a constitutional reform in 1970. The Brussels-Capital Region was made bilingual, and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia.
|The 19 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region||
The 19 municipalities (communes) of the Brussels-Capital Region are political subdivisions with individual responsibilities for the handling of local level duties, such as law enforcement and the upkeep of schools and roads within its borders. Municipal administration is also conducted by a mayor, a council, and an executive.
In 1831, Belgium was divided into 2,739 municipalities, including the 19 in the Brussels-Capital Region. Unlike most of the municipalities in Belgium, the ones located in the Brussels-Capital Region were not merged with others during mergers occurring in 1964, 1970, and 1975. However, several municipalities outside of the Brussels-Capital Region have been merged with the City of Brussels throughout its history including Laeken, Haren, and Neder-Over-Heembeek, which were merged into the City of Brussels in 1921.
The largest and most populous of the municipalities is the City of Brussels, covering 32.6 square kilometres (12.6 sq mi) with 145,917 inhabitants. The least populous is Koekelberg with 18,541 inhabitants, while the smallest in area is Saint-Josse-ten-Noode which is only 1.1 square kilometres (0.4 sq mi). Despite being the smallest municipality, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode has the highest population density of the 19 with 20,822 inhabitants per km².
Under the Köppen climate classification Brussels experiences an oceanic climate (Cfb). Brussels' proximity to coastal areas influences the area's climate by sending marine air masses from the Atlantic Ocean. Nearby wetlands also ensure a maritime temperate climate. On average (based on measurements the last 100 years), there are approximately 200 days of rain per year in the Brussels-Capital Region. Snowfall is rare, generally occurring once or twice a year.
|Average high °C (°F)||5.6
|Average low °C (°F)||0.7
|Precipitation mm (inches)||71
|Avg. precipitation days||13||10||13||11||11||11||10||9||10||10||13||13||134|
|Source: World Weather Information Service 2008-01-06|
The Brussels-Capital Region is one of the three regions of Belgium, while the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community do exercise, each for their part, their cultural competencies on the territory of the region. French and Dutch are the official languages; most public services are bilingual (exceptions being education and a couple of others). The Capital Region is predominantly French-speaking—about 85–90% of the population are French-speakers (including migrants and second language speakers), and about 10–15% are native Dutch-speakers. In January 2006, of its registered inhabitants, 73.1% are Belgian nationals, 4.1% French nationals, 12.0% other EU nationals (usually expressing themselves in either French or English), 4.0% Moroccan nationals, and 6.8% other non-EU nationals.
Because of how the federalisation was handled in Belgium, but also because of the fact that the municipalities in the region did not take part in the merger that affected municipalities in the rest of Belgium in the seventies, the public institutions in Brussels offer a bewildering complexity. The complexity is more apparent in the lawbooks than in the facts, since the members of the Brussels Parliament and Government also act in other capacities, e.g. as members of the council of the Brussels agglomeration or the community commissions. One distinguishes:
The region, with a regional parliament of 89 members (72 French-speaking, 17 Dutch-speaking, parties are organised on a linguistic basis), plus a regional government, consisting of an officially linguistically neutral, but in practice French-speaking minister-president, two French-speaking and two Dutch-speaking ministers, one Dutch-speaking secretary of state and two French-speaking secretaries of state. This parliament can enact ordinances (French: ordonnances, Dutch: ordonnanties), which have equal status as a national legislative act.
Also the federal state, the French Community and the Flemish Community exercise competencies on the territory of the region. 19 of the 72 French-speaking members of the Brussels Parliament are also members of the Parliament of the French Community of Belgium, and until 2004 this was also the case for six Dutch-speaking members, who were at the same time members of the Flemish Parliament. Now, people voting for a Flemish party have to vote separately for 6 directly elected members of the Flemish Parliament.
Due to the multiple capacities of single members of parliament, there are parliamentarians who are at the same member of the Brussels Parliament, member of the Assembly of the Common Community Commission, member of the Assembly of the French Community Commission, member of the Parliament of the French Community of Belgium and "community senator" in the Belgian Senate. At the moment, this is the case for Mr. François Roelants du Vivier (for the Mouvement Réformateur), Mrs. Amina Derbaki Sbaï (since June 2004 for the Parti Socialiste, but beforehand, since 2003, for the Mouvement Réformateur) and Mrs Sfia Bouarfa (since 2001 for the Parti Socialiste).
Despite what its name suggests, the Brussels-Capital Region is not the capital of Belgium in itself. Article 194 of the Belgian Constitution lays down that the capital of Belgium is the City of Brussels, a smaller municipality within the capital region that once was the city's core.
However, although the City of Brussels is the official capital, the funds allowed by the federation and region for the representative role of the capital are divided among the 19 municipalities, and some national institutions are sited in the other 18 municipalities. Thus, while only the City of Brussels itself officially carries the title of capital of Belgium, in practice the entire capital region plays this role, and the national institutions of the Belgian state are spread loosely around the region.
The Brussels-Capital Region is one of the three federated regions of Belgium, alongside Wallonia and the Flemish Region. Geographically and linguistically, it is a (bilingual) enclave in the (unilingual) Flemish Region. Regions are one component of Belgium's complex institutions, the three communities being the other component: Brussels' inhabitants must deal with either the French (speaking) community or the Flemish Community for matters such as culture and education.
Brussels is also the capital of both the French Community of Belgium (Communauté française de Belgique in French) and of Flanders (Vlaanderen); all Flemish capital institutions are established here: Flemish Parliament, Flemish government and its administration.
Brussels has since World War II become the administrative centre of many international organisations. Notably the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have their main institutions in the city, along with many other international organisations such as the WEU, WCO and EUROCONTROL as well as international corporations. Brussels is third in the number of international conferences it hosts also becoming one of the largest convention centres in the world. The presence of the EU and the other international bodies has for example led to there being more ambassadors and journalists in Brussels than in Washington D.C.. International schools have also been established to serve this presence. The "international community" in Brussels numbers at least 70,000 people, if you count staff at the EU institutions, the Nato headquarters and the diplomats, lobbyists and journalists who work alongside them. In 2009, there were an estimated 286 lobbying consultancies known to work in Brussels. 
Brussels serves as capital of the European Union, hosting the major political institutions of the Union. The EU has not declared a capital formally, though the Treaty of Amsterdam formally gives Brussels the seat of the European Commission (the executive/government branch) and the Council of the European Union (a legislative institution made up from leaders of member states). It locates the formal seat of European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, where votes take place with the Council on the proposals made by the Commission. However meetings of political groups and committee groups are formally given to Brussels along with a set number of plenary sessions. Three quarters of Parliament now takes place at its Brussels hemicycle. Between 2002 and 2004, the European Council also fixed its seat in the city.
Brussels, along with Luxembourg and Strasbourg, began to host institutions in 1957, soon becoming the centre of activities as the Commission and Council based their activities in what has become the "European Quarter". Early building in Brussels was sporadic and uncontrolled with little planning, the current major buildings are the Berlaymont building of the Commission, symbolic of the quarter as a whole, the Justus Lipsius building of the Council and the Espace Léopold of Parliament. Today the presence has increased considerably with the Commission alone occupying 865,000 m2 within the "European Quarter" in the east of the city (a quarter of the total office space in Brussels). The concentration and density has caused concern that the presence of the institutions has caused a "ghetto effect" in that part of the city. However the presence has contributed significantly to the importance of Brussels as an international centre.
On 1 May 2008, the region had a population of 1,070,841 for 161.382 km2 which gives a population density of 6,635 inhabitants per km²
|Population by national origin, 1 March 1991
(last census ever organised in Belgium)
|Belgians born in Belgium (to Belgian parents)||607,446||63.7%|
|Belgians born abroad (to Belgian parents)
Congo, Rwanda and Burundi (former Belgian overseas territories)
|Naturalised migrants (not born in Belgium, not to Belgian parents)
|Naturalised 1st and 2nd generations (born in Belgium, not to Belgian parents)
|Non-naturalised 1st and 2nd generations
(born abroad, foreign nationals, living in Belgium in 1986)
(born abroad, foreign nationals, arrived in Belgium after 1986)
|Total Brussels-Capital Region||954,040||100%|
At the last Belgian census in 1991, there were 63.7% inhabitants in Brussels-Capital Region who answered they were Belgian citizens, born as such in Belgium. However, there have been numerous individual or familial migrations towards Brussels since the end of the 18th century, including political refugees (Karl Marx, Victor Hugo, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Léon Daudet e.g.) from neighbouring or more distanced countries as well as labour migrants, former foreign students or expatriates, and many Belgian families in Brussels can tell at least a foreign grandparent. And even among the Belgians, many became Belgian only recently.
The original Dutch dialect of Brussels (Brussels) is a form of Brabantic (the variant of Dutch spoken in the ancient Duchy of Brabant) with a significant number of loanwords from French, and still survives among a minority of inhabitants called Brusseleers, many of them quite bi- and multilingual, or educated in French and not writing the Dutch language. Brussels and its suburbs evolved from a Dutch-dialect–speaking town to a mainly French-speaking town. The ethnic and national self-identification of the inhabitants is quite different along ethnic lines. For their French-speaking Bruxellois, it can vary from Belgian, Francophone Belgian, Bruxellois (like the Memelländer in interwar ethnic censuses in Memel), Walloon (for people who migrated from the Wallonia Region at an adult age); for Flemings living in Brussels it is mainly either Flemish or Brusselaar (Dutch for an inhabitant) and often both. For the Brusseleers, many simply consider themselves as belonging to Brussels. For the many rather recent immigrants from other countries, the identification also includes all the national origins: people tend to call themselves Moroccans or Turks rather than an American-style hyphenated version.
The two largest foreign groups come from two francophone countries: France and Morocco. The first language of roughly half of the inhabitants is not an official one of the Capital Region. Nevertheless, about three out of four residents have the Belgian nationality.|Dutch people]] or native speakers of French, thus roughly half of the inhabitants do not speak either French or Dutch as primary language.</ref> --> In general the population of Brussels is younger and the gap between rich and poor is wider. Brussels also has a large concentration of Muslims, mostly of Turkish and Moroccan ancestry, and mainly French-speaking black Africans. Belgium does not collect statistics by ethnic background, so exact figures are unknown, but one estimate put then number of Muslims in Brussels at 15%.
Both immigration and its status as head of the European Commission made Brussels a really cosmopolitan city. The migrant communities, as well as rapidly growing communities of EU-nationals from other EU-member states, speak Moroccan dialectal Arabic, French, Turkish, Spanish (most Spanish came from the Asturias, a minority from Andalusia and some from Catalonia and the Basque country), Italian, Polish, Rif Berber, English and other languages, including those of every EU-member state in the expat communities. The degree of linguistic integration varies widely within each migrant group.
Among all major migrants groups from outside the EU, a majority of the permanent residents have acquired the Belgian nationality.
Although historically (since the Counter-Reformation persecution and expulsion of Protestants by the Spanish in the 16th century) Roman Catholic, most people in Brussels are non-practising. About 10% of the population regularly attends church services. Among the religions, historically dominant Roman Catholicism prevailing mostly in a relaxed way, one finds large minorities of Muslims, atheists, agnosticists, and of the philosophical school of humanism, the latter mainly as laïcité-vrijzinnig (an approximate translation would be secularists or free thinkers) or practicing Humanism as a life stance—Brussels houses several key organisations for both kinds. Other (recognised) religions (Protestantism, Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Judaism) are practised by much smaller groups in Brussels. Recognised religions and Laïcité enjoy public funding and school courses: every pupil in an official school from 6 years old to 18 must choose 2 hours per week of compulsory religion—or Laïcité—inspired morals.
Since the founding of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, Brussels has transformed from being almost entirely Dutch-speaking, (Brabantian to be exact), to being a multilingual city with French (Belgian French to be exact) as the majority language and lingua franca. This language shift, the Frenchification of Brussels, is rooted in the 18th century and accelerated after Belgium became independent and Brussels expanded past its original boundaries.
Not only is French-speaking immigration responsible for the Frenchification of Brussels, but more importantly the language change over several generations from Dutch to French was performed in Brussels by the Flemish people themselves. The main reason for this was the political, administrative and social pressure, partly based on the low social prestige of the Dutch language in Belgium at the time. From 1880 on, more and more Dutch-speaking people became bilingual, resulting in a rise of monolingual French-speakers after 1910. Halfway through the 20th century the number of monolingual French-speakers carried the day over the mostly bilingual Flemish inhabitants.
Only since the 1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language border and the socio-economic development of Flanders was in full effect, could Dutch stem the tide of increasing French use. Through immigration, a further number of formerly Dutch-speaking municipalities in surrounding Flanders became majority French-speaking in the second half of the 20th century. This phenomenon is, together with the future of Brussels, one of the most controversial topics in all of Belgian politics.
Given its Dutch-speaking origins and the role that Brussels plays as the capital city in a bilingual country, Flemish political parties demand that the entire Brussels-Capital Region be fully bilingual, including its subdivisions and public services. They also demand that the contested Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde arrondissement will be separated from the Brussels region. However, the French-speaking population regards the language border as artificial and demands the extension of the bilingual region to at least all six municipalities with language facilities in the surroundings of Brussels. Flemish politicians have strongly rejected these proposals.
Main attractions include the Grand Place, since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Laken Castle with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace.
The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre (338 ft) tall structure that was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell). The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe.
The Manneken Pis, a bronze fountain of a small peeing boy is a famous tourist attraction and symbol of the city.
Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice and the buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter.
Cultural facilities include the Brussels Theatre and the La Monnaie Theatre and opera house. There is a wide array of museums, from the Royal Museum of Fine Art to the Museum of the Army and the Comic Museum. Brussels also has a lively music scene, with everything from opera houses and concert halls to music bars and techno clubs.
The city centre is notable for its Flemish town houses. Also particularly striking are the buildings in the Art Nouveau style by the Brussels architect Victor Horta. Some of Brussels' districts were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau, and many buildings are in this style. Good examples include Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace, by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann. The modern buildings of Espace Leopold complete the picture.
The city has had a renowned artist scene for many years. The famous Belgian surrealist René Magritte, for example, studied in Brussels. The city is also a capital of the comic strip; some treasured Belgian characters are Lucky Luke, Tintin, Cubitus, Gaston Lagaffe and Marsupilami. Throughout the city walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters, and the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists. The Belgian Comics Museum combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.
Brussels contains over 80 museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. The museum has an extensive collection of various painters, such as the Flemish painters like Bruegel, Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The recently opened Magritte Museum houses the world's largest collection of the works of the surrealist René Magritte.
The gastronomic offer includes approximately 1,800 restaurants, and a number of high quality bars. Belgian cuisine is known among connoisseurs as one of the best in Europe. In addition to the traditional restaurants, there is a large number of cafés, bistros, and the usual range of international fast food chains. The cafés are similar to bars, and offer beer and light dishes; coffee houses are called the Salons de Thé. Also widespread are brasseries, which usually offer a large number of beers and typical national dishes.
Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Notable specialities include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as "moules frites," served with fries). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Godiva, Neuhaus and Leonidas. Numerous friteries are spread throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh, hot, waffles are also sold on the street.
In addition to the regular selection of Belgian beer, the famous lambic style of beer is only brewed in and around Brussels, and the yeasts have their origin in the Senne valley. In mild contrast to the other versions, Kriek (cherry beer) enjoys outstanding popularity, as it does in the rest of Belgium. Kriek is available in almost every bar or restaurant.
Serving as the centre of administration for Europe, Brussels' economy is largely service-oriented. It is dominated by regional and world headquarters of multinationals, by European institutions, by various administrations, and by related services, though it does have a number of notable craft industries, such as the Cantillon Brewery, a lambic brewery founded in 1900.
There are several universities in Brussels. The two main universities are the Université Libre de Bruxelles, a French-speaking university with about 20,000 students in three campuses in the city (and two others outside), and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a Dutch-speaking university with about 10,000 students. Both universities originate from a single ancestor university founded in 1834, namely the Free University of Brussels, which was split in 1970 at about the same time the Flemish and French Communities gained legislative power over the organisation of higher education.
Other universities include the Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis with 2,000 students, the Catholic University of Brussels (Katholieke Universiteit Brussel), the Royal Military Academy, a military college established in 1834 by a French colonel and two drama schools founded in 1982: the French-speaking Conservatoire Royal and the Dutch-speaking Koninklijk Conservatorium.
Still other universities have campuses in Brussels, such as the Université Catholique de Louvain that has had its medical faculty in the city since 1973. In addition the Boston University Brussels campus was established in 1972 and offers masters degrees in business administration and international relations. Due to the post-war international presence in the city, there are also a number of international schools, including the International School of Brussels with 1,450 pupils between 2½ and 18, the British School of Brussels, and the four European Schools serving those working in the EU institutions.
Brussels is served by Brussels Airport, located in the nearby Flemish municipality of Zaventem, and by the smaller Brussels South Charleroi Airport, located near Charleroi (Wallonia), some 50 km (30 mi) from Brussels. Brussels is also served by direct high-speed rail links: to London by the Eurostar train via the Channel Tunnel (1hr 51 min); to Amsterdam, Paris (1hr 25 min) and Cologne by the Thalys; and to Cologne and Frankfurt by the German ICE.
An interticketing system means that a STIB ticket holder can use the train or long-distance buses inside the city. The commuter services operated by De Lijn, TEC and SNCB will in the next few years be augmented by a metropolitan RER rail network around Brussels.
In medieval times Brussels stood at the intersection of routes running north-south (the modern Rue Haute/Hoogstraat) and east-west (Chaussée de Gand/Gentsesteenweg-Rue du Marché aux Herbes/Grasmarkt-Rue de Namur/Naamsestraat). The ancient pattern of streets radiating from the Grand Place in large part remains, but has been overlaid by boulevards built over the River Zenne/Senne, over the city walls and over the railway connection between the North and South Stations.
As one expects of a capital city, Brussels is the hub of the fan of old national roads, the principal ones being clockwise the N1 (N to Breda), N2 (E to Maastricht), N3 (E to Aachen), N4 (SE to Luxembourg) N5 (S to Rheims), N6 (SW to Maubeuge), N8 (W to Koksijde) and N9 (NW to Ostend). Usually named chaussées/steenwegen, these highways normally run in a straight line, but on occasion lose themselves in a maze of narrow shopping streets.
The town is skirted by the European route E19 (N-S) and the E40 (E-W), while the E411 leads away to the SE. Brussels has an orbital motorway, numbered R0 (R-zero) and commonly referred to as the "ring" (French: ring Dutch: grote ring). It is pear-shaped as the southern side was never built as originally conceived, owing to residents' objections.
The city centre, sometimes known as "the pentagon", is surrounded by an inner ring road, the "small ring" (French: petite ceinture, Dutch: kleine ring ), a sequence of boulevards formally numbered R20. These were built upon the site of the second set of city walls following their demolition. Metro line 2 runs under much of these.
On the eastern side of the city, the R21 (French: grande ceinture, grote ring in Dutch) is formed by a string of boulevards that curves round from Laeken (Laken) to Uccle (Ukkel). Some premetro stations (see Brussels Metro) were built on that route. A little further out, a stretch numbered R22 leads from Zaventem to Saint-Job.
Brussels is twinned with the following 15 cities:
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Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel; ) is the capital city of Belgium. As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union. Being at the crossroads of cultures (the Germanic in the North and the Romance in the South) and playing an important role in Europe, Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal "melting pot", but still retains its own unique character. Population of the Brussels metropolitan area is just over 2 million.
Brussels is split into nineteen communes or gemeenten (municipalities/boroughs).
As Brussels became the capital city of a new country in the 19th century, the old town was destroyed to make way for brand new ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks all built between 1880 and 1980. Unfortunately, that is why such a disappointingly small historic centre (one square and four adjacent streets) was preserved, and why most tourists only visit Brussels as an afterthought. Travellers concentrate on the classic top 4 of Belgium :Bruges, Kemmelberg, Kortrijk and Oostende.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French and Dutch are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand Place and de Grote Markt. Although French is the lingua franca, West-Flemmish can be very useful, especially in the European District. English is also widely understood, but not always widely spoken.
You can see what's going on in Brussels by picking up a copy of local free city rag Zone 02. Another good free listings paper is Agenda, which is distributed together with the dutch-language weekly Brussel Deze Week and has the notable advantage of being published in three languages (English, Dutch, French). Both of these are distributed in cafés and bars around the city. If you're looking for a good party, online listing Net Events (French and Dutch) and Ready2Move, are a good place to start.
Brussels Agenda is the official cultural and entertainment agenda of the City of Brussels and the francophone Médiatheque have a website featuring the upcoming concerts in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. Be aware, however, that their listings page is specialised so it only features the concerts the Médiatheque staff are interested in.
The most widely read English magazine is The Bulletin which, apart from covering Belgian and EU news, also offers arts and lifestyle stories, as well as in-depth events listings and a TV guide.
Brussels' main airport is Brussels International Airport- previously known as Zaventem (IATA code BRU). From the airport, a train (€5.05) runs every 15 mins to Brussels Nord, with the journey taking 15 minutes. There is also a bus (numbers 12 and 21) (€3, or €4 on board) every 20 to 30 minutes via Rondpoint Schumann to the Place de Luxembourg district, from where the same ticket is valid for another 30 minutes on the metro or busses into the centre. A taxi to the centre costs around €25 when booked in advance, otherwise around €35. Taxis bleus: +32 (0)2 268 0000, Taxi Brussels: +32 (0)2 411 4142, Taxis verts: +32 (0)2 349 4949. Beware of hidden charges, Taxis verts may quote you one price over the phone, but they charge an additional € 25 plus parking if your flight is delayed. Always confirm the final charge with your driver before getting in the car. If you've just arrived at the airport's train station, first check the time of the next train then go up one level and check whether a bus 12 or 21 is about to depart and take whichever is quicker depending on your final destination. For fix-rate taxi and minibus services visit . They can take you anywhere in Belgium, not only Brussels.
There are several budget airlines, including Ryanair  and Wizzair , who fly to Charleroi airport. This airport is south of Brussels (IATA code CRL) and one hour away from Brussels Midi Station at the city centre by shuttle bus (€ 13 one way, €22 return), or by train to Charleroi Sud station and then by TEC Bus A (€2.50 one way) direct from Station to the airport. You can also get a taxi from the airport to the city centre, but this will cost a fixed price of approximately €90. The best deal is to book a shared airport transfer at www.charleroitransfer.com , the only door to door minibus company at Charleroi Airport (price for groups start from €10).
Brussels airport has a luggage locker service (Floor 0) where one can leave their luggage for a fixed duration. The lockers say that you will have to retrieve your luggage within 72 hours or else they will be taken out. But they will actually be moved to the room adjacent and stored there until you retrieve them. This is a useful facility for people wanting to stow away big suitcases somewhere safe. The rate is €7.50 per day.
Antwerp airport (IATA code ANR) also has a good train connection to Brussels.
Brussels has three main train stations: Bruxelles Midi-Brussel Zuid, to the south of the city core, Bruxelles Central-Brussel Centraal, which is right next to the city centre, and Bruxelles Nord-Brussel Noord, to the north of the city center (at Place Rogier). Unfortunately, high-speed trains stop only at Midi/Zuid, so you need to take the tram (or an ordinary train) a few stops north to get to Grand Place.
Brussels revamped its metro at the start of April 2009 to boast six lines, and at the same time rescheduled several tram and bus routes. Most are run by STIB-MIVB  except for some regional buses, which are run by De lijn  and Le Tec .
A card that can be used for ten rides on public transport costs €12.30. One hour tickets cost €1.70 if pre-purchased and are available from the driver for €2. One, five and ten ride tickets are available at almost all metro and train stations. There are also one-day tickets available, for €4.50.
You validate the ticket in the small orange machines located in buses/trams, or at the entrance to metro stations/major tram stops. The orange machines time-stamp the ticket, both in ink and magnetically, and it will be valid for one hour. You can interrupt your ride and interchangeably use any STIB/MIVB transport. You should revalidate your ticket for each new ride. Other forms of transport are:
Since 2009, the city offers low-cost short-term "Villo" rentals at 180 locations near the central city. The system only accepts Smart cards (the ones with an electronic chip and activated by a PIN code), it does not accept the regular magnetic stripe cards. The first half hour is free, the next costs €0.50. Registration costs €1.50 for a day and €7 for a week. The year long ticket costs €30. It is advisable to wear a helmet and a fluo vest (not mandatory). The bikes are robust, but rather heavy. More detailed information can be found online at Villo (English, French and Dutch). .
Brussels has two official languages: French (80%) and Dutch (20%). Historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became more and more French-speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries. Today a majority of inhabitants are native French-speakers. Due to international institutions, English has become the second spoken language but it is still relatively rare to find written tourist or general information in English (although the situation is improving very slowly). All oral information in the train stations is only in French and Dutch. English information is also given in subways. Do not hesitate to ask someone if you do not understand what has been said.
Considering the city's location and that it markets itself as the capital of Europe, spoken English is less prevalent in Belgium than its Dutch neighbor. However, even if it is not as widely spoken as one may expect, it is nonetheless widely understood. As is generally the case elsewhere, the rate of success of finding someone who can speak English depends on several factors: notably age (14-35 year olds are most likely to speak English).
German is also an official language of Belgium, it is spoken by about 40,000 people located in the southeast corner of Belgium bordering Germany.
Brussels has a fair number of cinemas, if limited compared to most European capitals. French films are subtitled in Dutch, and vice versa, all other films are shown in the original version subtitled in French and Dutch (on cinema listings look for 'OV').
Brussels has a good selection of year round events, many suitable for English speaking visitors. The following sites are are useful to check out whats on.
Very few shops in Brussels open before 10AM, and most kick off about 10:30-11AM. Many shops are closed on Sunday and Monday.
Chocolate until you drop
Brussels is chock full of chocolates, but the ultimate indulgence for the chocoholic is Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel, where you will find three shops selling some of the best chocolate in the world: Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer. Each store has its own specialties: Pierre Marcolini's take-away cakes and ice cream are reasons to be tempted, while Wittamer is the only one with a cafe on premises and also sells the ultimate hot chocolate. Passion Chocolat (20 Rue Vanderlinden) is a bit out of the way but its artisan chocolate is worth a visit, and you can taste lots of it for free at the entrance.
There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels. Most people concentrate on the three classics: mussels (moules), fries (frites) and chocolate. A few more adventurous bruxellois dishes include anguilles au vert / paling in't groen (river eels in green sauce), meat balls in tomato sauce, stoemp (mashed vegetables and potatoes) and turbot waterzooi (turbot fish in cream and egg sauce). For dessert, try a Belgian waffle (gauffre), also available in a square Brussels version dusted with powdered sugar, and choices of bananas, whipped cream and many other toppings. Although many prefer the round, caramelized version from Liège.
The matter over which establishment serves up the best frites (locally known as fritkots) remains a matter of heated debate. Some argue that the best frites in Brussels are served at the fritkot near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while others defend St-Josse's Martin (Place Saint-Josse/Sint-Joostplein) as the prime purveyor of the authentic Brussels frite just as others claim Antoine (Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein) remains the king of the local french fry. No matter which fritkot you're at, try to be adventurous and have something other than ketchup or mayonnaise on your fries. Of the selection of bizarre sauces you've never seen before, "andalouse" is probably the most popular with the locals.
Quality food is available online in and around Brussels from various companies, including .
Brussels' tourist restaurant gauntlet can be found in Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, just to the north of Grand Place. The place has a bad reputation for waiters imposing themselves on passers-by, trying to lure customers into their restaurant. The authorities are aware of this, and are trying to take measures. Some restaurants may also tempt you with cheap prices for the menus, but when seated, the item on the menu happens to be unavailable, and you're forced to accept another, noticeably more expensive dish. Often, the exaggerated price of the wines will also compensate for the attractive menu. Knowing this however, you may be able to negotiate a better deal before entering.
A few restaurants stand out from the crowd though:
Outside the Rue des Bouchers, you may try:
Close to the Bourse Jules Van Praetstraat (rue Jules Van Praet) is another rapidly developing street of restaurants and bars. Those of note include:
Place Saint Catherine is also a popular area, and once the fishmongering centre of Brussels. While many of the fish shops have moved elsewhere, it is still home to many good seafood restaurants featuring lobster as a specialty.
It is outside the touristic centre that the best deals can be found. Here are a few addresses in the Upper Town and Louise Area:
Belgium is to beer what France is to wine, it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world, and Brussels is a great place to sample some of the vast variety on offer. Typical beers of Brussels are gueuze (rather bitter) and kriek (rather sweet, cherry based).
A special drink only found in Brussels is the "half-en-half" ("half and half"). It's a mixture of white wine and champagne.
Hotel rates in Brussels can vary widely (especially at the upper end) depending on how many EU bigwigs happen to be in town. Good deals are often available on weekends and during the summer when the bureaucrats flee on vacation.
Brussels is generally a safe city. Some suburban neighborhoods have a poor reputation, but travellers are unlikely to visit them. The neighborhoods of Schaarbeek, Brussels North and Brussels Center should be avoided at night if possible. However, pickpockets, sometimes in teams, operate in crowded tourist areas, and the train and metro stations (particularly at night) attract drug addicts and other shady types. Travellers should be particularly alert for distractions such as being asked for the time or directions and having attention diverted from their hand or shopping bag. Travelling with laptops at anytime is strongly discouraged.
Visit the following Belgian cities, all within a two hour drive of Brussels:
You can also get to any of the following 'foreign' cities from Brussels within 3 hours without the use of a plane:
Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Utrecht (train or car), Luxembourg (car or train), Paris (train - longer by car), London (by train), Aachen (train or car), Lille (less than an hour by train or car), Cologne/Bonn (train or car)
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The people in Brussels used to only speak Flemish (a type of Dutch), but more and more French speakers moved there and now French is spoken more than Dutch. But there are lots of other languages spoken as well, because the European Union offices are there.
The city is located at 50° 50 North, 04° 21 East.
It is also well known for a style of building know as Art Nouveau.
A lot of tourists visit Brussels for "Manneke Pis".