Brussels (French: Bruxelles, [bʁysɛl] ( ); Dutch: Brussel, [ˈbrʏsəl] ( )), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (French:Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, Dutch: Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest),nbis the capital and largest city of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union (EU). It is also the largest urban area in Belgium, comprising 19 municipalities, including the municipality of theCity of Brussels, which de jure is the capital of Belgium, in addition to the seat of the French Community of Belgium and of the Flemish Community.
Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne to a sizeable city.. The city has a population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, both of them the largest in Belgium.
Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a major centre for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions, the secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
Brussels is just a few miles north of the boundary between Belgium's language communities—French in the south, Dutch in the North. Historically a Dutch-speaking city, it has seen a major shift to French since Belgian independence in 1830. Today, although the majority language is French, the city is officially bilingual. All road signs, street names, and many advertisements and services are shown in both languages Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual with increasing numbers of migrants, expatriates and minority groups speaking their own languages.
A collage with several views of Brussels, Top: View of the Northern Quarter business district, 2nd left: Floral carpet event in the Grand Place, 2nd right: Brussels City Hall and Mont des Artsarea, 3rd: Cinquantenaire Park, 4th left:Manneken Pis, 4th middle: St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, 4th right: Congress Column, Bottom: Royal Palace of Brussels
Despite what its name suggests, the Brussels-Capital Region is not the capital of Belgium in itself. Article 194 of the Belgian Constitution establishes 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 allotted 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. A lot of controversy exists concerning the division of 19 municipalities for a highly urbanized region which is considered as one city by most people. Most French-speaking politicians want the 19 municipalities to stay. Flemish politicians want to abolish the so-called '19 baronies' in favour of one city council and one mayor, change the current municipalities into districts (like Antwerp), boroughs (like London) or arrondissements (like Paris)
The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the medieval constructions on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions.
Main attractions include the Grand Place, since 1998 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Laeken 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 fountain containing a bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a 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 Museums of Fine Arts 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 instance, studied in Brussels. The city was also home of Impressionist painters like Anna Boch from the Artist Group Les XX and include others famous Belgian painters such as Léon Spilliaert and Guy Huygens. The city is also a capital of the comic strip; some treasured Belgian characters are Tintin, Lucky Luke, Cubitus, Gaston and Marsupilami. Throughout the city, walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters; these muralstaken together are known as the Brussels' Comic Book Route. Also, the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists. The Belgian Comic Strip Center 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 Magritte Museum houses the world's largest collection of the works of the surrealist René Magritte. The BELvue Museum is dedicated to the national history of Belgium.
Brussels is well known for its performing arts scene, with the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, the Kaaitheater and La Monnaie among the most notable institutions. The King Baudouin Stadium is a concert and competition facility with a 50,000 seat capacity, the largest in Belgium. The site was formerly occupied by the Heysel Stadium. Furthermore, the Bozar (Center for Fine Arts) is home to the National Orchestra of Belgium and the Flagey cultural centre hosts the Brussels Philharmonic.
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 are 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 Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. 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 predominately brewed in and around Brussels, and the yeasts have their origin in the Senne valley. Kriek, a cherry lambic, enjoys outstanding popularity, as it does in the rest of Belgium. Kriek is available in almost every bar or restaurant.
Brussels has three major football clubs. R.S.C. Anderlecht, based in the Anderlecht municipality, is the most successful Belgian football in theBelgian First Division with 31 titles. It has also won the most major European tournaments for a Belgian side. F.C. Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek, often referred to as FC Brussels and recently rebranded RWDM Brussels FC, is based in the Sint-Jans-Molenbeek municipality and plays in the Belgian Second Division. Brussels is also home to R. Union Saint-Gilloise, the most successful Belgian club before World War II with 11 titles The club was founded in Saint-Gilles but is based in the nearby Forest, Belgium municipality. Union currently plays in the Belgian Third Division.
The stadium now known as the King Baudouin Stadium in Laken, city of Brussels municipality, is the largest in the country and home to the national teams in football and rugby union. It hosted the 1935 Brussels International Exposition, the final of the 1972 UEFA European Football Championship, and the opening game of the 2000 edition. Several European club finals have been held at the ground, including the 1985 European Cup Final which saw 39 deaths due to hooliganism and structural collapse.