Hotels in Brussels Belgium

Brussels (Dutch: Brussel, French: Bruxelles, German: Brüssel) is the capital of Belgium, the French Community of Belgium, the Flemish Community and the main seat of the European Union's institutions.

Brussels is, first of all, a city located in the center of Belgium and is its capital, but it sometimes also refers to the largest municipality of the Brussels-Capital Region. This municipality inside Brussels is correctly named The City of Brussels (French: Bruxelles-Ville or Ville de Bruxelles, Dutch: Stad Brussel), which is one of 19 municipalities that make up the Brussels-Capital Region (see also: Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region). The municipality has a population of about 140,000 while the Brussels-Capital Region has 1,006,749 inhabitants. (01-01-2005). The Metropolitan area has about 1,975,000 inhabitants 50°50′37″N, 4°21′27″E. [1]

The Brussels-Capital Region is a region of Belgium in its own right (Région à part entière), alongside Wallonia and the Flemish Region. Geographically and linguistically, it is an enclave in the Flemish Region. Regions are one component of Belgium's complex institutions, the three communities being "the" other component: the 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 Wallonie-Bruxelles in French) and of Flanders (Vlaanderen); all Flemish capital institutions are established here: Flemish Parliament, Flemish government and its administration.

Two of the three main institutions of the European Union - the European Commission and the Council of the European Union - have their headquarters in Brussels: the Commission in the Berlaymont building and the Council in the Justus Lipsius building facing it. The third main institution of the European Union, the European Parliament, also has a parliamentary chamber in Brussels in which its committee meet and some of its plenary sessions are held (the other plenary sessions are held in Strasbourg, and its administrative headquarters are in Luxembourg).

Brussels is also the political seat of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Western European Union (WEU) and EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation

Due to this, some countries have three ambassadors present in Brussels: the normal bi-lateral ambassador, the EU-ambassador, and finally the NATO-ambassador.

The "language border" divides Belgium into a northern, Dutch-speaking region, and a southern, French-speaking region. Although the real language border and the official one are largely identical, there are bilingual pockets on both sides with, in certain cases, no specific linguistic rights for the population speaking the other language. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual, while the majority of its residents speak French (see the linguistic history of Brussels in this article: linguistic situation section).

The highest building in Brussels is the South Tower (150 m); the most famous probably the Atomium, which is a remnant from the Expo '58.


The name Brussels comes from the old Dutch Bruocsella, Brucsella or Broekzele, which means "marsh (bruoc, bruc or broek) home (sella or zele)" or "home consisting of one room, in the marsh". "Broekzele" was spelt "Bruxelles" in French. In Belgian French pronunciation as well as in Dutch, the "k" eventually disappeared and "z" became "s", as reflected in the current Dutch spelling. The names of all other municipalities in the Brussels-Capital Region are also of Dutch origin, except for Evere, which is of Celtic origin.


In 977 AD, the German emperor Otto II gave the duchy of Lower Lotharingia, the empire's western frontier to Charles, the banished son of King Louis IV of France. Mention was already made of Brussels at the time. However, the founding of Brussels is usually known to happen when a small castle was built by Charles around 979 on an island (called Saint-Gery island) encompassed by the Zenne or Senne river.

In 1041 the county of Brussels was taken over by Lambert I of Leuven of the Counts of Leuven (Leuven), who ruled the surrounding county, later duchy of Brabant. Under Lambert II of Leuven, a new castrum and the first city walls were built. The small town became in the 12th century an important stop on the commercial road from Brugge and Ghent to Cologne. The village benefitted from this favourable position and was growing with a population of around thirty thousand and the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. The Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant at about this time also (1183/1184).

From 1357 to 1379, a new city enclosure was constructed as the former one was already proving to be too small: it is now known as the inner ring or pentagon. 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, was Philip's father).

In 1695 Brussels was attacked by general Villeroy of King Louis XIV of France. A bombardment destroyed the city's heart: more than 4000 houses were set on fire, including the medieval buildings at the Grote Markt or Grand Place, except for the famous city hall, which miraculously survived.

In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at De Munt or La Monnaie theatre. On July 21, 1831, Léopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings. Under Léopold II, the city underwent many more changes: the Zenne was culverted (as it brought diseases), the North-South Junction was built, and the Tervuren Avenue was laid out.

From May 10, 1940, Brussels was bombed by the German army. Most of the damage was done however in 1944-1945. The Heysel Stadium disaster took place in Brussels on May 29, 1985. The Brussels Capital Region was founded on June 18, 1989.

Brussels as capital of Belgium

Although some misbelieve that the capital of Belgium is Brussels at large, according to the Belgian Constitution (Art. 194) the capital of Belgium is the City of Brussels municipality. Arguments that the use of lower case in "ville" and "stad" in Article 194 for "ville de Bruxelles" (French), "stad Brussel" (Dutch) makes a subtle difference and means that Brussels at large is the capital cannot be defended on a legal basis. However, although the City of Brussels is the official capital, the by the federation and region delegated funds for the representative role of the capital are divided among the 19 municipalities and in practice, national Belgian institutions are indeed not only located in the City of Brussels, although many are, but also in most of the other 18 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital region. Meaning that de facto the entire Region serves as capital, but de jure only the City of Brussels is entitled to the title of capital city of Belgium.

Places of interest

Grand-Place (Dutch: Grote Markt), possibly one of the most beautiful squares in Europe and the jewel in Brussels' crown. The Grand-Place is Brussels' top tourist attraction justified by the Gothic magnificence of the Hotel de Ville (Town hall) and the Baroque esuberance of the late seventeenth-century guildhouses surrounding the square.
  • Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts) a great museum, combining four interconnected sections of old masters and modern art collections. Together they make up Belgium's most complete collection of fine art with works by, amongst many, Pieter Bruegel, Rubens, Delvaux and Magritte.
  • Atomium
  • Mini-Europe
  • La Bourse (Dutch: De Beurs)
  • Heysel (Dutch: Heizel)
  • Jeanneke Pis
  • Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg
  • The Jubilee Arch (French: Les Arcades du Cinquantenaire, Dutch: Triomfboog)
  • Manneken Pis
  • De Munt (French: La Monnaie)
  • Saint Michael and Saint Gudula Cathedral
  • The Floral Carpet (not permanent)
  • Tour et Taxis
  • Palais Stoclet (Dutch: Stoclethuis)
  • Maison Horta (Dutch: Hortahuis)

Linguistic situation

The original languages of the Brussels area are Brabantic dialects of Dutch. A curiosity is "Marollien", a Brussels dialect heavily influenced by Walloon which was spoken in a central section of the city. For most centuries of its history, Dutch, or more precisely the linguistic predecessor of its dialect, was the common vernacular. French was only used by the upper classes. Both Dutch and French have been in use for the city's recent history as official languages, especially since the Napoleonic period. Research in the city's archives indicates that Dutch was by far the most widely used of the two as a vernacular and in its local administration until the French occupation in 1793, but French had been the language of the government since the Burgundian era. [2]

During the 19th and the 20th century, as literacy progressed, dialects started to lose ground to standardized languages. In Brussels, most of the population adopted French rather than Dutch as its language of culture, since at the time, it was more prestigious and consequently considered more useful. Moreover, the Belgian state only recognized Dutch as an official language in 1878.

Today, the Brussels dialects are on the verge of extinction, although some try to revive them (see links).

Nowadays, the Brussels Capital Region is officially bilingual French-Dutch. There are no official statistics on the first language of its population. However, according to a 2001 study by Rudi Janssens, a sociolinguist at the VUB, 80% of the population are native French-speakers, 8.5% are native Dutch-speakers and 10.2% have both Dutch and French as a mother tongue (often mixed-language parents). Allophones, who speak neither Dutch nor French at home, are a small but growing segment of the population. In effect, Brussels is becoming more and more multilingual, with French as a lingua franca.

It should be noted that due to the growth of the city of Brussels, the periphery, which is part of Dutch-speaking Flanders, attracts an important French-speaking population. In some of the municipalities immediately bordering the Brussels Capital Region, the majority of the population has become French-speaking, sometimes numbering over 70%.


Brussels has several universities, the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), the Facultés Universitaires Saint Louis (FUSL), the Katholieke Universiteit Brussel (KUB) and the Royal Military Academy (RMA). A satellite campus of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) is also located in Brussels: it is called "Louvain-en-Woluwe" or "UCL-Brussels", and hosts the faculty of Medicine of the university.


Brussels is served by Brussels National Airport, located in the nearby Flemish municipality of Zaventem, and by Brussels South Airport, located near Charleroi (Wallonia), some 80km from Brussels. Brussels' major train stations link the city to the United Kingdom by Eurostar, and to other major European cities by high speed rail links (such as the Thalys).

The Brussels metro dates back to 1976 (but underground lines known as premetro have been serviced by tramways since 1968). A comprehensive bus and tram network also covers the city. Brussels also has its own port on the Willebroek canal located in the northwest of the city.

There are four companies managing public transport inside Brussels:

  • STIB/MIVB (metro, bus, tram)
  • SNCB/NMBS (train)
  • De Lijn (buses based in Flanders)
  • TEC (buses based in Wallonia)

An interticketing system means that a STIB/MIVB ticket holder can use the train or long-distance buses inside the city. The commuter services operated by De Lijn, TEC and SNCB/NMBS will in the next few years be augmented by an RER rail network around Brussels.

Railway stations

The major stations in Brussels are on the North-South Junction:

  • Brussels North (Dutch: Brussel-Noord, French: Gare du Nord)
  • Brussels Central (Dutch: Brussel-Centraal, French: Gare Centrale)
  • Brussels Midi (Dutch: Brussel-Zuid, French: Gare du Midi or Bruxelles-Midi) (the Eurostar, Thalys, HST or TGV and ICE international terminal)

Two more stations serve the EU district in Brussels. Trains towards Namur and Luxembourg call at:

  • Brussels Luxembourg/Luxemburg
  • Brussels Schuman

The last two stations located in the centre of Brussels (they also are on the North-South Junction and operate only in rush hours) are:

  • Brussels Congress (French: Bruxelles-Congrès, Dutch:Brussel-Congres)
  • Brussels Chapel (French: Bruxelles-Chapelle, Dutch: Brussel-Kapellekerk)

Other railway stations in other Brussels municipalities include :

  • Schaerbeek (Dutch: Schaarbeek)
  • Etterbeek
  • Uccle Stalle (Dutch: Ukkel Stalle)
  • Uccle Calevoet(Dutch: Ukkel Kalevoet)
  • Jette
  • Merode
  • Delta
  • Saint-Job (Dutch: Sint-Job)
  • Forest Est (Dutch: Vorst Oost)
  • Forest Midi (Dutch: Vorst Zuid)
  • Berchem Sainte-Agathe (Dutch: Sint-Agatha-Berchem)
  • Saint-Gilles (Dutch: Sint-Gillis)
  • Watermael (Dutch: Watermaal)
  • Boitsfort (Dutch: Bosvoorde)
  • Boondael (Dutch: Boodnaal)
  • Meiser

Road network

In mediaeval times Brussels stood at the intersection of routes running north-south (the modern Hoogstraat/Rue Haute) and east-west (Gentsesteenweg/Chaussée de Gand-Grasmarkt/Rue du Marché aux Herbes-Naamsestraat/Rue de Namur). The ancient pattern of streets radiating from the Grote Markt/Grand'Place in large part remains, but has been overlaid by boulevards built over the River Zenne/Senne, the city walls and the railway junction 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 Reims), N6 (SW to Maubeuge), N8 (W to Koksijde) and N9 (NW to Ostend) [1]. Usually named steenwegen/chaussées, these highways normally run straight as a die, but on occasion lose themselves in a labyrinth of narrow shopping streets.

As for motorways, 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 the "small ring" (Dutch: kleine ring, French: petite ceinture), 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, no particular name in Dutch) is formed by a string of boulevards that curves round from Laken (Laeken) to Ukkel (Uccle). Some premetro stations (see Brussels metro) were built on that route. A little further out, a stretch numbered R22 leads from Zaventem to Sint-Job.

Conferences and world fairs

Brussels hosted the third Congrès international d'architecture moderne in 1930.

Two world fairs took place in Brussels, the Exposition universelle et internationale (1935) and the Expo '58 in 1958. The Atomium, a 103 metre representation of an iron crystal was built for the Expo '58, and is still there.

Throughout 2003, Brussels celebrated native son Jacques Brel on the 25th anniversary of his death.

Notable parks

  • Parc de Bruxelles (Dutch: Warandepark), wrongly called Parc Royal (Dutch: Koninklijk Park)
  • Bois de la Cambre (Dutch: Ter Kamerenbos)
  • Cinquantenaire (Dutch: Jubelpark)
  • Parc de Laeken (Dutch: Park van Laken)
  • Parc de Woluwe (Dutch: Park van Woluwe)
  • Parc Josaphat (Dutch : Josaphatpark)
  • Parc Roi Baudouin (Dutch: Koning Boudewijnpark)
  • Kauberg
  • Jardin botanique (Dutch Plantentuin)
  • Parc Léopold (Dutch: Leopoldpark)
  • Jardins du Maelbeek (Dutch : Maalbeektuinen)
  • Parc Duden (Dutch : Dudenpark)
  • Parc Astrid (Dutch : Astridpark\

Notable people from Brussels

  • Pierre Alechinsky, artist
  • Plastic Bertrand, musician
  • Jacques Brel, musician
  • Rene Carcan, artist
  • Michel De Ghelderode, dramatist
  • Marc Didden, film director
  • Saint Gudulae of Brussels and Eibingen, Saint of the city and national saint of Belgium
  • Audrey Hepburn, actress
  • Hergé, comics writer
  • Victor Horta, Art Nouveau architect
  • Jacky Ickx, racing driver
  • Paul-Emile Janson, politician, former Prime Minister of Belgium
  • René Magritte, painter
  • Amélie Nothomb, writer
  • Peyo (Pierre Culliford), illustrator and creator of the Smurfs
  • François Schuiten, comics artist
  • Paul-Henri Spaak, politician, several times Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister of Belgium, former Secretary General of the NATO
  • Toots Thielemans, jazz musician
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme, actor; nickname: "The Muscles from Brussels"
  • Marguerite Yourcenar, writer and first female member of Academie Française

Sports clubs

  • R.S.C. Anderlecht, football
  • F.C. Molenbeek Brussels Strombeek, football
  • R. Union Saint-Gilloise, football
  • R.R.B.C. Brussels, basketball

Concert halls

  • Ancienne Belgique
  • Beursschouwburg
  • Botanique
  • Cirque Royal (Dutch: Koninklijk Circus), a dependency of Botanique
  • Espace Senghor
  • Flagey
  • Forest National(Dutch: Vorst Nationaal)
  • Halles de Schaerbeek (Dutch: Hallen van Schaarbeek)
  • Vaartkapoen


  • Royal Museums of Fine Arts
  • Palace of Fine Arts (Paleis voor Schone Kunsten - Palais de beaux-arts)
  • Film Museum
  • Musical Instrument Museum (MiM)
  • National Army Museum
  • National Museum for Arts and History
  • Comic Book Museum (Musée de la BD - Stripmuseum)
  • Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa (in Tervuren)
  • Brussels' toys museum' (only available in French at the moment)
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