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What's important: you can compare and book not only Brussels hotels and resorts, but also villas and holiday cottages, inns and B&Bs (bed and breakfast), condo hotels and apartments, timeshare properties, guest houses and pensions, campsites (campgrounds), motels and hostels in Brussels. If you're going to Brussels save your money and time, don't pay for the services of the greedy travel agencies. Instead, book the best hotel in Brussels online, buy the cheapest airline tickets to Brussels, and rent a car in Brussels right now, paying the lowest price! Besides, here you can buy the Brussels related books, guidebooks, souvenirs and other goods.

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In order to book an accommodation in Brussels enter the proper dates and do the hotel search. If needed, sort the found Brussels hotels by price, star rating, property type, guest rating, hotel features, hotel theme or hotel chain. Then take a look at the found hotels on Brussels map to estimate the distance from the main Brussels attractions and sights. You can also read the guest reviews of Brussels hotels and see their ratings.

When a hotel search in Brussels is done, please select the room type, the included meals and the suitable booking conditions (for example, "Deluxe double room, Breakfast included, Non-Refundable"). Press the "View Deal" ("Book Now") button. Make your booking on a hotel booking website and get the hotel reservation voucher by email. That's it, a perfect hotel in Brussels is waiting for you!

Hotels of Brussels

A hotel in Brussels is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in Brussels hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in Brussels are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Brussels hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Brussels hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in Brussels have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:

Upscale luxury hotels in Brussels
An upscale full service hotel facility in Brussels that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Brussels hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.

Full service hotels in Brussels
Full service Brussels hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.

Historic inns and boutique hotels in Brussels
Boutique hotels of Brussels are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Brussels boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in Brussels may be classified as luxury hotels.

Focused or select service hotels in Brussels
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Brussels travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Brussels focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.

Economy and limited service hotels in Brussels
Small to medium-sized Brussels hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Brussels traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Brussels hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.

Guest houses and B&Bs in Brussels
A bed and breakfast in Brussels is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Brussels bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Brussels B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.

Hostels in Brussels
Brussels hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Brussels hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.

Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in Brussels
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Brussels hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in Brussels lack an on-site restaurant.

Timeshare and destination clubs in Brussels
Brussels timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in Brussels often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Brussels on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.

Motels in Brussels
A Brussels motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Brussels for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Brussels motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.

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Travelling and vacation in Brussels

  • Bruxelles
  • Brussel
Region of Belgium
  • Brussels Capital Region
  • Région de Bruxelles-Capitale
  • Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest
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 Arts area, 3rd: Cinquantenaire Park, 4th left: Manneken Pis, 4th middle: St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, 4th right: Congress Column, Bottom: Royal Palace of Brussels
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 Arts area, 3rd: Cinquantenaire Park, 4th left: Manneken Pis, 4th middle: St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, 4th right: Congress Column, Bottom: Royal Palace of Brussels
Flag of Brussels
Nickname(s): Capital of Europe Comic city
Brussels is located in Belgium
Brussels is located in Europe
Coordinates:  / 50.850; 4.350  / 50.850; 4.350
Country Belgium
Settled c. 580
Founded 979
Region 18 June 1989
• Executive Government of the Brussels-Capital Region
• Governing parties (2014–19) PS, FDF, cdH; Open Vld, sp.a, CD&V
• Minister-President Rudi Vervoort (PS)
• Legislature Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region
• Speaker Charles Picqué (PS)
• Region/City 161.38 km (62.2 sq mi)
Elevation 13 m (43 ft)
Population (1 January 2016)
• Region/City 1,175,173
• Density 7,025/km (16,857/sq mi)
• Metro 1,830,000
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
GDP (nominal) 2015
- Total $82 billion
- Per capita $70,000
Website be.brussels

Brussels (French: Bruxelles, [bʁysɛl]; Dutch: Brussel, [ˈbrɵsəl]), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (French: Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, Dutch: Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest), is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the region of Flanders (in which it forms an enclave) or Wallonia. Compared to most regions in Europe, Brussels has a relatively small territory, with an area of 161 km² (62.31 sq mi). The region has a population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, the largest agglomeration in Belgium. Brussels is also part of a large conurbation which extends between Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven and Walloon Brabant and is home to over 5 million people.

Brussels grew from a small rural settlement on the river Senne to become an important city-region in Europe. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a major centre for international politics and has become the home of numerous international organizations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions (the other administrative centres are Luxembourg and Strasbourg). The name Brussels is sometimes used metonymically to describe the EU and its institutions. The secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also located in Brussels. Today, it is considered an Alpha global city.

Historically a Dutch-speaking city, Brussels has seen a language shift to French from the late 19th century onwards. Today, the majority language is French, and the Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish Region. All road signs, street names, and many advertisements and services are shown in both languages. Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual, being home to many EU institutions, English is also spoken by some of the population, while a large number of migrants and expatriates speak other languages, mostly Arabic, Italian and Romanian.

Brussels: Etymology

The most common theory of the origin of the name Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Broekzele or Broeksel, meaning marsh (broek) and home (zele / sel) or "home in the marsh". Saint Vindicianus, the bishop of Cambrai made the first recorded reference to the place Brosella in 695 when it was still a hamlet.

Inhabitants of Brussels are known in French as Bruxellois and in Dutch as Brusselaars. In the dialect of Brussels, they are called Brusseleers.

Brussels: History

Charles of Lorraine founded what would become Brussels c. 979

Brussels: Early history

During Antiquity, the region now known as Brussels was already home to Roman occupation, as attested by archeological evidence discovered near the centre. 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.

Brussels: Middle Ages

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 and Sablon areas), 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 city walls in the early 13th century, Brussels grew significantly. 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.

Brussels: Early modern

A view of Brussels circa 1610
Grand Place after the 1695 bombardment by the French army

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.

In 1516 Charles V, who had been heir of the Low Countries since 1506, was declared King of Spain in St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1519, Charles became the new ruler of the Habsburg Empire and was subsequently elected the Holy Roman Emperor. 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 the 17th century, the city was a capital of the lace industry.

In 1695, during the Nine Years' War, King Louis XIV of France sent troops to bombard 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 4,000 buildings, a third of all the buildings 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.

Brussels remained with Austria until 1795, when the Southern Netherlands were captured and annexed by France. Brussels became the capital of the department of the Dyle. The French rule ended 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon on the battlefield of Waterloo, which is located south of today's Brussels-Capital Region. With the Congress of Vienna, Southern Netherlands joined the United Kingdom of the Netherlands under William I of Orange. The former Dyle department became the province of South Brabant, with Brussels as its capital.

Brussels: Late modern

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, Wappers (1834)
Place Royale, late 19th century

In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at La Monnaie theatre. Brussels became the capital and seat of government of the new nation. South Brabant was renamed simply Brabant, with Brussels as its capital. 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. Brussels became a financial centre, thanks to the dozens of companies put into orbit by the Société Générale de Belgique. The Industrial Revolution and the building of the Brussels-Charleroi Canal brought prosperity to the city through commerce and manufacturing. In 1835, the first passenger railway built outside England linked Brussels (Molenbeek) with Mechelen.

During the 19th century, the population of Brussels grew considerably, from about 80,000 to more than 625,000 people for the city and its surroundings. The Senne had become a serious health hazard, and from 1867 to 1871, under the tenure of mayor Jules Anspach, its entire course through the urban area was completely covered over. This allowed urban renewal and the construction of modern buildings of hausmannien style along central boulevards, characteristic of downtown Brussels today. Buildings such as the Brussels Stock Exchange (1873), the Palace of Justice (1883) and Saint Mary's Royal Church (1885) date from this period. This development continued throughout the reign of King Leopold II. The International Exposition in 1897 contributed to the promotion of the infrastructure. Among other things, the Colonial Palace (today's Royal Museum for Central Africa) in the suburb of Tervuren was connected to the capital by the construction of an 11-km long grand alley.

Brussels: 20th century

The 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels was the fifth world physics conference

During the 20th century, the city hosted various fairs and conferences, including the Solvay Conference on Physics and on Chemistry, and two world fairs: the Brussels International Exposition of 1935 and the Expo '58. During World War I, Brussels was an occupied city, but German troops did not cause much damage. In World War II the city was again occupied, and was spared major damage during its occupation by German forces, before it was liberated by the British Guards Armoured Division on 3 September 1944. The Brussels Airport in the suburb of Zaventem dates to the occupation.

After the war, Brussels underwent extensive modernization. The construction of the North–South connection 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. Development was allowed to proceed with little regard to the aesthetics of newer buildings, and many architectural landmarks were demolished to make way for newer buildings that often clashed with their surroundings, giving name to the process of Brusselization.

Brussels: Contemporary

The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989 after a constitutional reform in 1988. It has bilingual status and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia. The yellow iris was chosen as the emblem of the region, due to the presence of these flowers on the original site of the city.

In 2000, Brussels, along with eight other European cities, was named European Capital of Culture. In 2014, Brussels hosted the 40th G7 summit.

On 22 March 2016, three coordinated nail bombings were detonated by ISIL in Brussels – two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek/Maelbeek metro station, – resulting in 32 victims and three suicide bombers killed, and 330 people were injured. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium.

Brussels: Brussels as a capital

The 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, the municipality within the capital region that once was the city's core.

The City of Brussels is the location of many national institutions. The Royal Palace, where the King of Belgium exercises his prerogatives as head of state, is situated alongside the Brussels Park. The Palace of the Nation is located on the opposite side of this park, and is the seat of the Belgian Federal Parliament. The office of the Prime Minister of Belgium, colloquially called Law Street 16 (Dutch: Wetstraat 16, French: 16, rue de la Loi), is located adjacent to this building. This is also the place where the Council of Ministers holds its meetings. The Court of Cassation, Belgium's main court, has its seat in the Palace of Justice. Other important institutions in the City of Brussels are the Constitutional Court, the Council of State, the Court of Audit, the Royal Belgian Mint and the National Bank of Belgium.

The City of Brussels is also the capital of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community. The Flemish Parliament and Flemish Government have their seats in Brussels, as do the Parliament of the French Community and the Government of the French Community.

Brussels: Municipalities

French name Dutch name
Anderlecht.jpg Anderlecht Anderlecht
Auderghem.jpg Auderghem Oudergem
Blason Berchem-Sainte-Agathe.svg Berchem-Sainte-Agathe Sint-Agatha-Berchem
Coat of Arms of Brussels.svg Bruxelles-Ville Stad Brussel
Coat of arms of Etterbeek.svg Etterbeek Etterbeek
Evere-Blason-1828.png Evere Evere
Armoiries Forest.png Forest Vorst
Ganshorenwapen.gif Ganshoren Ganshoren
Coat of arms of Ixelles.svg Ixelles Elsene
Armoiries Jette.png Jette Jette
Coat of arms of Koekelberg (escutcheon).svg Koekelberg Koekelberg
Coat of arms of Saint-Jean-de-Molenbeek.jpg Molenbeek-Saint-Jean Sint-Jans-Molenbeek
Coat of arms of Saint-Gilles.svg Saint-Gilles Sint-Gillis
Coat of arm Municipality be Saint-Josse-ten-Noode.svg Saint-Josse-ten-Noode Sint-Joost-ten-Node
Blason Schaerbeek.svg Schaerbeek Schaarbeek
Uccle Blason.png Uccle Ukkel
Watermaalbosvoordewapen.gif Watermael-Boitsfort Watermaal-Bosvoorde
Coat of arms of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.svg Woluwe-Saint-Lambert Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe
Greater Coat of arms Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.svg Woluwe-Saint-Pierre Sint-Pieters-Woluwe
The Town Hall of the City of Brussels municipality

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 square kilometre (53,930/sq mi).

A lot of controversy exists concerning the division of 19 municipalities for a highly urbanized region which is considered as (half of) one city by most people. Some politicians mock the '19 baronies' and want to merge the municipalities under one city council and one mayor. This would lower the number of politicians needed to govern Brussels, and centralise the power over the city to make decisions easier, thus reduce the overall running costs. The current municipalities could be transformed into districts with limited responsibilities, similar to the current structure of Antwerp or to structures of other capitals like the boroughs in London or arrondissements in Paris, to keep politics close enough to the citizen.

The commune of Molenbeek has gained a reputation as a safe haven for Jihadists in relation to the support shown by some residents towards the bombers who carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks.

Brussels: Brussels-Capital Region

Regions of Belgium:
Flemish Region
Brussels-Capital Region
Walloon Region

Brussels: Political status

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 monolingual Flemish Region. Regions are one component of Belgium's institutions, the three communities being the other component: Brussels' inhabitants deal with either the French Community or the Flemish Community for matters such as culture and education.

Brussels: Institutions

Brussels Parliament building

The Brussels-Capital Region is governed by a parliament of 89 members (72 French-speaking, 17 Dutch-speaking, parties are organised on a linguistic basis) and an eight-member regional cabinet consisting of a minister-president, four ministers and three state secretaries. By law, the cabinet must comprise two French-speaking and two Dutch-speaking ministers, one Dutch-speaking secretary of state and two French-speaking secretaries of state. The minister-president does not count against the language quota, but in practice every minister-president has been a bilingual francophone. The regional parliament can enact ordinances (French: ordonnances, Dutch: ordonnanties), which have equal status as a national legislative act.

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.

The Brussels Region is the only one that is not subdivided into provinces, nor is it a province itself. Within the Region, 99% of the areas of provincial jurisdiction are assumed by the Brussels regional institutions. Remaining is only the governor of Brussels-Capital and some aides. Its status is roughly akin to that of a federal district.

Brussels: Agglomeration of Brussels

Before the creation of the Brussels-Capital Region, regional competences in the 19 municipalities were performed by the Brussels Agglomeration. The Brussels Agglomeration was an administrative division established in 1971. This decentralised administrative public body also assumed jurisdiction over areas which, elsewhere in Belgium, were exercised by municipalities or provinces.

The Brussels Agglomeration had a separate legislative council, but the by-laws enacted by it did not have the status of a legislative act. The only election of the council took place on 21 November 1971. The working of the council was subject to many difficulties caused by the linguistic and socio-economic tensions between the two communities.

After the creation of the Brussels-Capital Region, the Brussels Agglomeration was never formally abolished, although it no longer has a purpose.

Brussels: French and Flemish communities

Communities of Belgium:
Flemish Community / Dutch language area
Flemish & French Community / bilingual language area
French Community / French language area
German-speaking Community / German language area

The French Community and the Flemish Community exercise their powers in Brussels through two community-specific public authorities: the French Community Commission (French: Commission communautaire française or COCOF) and the Flemish Community Commission (Dutch: Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie or VGC). These two bodies each have an assembly composed of the members of each linguistic group of the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region. They also have a board composed of the ministers and secretaries of state of each linguistic group in the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region.

The French Community Commission has also another capacity: some legislative powers of the French Community have been devolved to the Walloon Region (for the French language area of Belgium) and to the French Community Commission (for the bilingual language area). The Flemish Community, however, did the opposite; it merged the Flemish Region into the Flemish Community. This is related to different conceptions in the two communities, one focusing more on the Communities and the other more on the Regions, causing an asymmetrical federalism. Because of this devolution, the French Community Commission can enact decrees, which are legislative acts.

Brussels: Common Community Commission

A bi-communitarian public authority, the Common Community Commission (French: Commission communautaire commune, COCOM, Dutch: Gemeenschappelijke Gemeenschapscommissie, GGC) also exists. Its assembly is composed of the members of the regional parliament, and its board are the ministers – not the secretaries of state – of the region, with the minister-president not having the right to vote. This Commission has two capacities: it is a decentralised administrative public body, responsible for implementing cultural policies of common interest. It can give subsidies and enact by-laws. In another capacity, it can also enact ordinances, which have equal status as a national legislative act, in the field of the welfare powers of the communities: in the Brussels-Capital Region, both the French Community and the Flemish Community can exercise powers in the field of welfare, but only in regard to institutions that are unilingual (for example, a private French-speaking retirement home or the Dutch-speaking hospital of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel). The Common Community Commission is responsible for policies aiming directly at private persons or at bilingual institutions (for example, the centres for social welfare of the 19 municipalities). Its ordinances have to be enacted with a majority in both linguistic groups. Failing such a majority, a new vote can be held, where a majority of at least one third in each linguistic group is sufficient.

Brussels: International institutions

Brussels has, since World War II, become the administrative centre of many international organizations. 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 World Customs Organization 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. In 2009, there were an estimated 286 lobbying consultancies known to work in Brussels.

Brussels: European Union

Aerial view of Brussels' European Quarter

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 executives 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 sessions now take place at its Brussels hemicycle. Between 2002 and 2004, the European Council also fixed its seat in the city. In 2014, the Union hosted a G7 summit in the city.

Place du Luxembourg, Brussels View of the European Parliament

Brussels, along with Luxembourg and Strasbourg, began to host European 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 the Parliament. Today, the presence has increased considerably with the Commission alone occupying 865,000 m 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 European presence has contributed significantly to the importance of Brussels as an international centre.

Brussels: Eurocontrol

HQ of Eurocontrol in Haren, Brussels

The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, commonly known as Eurocontrol, is an international organisation which is tasked to monitor the European aviation by flight. Eurocontrol coordinates and plans air traffic control across European airspace. The corporation was founded in 1960 and currently has 41 member states. Its headquarters are located in Haren, on the northeast perimeter of the City of Brussels.

Brussels: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Future NATO HQ in Haren, Brussels

The Treaty of Brussels, which was signed on 17 March 1948 between Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, was a prelude to the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an intergovernmental military alliance, and was a preview of the western European defense against communism.

Today, the alliance consists of 28 independent member countries across North America and Europe. Several countries also have diplomatic missions to NATO through embassies in Belgium. Since 1949, a number of NATO Summits have been held in the city. The most recent NATO summit took place in Brussels in May 2017.

The organisation's headquarters are located on Boulevard Léopold III/Leopold III-laan in Haren, Brussels. A new 750 million € headquarters building begun in 2010 and was completed in 2017.

Brussels: Climate

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 over the last 100 years), there are approximately 200 days of rain per year in the Brussels-Capital Region, the second highest amount of any European capital, after Dublin (Ireland). Snowfall is infrequent, averaging 24 days per year. In Brussels, there are often violent thunderstorms.

Climate data for Brussels
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.3
Average high °C (°F) 5.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.3
Average low °C (°F) 0.7
Record low °C (°F) −21.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 76.1
Average precipitation days 19.2 16.3 17.8 15.9 16.2 15.0 14.3 14.5 15.7 16.6 18.8 19.3 199.6
Average snowy days 5.2 5.9 3.2 2.4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2.4 4.6 24.1
Average relative humidity (%) 86.6 82.5 78.5 72.5 73.2 74.1 74.3 75.5 80.9 84.6 88.2 88.8 80
Mean monthly sunshine hours 59 77 114 159 191 188 201 190 143 113 66 45 1,546
Source: KMI/IRM

Brussels: Demographics

Brussels: Population

Population density of Europe, Brussels is located between the largest urban centres

Brussels is located in one of the most urbanised regions of Europe, between Paris, London, Rhine-Ruhr, and the Randstad. The Brussels-Capital Region has a population of around 1.2 million and has witnessed, in recent years, a remarkable increase in its population. In general, the population of Brussels is younger than the national average, and the gap between rich and poor is wider.

01-07-2004 01-07-2005 01-07-2006 01-01-2008 01-01-2015
Brussels-Capital Region 1.004.239 1.012.258 1.024.492 1.048.491 1.181.272
-- of which legal immigrants 262.943 268.009 277.682 295.043 385.381

Brussels: Nationalities

Largest groups of foreign residents
Nationality Population (2016)
France 62,507
Romania 38,690
Morocco 38,274
Italy 32,322
Spain 28,042
Poland 26,399
Portugal 19,791
Bulgaria 11,371
Germany 10,527
Democratic Republic of the Congo 8,846

Brussels is home to a large number of immigrants. At the last Belgian census in 1991, 63.7% of inhabitants in Brussels-Capital Region answered that 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 for example), from neighbouring or more distant countries, as well as labour migrants, former foreign students or expatriates, and many Belgian families in Brussels can claim at least one foreign grandparent.

Brussels has a large concentration of immigrants and their children from other countries, including many of Moroccan (Riffian, Berber) and Turkish ancestry, together with French-speaking black Africans from former Belgian colonies, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

People of foreign origin make up nearly 70% of the population of Brussels, most of whom have been naturalized following the great 1991 reform of the naturalization process. About 32% of city residents are of non-Belgian European origin, and 36% are of another background, mostly from Morocco, Turkey and Sub-Saharan Africa. Among all major migrant groups from outside the EU, a majority of the permanent residents have acquired Belgian nationality.

Brussels: Languages

Estimate of languages spoken at home (Capital Region, 2013)
Dutch and French
French and other language
Neither Dutch nor French

Since the founding of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, Brussels has transformed from being almost entirely Dutch-speaking (Brabantian dialect to be exact), to being a multilingual city with French (specifically Belgian French) as the majority language and lingua franca. This language shift, the Francization of Brussels, is rooted in the 18th century and accelerated after Belgium became independent and Brussels expanded past its original boundaries.

Manneken Pis is a well-known public sculpture in Brussels

French-speaking immigration contributed to the Frenchification of Brussels; both Walloons and expatriates from other countries, mainly France, came to Brussels in great numbers. However, a more important cause for the Frenchification was the language change over several generations from Dutch to French that 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; this made French the only language of administration, law, politics and education in Belgium, and thus necessary for social mobility. From 1880 on, faced with the necessity of using French in dealing with such institutions, more and more Dutch-speakers became bilingual, and a rise in the number of monolingual French-speakers was seen after 1910. Halfway through the 20th century, the number of monolingual French-speakers surpassed the number of mostly bilingual Flemish inhabitants.

Only since the 1960s, after the fixation of the Belgian language border, and after 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 Brussels 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.

Bilingual signs in Brussels

Given its Dutch-speaking origins and the role that Brussels plays as the capital city in a bilingual country, the administration of the entire Brussels-Capital Region is fully bilingual, including its subdivisions and public services. Nevertheless, some communautarian issues remain. Flemish political parties demanded for decades that the Flemish part of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde arrondissement be separated from the Brussels Region (which made Halle-Vilvoorde a monolingual Flemish arrondissement). BHV was divided mid 2012. 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.

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 in Dutch. Brussels and its suburbs have 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 Memellanders 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 are Belgian nationals.

In recent decades, owing to migration and the city's international role, Brussels is home to a growing number of foreign language speakers. In 2013, figures cited in the Marnix Plan show that 63.2% of Brussels inhabitants are native speakers of French, while less than 20% are native Dutch speakers. Just 2.5% speak English as their mother tongue, but 29.7% of people living in the city claim to speak English well or very well. Even though some people want English to be used as an unofficial compromise language between Dutch and French, French remains the lingua franca. And laws still require Dutch and French translations in most cases. The acceptance of English as a language for communication with the city's public servants depends entirely on the knowledge of this language by the public servants, though they must accept questions in French and Dutch.

The migrant communities, as well as rapidly growing communities of EU-nationals from other EU-member states, speak many languages like French, Turkish, Arabic, Berber, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, German, and (increasingly) English. The degree of linguistic integration varies widely within each migrant group.

Brussels: Religions

The Great Mosque of Brussels is the seat of the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium
Circle frame.svg

Religion in Brussels Capital Region (2016)

Roman Catholicism (40%)
Non-religious (30%)
Islam (23%)
Protestantism (3%)
Other religions (4%)
National Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, Brussels

Although historically majority Roman Catholic, especially since the expulsion of Protestants in the 16th century, most residents of Brussels are nonreligious, with only about 10% of Catholics regularly attending church services. In reflection of its multicultural makeup, it hosts a variety of religious communities, as well as large numbers of atheists and agnostics. Minority faiths include Islam, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Recognized religions and Laïcité enjoy public funding and school courses. It was once the case that every pupil in an official school from 6 years old to 18 had to choose 2 hours per week of compulsory religion – or Laïcité – inspired morals. However, in 2015 the Belgian Constitutional court ruled religious studies could no longer be required in the primary and secondary education system.

Brussels has a large concentration of Muslims, mostly of Moroccan and Turkish ancestry. Belgium does not collect statistics by ethnic background, so exact figures are unknown. It was estimated that, in 2005, people of Muslim background living in the Brussels Region numbered 256,220 and accounted for 25.5% of the city's population, a much higher concentration than those of the other regions of Belgium.

In 2016, 40% of residents of Brussels declared themselves Catholics (12% were practising Catholics and 28% were non-practising Catholics), 30% were non-religious, 23% were Muslim (19% practising, 4% non-practising), 3% were Protestants, 4% were of another religion.

Regions of Belgium (1 January 2005) Total population People of Muslim origin % of Muslims
Belgium 11,371,928 781,887 6.9%
Brussels-Capital Region 1 180 531 306,938 25%
Wallonia 3,395,942 136,596 4.0%
Flanders 6,043,161 235,935 3.9%

Brussels: Culture

Brussels: Architecture

The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the clashing combination of Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV styles on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions.

Very little medieval architecture is preserved in Brussels. Buildings from this period are mostly to be found in the historic centre (called Îlot Sacré), Saint Géry and Sainte-Catherine/Sint Katelijne neighbourhoods. The Gothic St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral is still a prominent feature in the skyline of downtown Brussels. Isolated portions of the first city walls were saved from destruction and can be seen to this day. One of the only remains of the second walls is the Halle Gate.

The Grand Place is the main attraction in the city centre and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. The square is dominated by the 15th century Flamboyant Town Hall (French: Hôtel de Ville, Dutch: Stadhuis), the Neo-Gothic Breadhouse (French: Maison du Roi, Dutch: Broodhuis) and the Baroque guildhalls of the Guilds of Brussels. The Manneken Pis, a fountain containing a small bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

Grand Place of Brussels, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The neo-classical style of the 18th and 19th centuries is represented in the Royal Quarter/Coudenberg area, around the Brussels Park and Royal Square. Examples include the Royal Palace, the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, the Palace of the Nation (Parliament building), the Academy Palace, the Palace of Charles of Lorraine, the Egmont Palace, etc. Other uniform neoclassical ensembles can been found around Martyrs' Square and Barricades' Square.

Some other landmarks, in the centre, are the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (1847), one of the oldest covered shopping arcades in Europe; the Congress Column (1859); the Brussels Stock Exchange building (1873) (French: Bourse, Dutch: Beurs); and the Palace of Justice (1883), designed by Joseph Poelaert, in eclectic style, reputed to be the largest building constructed in the 19th century.

Also particularly striking are the buildings in the Art Nouveau style, most famously by the Belgian architects Victor Horta, Paul Hankar and Henry Van de Velde. Some of Brussels districts were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau, and many buildings are in this style. Good examples can be found in Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. The Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta – Hôtel Tassel (1893), Hôtel Solvay (1894), Hôtel van Eetvelde (1895) and the Horta Museum (1901) – have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace (1911), by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June 2009.

Art Deco structures include the Centre for Fine Arts (1928), the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, the Saint-Augustine Church in Forest (1935), the former House of the Radio building on Flagey Square (1935–1938), the Villa Empain in Ixelles (1934) and the exhibition halls of Brussels Expo, built for the 1935 World Fair.

The Flagey Building in Ixelles, Brussels

Since the second half of the 20th century, modern office towers have been built in Brussels (Madou Tower, Rogier Tower, Proximus Towers, Finance Tower, the World Trade Center, among others). There are some thirty towers, mostly concentrated in the city's main business district: the Northern Quarter (also called Little Manhattan), near Brussels-North railway station. The South Tower, standing adjacent to Brussels-South railway station, is the tallest building in Belgium. Along the North-South connection, is the State Administrative City (French: Cité administrative de l'État, Dutch: Rijksadministratief Centrum), an administrative complex in International Style. The postmodern buildings of the Espace Leopold complete the picture.

Located outside the centre, in a greener environment, are the Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, and in Laeken, the Royal Castle of Laeken with its large greenhouses and the Museums of the Far East.

The Atomium, a landmark of Brussels

The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre (338 ft) tall structure, located on the Heysel Plateau, which was originally built for the 1958 World's Fair (Expo '58). It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell), magnified 165 billion times. The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. It is now considered a landmark of Brussels. Next to the Atomium, is the Mini-Europe park, with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe.

Brussels: Arts

Cinquantenaire triumphal arch and museums

Brussels contains over 80 museums. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts has an extensive collection of various painters, such as Flemish painters like Bruegel, Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, and Peter Paul Rubens. The Magritte Museum houses the world's largest collection of the works of the surrealist René Magritte. Museums dedicated to the national history of Belgium include the BELvue Museum, the Royal Museums of Art and History, and the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. The Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), housed in the splendid Old England building, is part of the Royal Museums for Art and History and is internationally renowned for its collection of over 8,000 instruments.

La Monnaie/De Munt opera house

The city has had a renowned artist scene for many years. The famous Belgian surrealists René Magritte and Paul Delvaux, for instance, studied and lived in Brussels, as did the avant-garde dramatist Michel de Ghelderode. The city was also home of the impressionist painter Anna Boch from the Artist Group Les XX and includes 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, The Smurfs, Spirou, Gaston, Marsupilami, Blake and Mortimer, Boule et Bill and Cubitus. Throughout the city, walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters; these murals taken 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 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 Center for Fine Arts (often referred to as Bozar), a multi-purpose centre for theatre, cinema, music, literature and art exhibitions, is home to the National Orchestra of Belgium and to the annual Queen Elisabeth Competition for classical singers and instrumentalists, one of the most challenging and prestigious competitions of the kind. The Studio 4 in Flagey cultural centre hosts the Brussels Philharmonic. Other concert venues include Forest National/Vorst Nationaal, Ancienne Belgique, the Cirque Royal, the Botanique and Palais 12. Also worth mentioning is the Théâtre Royal de Toone, a folkloric puppet theatre located near the Grand Place.

Brussels: Cultural and folkloric events

Meyboom giants in Brussels

Brussels organises or hosts many events throughout the year:

  • The Flower Carpet at the Grand Place is held every two years in August.
  • The planting of the Meyboom on 9 August, the oldest folk tradition of Brussels, celebrating the May tree – in fact, a bad translation of the Dutch tree of joy – is recognised as an expression of intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.
  • The Ommegang, a folkloric costumed procession and spectacle commemorating the Joyous Entry of Emperor Charles V when he was enthroned in Brussels in 1549, is held every year in July.
  • The Zinneke Parade, a colourful, multicultural parade through the city, has been held every two years since 2000.
  • The Saint-Verhaegen (often shortened to St V) on 20 November, a folkloric student procession celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
  • Brussels Fair (French: Foire du Midi, Dutch: Zuidfoor), the most important fair in Brussels, takes place every year during the months of July and August and lasts more than a month.
  • The Plaisirs d'Hiver animate the heart of Brussels in December. These winter activities were launched in Brussels in 2001.
  • Brussels Beach (French: Bruxelles les Bains, Dutch: Brussel Bad); in summer, the banks of the canal are turned into an urban beach.

Brussels: Festivals

Brussels Summer Festival

A large number of festivals animate the Brussels scene:

  • The Iris Festival, the festival of the Brussels-Capital Region, is held every year in spring.
  • Brussels Summer Festival (BSF), a music festival held in August.
  • Couleur Café Festival, a festival of world and urban music.
  • The International Fantastic Film Festival of Brussels (BIFFF), is held during the Easter holidays.
  • The KunstenFESTIVALdesArts, a festival of international contemporary art.
  • The Festival of Europe, open day and activities in and around the institutions of the European Union.

Brussels: Cuisine

Brussels is known for its local waffle

Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers. The Brussels sprout, which has long been popular in Brussels, and may have originated there, is also named after the city.

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 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. Pralines were first introduced in 1912 by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier of Swiss origin, in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in central Brussels. 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 is known as the birthplace of the Belgian Endive (Dutch: witloof or witlof ("white leaf"), French: chicon). The technique for growing blanched endives was accidentally discovered in the 1850s at the Botanical Garden of Brussels in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium.

Brussels: Shopping

Flea Market on the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein, Brussels

Famous shopping areas include the pedestrian-only Rue Neuve (Dutch: Nieuwstraat), the second busiest shopping street in Belgium (after the Meir in Antwerp) with a weekly average of 230,000 visitors; Chaussée d’Ixelles in the Matonge district; Avenue Louise lined with high-end fashion stores and boutiques; the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert; as well as the neighbourhood around Antoine Dansaert Street, which has become, in recent years, a focal point for fashion and design. This main street and its side streets also feature Belgium’s young and most happening artistic talent.

In addition, Brussels ranks as one of Europe’s best capital cities for flea market shopping. The Old Market (French: Vieux Marché, Dutch: Vlooienmarkt), on the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein, in the Marollen neighbourhood, is particularly renowned. The nearby Sablon area is home to many of Brussels' antique dealers. The Midi Market around Brussels-South station and Boulevard du Midi is reputed to be one of the largest markets in Europe.

Brussels: Sports

The stadium now known as the King Baudouin Stadium is the largest in the country and home to the national teams in football and rugby union. It hosted 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. The King Baudouin Stadium is also home of the annual Memorial Van Damme athletics event, which is part of the IAAF Diamond League. Other important athletics events are the Brussels Marathon and the 20 km of Brussels.

The Brussels Cycling Classic is one of the oldest semi classic bicycle races on the international calendar.

Brussels: Football

R.S.C. Anderlecht fans at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

R.S.C. Anderlecht, based in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in the Anderlecht municipality, is the most successful Belgian football club in the Belgian Pro League with 34 titles. It has also won the most major European tournaments for a Belgian side. Brussels is also home to 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 municipality and currently plays in Second Division. White Star Bruxelles is another football club that plays in second division.

Racing White Daring Molenbeek, based in the Sint-Jans-Molenbeek municipality and often referred to as RWDM, was a very popular football club until it was dissolved in 2002. Since 2015, its reincarnation RWDM47 is back playing in the fourth division.

Brussels: Economy

Brussels' Northern Quarter business district
The Brussels Stock Exchange

Serving as the centre of administration for Belgium and Europe, Brussels' economy is largely service-oriented. It is dominated by regional and world headquarters of multinationals, by European institutions, by various local and federal administrations, and by related services companies, though it does have a number of notable craft industries, such as the Cantillon Brewery, a lambic brewery founded in 1900.

Brussels has a robust economy. The region contributes to one fifth of Belgium's GDP, and its 550,000 jobs account for 17.7% of Belgium’s employment. Its GDP per capita is nearly double that of Belgium as a whole, and it has the highest GDP per capita of any NUTS 1 region in the European Union, at 62,000€ in 2011. That being said, the GDP is boosted by a massive inflow of commuters from neighbouring regions; over half of those who work in Brussels live in Flanders or Wallonia, with 230,000 and 130,000 commuters per day respectively. Conversely, only 16.0% of people from Brussels work outside Brussels (68 827 (68.5%) of them in Flanders and 21 035 (31.5%) in Wallonia). Not all of the wealth generated in Brussels remains in Brussels itself, and as of December 2013, the unemployment among residents of Brussels is 20.4%.

There are approximately 50,000 businesses in Brussels, of which around 2200 are foreign. This number is constantly increasing and can well explain the role of Brussels in the European subcontinent. The city’s infrastructure is very favourable in terms of starting up a new business. House prices have also increased in recent years, especially with the increase of young professionals settling down in Brussels, making it the most expensive city to live in Belgium.

In addition, Brussels holds more than 1,000 business conferences annually, making it the fourth most popular conference city in Europe. It is rated as the seventh most important financial centre in the world. The Brussels Stock Exchange, abbreviated to BSE, now called Euronext Brussels, is part of the European stock exchange Euronext N.V., along with Paris Bourse, Lisbon Stock Exchange and Amsterdam Stock Exchange. Its benchmark stock market index is the BEL20.

Brussels: Media

Many Belgian newspapers have their headquarters in Brussels, such as Le Soir, La Libre, De Morgen and the news agency Belga. The Belgian French-language public broadcaster RTBF, the Belgian Dutch-speaking public broadcaster VRT, the two regional channels BX1 (formerly Télé Bruxelles) and Bruzz (formerly TV Brussel), the encrypted BeTV channel and private channels RTL-TVI and VTM are also headquartered in the city.

Brussels: Education

The Université Libre de Bruxelles

Brussels: Tertiary education

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 organization of higher education.

Other universities include the Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles with 4,000 students, a campus of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, (offering bachelor & master's degrees in economics & business, law, arts, and architecture, and counting a faculty in the city centre) 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 University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies is a specialised postgraduate school offering advanced international studies.

Brussels: Primary and secondary education

Most of Brussels pupils, between the ages of 3 and 18, go to schools organized by the Flemish Community or the French-speaking Community, with roughly 20% going to Dutch-speaking schools, and close to 80% to French-speaking schools. 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 the ages of 2½ and 18, the British School of Brussels, and the four European Schools, which provide free education for the children of those working in the EU institutions. The combined student population of the four European Schools in Brussels is currently around 10,000.

Brussels: Libraries

  • Royal Library of Belgium
  • Library of the National Archives of Belgium
  • Royal Belgian Film Archive (Cinematek)
  • The PointCulture
  • CERIA Francophone Central Library
  • Scientific Library of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
  • Library and Photo Archive of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage
  • Infotheque-Library of the Federal Public Service Finance
  • Library of the National Botanical Garden of Belgium
  • Central Library of the Federal Public Service Justice
  • Library of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels
  • Library of the Museum of Musical Instruments
  • Libraries of the Royal Museum for Central Africa
  • Libraries of the Royal Museums of Art and History
  • Library and documentation center of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
  • Library of the Royal Observatory of Belgium
  • Archives and libraries of the Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Library of the Saint-Louis University, Brussels
  • Erasmus Library
  • Duden Library

Brussels: Science and technology

Erasmus Hospital in Anderlecht, Brussels

Science and technology in Brussels is well developed with the presence of several universities and research institutes.

The Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences houses the world's largest hall completely dedicated to dinosaurs, with its collection of 30 fossilized Iguanodon skeletons. The Planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium is one of the largest in Europe.

Brussels: Healthcare

Brussels is home to a thriving pharmaceutical and health care industry which includes pioneering biotechnology research. The health sector employs 70,000 employees in 30,000 companies. There are 3,000 life sciences researchers in the city and two large science parks: Da Vinci Research Park and Erasmus Research Park. There are five university hospitals, a military hospital and more than 40 general hospitals and specialist clinics.

Brussels: Transport

Brussels: Air

Brussels Airlines Airbus A319 landing at Brussels Airport in Zaventem

The Brussels Region does not have airports on its territory and its institutions do not manage any. The peculiarity of the Region is that it is served by two airports located outside its administrative territory. These are also the two main airports of Belgium:

  • Brussels-National Airport, located in the nearby Flemish municipality of Zaventem, 12 km east of the capital;
  • Brussels South Charleroi Airport, located near Charleroi (Wallonia), some 50 km (30 mi) south-west of Brussels.

This particularity can be explained by the fact that the territory of the Region is in fact nearly entirely urbanized, and like most major cities of the world, it does not have an airport on its own territory.

Brussels: Water

The Saint Catherine Dock, Eugène Boudin (1871)

Since the 16th century, Brussels has had its own harbour, the port of Brussels. It has been enlarged throughout the centuries to become the second Belgian inland port. Historically situated near the Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijne square, it lies today in the northwest of the city, on the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal (commonly called Willebroek Canal), which connects Brussels to Antwerp via the Scheldt. Ships and large barges up to 4,500 tons can penetrate deep into the country, avoiding break-ups and load transfers between Antwerp and the centre of Brussels, hence reducing the cost for companies using the canal, which offers a competitive advantage.

Moreover, the connection of the Willebroek Canal with the Brussels-Charleroi Canal, in the very heart of the capital, creates a north-south link, by means of waterways, between the Netherlands, Flanders and the industrial zone of Hainaut (Wallonia). There, navigation can access the network of French canals, thanks to the important inclined plane of Ronquières and the lifts of Strépy-Bracquegnies.

The importance of river traffic in Brussels makes it possible to avoid the road equivalent of 740,000 trucks per year, almost 2,000 per day, which, in addition to easing traffic problems, represents an estimated carbon dioxide saving of 51,545 tonnes per year.

Brussels: Train

Main hall of Brussels-South railway station, home to the Eurostar train service to London

The Brussels Capital-Region has three main train stations: Brussels-South, Central and North, which are amongst the busiest of the country. Brussels-South is also served by direct high-speed rail links: to London by the Eurostar train via the Channel Tunnel (1hr 51 min); to Amsterdam by the Thalys and InterCity-Plus connections; to Amsterdam, Paris (1hr 50min, 1hr 25 min respectively) as of 6 April 2015, and Cologne by the Thalys; and to Cologne and Frankfurt by the German ICE (2hr 59 min–3hr 16min).

High-speed rail networks connect Brussels with other European cities (ICE train in the North station pictured)

The train rails in Brussels go underground near the centre through the North–South connection, with the Brussels-Central station also being largely underground. The tunnel itself is only six tracks wide at its narrowest point, which often causes congestion and delays due to heavy use of the route.

The City has minor railway stations at Bockstael, Brussels-Chapel, Brussels-Congres, Brussels-Luxembourg, Brussels-Schuman, Brussels-West, Haren, Haren-South, Simonis.

In the Brussels Region, there are also railways stations at Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Boitsfort, Boondael, Bordet (Evere), Etterbeek, Evere, Forest-East, Forest-South, Jette, Meiser (Schaarbeek), Moensberg (Uccle), Saint-Job (Uccle), Schaarbeek, Uccle-Calevoet, Uccle-Stalle, Vivier d'Oie-Diesdelle (Uccle), Merode and Watermael.

Brussels: City public transport

The Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company STIB/MIVB is the local public transport operator in Brussels. It covers the 19 municipalities of the Brussels Capital-Region and some surface routes extend to the near suburbs in the other regions.

Brussels: Metro

Brussels Metro carriage at Erasmus metro station

The Brussels Metro dates back to 1976, but underground lines known as premetro have been serviced by tramways since 1968. The network consists of four conventional metro lines and three premetro lines. The metro-grade lines are M1, M2, M5, and M6, with some shared sections, covering a total of 40 kilometres (24.8 mi). The metro is an important means of transport, connecting with six railway stations of the National Railway Company of Belgium, and many tram and bus stops operated by STIB/MIVB, and with Flemish De Lijn and Walloon TEC bus stops.

Brussels: Trams and buses

A comprehensive bus and tram network covers the city. As of 2017, the Brussels tram system consists of 17 tram lines (three of which – lines T3, T4 and T7 – qualify as premetro lines). The total route length is 139 km (86.3 mi), making it one of the largest tram networks in Europe. The Brussels bus network is complementary to the rail network. It consists of 50 bus routes and 11 night routes, spanning 445 km (276 mi). Since April 2007, STIB/MIVB has been operating a night bus network called Noctis. On Fridays and Saturdays, 11 bus routes operate from midnight until 3 a.m. They run from the centre of Brussels to the outer reaches of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Brussels: Ticketing

An interticketing system means that a STIB/MIVB ticket holder can use the train or long-distance buses inside the city. A single journey can include multiple stages across the different modes of transport. The commuter services operated by De Lijn, TEC and NMBS/SNCB will in the next few years be augmented by the Brussels RER/GEN network which will connect the capital and surrounding towns. Since August 2016, paper tickets have been discontinued in favour of electronic MoBIB cards.

Brussels: Other public transport

Villo! bicycles in Brussels

Since 2003, Brussels has had a car-sharing service operated by the Bremen company Cambio, in partnership with the STIB/MIVB and local ridesharing company Taxi Stop. In 2006, a public bicycle-sharing programme was introduced. The scheme was subsequently taken over by Villo!. Since 2008, this night-time public transport service has been supplemented by Collecto, a shared taxi system, which operates on weekdays between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. In 2012, the Zen Car electric car-sharing scheme was launched in the university and European areas.

Brussels: Road network

Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat is one of the city's main streets

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 Senne, over the city walls and over the railway connection between the North and South Stations.

Today, Brussels has the most congested traffic in North America and Europe, according to US traffic information platform INRIX.

As one expects of a capital city, Brussels is the hub of a range of old national roads, the main 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 (S to Maubeuge), N7 (SW to Lille), N8 (W to Koksijde) and N9 (NW to Ostend). Usually named chaussées/steenwegen, these highways normally run in a straight line but sometimes 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. 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 or N0. These were built upon the site of the second set of city walls following their demolition. The metro line 2 runs under much of these. Since June 2015, a number of central boulevards inside the pentagon have become car-free, limiting transit traffic through the old city.

On the eastern side of the city, the R21 or Greater Ring (French: Grande Ceinture, Dutch: Grote Ring) is formed by a string of boulevards that curves round from Laeken to Uccle. 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: Security and emergency services

Brussels: Police

Policeman in Brussels

The Brussels police is responsible for the security in Brussels. The 19 municipalities of Brussels are divided into six police zones, all bilingual (French-Dutch):

  • 5339 Brussels Capital Ixelles: the City of Brussels and Ixelles
  • 5340 Brussels West : Ganshoren, Jette, Koekelberg, Sint-Agatha-Berchem and Sint-Jans-Molenbeek
  • 5341 South : Anderlecht, Forest and Saint-Gilles
  • 5342 Uccle/Watermael-Boitsfort/Auderghem : Auderghem, Uccle and Watermael-Boitsfort
  • 5343 Montgomery : Etterbeek, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert et Woluwe-Saint-Pierre
  • 5344 Polbruno : Evere, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode et Schaerbeek

Brussels: Fire department

The Brussels Fire and Emergency Medical Care Service, commonly know by its acronym SIAMU (DBDMH), operates in the 19 municipalities of Brussels. It is a class X fire department and the largest fire service in Belgium, in terms of annual operations, equipment and personnel. It has 9 fire stations, spread over the entire Brussels-Capital Region, and employs about 1,000 professional firefighters. As well as preventing and fighting fires, SIAMU also provides emergency medical care services in Brussels via its centralised 100 number (and the single 112 emergency number for the 27 countries of the European Union). It is bilingual (French-Dutch).

Brussels: Parks and green spaces

Brussels is one of the greenest European capitals, with over 8,000 hectares of green spaces. Vegetation cover and natural areas are higher in the outskirts, where they have limited the peri-urbanisation of the capital, but they decrease sharply towards the centre of Brussels; 10% in the central pentagon, 30% of the municipalities in the first ring, and 71% of the municipalities in the second ring are occupied by green spaces.

Sonian Forest, Brussels

A multitude of parks and gardens are scattered throughout the city. Examples include, in the City of Brussels:

  • Brussels Park 11 ha (27 acres)
  • Mont des Arts/Kunstberg 1.4 ha (3.5 acres)
  • Egmont Park 1.5 ha (3.7 acres)
  • Leopold Park 10 ha (25 acres)
  • Osseghem Park 17 ha (42 acres)
  • Laeken Park 30 ha (74 acres)
  • Cinquantenaire Park 30 ha (74 acres)
  • Bois de la Cambre 122 ha (301 acres)
Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, Brussels

In the Brussels Capital-Region:

  • Tenbosch 2 ha (2.5 acres) in Ixelles
  • Ixelles Ponds 5 ha (12.3 acres) in Ixelles
  • Forest Park 13 ha (32 acres) in Forest
  • Elisabeth Park 21 ha (51 acres) in Koekelberg/Ganshoren
  • Duden Park 24 ha (59 acres) in Forest
  • Josaphat Park 30 ha (74 acres) in Schaerbeek
  • Woluwe Park 69 ha (170 acres) in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre
  • The Sonian Forest 4.421 ha (10.920 acres), stretching out over the three Belgian regions.

Brussels: Notable people

Brussels: International relations

Brussels: Twin towns and sister cities

Brussels is twinned with the following cities:

  • United States Atlanta, United States
  • China Beijing, People's Republic of China (since 1994)
  • Germany Berlin, Germany
  • Brazil Brasília, Brazil
  • Slovenia Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Spain Madrid, Spain
  • Canada Montreal, Canada
  • Russia Moscow, Russia
  • Czech Republic Prague, Czech Republic
  • United States Washington, D.C., United States

Brussels: See also

  • Brussels Regional Investment Company
  • Outline of Belgium
  • Statue of Europe

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Brussels: Bibliography

See also: Bibliography of the history of Brussels
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