Travel Guides: Brussels
Brussels is the capital of Belgium, seat of government and federal parliament, and several federal entities: Brussels Capital Region, the Region of Flanders and the French and Flemish communities. Brussels is also one of the three capitals of the European Union (together with Luxembourg and Strasbourg), seat of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Western European Union and Eurocontrol Organization.
Brussels is the term used to describe the actual municipality of Brussels formed by the interior pentagonal territory bordered by the small ring of the city, Laeken, the European District, Louise and Bois Avenue, and contains about 150,000 inhabitants. Very often the term “Brussels” refers to the Brussels Capital Region, a region composed of 19 municipalities of the village crowded around Brussels, densely urbanized area far beyond the village Brussels. The region occupies 162 km² and has over one million inhabitants, being one of the three regions of Belgium Federal State.
Brussels is officially bilingual, French and Dutch languages being the two official languages. The official name of the city is Bruxelles in French and Brussel in Dutch. French is the language of the majority population and the most used language. From the historical point of view, the language spoken in Brussels was a local dialect of the Brabantian Dutch. Until the French occupation during the Napoleonic period Flemish dialects were the most used languages, both by the administration and by most people, although French was the language of the local aristocracy during the Burgundy domination.
In the nineteenth century with the Belgian state training and the access to education, many speakers of local dialects adopted French at the expense of Dutch as their first language. The main reason of using French is that the language had more prestige at the time – the vast majority of the Flemish aristocracy was French-speaking and the Flemish language was considered of lower class and rural. In addition at that time in Flanders was not determined the standard language being unclear whether it should be the standard language used in the Netherlands or a new coding standard for Flemish language. This uncertainty was an additional factor to promote French.
Currently, the Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual French-Dutch. Since the abolition of linguistic census in the second half of the twentieth century there are no statistics on the first official language population. Current estimates range from approximately 50% Francophone population, the Dutch about 8% to about 10% of the bilingual and approximately 9% of the population becomes bilingual in life. Due to the wave of emigration after the Second World War and the large number of international institutions located in Brussels, it is estimated that approximately 20% of the population have another language as mother tongue.
The origin of the name is unclear. One possibility is the old Flemish term Bruocsella, which means swamp (bruoc) and house (sella), meaning “house in the swamp.” Under Article 194 of the Constitution of Belgium, it is the state capital of Brussels. However, the funds allocated by the federal government and regional representative role of the capital are divided among the 19 municipalities and some 18 institutions are located in other common capital region. Thus, although only the city of Brussels is the capital of the country, the whole region has the status of de facto capital.
Brussels Capital Region is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, together with Vallonia and Flanders. Geographically and linguistically it is a bilingual enclave in Flanders. The regions are only one component of the Belgian federal system, the three linguistic communities representing the second component such that the inhabitants of the Brussels region relate either French or the Flemish community in matters of education and culture. Brussels is also capital of the French Community (Communauté française de Belgique) and Flanders (Vlaanderen); all Flemish institutions are located here: Flemish Parliament, Flemish government and its administration. Brussels has become an important center of many international institutions, the most important being the European Union. The region also contains the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and 1000 other international organizations and 2000 international corporations.
Brussels is the third city in number of international conferences organized making it one of the largest centers in the meetings world. The presence of EU and other international institutions makes that here are that most ambassadors and journalists in any capital, ahead of Washington DC. Many international schools have been established to complete this presence. Brussels is considered the de facto capital of the European Union because of the importance of EU institutions that operate here, although the EU has not said declared any official capital. In Brussels are the Headquarters of the European Commission (Berlaymont Building) and the Council of the European Union (Justus Lipsius building located in front of Berlyamont).
In addition, three quarters of the business of the European Parliament in Brussels is in the Espace Léopold (Parliament’s official seat is in Strasbourg). Brussels began to host institutions in 1957 with the establishment of the European Economic Community and Euratom, whose offices were shared with Luxembourg. For practical reasons they continued to operate only in Brussels. In 1965 Brussels Commission has obtained permanent accommodation and the Council and Parliament in the coming years and the increased presence here, although the treatment was required to maintain its headquarters in Strasbourg.
Between 2002 and 2004, the Council has set the European headquarters in Brussels. Now, the presence of the institutions increased significantly, only the Commission occupies more than 865.000 m² in the district offices in eastern European city. With a length of over a thousand years, Brussels today is one that gives the name of a cluster of 19 municipalities which form one of the three regions of Belgium Federal State, while at the same time, the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium and communities where French and Flemish coexist. Besides all this, Brussels is an international vocation observable – and European capital city where there are both the European Commission headquarters and headquarters of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.
Brussels is the bilingual capital of Belgium. This means that both Dutch and French are official languages in the city. Street plates and road signs are always printed in these two languages. But the Belgian capital is a cosmopolitan city where many cultures live alongside one another and where many different languages can be heard on the streets. Charm and international city life are directly correlated with the role they occupy in the European city today. The variety and the contrast can be seen in many architectural styles found in Brussels, the former capital of the duchy of Brabant in the Middle Ages. Gothic Cathedrals and churches are found near and sometimes even in an obvious contrast to some buildings with classical facades of the most graceful – buildings around the Royal Square (Place Royale – Koningsplein) or houses and other buildings in Art Nouveau or Art Deco.
City Center offers a variety of architecture that includes long periods of time, from medieval architecture to the modern institutions of the European Union. Brussels has many advantages that can make it into a tourist town such as the picturesque streets of medieval times, markets full of animation, beautiful streets and Gothic churches and cathedrals. There are a large number of restaurants, especially fish-specific taverns old port area of St. Catherine. In addition, the nightlife of Brussels can be a very interesting, especially because the city attracts many revelers outside the country. Brussels City Centre is divided into two parts.
These two distinct divisions in the city are surrounded by Petit Ring, a road that separates the medieval city. Both areas are very different from each other and their unique beauty contributes to the charm of Brussels. The part called Lower Town is known for its historic buildings and Grand Place – one of the most beautiful squares in Europe, while Upper Town is the modern half, the place where people live where there are noble and most important institutions of Brussels. Beyond downtown Brussels there are districts such as Anderlecht and Molenbeek, EU Headquarters and Etterbeek, Ixelles, St Josse and Schaerbeek and Saint Gilles. All these are characteristics that individualize charity in a city like Brussels. Some of them are residential areas with parks and streets full of shops and restaurants while others are industrial areas.
The heart of Brussels and the place you can get to know the capital of Belgium is Grand Place (Grote Markt). This historic square surrounded by beautiful houses and the spectacular beauty of the Gothic hall, is widely accepted as one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. According to legend, the city of Brussels began as a Gallo-Roman settlement in the seventh century AC. Only in the year 977, Brussels began to gain the status of a city in the true sense. In the twelfth century, the city already had about 5,000 inhabitants. Over the centuries XII, XIII, XIV, Brussels was the main producer of luxury goods, an exporter and political and economic center. Protective walls were erected around the city to protect it against invaders. These walls have stood until the nineteenth century when they were replaced by a ring road.
The only portion of the defensive walls that still exists today is the Porte de Hal. Grote Markt (Grand Place), according to many is the most beautiful market across Europe, the historical center of Brussels. In the fifteenth century the officials of the city had a political and economic power, and with it raised a majestic hall, which has a tower 96 meters high. Almost totally destroyed by the army of Louis XIV during the siege of 1695, the market was rebuilt in about three years and in the city were in their hands the destiny of many leaders from different regions. In search of independence, Brussels has repeatedly been the scene of battles that continued into the era of Charles de Lorraine in 1744.
In 1789, the inhabitants of Brussels revolutionary France followed and revolted against Austria. In 1790 Belgium was proclaimed union member. There were many misunderstandings between the parties and after a series of attacks French revolutionary government took over the destinies of Brussels, which brings it under French domination. In 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and after the Treaty of Vienna, Brussels came under Dutch domination. Belgian Revolution in 1830 brought independence to Brussels and was elected the new state capital of Belgium. The city went through an intense process of modernization during the nineteenth century. In 1865, the first passenger railway line was opened between Brussels and Mechelen.
New roads were built for use and fees were abolished. There were built the Palace of Justice and the town was extended. Brussels has survived two world wars. In the years after the war the city was again expanded and modernized. In 1958, the World Expo was held in Brussels and in the 60s the city became the place where they founded the EEC and NATO headquarters. During the next major multinational companies have offices in Brussels and they did, which helped develop several national character of the city. In Brussels today, with over one million inhabitants, the capital of Europe, is where people from all over the world live together. Brussels is now an important part of a new Europe without borders and trade restrictions.
Tourist attractions: Great Square of Brussels (French Grand Place, Grote Markt Dutch); Menneken Pis statue; Atomium is a monument of the famous iron atom, enlarged 150 billion times. It was built on the occasion of World Expo 1958; Theatre Royal Coins – Here was proclaimed the independence of Belgium in 1830; Jubilee Park (Parc du Cinquantenaire French, Jubelpark in Dutch), including halls, museums, the park itself and the Arc de Triomphe, built on the occasion of celebration of fifty years of Belgian independence; St. Michael and St. Gudura; Basilica of Koekelberg, 5th largest in the world; Marolles district, neighborhood in Brussels, where is the famous flea market in Brussels. District made its reputation through the Palace of Justice; Bruparck (short for “Park Brussels”) – Here’s where the Expo was held in 1958, today the site of Amusement Park Mini Europe Atomium, restaurants, cinemas, complex organic products, planetarium; Laeken Park: 160 ha area, with the Palace of Laeken (Belgium royal residence), the royal tomb, the royal greenhouses, Japanese Tower and Chinese flag; Statue of Europe (Unity in Peace).
Personalities: Gudure, the holy protector of the city; Jacques Brel, francophone singer, songwriter and actor; René Follet, drawing comics; Jean Thielemans, nicknamed Toots, a musician who was born and raised in Brussels; Johan Verminnen, Flemish singer; Hergé, creator of the famous comic book series Tintin / Kuifje; François Schuiten, illustrator; Victor Hugo lived in Brussels for a while; Charles Baudelaire lived a while in Brussels; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon lived a while in Brussels; Karl Marx lived in Brussels for a while; Constantin Meunier, sculptor; Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) in Brussels in 1859 wrote “Max Havelaar”; Auguste Rodin lived in Brussels; Hendrik Conscience lived in Brussels from 1868 until 1883.
Brussels economy is dominated by activities in services and public administration. Its role as a commercial metropolis of Brussels is a great center of the Congress. Often these activities are related to the role of Brussels as the capital of Belgium and the European Union: European and international institutions including administrative services that revolve around them; ministries and national institutions, federal and regional; head offices of most large Belgian companies; European and regional headquarters of many multinational companies; Many businesses counseling, legal services and the Belgian and European lobbies; hospitality and tourism sector; air, road, rail, river.
Brussels is well served by a dense rail network. Europe is an important railway junction and is served by many international trains: Thalys provides links with Paris, Amsterdam and Cologne; Eurostar liaises with London; ICE liaises with Frankfurt; TGV liaises with major cities in southern France; Intercity trains liaise with Amsterdam, Zurich, Luxembourg and Strasbourg.
Brussels is also served by two airports: Brussels Zaventem International Airport located in the northern city that provides links to most major European and international airports. The link to Brussels is ensured by several trains and buses per hour; Brussels South Charleroi Airport located 50 km south of the city, specializing in low-cost companies. The link road town shuttle is provided. Brussels is served by several stations of the national transport company SNCB / NMBS: most important junction stations are located on North-South – Brussels-South (Brussels-Midi or Brussel-Zuid) – the most important Belgian station, serving the majority of international connections, central Brussels (Brussel-Centraal), Brussels North (Brussel-Noord); North-South junction has two smaller stations served rarely and only in certain periods – Brussels-Chapelle (Chapelle or Kapellekerk), Brussels Congress, two stations in the European Headquarters for the link to Namur and Luxembourg, Brussels-Schuman (Brussels-Schuman), Brussels-Luxembourg (Brussel-Luxembourg); in addition to these stations, the majority of municipalities in the Brussels Capital Region has at least one station.
Trains run with great regularity. In general, the major Belgian cities there are trains every half hour, and even at peak times from 20 to 20 minutes. There is a Regional Express Network project that aims to meet current mobility problems. These projects involv the rehabilitation of certain sections of the line and build new stations. The term of the RER’s full service is 2016.
Brussels is well connected to the Belgian network of highways. To serve the region by a network of three main peripheral axes: Ring motorway which surrounds the entire region of Brussels; High belt boulevards connecting the joint 19; Small Ring: A series of tunnels and roads completely surrounding the city center on the old route of medieval fortifications. Many major intersections still called access port city: Namur gate, Hal, Ninove, Anderlecht, Louvain, Schaerbeek. Urban transport is provided by a dense network of trams and buses and underground. Brussels metro has three lines with 69 stations. It serves the east west axis and the city center. Common ticketing system allows management to use the same transport network titles Brussels STIB / MIVB as well as rail links within the region. Brussels is also served by the Flemish region’s transport companies De Lijn and TEC in Wallonia.
From 2003 to Brussels operates a car sharing service operated by a German company Cambio with local transportation company. Since 2006 works in Brussels a public bicycle lending service. In Brussels there are several universities. The most important are the Université Libre de Bruxelles, a French-speaking university with about 20,000 students on three campuses serving the city and two outside it, and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a Dutch speaking university with about 10,000 students. Both are offspring of a university founded in 1834, Free University of Brussels, which was divided in 1970 with legislative powers over higher education award by the French and Flemish communities.
Other institutions of higher education are Facultés Universitaires Saint Louis with 2,000 students, Royal Military Academy, and two art schools founded in 1982: Koninklijke Conservatorium and Royal Conservatoire of French. Due to the significant presence of European institutions in the postwar period, there are many international schools and European schools operating in parallel with the French-speaking Belgian educational systems.11