Brussels started life as a village toward the end of the 10th century. It was ruled over by various kings of Flanders through the ages, most notably Charles V, Archduke of the Habsburgs and Holy Roman Emperor. The city grew gradually around its increasingly magnificent Grand'Place, but it really began to flourish following Belgian independence in 830. By the end of the 19th century it had established itself as one of the busiest cities in Europe.In 1958 it was chosen for its central location and political neutrality to be the European Economic Community's new headquarters, an honor that was a precursor to it becoming the location for many of the European Union's offices. As a by-product of Europe's integration, many international businesses have invaded the city, all wanting to be close to the hub of power. The result is a clash of old and new: swaths of steel-and-glass office buildings set only a few steps from cobblestoned streets.But this contradiction has always been part of the city's strength—and charm. Here, it seems, architectural harmony has never been a major influence on building design. A step-gabled medieval town house may sit right beside something made of brick from the 1950s, and the only thing separating that from an anonymous concrete structure might be a swirling Art Nouveau creation designed by Victor Horta. This architectural randomness is so synonymous with the city that it's even been termed "Brusselization" by some.In terms of its people, diversity is now one of the capital's most notable qualities; one-third of the city's million-strong population are non-Belgians, and you're just as likely to hear Arabic or Swedish spoken on the streets as French or Flemish.With such a mishmash of ideas and images, Brussels can seem a little slapdash at first glance. And while the city might not appeal to everyone at first, it's definitely a place that's worth getting to know better. And to know the city is to love it.
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Things You Can't Miss
Choose from 400 varieties of local brew at the Delirium Café, just off the Grand Place, the city’s 15th-century town square.
Arterra Picture Library/Alamy
This is a city with a chocolate store on every corner. Ask about tours and classes at Chocolatier Mary, founded in 1919.
Small, perfectly Flemish cities are a short drive from Brussels. Tour their charming cobbled streets and market squares in a day or two.
Robert Harding World Imagery/Alamy
Remember when buying a plane ticket didn't include a bunch of extra airline fees? Follow our tips on avoiding the most ridiculous charges.
Legend surrounds the 17th-century fountain — a naked boy urinating into a basin. City workers dress him in special outfits for important events.
Air travel rules vary by airline, but follow these common standards to avoid being prohibited from flying.
Stroll, or hop on a yellow city bike and tool around the 74-acre park. You’ll find several museums, including one displaying vintage cars.
When packing for your trip, don't overpack. Light travel is much more enjoyable. These travel tips help eliminate items you don't need to keep your luggage in check.
Savings on British Airways and More
Shared Trips to this Destination
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