Officially, the Kingdom of Belgium is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU headquarters, and the headquarters of several other major international organisations such as NATO.
Belgium covers an area of 30,528 square kilometres, and it has a population of about 11 million people. Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speakers, mostly Flemish (about 60%), and the French-speakers, mostly Walloons (about 40%), plus a small group of German-speakers. Belgium’s two largest regions are the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and the French-speaking region of Wallonia in the south.
Brussels is the capital city of Belgium. Brussels is entirely surrounded by Dutch-speaking Flanders and its constituent Flemish province called ‘Brabant’. As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels is also referred to as the capital of Europe. Being at the crossroads of cultures and playing an important role in Europe, Brussels fits the definition of “melting pot”, but still retains its own unique character.
The population of the city of Brussels is 1 million and the population of the Brussels metropolitan area is just over 2 million. It is an multicultural city with large Turkish, Moroccan, Eastern European, and Central African communities.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French (80%) and Flemish (20%) are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand Place and de Grote Markt. Although officially bilingual, French is undoubtedly Brussels’ lingua franca. English is also widely understood, but not always widely spoken. It has become a common spoken language because of the international institutions based in Brussels, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament and NATO.
Brussels lies on the Senne River, a tributary of the Schelde. The city began as a village on an island in the Senne and ultimately became a holding of the dukes of Brabant. In 1530 it became the capital of Netherlands, which was then under Habsburg (Austria- Hungary) control. Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1815, it became a centre of Belgian rebellion in 1830 and eventually became the capital of Belgium.
Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main centre for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglothome of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
Brussels in figures
- The population has around 1.1 million inhabitants. Roughly 30% of the city’s total population is foreign.
- The city’s green spaces (parks – woods – forest) account for 11.4% of the region’s territory.
- The time is GMT +1 in winter and GMT + 2 in summer. Brussels has a temperate, maritime climate.
- The average temperature in summer is ± 16°Celsius (± 60° Fahrenheit).
- The average temperature in winter is ± 3°Celsius (± 37° Fahrenheit).
- Brussels’s central boulevards are 15 m above sea level. ‘Place Madou’ is 52 m. above sea level and the area between ‘Forest and Duden parks’ is 100 m. above sea level.
- A motorway ring road (RING) has been built roughly 6 km from the centre of Brussels to make both transit and entry into the city easier.