City of Brussels

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City of Brussels
Ville de Bruxelles
Stad Brussel
00 Bruxelles - Mont des Arts.jpg
Flag of City of Brussels
Coat of arms of City of Brussels
Coat of arms
City of Brussels is located in Belgium
City of Brussels
City of Brussels
Location in Belgium
Coordinates: 50°51′N 04°21′E / 50.850°N 4.350°E / 50.850; 4.350Coordinates: 50°51′N 04°21′E / 50.850°N 4.350°E / 50.850; 4.350
Country Belgium
Community Flemish Community
French Community
Region Brussels
Arrondissement Brussels
 • Mayor (list) Philippe Close (PS)
 • Total 32.61 km2 (12.59 sq mi)
Population (1 January 2016)[1]
 • Total 178,552
 • Density 5,500/km2 (14,000/sq mi)
Postal codes 1000-1130
Area codes 02

The City of Brussels (French: Ville de Bruxelles [vil də bʁysɛl] or alternatively Bruxelles-Ville [bʁysɛl vil], Dutch: Stad Brussel [stɑd ˈbrɵsəl][2] or Brussel-Stad) is the largest municipality and historical centre of the Brussels-Capital Region, and the de jure capital of Belgium.[3] Besides the strict centre, it also covers the immediate northern outskirts where it borders municipalities in Flanders. It is the administrative centre of the European Union, thus often dubbed, along with the region, EU's capital city.

The City of Brussels is a municipality consisting of the central historic town and certain additional areas within the greater Brussels-Capital Region, namely Haren, Laeken and Neder-Over-Heembeek to the north, and Avenue Louise/Louizalaan and the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos park to the south.

On 1 January 2016, the City of Brussels had a total population of 178,552. The total area is 32.61 km2 (12.59 sq mi) which gives a population density of 5,475 inhabitants per square kilometre (14,180/sq mi). As of 2007, there were approximately 50,000 registered non-Belgians in the City of Brussels.[4]

Territorial history[edit]

Engraving from c. 1610

At first, the City of Brussels was simply defined, being the area within the second walls of Brussels, the modern-day small ring. As the city grew, the surrounding villages grew as well, eventually growing into a contiguous city, though the local governments retained control of their respective areas.

The construction of Avenue Louise was commissioned in 1847 as a monumental avenue bordered by chestnut trees that would allow easy access to the popular recreational area of the Bois de la Cambre. However, fierce resistance to the project was put up by the town of Ixelles (which was then still separate from Brussels) through whose land the avenue was supposed to run. After years of fruitless negotiations, Brussels finally annexed the narrow band of land needed for the avenue plus the Bois de la Cambre itself in 1864. That decision accounts for the unusual southeastern protrusion of the City of Brussels and for Ixelles being split in two separate parts. The Université Libre de Bruxelles' Solbosch campus is also part of the City of Brussels, partially accounting for the bulge in the southeast end.

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.[5] However, a few neighbouring municipalities have been merged into the City of Brussels, including Haren, Laken and Neder-Over-Heembeek in 1921.[6] These comprise the northern bulge in the municipality. To the south-east is also a strip of land along Avenue Louise that was annexed from the Ixelles municipality.


The Pentagon[edit]

Districts of Brussels

The Central District[edit]

It is in the heart of the Saint-Géry Island, formed by the Senne and on which a first dungeon was built around 979, that the origin of the city is located. Today, the neighbourhood around the Halles Saint-Géry, a former covered market, is one of the trendy districts of the capital. In the centre of the city, there are some vestiges of the 13th century first walls of Brussels, which surrounded the first port on the Senne, the Romanesque church, later replaced by the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, and the ducal castle of Coudenberg (Royal Quarter). In the center of this triangle, are the Grand Place of Brussels, the Îlot Sacré district (which takes its name from its resistance to demolition projects), itself crossed by the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, the Saint-Jacques district which welcomed the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela and the Bourse district, built on the site of a former convent, whose remains have been uncovered.

The Royal Quarter[edit]

Thus named because it houses, on the one hand, the Royal Square, built under Charles-Alexander of Lorraine on the Coudenberg hill, on the site of the former Palace of the Dukes of Brabant, of which certain levels of foundation still exist, and on the other hand, the Royal Palace of Brussels, which faces the Brussels Park, on the other side of which is the Parliament. Below is the Central Station and the Mont des Arts where are located the Royal Library of Belgium, the Royal Belgian Film Archive (Cinematek), the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts, the Museum of Cinema, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), the BELvue Museum and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

The Sablons District[edit]

From the Royal Square, the rue de la Régence crosses the neighbourhoods of the Small and Large Sablons, a swanky district where the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon is located and where the antiques market is held, in which antique dealers, art dealers and other luxury shops have their businesses. Not far from there was the Maison du Peuple by Victor Horta, in Art Nouveau style. There is also the Egmont Palace and the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.

The Marolles District[edit]

In the shadow of the gigantic Palace of Justice, lies the old Marolles district (not to be confused with the "Marolle" that the purists delimit to only 7 streets). From the Place de la Chapelle to the Place du Jeu de Balle, where the daily flea market has been held since 1873, along rue Haute and rue Blaes, the second-hand shops and popular shops have for years given way to antique shops, a profound change in the neighbourhood. The Hellemans City, a remarkable example of the first collective housing complexes of the early 20th century, was built on the site of the many squalid cul-de-sacs in the neighbourhood. Rue Haute, one of the longest and oldest roads in the city, follows the course of an old Gallo-Roman road, runs along the Saint Peter Hospital, built in 1935 on the site of a leper hospital, to end at the Halle Gate, the only survivor of the series of gates which allowed passage inside the second walls of Brussels.

The Midi-Lemonnier District[edit]

It is in the heart of this district, where Rouppe Square is today, that the first Brussels South Station was located in 1839, the terminus of the South Line, called the Bogards Station, in memory of the convent of the same name on the site of which it was built, and to which the rue des Bogards is nowadays the only reference. The presence of a station at this location explains the unusual width of the current Avenue of Stalingrad, which goes from the square to the small ring road, cleared of its railways since the inauguration of the Brussels South Station, built outside the Pentagon, in 1869. At the same time, following the covering of the Senne, the neighbourhood saw the construction, in the haussmannien style, of the grand central boulevards, including Maurice Lemonnier Boulevard, bordered by Fontainas and Anneessens squares (location of the former Old Market) and by the Palais du Midi.

The Senne District[edit]

The damp and swampy grounds around the present-day rues de la Senne et rue des Fabriques were occupied by craftsmen since the Middle Ages. An arm of the river crossed the defences of the second walls at the level of the Ninove Gate, by the small lock (Petite Écluse), which served as a port. An end of the lock remained there until the 1960s. Later, small industries and many artisan breweries, now disappeared, established themselves there, which is still evident by the names of rue du Houblon ('Hops Street') and rue des Marchés aux Grains ('Grain Market Street'). The Tour à Plomb ('Lead Tower'), which was used for the manufacture of lead shot for hunting, and rue de la Poudrière ('Gunpowder Street'), also testify to the former activities of the neighbourhood. Long neglected as a result of the relocation of businesses outside the centre, the area has for a few years been the object of a new interest due to the many disused industrial premises converted into lofts. The area around rue Antoine Dansaert, a new trendy district, attracts a new, young, well-off population, mostly Dutch-speaking. These two new situations, which have the consequence of rising rents, are not without problems for the less fortunate inhabitants of the neighbourhood.

The Quays District or Maritime District[edit]

This district is that of the old port of Brussels, which played for a long time its role of belly of the city. The boats coming from the Scheldt penetrated through Rivage Gate, at the site of the present Yser Square, to join one of the canals, of which each dock was reserved for one type of goods. Filled in the 19th century, at the opening of the new port of Brussels, the canals are replaced by wide boulevards, the two sides of which retain in their names the memory of their former function: quai aux Briques ('Brick Wharf'), quai au Bois à Brûler ('Firewood Wharf'), quai aux Pierres de Taille ('Quarry Stone Wharf'), quai au Foin ('Hay Wharf'), etc. or references to the neighbourhood's commercial activities: rue du Magasin ('Shop Street'), rue des Commerçants ('Traders Street'), rue du Marché aux Porcs ('Pig Market Street') and quai du Commerce ('Trade Wharf'). Along the quaysides, numerous bourgeois houses having belonged to wealthy merchants have preserved the entrances to the warehouses. On Ypres Boulevard, one can still cross food wholesalers, supplied nowadays by trucks, which have replaced the boats. The neighbourhood also includes the Béguinage of Brussels, with the church of Saint John the Baptist and the remarkable Grand Hospice Pachéco.

The Marais-Jacqmain District[edit]

Few are the buildings in the former Marais district which have escaped the 20th century demolition, from Pachéco Boulevard to Rue Neuve. They have been replaced by the State Administrative City, press printers, banking facilities and commercial galleries. The current trend is to restore the neighbourhood's social mix by redeveloping housing in former office buildings. Despite the longtime grim aspect of the district, the Meyboom tradition has been maintained for centuries, and the former Art Nouveau Waucquez stores by Victor Horta have been preserved, since 1993, to house the Belgian Comic Strip Center. Another preserved islet is the 18th century Martyrs' Square, in the neo-classical style, which has gradually been renovated. The victims of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 are buried in an open crypt with a memorial. Nearby is Rue Neuve, one of the main commercial streets in Belgium, with on its two sides more than one kilometer long entirely occupied by shops; Adolphe Max Boulevard, a traditional artery with 19th century facades; and Émile Jacqmain Boulevard (where was installed in 2004, in a new building, the National Theatre of Belgium) close to De Brouckère Square. The latter, a very busy central point of the city centre, is dominated at its southern end by two block-style building towers. But for the rest, it has totally (Hotel Metropole and its neighbour the Hotel Atlanta) or partially (UGC cinema) preserved its old facades.

The Libertés District[edit]

The Libertés district, situated between the Parliament and Royal Street, not far from the crossroads with the small ring road, with as its focal point the Congress Column, built in memory of the National Congress of 1830-31, the founder of democratic liberties in Belgium; there is also the tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the Sacred Flame. Not far from here, the Hotel Astoria, a 1911 palace, which is currently being renovated and enlarged, and will be reopened in the coming years. In the 19th century, the district was known as Notre-Dame-aux-Neiges and was inhabited in majority by working-class people. The authorities' desire to clean up the squalid parts of the city led to the expulsion of the population and the complete destruction of the neighbourhood. A new bourgeois district was completely redeveloped during the last quarter of the century. The choice was made to commemorate the memory of the Belgian Independence: Liberty Square, Barricades' Square, Revolution Street, Congress Street, etc. The four streets overlooking Liberty Square bear the names of the four constitutional freedoms, symbolized by the four female figures surrounding the Congress Column: Freedom of the Press, Religion, Association and Education. This eclectic urban complex is today one of the best preserved of the Pentagon.


As in every other Belgian municipality, the City of Brussels is headed by a mayor, who should not be confused with the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region or the Governor of Brussels-Capital.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Population per municipality as of 1 January 2016 (XLS; 397 KB)
  2. ^ Stad in isolation: [stɑt].
  3. ^ The Belgian Constitution (PDF). Brussels, Belgium: Belgian House of Representatives. May 2014. p. 63. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Statistics foreign population in Belgium by municipality (in French and Dutch only)
  5. ^ Picavet, Georges (29 April 2003). "Municipalities (1795-now)". Georges Picavet. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  6. ^ "Brussels Capital-Region". Georges Picavet. 4 June 2005. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 

External links[edit]