Brussels

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Brussels is quite a unique city. A world city divided into 19 districts and two languages Brussels is really unlike anywhere else. The hub of Brussels is the Grand Place, which can be reached by tram or bus. This wonderful city square was once the place to find all the food markets of Brussels. The surrounding streets, named after the foods for which they were famous, Rue Marche aux Herbes for instance, are still home to many of the city's lovely traditional style restaurants and cafés. The markets are no longer held, in what writer Victor Hugo once described as 'the most beautiful square of Europe,' however there are a hundred and one reasons to visit the Grand Place, all of them great.

The city has a number of interesting areas and all are within easy reach using public transport or a brisk walk. One such district is that of Anderlecht, which is reached by Metro (take the Saint-Guidon stop). Here you'll find a number of interesting places to visit all within a very short distance from eachother such as the Erasmus House, Church of Saint Peter and Saint Guidon and an old Béguinage.

In the district of Ixelles you'll find the more quiet and tranquil part of busy Brussels. Here you'll find the beautiful Bois de la Cambre (forest), parks, ponds, and the Abbey de la Cambre, which was founded in 1196 by the Sisters of the Cistercian Order. The building however was rebuilt during the 17th and 18th century after suffering extensive damage during the Wars of Religion. The only remaining section of the original is the church itself, which dates back to the 14th century.

In the area between De Broukère and Place Rogier you'll find around a dozen places of interest including Brussels' Red Light District, which is situated on Rue de Matheus. In this area you'll also find City 2 shopping centre, the largest of Brussels, Bourse which is the stock exchange of Brussels, the Fish Market, Church de Notre Dame de Finistère and Church of Sainte-Catherine and more.

De Broukère is the commercial and entertainment centre of Brussels. It is also here that you'll find an abundance of seafood restaurants largely due to there close proximity to the excellent fish market which, if you like fish, is definitely worth a visit. The fish is brought in fresh daily and quickly snapped up by the best of Brussels' restaurants.

The city centre of Brussels is basically pentagonal, and all roads lead to the centre of tourism the Grand Place. An aerial view of Brussels would show a surprising amount of greenery and water, and not too far from the heart of the city. The south-eastern part of the city is called the upper city. Located here are the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Place Royale, Palais de Justice Parliament and Parc de Bruxelles, which is the primary park in this district.

In the lower city you'll find the Grand Place and of course the famous Manneken-Pis, the symbol of Brussels - a small, sometimes clad, statue of a peeing boy. Also located here are such sites as the Cathedral of St. Michel, Place du Sablon and Mont des Arts and the main shopping complexes of the city.

Avenue Louise is the Rodeo Drive or Champs Elysées of Brussels. This is the most prestigious shopping street and a real favourite with both tourists and residents alike. If you continue walking along the Avenue Louise you'll come to the Bois de la Cambre, the largest park of Brussels; Rue de Loi leads you then to the EEC Building and the Cinquantenaire, a 90 acre park just outside of the bounds of the city centre.

History of Brussels

The name Brussels is derived from the word Bruocsella meaning 'of the marsh', because many years ago Brussels was surrounded by an extensive marshland.

According to tradition Brussels began as a Gallo-Romeinse settlement in the 7th century A.D. It wasn't until 977 that Brussels really began to take shape as a city. In the 12th century the city already had 5000 residents.

During the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries Brussels was the main centre for the manufacturing of luxurious fabrics, for exporting and for economy and politics. New city walls were erected around the city of Brussels to protect against enemy invasion. These walls stood until the 19th century when they were replaced by a ring road round the city. The only remaining section of the wall still standing is the Porte de Hal.

The Grote Markt, said by many to be the most beautiful market square in Europe, is the historical centre of Brussels. In the 15th century the citizens of the city obtained true power and with it embodied the majestic townhall, with a tower 96m high.

Hastily destroyed by the army of Louis XIV during a three siege in 1695, the market place took the people of Brussels three years to re-build. After that time Brussels fell into the hands of a number of different rulers from different lands.

In her search for independance, Brussels was often the stage for fighting that continued until the arrival of Charles de Lorraine in 1744. In 1789 the people of Brussels followed the example of revolutionary France and took part in the Brabants uprising against Austria. In 1790 the United Belgian States was proclaimed. There was much disunity amongst the groupings, and after a number of attacks from the Austrian side, the revolutionary French government took power. Brussels was now in the hands of the French.

In 1815 Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and after the Vienna Treaty Brussels came under the dominion of The Netherlands. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution led Brussels to independence and Brussels was chosen as the new capital for the state of Belgium.

The city began its modernisation during the 19th century. In 1865 the first European passnger railway was opened between Brussel and Mechelen. New street were laid and road taxes were abolished. The Palace of Justice was built and the city was extended.

Brussels has survived two world wars. In the post-war years Brussels again began expanding and modernising again. In the year 1958 the World Fair was held in Brussels and in the 60's Brussels became the base for the EEC and NATO.

More or less in the same period of time many multinationals established their offices in Brussels. Up until the present day Brussels with its one million residents, capital of Europe, is where you run into people come from all the world. A new Europe without borders and trade restrictions between member states was formed in 1992. It is called the European Union.

This small land, divided into different languages, customs and governments is really not so divided. In the north of the country and in the north of Brussels the Flemish people speak Dutch and in the south one finds the Wallonian French-speaking people. After the first world war Belgium received a small portion of Germany as compensation. There the offical language is German.

In Brussels Dutch and French are both the official languages, as so you find everything in the city is bi-lingual. In the European Union there are 13 official languages there for you hear many different languages spoken in Brussels.

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