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Brussels is the capital of Belgium, as well as the 'capital' of the European Union. In addition, NATO's headquarters are located in Brussels. Although the buildings of this organization hardly improve the city's looks, the center is a very attractive place. The center is the Grote Markt, where on sunny days the terraces are completely full of people enjoying a Belgian beer.
Brussels consists of 19 departments, that together make up the capital's authorities. The city of Brussels is one of the departments, and it has 140,000 inhabitants. In the entire capital, there are over one million inhabitants.
The city is located in the center of Belgium, on an intersection of former trade routes, both from north to south and from east to west. Gent is at 57 kilometer from Brussels, Bruges at 97 kilometers and the seaside resort of Ostend at 114 kilometers.
Through its status as the capital and the presence of large organizations like NATO and EU, Brussels is a typical civil servant city. Most people work in public administration or in services catering to the administration, for instance consultants and legal services, but also bars and restaurants. Industry has almost vanished, among other things because of the limited room for expansion.
To the north-east of Brussels lies the national airport, Brussels Airport, which many people know under its old name Zaventem. Budget airlines use Charleroi, located 46 kilometers to the south of the city. Often this airport is called 'Brussels South'.
Brussels has three metro lines, a few tram lines and an extensive bus network. The metro has 68 stations. Lines 1A and 1B run from east to west and line 2 to a large extent follows the 'small ring' (see Traffic). There are 14 tram lines, including two so-called Expres-trams. Many trams follow a part of the underground north-south connection between train stations Brussel-Noord and Brussel-Zuid.
Brussels has seven train stations. Brussels-Zuid is the most important international train station, where high-speed trains stop. National trains stop at Brussel-Centraal and Brussel-Noord. In addition, there are the smaller stations of Brussel-Kapellekerk and Brussel-Congres, which are all serviced by local trains. Brussel-Luxemburg and Brussel-Schuman are stations located near NATO and the EU. From there, trains depart for Namur and Luxembourg.
Brussels has three ring roads. The smallest runs around the center of Brussels and follows the old 14th and 15th century city wall. The larger ring road is not a closed ring: it is a series of boulevards around the 19 departments, interrupted in the south by a forest. Finally, there is Ring R0, a motorway around the entire city with connections to motorways in all directions.
All this looks good enough, but make no mistake: the ring roads and entry roads are often very busy. Driving in Brussels itself can also be very confusing, due to the minimal use of road signs.
Finding a place to park in Brussels is difficult and expensive. Car parks are also relatively expensive. Many people who work in the city center park their cars in one of the suburbs and proceed by bus or tram.
Due to the international organizations that are located in Brussels, the city has a large number of hotels, including sixteen five star hotels. However, the hotels are often fully booked, due to the constant stream of diplomats and foreign delegations. We strongly recommend booked your hotel room in advance.
For more information about Brussels, we recommend Google, and the following sources: