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Brussels

Brussels (French: Bruxelles; Dutch: Brussel; German: Brüssel) is the capital of Belgium, of Flanders (consisting of both the Flemish Community and the Flemish Region) and of the French Community of Belgium, and it is the headquarters of most of the European Union's institutions. Brussels is the capital city, in the centre of Belgium, and also the largest municipality of the Brussels-Capital Region. This municipality inside Brussels is correctly named The City of Brussels (French: Bruxelles-Ville or Ville de Bruxelles, Dutch: Stad Brussel), which is one of 19 municipalities that make up the Brussels-Capital Region (see also: Municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region), with a total population of 1,024,492 inhabitants (1 January 2006). The municipality has a population of about 140,000. The Metropolitan area has about 2,090,000 inhabitants.  Brussels is also the political seat of NATO, the Western European Union (WEU) and EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation.

As Brussels became the capital city of a new country in the 19th century, the old town was destroyed to make way for brand new ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks all built between 1880 and 1980, approximately. That is why such a disappointingly small historic centre (one square and four adjacent streets) was preserved, and why most tourists only visit Brussels as an afterthought. Most indeed concentrate on the classic top 4 of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Leuven.

Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French and Dutch 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 French is the lingua franca, the proportion of French and Dutch-speakers is different in different neigbourhoods and boroughs. English is also widely understood.

You can see what's going on in Brussels by picking up a copy of local free city rag Zone 02 (French and Dutch). Another good free listings paper is Agenda - the latter is distributed together with the dutch-language weekly Brussel Deze Week and has the notable advantage of being published in three languages (English, Dutch, French). Both of these are distributed in cafés and bars around the city. If you're looking for a good party Net Events (French and Dutch) and Brussels Sucks... might be a good place to start.

Brussels Agenda is the official cultural and entertainment agenda of the City of Brussels and the francophone Médiatheque have a concert listings page featuring the upcoming concerts in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. Be aware, however, that their listings page is quite a personal endeavor so it only features the concerts the médiatheque staff are interested in.

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