When 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 constructed between 1880 and 1980. Only a small historic centre (one square and four adjacent streets) was preserved. The historic Flemish town centres are better preserved in other cities: Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Courtray, Leuven, Mechelen and Oostende.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French (80%) and Dutch (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. Visitors should realize that language is a very divisive issue in Belgium (though this is not as noticeable in Brussels).
Historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became more and more French-speaking during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, most inhabitants speak French in daily life. Some numbers say that more than half of the inhabitants of Brussels do not speak French at home. The Brussels dialect, a Brabantian dialect of Dutch, can be heard, especially in the outer districts of Brussels Capital Region. French speakers shouldn't have too much trouble understanding the local French. Dutch speakers may have some difficulty with the Belgian Dutch accent.
English has become a common spoken language because of the international institutions based in Brussels, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament and NATO. It is still relatively rare to find written tourist or general information in English, although the situation is improving greatly. One can expect public announcements in train stations to at least be said in French and Dutch, while larger train stations (such as Zuidstation/Gare Du Midi) typically include English and sometimes German. English is also used on metros, trams and buses, announced last for information such as line transfers and terminal stops. Do not hesitate to ask someone if you do not understand what has been said.
Considering the city's location and that it markets itself as the capital of Europe, spoken English is less prevalent in Belgium than in its Dutch neighbor. However, even if it is not as widely spoken as one may expect, it is nonetheless widely understood. As is often the case elsewhere, success in finding someone who speaks English depends on several factors such as age (14-35 year-olds are most likely to speak English).
German is also an official language in Belgium spoken as a mother tongue by about 70,000 people in the east of the country bordering Germany, but you are very unlikely to encounter German speakers outside the German-speaking region in Belgium.
Brussels deservedly has a poor reputation for its weather. Weather in Brussels is very damp with a high and fairly evenly distributed annual average rainfall of 820 mm (32 in) and on average approximately 200 days of rainfall per year, both which are more than that of London and Paris. The dampness makes the weather feel much colder than it is. The daily and monthly temperature variations are quite small. Daily differences between average highs and average lows don't exceed 9°C (16°F).
In the summer, average daily maximum temperatures rarely exceed 22°C (72°F). The summer visitor should always be prepared for rain in Brussels. Warm and sunny weather is not constant during that season or even to be expected.
After October, temperatures drop off quite rapidly and winter months are damp and chilly. Snowfall is rare, and starts to melts fairly quickly, becoming slush on the ground. The winter visitor should be prepared for wet ground.
Brussels is split into nineteen communes or gemeenten (municipalities/boroughs):
In the City Center
The Grand Place (French, ; also used in English) or Grote Markt (Dutch,) is the central square of Br...
Parvis St Pierre 14
The Town Hall (Dutch:) of the City of Brussels is a Gothic building from the Middle Ages. It is loca...
Avenue Leo Errera 41
Hilton Brussels Grand Place is one of the ideal, finest places to remain in Brussels. Nicely placed around City Sightseeing Brussels, Les Galeries Saint Hubert and Moof M...
The Dominican is among the best, finest places to stay in Brussels. Nicely situated near Le Monnaie du Munt, Laeken and Corne Port-Royal, The Dominican is sincerely a fou...
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Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo is among the top, finest places to lodge in Brussels. Nicely found near Museum of Costume and Lace, Everard 't Serclaes and Mike Eyns Private Tour...