Brussels (Bruxelles in French; Brussel in Dutch) is not only the capital of Belgium, but also unofficially considered to be the capital of Europe, as it is the administrative center of the European Union.
Legally bilingual (French-Dutch), it is the joining point between the Flemish Community and the French Community of Belgium, sitting between them and serving as capital city for both.
This was not always the case, however. Formerly, Brussels had been primarily Dutch, and it was in the 19th century, with the founding of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, that the language shift towards French began, eventually turning it into its lingua franca. A rise in the French-speaking population of the city, due to immigration, intensified this process. Additionally, because of the social prestige attributed to the French language, it soon became the language of administration, law, education, and politics, making it a necessity in order to thrive in the city.
The city’s architecture is particularly marked by the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco styles. Very little Medieval architecture has been preserved, though it is still possible to see examples of Gothic, Baroque, and the neoclassical style of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as post-modern in the European Union buildings that dot the city.
It is also so far north when compared to Spain that it was a most welcome respite to the Madrid summer heat when we visited (mid-July) – the temperature there was a good 10 Cº (~20 Fº) lower!