The genesis of Brussels as “capital of Europe” started in 1957, when the European Economic Community was created by six founding member states, who were willing to join their forces and speak with a single and unified voice on the international stage. Until then, and also the 1958’s Universal Expo that propelled the city at an international level, Brussels was just a “provincial” town - as would Lyon, Marseille or Bologna be today.
Since then, everything changed dramatically for the best ... and also the worst: like the lack of smart urban architecture planning that resulted in an anarchic conglomerate of streets and neighborhoods that we can witness today.
Do you want to know more about the “European Washington DC”?
The journey starts at the roundabout of Schumann, located on Rue de la Loi, in what is called the “European quarter.” This is where political decisions are made that have a direct impact on the everyday life of hundreds of millions of citizens across the continent. More precisely, two iconic buildings, which you surely saw already in pictures, are world-famous as they reflect this power: the Berlaymont, the seat of the European Commission, and the Europa building, that houses the Council of the European Union. These places are just a few steps away from the Parc du Cinquantenaire, a green area where people relax, enjoy with their family and friends, or visit some monuments and enter museums.
Place du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Square) is the ideal place for feeling the international atmosphere and spirit of Brussels. It is located just next to the European Parliament. You may have learned that the European Parliament is based in Strasbourg, and you are therefore asking what this institution is in Brussels. It is indeed in Strasbourg that the Parliament's official seat is located, and where plenary sittings take place. That said, parliamentary committees meet in Brussels. The Parlamentarium is the visitors center of the European Parliament, where you can learn a lot about the history of European integrations.
The Place du Luxembourg is a very busy place. On Thursday nights, bars and coffee shops are crowded with young expats willing to meet.
Closeby, you will find a spot that I strongly recommend, where you can try the best Mediterranean cuisine: it is called El Turco Restaurant. For 28 EUR per person (16 EUR for kids), it is an “all-you-can-eat” option, from starters to meat, vegetables, pasta, and desserts.
Beyond the European quarter, the status of Brussels as an international capital can be seen everywhere. It houses more than 100 nationalities (from Europe and beyond), and it is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. You will hear dozens of languages spoken wherever you wander around, and you will find restaurants proposing tasty and local cuisine from every corner of the globe. Interestingly, like many other cities around the world, communities tend to cluster geographically: the Turkish community is very present in Saint-Josse, the French are in Ixelles or Uccle; other Europeans mainly in Etterbeek, Woluwé or Schaerbeek.
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