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Brussels Travel Guide
Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and of Brussels Capital Region. It is entirely surrounded by Dutch-speaking Flanders and its constituent Flemish Brabant province. As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union. Being at the crossroads of cultures (the Germanic in the North and the Romance in the South) and playing an important role in Europe, Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal "melting pot", but still retains its own unique character. The population of the city of Brussels is 1 million and the population of Brussels metropolitan area is just over 2 million.
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 officially bilingual, French is undoubtedly Brussels' lingua franca. English is also widely understood, but not always widely spoken.
The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the medieval constructions on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions. Main attractions include the Grand Place, since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old center, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Laken Castle with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace. The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre tall structure that was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell). The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heartand the Palace of Justice. Cultural facilities include the Brussels Theatre, the La Monnaie Theatre and opera house. There is a wide array of museums, from the Royal Museum of Fine Art to the Museum of the Army and the Comic Museum. Brussels also has a lively music scene, with everything from opera houses and concert halls to music bars and techno clubs.