Brussels (Fr. Bruxelles, Flem. Brussel), the capital of the kingdom of Belgium, and of the province of Brabant, situated in 50° 51′ N., 4° 22′ E., about 70 m. from the sea at Ostend. It occupies the plain or valley of the Senne, and the sides and crest of the hill lying to the east and south-east of that valley. It is now extending over the hills west of the valley, and to the north is the town or commune of Laeken, which is practically part of the city. Brussels suffered severely in 1695 from the bombardment of the French under Villeroi, who fired into the town with red-hot shot. Sixteen churches and 4000 houses were burnt down, and the historic buildings on the Grand Place were seriously injured, the houses of the Nine Nations on the eastern side being completely destroyed. In 1731 the famous palace of the Netherlands was destroyed by fire, and the only remains of this edifice are some ruined arches and walls in a remote comer of the grounds of the king's palace. The Porte de Hal is the only one of the eight gates in the old wall left standing. It dates from 1381, and is well worth more careful examination than it receives.
In the latter half of the 18th century it served as a kind of bastille for political prisoners, and is now used as a museum in which a rather nondescript collection of articles, some from Mexico, has been allowed to accumulate. With regard to the fine boulevards of the Upper Town, it may be mentioned that about 1765 they were planted with the double row of lime trees which still constitute their chief ornament by Prince Charles of Lorraine while governing the Netherlands for his sister-in-law, the empress Maria Theresa. The residence of this prince was the palace of William the Silent, before he declared against Spam, and it is now used partly for the royal library, which contains the famous librairie de Bourgogne, and partly for the museum of modern pictures. The only other "hotel" or palace in Brussels is that of the duke d'Arenberg. In the 16th century this was the residence of Count Egmont, but very little of the building of his day remains. In the same street, the rue des Petits Carmes, was the Hôtel Culembourg in which the famous oath of the beggars was taken.
It has long been demolished and the new barracks of the Grenadier regiment have been erected on the site.
The only other buildings of importance dating from medieval times are the three churches of Ste Gudule (often erroneously called the cathedral), Notre-Dame des Victoires or Church of the Sablon, and Notre-Dame de la Chapelle, or simply la Chapelle, and the hotel de ville and the Maison du Roi on the Grand Place. The church of Ste Gudule, also dedicated to St Michael, is built on the side of the hill originally called St Michael's Mount, and now covered by the fashionable quarters which are included under the comprehensive description, of the Upper Town. It was begun about the year 1220, and is considered one of the finest specimens left of pointed Gothic. It is said to have been completed in 1273, with the exception of the two towers which were added in the 14th or 15th century. Some of the stained glass is very rich, dating from the 13th to the 15th century. In many of the windows there are figures of leading members of the houses of Burgundy and Habsburg. The curious oak pulpit representing Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden came originally from the Jesuit church at Louvain, and is considered the masterpiece of Verbruggen. The church of the Sablon is said to have been founded in 1304 by the gild of Crossbowmen to celebrate the battle of Woeringen. In a side chapel is a fine monument to the princely family of Thurn and Taxis, which had the monopoly of the postal service in the old empire.
La Chapelle is still older, dating nominally from 1210, the choir and transept being considered to date from about fifty years later. There are some fine monuments, especially one to the duke de Croy who died in 1624. The two churches last named have undergone much renovation both outside and inside.
The Grand Place is by its associations one of the most interesting public squares in Europe. On its flags were fought out many feuds between rival gilds; Egmont and Horn, and many other gallant men whose names have been forgotten, were executed here under the shadow of its ancient buildings, and in more recent times Dumouriez proclaimed the French Republic where the dukes of Brabant and Burgundy were wont to hold their jousts. Apart from its associations the Grand Place contains two of the finest and most ornate buildings not merely in the capital but in Belgium. Of these the hôtel de ville, which is far the larger of the two, occupies the greater part of the south side of the square. Its facade has the disadvantage of having had one half begun about half a century before the other. The older, which is the richer in design, forms the left side of the building and dates from 1410, while the right, less rich and shorter, was begun in 1443. The fine tower, 360 ft. in height, is crowned by the golden copper figure of St Michael, 16 ft. in height, erected here as early as 1454. This tower lies behind the extremity of the left wing of the building.
Opposite the town-hall is the smaller but extremely ornate Maison du Roi. This was never a royal residence as the name would seem to imply, but its description appears to have been derived from the fact that it was usually in this building that the royal address was read to the states-general. As this building was almost destroyed by Villeroi's bombardment it possesses no claim to antiquity, indeed the existing building was only completed in 1877. Egmont and Horn were sentenced in the hôtel de ville, and passed their last night in the Maison du Roi.
Among the principal buildings erected in the city during the 18th century are the king's palace and the house of parliament or Palais de la Nation, which face the south and north sides of the park respectively. The palace occupies part of the site covered by the old palace burnt down in 1731, and it was built in the reign of the empress Maria Theresa. It originally consisted of two detached buildings, but in 1826-1827 King William I. of the Netherlands caused them to be connected. The palace contains two fine rooms used for court ceremonies, and a considerable number of pictures. In 1904 a bill was passed in the chambers for the enlargement and embellishment of the palace. The adjacent buildings, viz. the department of the civil list, formerly the residence of the marquis d'Assche, and the Hôtel de Bellevue, held under a kind of perpetual lease granted by the empress Maria Theresa, were absorbed in the palace, and a new façade was constructed which occupies the entire length of the Place du Palais. At the same time a piece was cut off the park to prevent the undue contraction of the Place by the necessary bringing forward of the palace, and the pits which played a certain part in the revolution of 1830 when the Dutch defended the park for a few days against the Belgians were filled up.