Brussels (Fr. Bruxelles), the capital of Belgium, is situated in a fertile plain on the ditch-like Senne, 27 miles S. of Antwerp, and 193 NE. of Paris. It has a circumference of about 5 miles, and is built partly on the side of a hill; though some of the streets are so steep that they can be ascended only by means of stairs, Brussels may on the whole be pronounced one of the finest cities in Europe. The fashionable Upper Town, in which are the royal palace, public offices, chief hotels, etc, is much more healthy than the older Lower Town, which is greatly subject to fogs, owing to its intersection by canals and the Senne, although the stream now passes under an arched covering, which supports a new boulevard. But the closely built old streets, with their numerous handsome buildings, formerly belonging to the Brabant nobility, but now occupied by merchants and traders, have a fine picturesque appearance, while some of the public edifices are unrivalled as specimens of Gothic architecture. French is spoken in the upper division; but in the lower Flemish is the current language prevalent, and by many the Walloon dialect is spoken. The walls which formerly surrounded Brussels have been removed, and their place is now occupied by pleasant boulevards extending all around the old town, and shaded by alleys of limes. The Allee Verte - a double avenue along the Scheldt Canal - forms a splendid promenade, and leads toward the country palace of Laeken, 3 miles north of the city. Besides the fine park of 32 acres, in the Upper Town, ornamented with fountains and statues, and surrounded by the palace and other state buildings, Brussels has several other squares or places, among which are: the Place Royale, with its colossal monument of Godfrey of Bouillon; the Grand Place, in which is the hotel-de-ville, a splendid Gothic structure of the 15th century, with a spire of open stonework 364 feet high; and the Place des Martyrs, where a memorial has been erected to those who fell here in the revolution of 1830. The statue group of the Counts Egmont and Horn is notable. The cathedral of St Gudule, dating from the 13th century, has many richly painted windows, and a pulpit considered to be the masterpiece of Verbruggen. In the Palais des Beaux Arts is the picture-gallery, containing the finest specimens of the Flemish school of painting; a valuable museum; and the public library, with 234,000 volumes and 22,000 MSS., many of the latter being beautifully illuminated. The new Palais de Justice, built in 1866-83 at a cost of more than £2,000,000, is one of the most magnificent buildings in Europe. The royal palace and the national palace (for the chambers) are important buildings. The university (1834) has over 1300 students. There are schools of painting and sculpture, and a conservatorium. There is a museum of paintings by the artist Wiertz, many of them on painful and repulsive subjects. Brussels lace is particularly famous. Of the so-called Brussels carpets only a few are manufactured here, most of those of Belgian make being produced at Tournai. There are also manufactures of damask, linen, ribbons, embroidery, paper, jewellery, hats, soap, porcelain, carriages, etc. Pop. (1846) 123,874; (1866) 157,905; (1901) 212,500, or, with its eight suburbs, 565,000.
Dating from at least the 8th century, Brussels under Charles V. was made the court-residence in the Netherlands, and became afterwards, under Philip II., the chief arena of the atrocities committed by Alva and the Inquisition. It suffered greatly in the war of Spain against Louis XIV. - in whose reign it was bombarded by Marshal Villeroi, and upwards of 4000 buildings destroyed - and in that of Austria against Louis XV.; but still more from the continual prevalence of party animosities caused by the policy of Austria. Under the mild rule of Maria Theresa, it flourished greatly, and in this time many of its best institutions and public buildings were founded. In 1792 Brussels fell into the hands of the French. It was incorporated with the kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815; in 1830 it became the capital of Belgium.