Brussels at a Glance
Living in BrusselsiStockphoto
An impressive flower carpet covered the Grande Place in Brussels in 2006.
Among the many foreigners living in Brussels, a considerable number are in some way affiliated with one of the numerous international and intergovernmental organizations based in the city. However, even without major EU and NATO institutions, numerous people of foreign origin still settle in Brussels.
In fact, the city has been a popular destination for both political refugees and labor migrants since the end of the 18th century. Famous political exiles that spent part of their life in Brussels include Karl Marx, Victor Hugo, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Léon Daudet.
Brussels: Population and Language
Foreign residents also include many international students, immigrants, or expats who decided to keep living in Brussels and adopted Belgian citizenship. This might account for the strange fact that, although about 70% of the population consists of Belgian nationals, the percentage of inhabitants who have either French or Dutch as their first language is actually lower.
The city is officially bilingual, so people living in Brussels get by with either French or Dutch. However, most residents actually speak both languages. The city has evolved from a Dutch-speaking region to predominantly French-language territory, which has caused considerable resentment among the Flemish populace. Due to the many expats living in Brussels, English is increasingly heard on the streets as well.
On average, people living in Brussels are younger than those in the rest of the country. Similarly, the gap between the rich and the poor is much more pronounced. While most foreigners living in Brussels are from other EU member states (especially France), nearly one quarter of the population has a Muslim background. Catholicism is still the most common faith, however, although very few are practicing Christians.
Arts and Architecture in Brussels
The residents of Brussels are blessed (or cursed) with an urban architecture comprising various styles, from medieval to postmodern. Flemish townhouses stand side by side with impressive Art Nouveau buildings and postmodern edifices dominate the European Quarter.
Life in Brussels may be characterized by opposites, but if you’re standing in the upper sphere of one of Europe’s most intriguing modern monuments, the Atomium, looking down on the city with its Gothic town hall and the Royal Palace, it’s hard not to feel exulted about living in Brussels.
When it comes to art, there is something for everyone living in Brussels: Over 80 museums and large collections of Flemish paintings cater to serious-minded culture enthusiasts. Moreover, the famous Belgium Comic Strip Center ensures that characters such as Lucky Luke, Tintin, Gaston Lagaffe, and the Marsupilami enjoy eternal life in Brussels, their place of birth. You will also spot large frescos of popular cartoon characters on buildings throughout the city.