Brussels is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the city of Brussels which de jure is the capital of Belgium, the French Community of Belgium, and the Flemish Community. Brussels is also the de facto capital of the European Union.
Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne to a sizeable city. The city has a population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, both of them the largest in Belgium.
Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a major centre for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions, the secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
Brussels is just a few kilometres north of the boundary between Belgium’s language communities—French in the south, Dutch in the north. Historically a Dutch-speaking city, it has seen a major shift to French since Belgian independence in 1830. Today, although the majority language is French, the city is officially bilingual. All road signs, street names, and many advertisements and services are shown in both languages. Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual with increasing numbers of migrants, expatriates and minority groups speaking their own languages, and English sometimes serves as a lingua franca.